The Best Bars In AustinThere are plenty of places to drink in Austin, but these are the best ones.
Being one of America’s hottest festival and nightlife destinations is both good and bad for Austin nightlife. On the one hand, there's never a shortage of great new bars to check out. But on the other hand, the constant stream of bachelor and bachelorette parties and year-round spring breakers makes it hard to find the real good stuff. This guide has a little bit of everything. From chill neighborhood bars and old school dives, to fancy speakeasies and wine bars, these are the very best places to drink in Austin.
Nickel City wants to believe it’s a dive bar, and at one point it almost was. But the servers at this East Side spot are too friendly, the cocktails are too developed, and the whiskey selection is too extensive. It’s one of our favorite bars in Austin, toeing the line between just about every category a bar can fall into. There’s also a great food trailer out back, Delray Cafe, serving up some of the best burgers and wings in town.
Housed in an old Clarksville train depot—complete with former railcars and all—Donn’s has been the spot for drinks, dancing, and live music since the late ‘70s. In that time It’s become one of the most iconic institutions in Austin, attracting both a younger crowd and people who have been there since the beginning. There are two dance floors, and you can expect to hear live music nearly every night—sometimes a full band, sometimes just tunes on the piano. Depending on when you show up, you may even hear the man himself, Donn Adelman, on the keys.
When you want to try classic cocktails from any era, head to The Roosevelt Room downtown. Here, the menu is broken up into time periods, spanning everything from the pre-1880s to modern times. And while the bar does have plenty of its own inventions, this is one of the best places to try classic cocktails as they were meant to be enjoyed. It’s dark inside, with an open, industrial space that feels surprisingly intimate.
Stepping into the South Shore bar Frazier's Long & Low feels a little like stepping into a movie about a bar set in the 1970s. On one end of the small building, you’ll find an old jukebox, pool tables, and a long shuffleboard, while the other end plays host to a handful of semicircle booths. And all of it is outfitted in Coors lanterns, “Cold Beer” signs, and a retro color scheme. Frazier’s is also home to one of our favorite burgers in town—basically a McDonald’s cheeseburger that went to culinary school. Think smashed patties and steamed potato buns, plus all the usual fixings. And at just $3, it feels like Frazier’s has really committed to the retro theme.
When we were kids, we looked to places like Rainforest Cafe for an immersive, tropical experience while living in Texas. These days, we just head to Tiki Tatsu-Ya on South Lamar. From the street, you’ll see a sign advertising a fictional travel agency. But inside is the bar equivalent of a tropical resort—with a beach house upstairs, and a mysterious cave downstairs, both equipped with full bars shaking up hyper-potent rum-based potions. And if the name wasn’t an indicator, this is from the folks that brought you Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, and DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya, so you know there’s a strong attention to food that combines Japanese, Hawaiian, and Polynesian influences.
With three full acres, a massive bar, and more activities than you can count, Armadillo Den in South Austin isn’t just a great bar—it’s one of the best places to spend an afternoon in Austin. Around the tables, expect to find the standard suite of bar games (giant Jenga, anyone?), but the main attraction is the ax throwing lane in the back that you can rent by the half-hour in the evenings. Thankfully, Downtown drink prices haven’t quite made their way this far south, which means drinking here won’t break the bank. And as an added bonus, you can get an additional 10% off your tab if you show the bartender you arrived via rideshare (which you should probably do anyway).
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a secret agent, head to Here Nor There. It’s located in a basement under an alleyway in downtown Austin, right next to The Driskill. Make reservations through a dedicated app, which will reveal a secret code before your scheduled time that will let you through the gate. It sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it once you walk through the front door and are greeted by a life-sized stuffed bear holding a tray of champagne and old-school hip hop on the speakers. The cocktails are pricey, but with liquid nitrogen-cooled olives, clarified punches, and hand-stamped ice at play, it all feels like part of the show.
It’s no secret that the East Side gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights, but even the busiest bars in the area barely hold a candle to the crowds at Whisler’s, home to some of the best cocktails east of I-35. Fortunately, with two full bars—plus a rooftop mezcaleria—Whisler’s is equipped to handle whatever the city throws at it. It’s built into an old warehouse that feels more like it belongs in Brooklyn than across from a hotel in East Austin. Grab an Old Fashioned, then make your way out to the massive patio where you can also grab an excellent burger from Golden Tiger.
Things we look for in a good neighborhood bar: comfortable volume levels, ease of parking and/or seating, and good (but still affordable) cocktails. And The Aristocrat Lounge near Burnet and Koenig Lane checks off every box. Come here to unwind, grab a house cocktail—they’re all under $10—and play some pool. The Aristocrat is also home to Yeni’s Fusion, an Indonesian food trailer out front that’s worth the visit alone.
There aren’t a lot of bars that blend generational lines quite as well as The White Horse, one of the most popular venues on the East Side. Expect to find gray-haired couples showing off their moves next to young first-timers. There’s live music most nights, and a floor filled with people two-stepping. There are a few beer options here, though this is probably one of those places where you’re drinking Lone Stars or Shiners. It’s also one of, if not the only, place in town with a wall of whiskeys on draft.
The Little Darlin’ is right off William Cannon and South Congress, and it’s a great place to unwind or spend a chill Sunday afternoon on the picnic tables in the huge patio out back. There are craft beers and cocktails, outdoor games like horseshoes, a covered patio with darts, pool tables inside, and a stage for live music. Get the burger or the fried chicken sandwich for lunch or dinner (food is served until 2am), or show up on the weekend when Little Darlin’ busts out the brunch menu and micheladas made with Bloody Mary popsicles.
Walking onto the patio at Yellow Jacket in East Austin feels like entering some haunted forest with scraggly barren trees jutting out from the earth every few feet. Except instead of being somewhere you want to escape, you’ll want to grab a drink and post up on the patio. Yellow Jacket is a dive bar, through and through. But their kitchen seems to have missed the memo, which means that in addition to cheap drinks, you’ll also be able to order things like mezze boards, roasted sweet potatoes with curry masala mayo, and a ham and gruyere sandwich that will probably creep into your dreams somehow. Show up on the weekends, and you can even order off a special brunch menu.
There’s usually live music playing on most nights at Cheer Up Charlies, one of the most popular bars in the Red River District downtown (there are two stages, inside and out). Here you’ll find kombucha on tap and juice-based cocktails, right alongside a full bar and standard beer and wine offerings. There’s also an Arlo’s parked out front—a vegan food trailer where you’ll find some excellent plant-based burgers (we like the one grilled in barbecue sauce).
A downtown Austin institution since the late 1800s, The Driskill is a historic hotel at 6th and Congress that some people think is haunted (we think it’s the 6th Street shots talking). It’s also home to a pretty iconic bar that feels like it’s where old-school Texans went for a formal night out. While this technically falls into the “hotel bar” category, it’s accessible for anyone. The cocktails aren’t anything special, but you’re here for a chance to step back in time while sipping on a martini in one of the most historic bars in the state.
Every day the North Campus bar Crown & Anchor puts a different brewery (or region) from their tap list on sale, and knocks the price down to less than $5 a pint. It’s one of the cheapest places in town to sample some great craft beers in a fun, laid-back environment. The bartenders will probably make some sarcastic remark about your order, before opening up with a joke that’ll make you feel like a regular, whether it’s your first or 40th visit. Grab a pint—or make it a pitcher—and play a few rounds of billiards or darts while you figure out which burger you’re going to order.
At the top of a short flight of stairs in a parking garage downtown, Small Victory is a fairly small cocktail bar with a large selection of spirits, an extensive cocktail menu, and a great list of wines and sherries available by the glass. You can definitely pop in here with a small group, but the majority of the tables are two-seaters, both on the same side, so it’s definitely more of a date night destination. You can make reservations ahead of time, or just walk up to the little red gate on East 7th and give the bar a buzz—we’ve had pretty good luck walking in relatively early in the night.
Posse East, just north of campus, is a sports bar that’s been around since 1971, and the kitchen turns out solid, admirable bar food and Tex-Mex classics. Posse sells pints and pitchers of beer, but since the place doesn't have a full liquor license, there aren’t any mixed drinks, which in some ways keeps the rowdiness at bay. The crowd is a mix of Texas sports fans, grizzled UT alums that never left town, grad students grading papers, and UT football coaches. And because Posse is right by campus, when there’s a home game at DKR, you can even hear the crowd when the Longhorns score.
LoLo is a natural wine bar and shop on East 6th, right next to Hotel Vegas and Volstead Lounge—so it can be a zoo around there on weekends. But the excellent wine list, covered patio, and laid-back interior with mid-century Parisian lamps lining the bar all feel pretty far removed from the world outside. It’s relaxed and generally accessible—glasses start at $8 and bottles start in the $30s—but if you’re not careful you can easily find yourself spending a little more than you had planned. You can also grab a few small bites while you’re there—our favorite is the baguette and butter. You can probably guess what comes on the plate, but it’s made with Easy Tiger bread and some of the best butter we’ve ever had.