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8 Secrets of Austin Bars and Restaurants

Killer steak deals, hidden cocktail dens and a Thai pop-up (with trivia!)
May 23, 2016
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by Veronica Meewes

Sometimes it's easy to feel like you've uncovered every secret Austin has to offer. But fear not: It's still possible to discover hidden bars and unheralded deals around town. Keep these in-the-know tips in your back pocket to impress locals and visitors alike. 

Get your hands on Franklin Barbecue without having to stand in line.
Pass by Franklin Barbecue on any given morning and you're bound to see a sizable line stretching down the block. However, it's possible to get a taste without standing in line. Click the "pre-order" tab on Franklin's website to order whole briskets at any time. Available for easy pick-up from 9 AM–1 PM, they come fully cooked and just need to be reheated. Alternatively, limited slots on a hot meat pick-up calendar become available on the first Monday of the month at 9 AM. Order five pounds (or more) of hot sliced meat (of any kind) plus desserts and sides for pick-up. A non-refundable $50 deposit is required, and your food must be picked up between 10–10:30 AM.

Sit at the bar to enjoy qui's new secret cocktail menu.
Andrew Grenz, qui's new bar manager, has created a secret Seven Rabbits cocktail menu only available to guests seated at the bar (and named after one of the popular dishes on qui's opening menu). This secret menu will fluctuate often and showcase local, seasonal ingredients, such as HausBar Farms' hoja santa leaves, a root beer–scented herb that's nitro-muddled into the Metaxa sour (pictured). 

Mangia (while saving money) at one of these Italian feasts.
On Monday nights, take advantage of Italic's lasagna dinner special. For $25, enjoy a glass of house wine plus a seasonal salad (last week featured a thin-sliced zucchini blend), a generous slice of cheesy lasagna and your choice of budino or gelato — plus free garage parking from 4:30 PM until close. Each Sunday, Olive & June features a family-style dinner for only $36 per person (and free for children 12 and under). Last week's menu included offerings like grilled pork loin piccata and marinated shellfish with squid ink bread crumbs.

Enjoy a decadent steak for a reasonable price.
While Texas is indeed known for its flavorful and high quality steak, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for it — unless you know where to go and when. Each Monday, Josephine House hosts a special steak frites night, when three-course meals begin at $40 and include your choice of cut (NY strip, tenderloin, rib-eye), plus starters like chicken liver mousse and desserts like a strawberry brown butter tart with rosemary ice cream. Go to Parkside during happy hour (Monday–Friday, 5–6:30 PM) for an insane $10 deal on the mini bar steak and frites. Vince Young Steakhouse grinds local Akaushi Wagyu beef into burgers, which are also available for just $10 at the bar during happy hour (Monday–Saturday, 5–7 PM). And for a mere $16, Sullivan's Steakhouse offers a tavern sliced steak with garlic horseradish mashed potatoes, thin green beans and bordelaise, always available on the bar menu.


 

Sip cocktails at a tucked away speakeasy.
In recent years, Austin's speakeasy game has seriously stepped it up. Make reservations online to receive instructions for entering Midnight Cowboy, a cocktail lounge located in a former brothel. Bonus: make a reservation for a larger group and request seating in one of several private back rooms, where you can "turn on the red light" for service. Nearby in the Firehouse Hostel, you'll find another speakeasy — the door to Firehouse Lounge is disguised as a bookshelf inside the hostel. Small Victory (pictured) can be accessed via discreet stairs adjacent to the parking garage of the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental hotel. Further east on Sixth Street, the recently opened Milonga Room requires a reservation to enjoy amaro-based cocktails and Argentine snacks in the intimate underground lounge.

Enjoy a dinner deal with (or without) a show.
Before each Broadway show at Bass Concert Hall, TRIO (inside the Downtown Four Seasons Hotel) offers a three-course menu, plus two sides for almost half the price during reservations made at or before 6:30 PM. A recent menu included a seared scallops appetizer, flat iron au poivre entree, two sides and molten chocolate cake dessert for $52. And, while a ticket isn't required to take advantage of these deals, theater-goers will also get a VIP Bass Concert Hall parking pass as part of the deal (and parking in the Four Seasons garage is always validated when you dine at TRIO).

Feast on dollar oysters (and much more) at Foreign & Domestic.
Though most oyster specials around town feature Gulf varieties, Foreign & Domestic has one of the best deals in town, offering rotating East Coast selections for just a buck a piece each Tuesday. Diners can also enjoy a menu of similarly well-priced dishes designed to match mollusks, like creamed greens with charred squid, brandade-stuffed peppers, gougėres and more. Opt for "The Whole Shebang" and get all six sides, bread and six oysters for just $42.

Catch pop-up Thai and trivia at Austin's newest urban winery.
Each Tuesday, Infinite Monkey Theorem hosts a trivia night at 7:30 PM, but arrive early for Thai street food by Pranom Pop-up, which starts at 5 PM and continues until supplies run out. And though the focus here is on wine, Infinite Theorem's dry pear cider is the perfect match for Pranom's authentic, and often spicy, Thai dishes (which always include a vegetarian option).

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