The Austin Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now guide image

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The Austin Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now

The best new bars in Austin, according to us.

In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to the new spots that are actually worth your time and money. And we do the same thing for the best new bars in Austin. All the places here are less than a year old, and they include speakeasies, breweries, wine bars, and incredibly fun cocktail spots. But what do they all have in common? We’ve visited them, really liked them, and felt they were well worth the varying degrees of hangover. These are the best new bars in Austin.

New to the Bar Hit List (2/3): Kelly's Irish Pub, Lulu's.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Lulu’s review image

Lulu’s

$$$$

10402 Menchaca Rd, Austin
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There’s no shortage of margaritas in Austin, which is why a great one stands out so much. Especially the one at Lulu’s on Menchaca Road. Maybe the team at Lulu’s nailed a scientifically precise ratio of tequila, Jalisco orange liqueur, lime, and agave, or maybe the vibrant and lively Mexico City-inspired space just makes the margaritas taste that much better. Whatever you end up ordering, you’ll find yourself in a bright and airy room packed full of plants, wooden tables, and benches that makethe whole space feel like it was plucked right out of Roma Norte. If you’re hungry while you’re there, grab some tacos and gorditas (all served on excellent blue corn tortillas) from the trailer La Taquicardia on the patio.


Order a Guinness at Kelly’s Irish Pub on South 1st and Oltorf, and start counting back from 120. Because they’re not taking any shortcuts here, so use that time to listen to jokes from the friendly bar staff while you comb through the menu of classic pub food, like burgers, fish & chips, and toasties. Or just toss the menu aside and confidently ask for the shepherd’s pie, as if you’ve been ordering it for years. It’s a bit rustic and gamey, and it’s right near the top of our unofficial ranking of the best in town. Kelly’s is an intimate spot that feels like it was plucked straight out of a small town in Ireland, but with longtime Austin residents lined up at the bar to remind you where you are. Come in to watch a game or listen to some live fiddle on one of their music nights. As dime-a-dozen as Irish pubs can sometimes feel here, there’s really not much else like Kelly’s in town.


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photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Bosses Office review image

Bosses Office

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In a pretty nondescript building on East 7th topped with a small flickering neon sign is Bosses Office, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar with drinks inspired by iconic figures throughout history, like Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth II, and Paris Hilton. Order the Anthony Bourdain, and watch your drink slowly come into focus as the air clears from a smoke-filled glass cloche. Or get the Charles Darwin that comes topped with a floating cobra made of ice that might give you a cold boop on the nose as you sip on a drink that smells like freshly cut grass. Reservations tend to book up pretty fast, so grab one when you can. Then, all that’s left to do is to tell your soon-to-be-confused manager that you need to head out of work early to get to Bosses Office in time.


Located behind Shangri-La on East 6th, The Treasury is a semi-secret, loosely bank-themed bar. And by loosely bank-themed, we mean that it’s located in a tiny room down a flight of stairs that makes us feel like we’re entering an old vault. There are no reservations, so plan accordingly (weekends can get busy) but they’re one of the few speakeasies in town that offers Happy Hour every day from 6-8pm, in case you needed another reason to kick the night off early. The drink menu leans classic—expect to find things like Manhattans, Jungle Birds, and Negronis—but there’s also a bottle of Malört hiding out on a little hammock in the back if you’re having one of those nights. They don’t have food of their own, but you can bring down some White Castle-inspired burgers from the Golden Castle food trailer upstairs, and enjoy a fun, unconventional pairing with a couple espresso martinis.


Right on top of Here Nor There—an underground speakeasy-style bar downtown—is another cocktail spot from the same team, but this time on ground level and slightly less hidden. Unlike at their sister bar, you won’t need a special app, a daily code, or a reservation days in advance to grab a drink at In Plain Sight. Just the knowledge that behind a barely marked frosted glass door are eight stools, a little standing area and a small bar shaking up some of the best cocktails in town. On the menu, you’ll mostly find inventive riffs on classics, like a strawberry Garibaldi (with sous vide strawberry campari and a fluffy orange foam), or a Dublin Drop made with Guinness syrup, bourbon, scotch, and sherry. It’s a sleek and tiny space with lights that change colors every few minutes, making the whole experience feel like you’re getting drinks in the closet of a futuristic spaceship. 


We never thought we’d be playing a full round of 12-hole mini golf inside of a bar at The Domain, but we also never expected Pete Davidson to become America’s heartthrob. There’s solid food from some of the folks behind Juniper (but with more casual things like burgers and blooming onions) that you can get before or after a round, plus a full bar that you can order from during a game. The cocktails are mostly riffs on fairly classic golf-friendly cocktails (like strawberry Arnold Palmers, sake Bloody Marys, and hibiscus palomas), plus the standard beer and wine offerings. Austin landmarks are largely the theme of the holes, and they give you a little scorecard to help remind you that you just scored a quintuple bogey after a couple frozen Dirdie Margs. It’s a fun way to spend a Tuesday evening indoors, while also convincing yourself you’re getting some exercise by playing sports. And who knows, maybe next year we’ll be playing jai alai at a coffee shop in East Austin (investors, are you listening?).


By day, Golden Hour in South Austin off Menchaca is mostly a spot to grab coffee, pastries, and some light snacks (like bread, butter, and charcuterie). But once the sun goes down (on Thursday-Saturday) they offer a bigger menu of mostly European-influenced dishes—with things like crudos and Spanish tortillas. Most importantly, they’re a natural wine bar and bottle shop. Grab a bottle off the shelf to go with your meal or bring one home for later. Or even better, do both. You can also just get some wine by the glass if you’re looking for a more low-key night. 


When Lazarus first opened its doors on East Sixth Street in late 2016, it took the world (or at least a small block of East Austin) by storm. It became, and remains to this day, a buzzy spot for good coffee, solid beers, and great tacos, all in a taproom with exposed brewing equipment and a spacious patio. And now they have a second location on Airport Boulevard in the old I Luv Video space, even bigger than the first. Much like their sister space, they offer a large list of beers brewed in-house, plus espresso-based drinks, tacos, and tortas. Here, though, you also unlock access to a larger, expanded menu with dishes like sizzling carne asada and a whole fried fish. They brew a ton of beers here—if you can think of a style, it’s probably on the list—from India brown ales to imperial saisons. Try a flight to get a good feel for the brewery, or just grab a classic German pilsner that we’ve found goes especially well with an order of carnitas tacos. 


There are a lot of places to grab a beer on Rainey Street, but only one spot brews their own: The Stay Put. Walking into the remodeled bungalow feels a little like entering a meal hall at an old camping lodge with rows of semi-communal tables, old wooden floorboards, and a long oak bar counter with a few brass taps. And if you’re there with your dog, there’s a pet-friendly patio out back (plus another bar). They currently make a few different beers—including a kolsch, a Mexican lager, and some chest-warming IPAs and pale ales—so there’s something to pair with all the extremes of Austin’s weather. And they have cocktails on draft if you’re in the mood for something a little stronger. 


The first thing you’ll probably notice when you walk past the velvet rope and into the tiny room that makes up Howard’s is the giant disco ball spinning around in the middle of the room, reflecting little specks of light onto anything and everything. It’s a bar and club that feels like it migrated here from a big East Coast city, complete with worn-in industrial walls, a DJ booth, and a microscopic dance floor (plus that velvet rope we mentioned). On the menu you’ll find smashburgers, fried cheese curds, and Miller Lite on draft, but you’ll also find an almost $200 order of chips and caviar and $5,000 bottles of champagne. This is the Nickel City that went to private school and had a little too much of an allowance growing up, but still knows how to have a good time.

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