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


The Austin Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now

Great 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 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 great new bars in Austin.

New to the Bar Hit List (5/26): Lovebirds, El Cockfight


photo credit: Daniel Cavazos

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2337 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
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If you’ve come across a TikTok video of someone drinking a bright red cocktail out of the tail-end of a bird-shaped glass, there’s a good chance they were at Lovebirds, a new cocktail bar on East Cesar Chavez where you can get that, and lots more. The space is cozy, with velvet stools and chairs, a lamp-lit seating area with some modern touches, plus a few retro TVs to take away all sense of time and place. It’s a place where couples can grab a drink after dinner at Juniper across the street, while cocktail enthusiasts can nerd out about which funky Jamaican rum was used in the daiquiri. And if you really just want to drink out of a bird’s tail-end, they’ll happily serve you just about anything in the glass, though we can’t promise that drinking a Lonestar out of it will be quite as satisfying. 

Joining the quickly growing scene of Downtown rooftop bars, El Cockfight is from the team behind the Downtown speakeasy, Red Headed Stepchild and East Austin bar, Mama Dearest. Much like their other concepts, novelty and shock value play a little role in the themes here, so don’t be surprised to walk by a large neon sign flashing the words “World’s greatest c*ck” while you sip on drinks like the cold brew-and-mezcal “Whorechata” or the “Pinche Gringo” made with sotol and midori. Despite all that, El Cockfight makes a pretty solid margarita, and the view (and breeze) from the second story are hard to beat on a warm Austin evening. 

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Equal parts cocktail bar and cafe, Holiday on East 7th is home to one of our favorite new patios in Austin—it’s huge, with lots of hanging string lights overhead, gravel floors, and big white umbrellas that give the whole space a bright and airy feel. The menu is made up mostly of small European-inspired plates that clearly spent some time in Texas, with dishes like Lonestar steamed mussel and boquerones with cultured butter and preserved lemon salsa verde. There’s an entire martini menu that spans from lychee and espresso-based variations, to the more classic gin or vodka-based classics, plus other fun drinks including a frozen Mexican martini that comes in a cactus-shaped glass, and a full menu of spirit-free cocktails. Head here for light bites and multiple rounds of cocktails. This is a place you’ll want to hang out at for a while—even when it’s crowded, it never feels too loud.

Fittingly located in the Music Lane development on South Congress, the vinyl listening and cocktail bar Equipment Room looks more like the living room of a very wealthy audiophile than a bar in the basement of Hotel Magdalena. It’s a place that takes its inspiration from mid-century Japanese listening bars, but instead of fully committing to the theme, musically, you’ll hear little bits of David Bowie and glam rock mixed in with old school jazz. The drink menu is made up of a combination of classics and new creations—A-Sides and B-Sides, respectively—so whether you’re in the mood for Manhattans and boulevardiers, or a cocktail with sesame-washed sake, orgeat, and furikake dust, there’s plenty to try. There’s also a small menu of snacks that you should probably not try to make a meal out of like we did. Instead, come here for drinks before or after a dinner on South Congress, or when you just want to listen to some high quality audio in a very cozy space with a martini in hand.

Naming a cocktail on your menu the “Sister Fister” feels like the type of move done to stoke a fire. But once you take a look around Mama Dearest at 6th and Pedernales in East Austin—a bar decorated with taxidermied animals, vintage Playboy magazines, and a giant Arkansas flag on the ceiling—the backwoods theme becomes abundantly clear. Well, that and the fact that it’s named after 1980s cult classic Mommie Dearest that contains a lot of overlapping themes. Are the draped rawhide lamp shades and baby dolls hanging from the walls unsettling? Maybe a little. But they do help contribute to the immersive atmosphere that makes you feel far more removed from the HEB Digital office across the street than physical distance would lead you to believe. This is a bar that’s simply having a good time. Grab a Tickle Fight—basically a Mountain Dew-based margarita—or the #PURPLEDRANK that comes served in a styrofoam cup, then go for a quick bounce on the animal spring rides out back. Just don’t look too close at the decor inside.

Every visit to Lucky’s starts with a welcome shot (including an N/A option), which kind of makes the whole place feel even more like the friendly neighborhood bar on East 11th Street that it is. There’s a loose dog theme to the whole bar—mostly in the sense that a lot of the drinks are named after pups (including some of the staffs’), but there’s also something fitting about the Chihuahua Valhalla coming out ablaze with a flaming orange wheel that helps it mimic its namesake’s demeanor. Over on the food menu, expect to find a vaguely Mexican-Asian-fusion leaning menu, which means you’ll see dishes like kimchidillas, soba noodle bowls, and steaks served with salsa macha. Head here when you want great cocktails and light bites without fighting a crowd of millennials in Hawaiian shirts to place an order at Nickel City down the street.

It’s a known fact that underground bars are cool. There’s something about the lack of windows and having  to walk down a flight of stairs that feels like you’re entering a hidden society or a fight club, and Subterra is no exception (sans fighting). Located at Ember Kitchen in the Seaholm District downtown, Subterra is an agave bar with a menu of classic cocktails and inventive Latin America-inspired creations. That means for every Mexican Firing Squad (made with tequila, lime, grenadine, and bitters), you’ll also find a tequila-based martini with sherry, olives, zucchini, cardamom, and celery. Sure, those ingredients might sound more like a kitchen sink salad than a cocktail, but when paired together by bar staff that clearly knows what they’re doing, the end result is something truly unique. Of course, not everybody wants to feel challenged by a cocktail—this isn’t some weird episode of Man V. Food—and fortunately, even the tamer drinks feel thoughtfully crafted. Head here after a meal upstairs, or just pop in for excellent cocktails during an evening out Downtown.

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.

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

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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.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

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The Treasury

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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. 

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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