From an Argentinean speakeasy to a vintage-inspired sports bar, Austin certainly has no shortage of watering holes. Here are our picks for the 11 hottest spots in town right now.
From the owners of drink.well comes this retro cocktail bar combining hip, midcentury design with a wide range of throwback cocktails. In addition to an extensive rum selection, expect small producer champagne and wine, a short snack menu and breezy rooftop patio.
Why it's hot: The latest project from the owners of drink.well features the top-notch cocktails and bar snacks for which they are known, but with more space, table service and one of the best rooftop patios in town.
Must-drink: The signature Backbeat cocktail, a recent runner-up to the Official Drink of Austin competition.
Insider tip: The Trinidad sour on tap might just be the only cocktail in town hooked up to nitro, which makes for smooth, tingly carbonation.
From the team behind 24 Diner, Easy Tiger and Italic comes this welcoming destination serving an all-day menu of classic American dishes (think King Ranch chicken, pot roast and a signature strawberry cake) as well as breakfast items from a takeaway window and creative house cocktails. The friendly space includes a comfortable patio for lounging and plenty of vintage touches, such as an upright piano and pink neon signage.
Why it's hot: From the restaurant group behind Italic, 24 Diner and Easy Tiger comes Irene's, a retro-inspired American bar and restaurant off West Sixth Street, an area in need of a neighborhood hangout with quality food.
Must-drink: The drinks here are incredibly affordable. Cocktails are just $7 each and wine by the glass just $6. First-timers should try the stiff Goodnight Irene, named after the Southern grandmother who inspired the place.
Insider tip: Food here is served until 2 AM and includes a "steak and whiskey" option: a one pound bone-in NY strip served with a sizable shot of Old Granddad whiskey.
This intimate Downtown eatery has a handful of seats, all at a U-shaped counter surrounding a chef who prepares and serves three-, five- and seven-course tasting meals of seasonal New American cuisine. The bright dining area is separated by sliding glass doors from a more subtly lit wine and charcuterie bar.
- New American
Why it's hot: When COUNTER 3.FIVE.VII. first opened, it was with a beer and wine program helmed by sommelier Jason Huerta. Just this spring, they added a cocktail program to the mix, offering spirits like Yamazaki 12-year-old Japanese whiskey and 1985 Baron Gaston LeGrand armagnac, plus a listing of classically inspired cocktails.
Must-drink: The white port cocktail, made with vermouth, Lillet and lemon, is the perfect summer digestif.
Insider tip: If you want to snack on appetizers and dessert — but not commit to an entire tasting menu— COUNTER's bar area is the perfect place to catch up with friends over drinks and order dishes à la carte... or opt for a three-course bistro-style dinner for just $30, available in the bar area Monday–Friday from 5–9:30 PM.
Andrew Wiseheart and Ben Edgerton (Contigo, Gardner) are the driving force behind this ranch-inspired, neighborhood spot featuring wood-grilled New American favorites, including some family-style or shareable plates, plus bar snacks and garden-fresh cocktails; Mexican textiles and hand-blown glass lend pops of color to the rustic, wood-paneled interior, and plenty of shaded seating is available on the outdoor patio.
- East Austin
Why it's hot: Gardner suddenly shuttered this spring to make way for a new concept, and Chicon took its place in mere weeks. The bar menu has remained as culinary-minded as before, incorporating lots of garden-to-glass elements, like a Negroni with red pepper syrup and a mezcal cocktail brightened with rhubarb.
Must-drink: The Greener Side (pictured) is a perfectly refreshing tonic for summer, made with gin, aquavit, arugula, lime and a splash of soda.
Insider tip: On Sunday–Thursday, all house cocktails are $2 off from 5–6:30 PM.
Amaro is what it’s all about at this intimate bar below Buenos Aires Cafe, serving rare bottles, amaro cocktails and the restaurant’s signature empanadas in an antiques-filled, candlelit space with live music. P.S. Reservations required.
- East Austin
Why it's hot: This May, Buenos Aires Cafe opened a tiny speakeasy underneath its East Sixth Street location. Go for the selection of amari and fernet and stay for the live music performances and cozy vibe in the intimate, Argentine-inspired space.
Must-drink: The Argentine version of a mint julep (pictured) is a must-try, made with Cynar, pompelmo (grapefruit) soda, lemon and mint.
Insider tip: Be sure to text the number below to snag a reservation (and directions for entry) before you go.
Located in the Rock Rose entertainment district of the Domain, this sophisticated watering hole serves signature cocktails, a sizable wine list and globally influenced small plates such as curried chicken samosas, spicy Spanish meatballs and Greek flatbread. The bright, airy space features a circular bar, white cut-out ceiling, blue velveteen bar stools and plenty of natural light.
- The Domain
Why it's hot: While the Rock Rose saw several openings at once this spring, St. Genevieve stands apart from the rest with its classy atmosphere and menus to match.
Must-drink: A signature cocktail is in order on the first visit, be it a Namaste (Absolut Citron, Saint Germain, lime juice, green tea syrup, mint, Prosecco) or a Quiet Slap in the Face (coffee- and vanilla-infused tequila, Bailey's, espresso, cream).
Insider tip: During happy hour, which runs Monday–Friday from 3–7 PM, glasses of Prosecco, white wine and select red wine are just $5.
A reincarnation of Bridget Dunlap’s iconic Lustre Pearl bar, originally situated across the street but since relocated to East Austin, this spacious watering hole has a rooftop patio with stunning city views, plus design details incorporated from the first space. Draught beer, house cocktails and frozen drinks are served from two bars, and the backyard has games and hula hoops.
- Rainey Street
Why it's hot: The original Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street is the place that started the boom responsible for Rainey Street today: a quiet residential street turned raucous bar district. Though the original house was moved to the east side to make way for a hotel, owner Bridget Dunlap decided to reopen a second place as close to the original spot as possible. Enter Lustre Pearl Rainey, located right across the street from where it all started.
Must-drink: Relax like they did in the good ol' days, with a tall boy of Lone Star, or inquire about the daily frozen drink specials.
Insider tip: With a bar both upstairs and downstairs, you won't have to travel far for a libation, whether you're involved in a game of Ping-Pong or checking out the rooftop view of Austin.
Ambient lighting and local art set the tone for this upscale Warehouse District sports bar pouring craft beer, a large selection of wines and signature cocktails. The kitchen features traditional bar fare (think wings and burgers) as well as elegant dishes such as seasonal risotto, rock shrimp salad and lamb chops with pistachio-mint pistou.
Why it's hot: This new Warehouse District spot is proving, with upscale food and drink, that not all sports bars are created equal.
Must-drink: Choose from one of the rotating local and craft beers at all times, available both on tap and by the bottle.
Insider tip: Follow the bar's Facebook page for info on drink specials (like $2 off all Deep Eddy drinks and discounted beer buckets).
The regional Italian menus at this upscale destination in the Downtown JW Marriott feature housemade pastas, meatballs, pizzas and other traditional mains, from chicken Parmesan to sea scallop scottato. A bright, elegant space with wrought-iron accents has a refined Tuscan look and a relaxed vibe.
Why it's hot: The JW Marriott just recently opened a brand-new wine bar inside Osteria Pronto, so now guests (and visitors) can enjoy wine flights and snack on pizzas, meats and cheeses even when the three other restaurants are closed between meals.
Must-drink: Not in the mood for wine? Choose from a list of Italian-inspired cocktails, like the Panna Tazza, made with Basil Hayden bourbon, Fernet Branca, Frangelico, vanilla vodka, nutmeg and sweet cream.
Insider tip: If it's not displayed on the bar, ask about the hotel's very own blend of Angel's Envy bourbon, only available at this location.
From the owners of classic Tex-Mex joint Mi Madre's comes this rooftop speakeasy pouring more than 20 types of mezcal plus agave-based craft cocktails featuring seasonal ingredients. Climb the staircase on the side of the restaurant to find the cozy, candlelit space, which also has rooftop patio seating.
- East Austin
Why it's hot: The family who owns Mi Madre's quietly opened a little agave-focused bar this winter, which means Tobalá is no longer the only place to sip mezcal by candlelight.
Must-drink: Be sure to try one of the refreshing margarita blends made with fresh fruits and herbs, such as guava or basil.
Insider tip: Though the bar is located on the roof of Mi Madre's, the stairs are actually accessible from the yard of School House Pub next door.
From local bar star Bridget Dunlap (Bar 96, Clive Bar, Lustre Pearl, Container Bar) comes this West 6th Street stop featuring yard games and plenty of spaces for lounging both inside and out. The Astroturf-covered yard offers ping pong, shuffleboard and cornhole, while the wood-clad interior has board games, cocktails and a short menu of shareable bar snacks, burgers and sandwiches, plus Sunday brunch.
Why it's hot: While we were admittedly sad to see Arro go, Bridget Dunlap's group put good use to the very recently renovated patio by filling it with yard games like Ping-Pong, shuffleboard and cornhole. Meanwhile, the classy interior welcomes guests, evoking a swanky wood cabin.
Must-drink: A dollar of every mule ordered goes toward Empancipet, a non-profit that provides affordable veterinary care.
Insider tip: A new Sunday brunch menu means even more reasons to get Sunday Funday kicked off (with fried chicken sliders and stuffed meatballs).