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Pick your poison

20 of Austin’s best places to grab a drink

Austin is recognized as much more than a food lover’s paradise. In nearly every neighborhood, we’ve also got bars and breweries where we can sit back with a drink in hand. Want a patio where your dog is welcome? A cozy seat at the bar with a TV screen overhead playing the Longhorns game? A variety of small plates that pair with your cocktails or glass of wine? Watering holes of all kinds have found a home in the Austin area.

Below, we offer a roundup of these drinking spots, grouped by the kind of experience you might be looking for. We aren’t ranking them, but they do represent some of Austin’s top places to grab a drink.

When you have beer on the brain

The Whip In is South Austin's original mom-and-pop Indian food restaurant, wine bar, beer bar and brewpub. They began brewing house beer in 2012. (American-Statesman 2013 file photo)

The Draught House Pub & Brewery

4112 Medical Parkway, draughthouse.com.

It’s been nearly 48 years since the Rosedale-located Draught House first opened — its anniversary party, with food trucks, craft ice cream and something called the Beer Olympics, is on Oct. 29 — and the British-style tavern is arguably still the best place to get a pint of something sudsy, even as it’s remained a local secret.

In an old Tudor-style house, the bar became a brewpub in 1995 when Josh Wilson, still behind the scenes today at a seven-barrel brewhouse, started making beers to go on tap alongside other offerings from breweries in Texas, the U.S. and beyond. Count on finding beers that are new, rare or just plain dependable on the menu.

Most days of the week, food trucks, like Best Wurst and Quality Seafood, are outside.

The Draught House, a British-style pub with a small in-house brewery, is turning 48 this month and remains one of Austin’s best places to grab a beer. (American-Statesman 2013 file photo)

The Draught House, a British-style pub with a small in-house brewery, is turning 48 this month and remains one of Austin’s best places to grab a beer. (American-Statesman 2013 file photo)

Whip In

1950 S. Interstate 35, whipin.com.

Another longtime Austin staple, this 30-year-old gas station-turned-beer bar isn’t actually a place you’ll simply whip into. You’ll probably find yourself compelled to stay awhile — lured by draft beer, good Indian cooking and shelves of beer and wine to go. The beer on tap often changes out, which is just one reason why the Whip In has earned many a regular during nights of live music, poetry readings, bingo and more.

Craft Pride

61 Rainey St., craftprideaustin.com.

Craft Pride opened in 2013, when the number of Texas breweries began to skyrocket. The owners of the Rainey Street bar, located in a dark red bungalow with an expansive back patio, wanted a place where only beers from the state’s breweries were available, as a way of fostering the budding industry. That’s a mission still front and center at Craft Pride, where visitors will also find the tantalizing Detroit-style pizza of food truck Via 313.

Craft Pride, a Rainey Street bungalow bar, sells only beers made by Texas breweries and constantly rotates the taps for fresh offerings. (Contributed by Craft Pride)

Craft Pride, a Rainey Street bungalow bar, sells only beers made by Texas breweries and constantly rotates the taps for fresh offerings. (Contributed by Craft Pride)

The Growler Bar

1300 FM 685 #100, Pflugerville, txgrowlerbar.com.

You don’t have to drive into the city for a good beer. Father-and-son team Jeff and Jason Kemp opened their bar as a growler fill station with more than 50 beer, wine and cold-brew taps, but you also can stay and nurse a pint. The bar highlights area brews like Bluebonnet Beer’s Texas Pecan Brown but also has tantalizing beers from all over, such as Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial.

The Growler Bar in Pflugerville offers beers to drink onsite as well as to-go options in two different growler sizes. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

The Growler Bar in Pflugerville offers beers to drink onsite as well as to-go options in two different growler sizes. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

Where wine is the word

The Infinite Monkey Theorem is an urban winery off South Congress Avenue that has created a casual, eclectic atmosphere for visitors to drink wine. (Tom McCarthy Jr./For American-Statesman)

Red Room Lounge

306A E. Third St., redroomaustin.com.

This hideaway wine bar isn’t easy to find along a nondescript block of downtown, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts once you step down into the dimly lit space lined with wine bottles. The Red Room Lounge keeps its premise simple: not much food, no other alcoholic drinks, just wine. And lots of it.

The Red Room Lounge attracts diehard wine fans and tourists alike for its diverse selection of wines. (Jay Janner\/American-Statesman)

The Red Room Lounge attracts diehard wine fans and tourists alike for its diverse selection of wines. (Jay Janner/American-Statesman)

Sommelier Darren Scott offers a small list of wines by the glass and a much longer list of bottled options, divided by region and broken down into red, white, sparkling and rosé. Because the Red Room’s customers are a mix of tourists and serious wine enthusiasts, these menus have both approachable and esoteric wines to choose from, whether a Russian River Valley pinot noir is your go-to or a Sicilian grape, Carricante, is on order for some adventure.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem

121 Pickle Road #110, austin.theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com.

As an urban winery, the Denver transplant wanted to be funky. Graffiti on the walls, antique radios and typewriters behind the bar, a communal crossword puzzle that screens with the help of an old projector — these are all elements of the tasting room off South Congress Avenue that help transform your wine-drinking experience into something memorable. Also memorable are the kegged and canned wines served there, increasingly made from Texas grapes.

Aviary Wine & Kitchen

2110 S. Lamar Blvd., aviarylounge.com.

Although Aviary originally opened as a home furnishings store, a small wine bar within it began to take on a life of its own. Now, owners Marco Fiorilo and John Coronado have plans to close the shop temporarily at the start of the new year and transform it into a restaurant — keeping a big focus on wine, of course. The reds, whites and sparkling wines tend toward Old World varietals and regions, with enough variety for any palate. Stop in between 4 to 7 p.m. for happy hour.

The Aviary, which originally opened as a home decor store, has made multiple changes throughout the year and is planning to soon open as a full-blown restaurant without the shopping element. (Contributed by Aviary)

The Aviary, which originally opened as a home decor store, has made multiple changes throughout the year and is planning to soon open as a full-blown restaurant without the shopping element. (Contributed by Aviary)

If you want to feel cozy with a cocktail

For the Deck Nine cocktail menu, Jason Stevens and his bar staff made a few house sodas based on favorite flavor combinations and well-loved classics. Guests can choose what spirit to pair with those sodas. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

Deck Nine Observatory Bar

800 W. Cesar Chavez St., boilernine.com.

Along with centerpiece restaurant Boiler Nine Bar & Grill, the four stories of La Corsha Hospitality Group’s dining project in the historic Seaholm Power Plant include a couple of bars: the Deck Nine Observatory Bar on the rooftop and the Boiler Room on a subterranean level near the boiler from which the concept gets its name.

The den-like Boiler Room is dark and cozy, while the outdoor Deck Nine is open and airy, with gorgeous views of the city (and observation viewfinders to boot). Deck Nine’s cocktail program — designed by La Corsha veteran Jason Stevens — is simple, with a “booze your own adventure” twist. Each of the seven cocktails comes with your choice of spirit. Vodka, dark rum, tequila or mezcal for the pineapple soda Sun King? Up to you.

Garage

503 Colorado St., garagetx.com.

It’s a speakeasy in the classic sense of the word: Garage is in an unexpected place — as the name suggests, a parking garage downtown — and you’ll feel you know a pretty special secret once you walk into the darkened den. Sit yourself at the semi-circular bar and order a custom cocktail like the Someday Baby, with tequila, chamomile, lemon and honey, or a vintage cocktail like the rye-based Old Fashioned. There’s a small dining menu of “fuel,” as well, featuring the ever-trendy poke.

Garage, a cocktail bar downtown, has the distinction of being located within a working parking garage, but you won’t know it once you walk inside. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

Garage, a cocktail bar downtown, has the distinction of being located within a working parking garage, but you won’t know it once you walk inside. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

King Bee Lounge

1906 E. Twelfth St., facebook.com/King-Bee

Formerly the Legendary White Swan, the King Bee is still in tune with its musical roots — especially on Monday nights, when the Little Elmore Reed Blues Band washes away the anxiety of a new week. This darkened dive from beloved barman Billy Hankey elevates your evenings with simple yet tasty cocktails (namely, a now-infamous frozen potion known as the Bee’s Knees), as well as homemade pizza and a patio area.
The Roosevelt Room

307 W. Fifth St., therooseveltroomatx.com.

Cocktail lovers and history buffs alike will feel right at home in the long, narrow bar where classic drinks take the spotlight. The Roosevelt Room has divided 53 of these tipples into different drinking eras (such as Prohibition, tiki and modern classics), and you can get a stamp card to help you work your way through them, with the reward of getting your name engraved on a plaque. Pace yourself with a charcuterie board or grilled cheese.

The Roosevelt Room in downtown Austin has a large menu of classic cocktails and a smaller menu of originals. (Tom McCarthy Jr.\/For American-Statesman)

The Roosevelt Room in downtown Austin has a large menu of classic cocktails and a smaller menu of originals. (Tom McCarthy Jr./For American-Statesman)

Techo Mezcalaria & Agave Bar

2201 Manor Road, facebook.com/techomezcalaria.

The owners of Tex-Mex restaurant Mi Madre’s opened a mezcal and tequila bar above it last year, and Techo (“roof”) remains one of Austin’s hidden gems. The cozy rooftop space, a mix of wood and ornate metal with a single stained glass window, serves as a tribute to the Oaxacan mezcalarias that are a big part of Mexican culture. Mezcal bottles line the back bar for people interested in drinking it straight out of traditional clay copitas, but agave cocktails are available as well.

Techo Mezcalaria & Agave Bar, above Mi Madre’s on Manor Road, might be a small place, but it’s got a lot of love for Mexican culture and has a well-curated list of mezcal. (Contributed by Techo)

Techo Mezcalaria & Agave Bar, above Mi Madre’s on Manor Road, might be a small place, but it’s got a lot of love for Mexican culture and has a well-curated list of mezcal. (Contributed by Techo)

When patios are your pleasure

In far South Austin, the Little Darlin’ has an expansive outdoor area where locals can enjoy games of washers and horseshoes or simply talk and hang out. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

Kitty Cohen’s

2211 Webberville Road, kittycohens.com.

When the owners of Bar 2211 announced they wanted to transform the East Austin space into a retro-inspired lounge borrowing a design aesthetic from 1970s Palm Beach clubs, the concept seemed a little hokey. But the result is like walking into the kitschy-cute beach house of your best friend in 1970s or ’80s California — if your best bud made $7 to $10 cocktails, that is, and offered a wine list with such gems as $7 rosé.

Kitty Cohen’s has a luxurious patio with a wading pool, plenty of seating and a beachy 1970s vibe. The Foxy ’75 is a twist on the champagne-topped French ’75 classic with cognac, lemon juice, prosecco and simple syrup. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

Kitty Cohen’s has a luxurious patio with a wading pool, plenty of seating and a beachy 1970s vibe. The Foxy ’75 is a twist on the champagne-topped French ’75 classic with cognac, lemon juice, prosecco and simple syrup. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

Inside, the bar is charming — if unabashedly nostalgic, with a grand piano, palm tree wallpaper and brightly colored chairs — but you’ll want to be outside, where a shimmering wading pool beckons amid mismatched tables shaded by blue umbrellas. Sip your Foxy ’75 while listening to Rod Stewart croon on an overhead record player and just smile.

Yard Bar

6700 Burnet Road, yardbar.com.

Humans and canines of all kinds are welcome at this North Austin bar that makes sure our four-legged friends have as much fun as we do. The expansive “yard” in reference is mostly for the dogs, while we’ve got tables in the fenced-in area as well as under shady trees nearby. Order a canned beer or a snack, like a chicken tender basket or spicy deviled eggs, and watch your pet romp and play with newly made friends.

Dogs like Crash, a golden retriever, love to play in the large yard area at Yard Bar, where their owners also can enjoy themselves with snacks and drinks. (Tom McCarthy Jr.\/For American-Statesman)

Dogs like Crash, a golden retriever, love to play in the large yard area at Yard Bar, where their owners also can enjoy themselves with snacks and drinks. (Tom McCarthy Jr./For American-Statesman)

Easy Tiger

709 E. Sixth St., easytigeraustin.com.

When you walk in through the bake shop, the alluring smell of freshly made bread will probably give you an appetite. Good thing, too, because there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in the outdoor beer garden and enjoying a pretzel with beer cheese or a house-made sausage. Wash down the grub with a beer — Easy Tiger balances local and national offerings — and then line up for a game of pingpong as Waller Creek gurgles serenely below.

At Easy Tiger, you can walk in through the bakeshop before proceeding down to the bar and beer garden above nearby Waller Creek. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

At Easy Tiger, you can walk in through the bakeshop before proceeding down to the bar and beer garden above nearby Waller Creek. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

The Little Darlin’

6507 Circle S Road, facebook.com/TheLittleDarlinBar.

A far South Austin dive with locally sourced food and drinks, the Little Darlin’ opened in the spring as the brainchild of a group of experienced bar owners who knew exactly what the area needed: a bar that feels more like a friend’s home, with an expansive backyard, a covered patio with TVs and a split-level interior with booths, pool tables and cold Austin beers. The backyard also has washer and horseshoe pits and allows dogs on leashes.

Live Oak Brewing

1615 Crozier Lane, liveoakbrewing.com.

After nearly 20 years peddling European-style beers to Austin, Live Oak finally opened a tasting room worthy of its wares (as well as a much bigger brewery) earlier this year. Near the airport, the 22-acre property is scenic and serene. Once you’ve ordered a Pilz or a Hefeweizen from the bar, walk outside to the sprawling, multi-level beer garden, where you can find a bench positioned among a grove of tall, leafy oaks. Food trucks are often parked nearby.

Live Oak Brewing’s beer garden is shaded by a grove of oak trees, and it’s become a special spot for visitors to relax on a nice day. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

Live Oak Brewing’s beer garden is shaded by a grove of oak trees, and it’s become a special spot for visitors to relax on a nice day. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

Where music is magic

The ABGB’s stage is the perfect visual example of how fluidly the brewpub combines beer and live music. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)

The ABGB

1305 W. Oltorf St., theabgb.com.

This 3-year-old brewpub serves the classic combination of beer and pizza, but owners also wanted to focus on another important facet of our town. Live music takes the stage — behind which is visible the stainless steel tanks of the brewhouse — on Wednesdays, when resident musician Warren Hood performs, and on weekends.

There’s no telling what kind of music you’ll get, from George Strait tribute shows to blues act Mayeux and Broussard. However, you can consistently count on good beers, primarily lagers like the award-winning Industry Pilsner, and on well-made, puffy pies with quality toppings. You also can trust you’ll have a good time.

The Townsend

718 Congress Ave. #718, thetownsendaustin.com.

Although the initial fuss last year about the Townsend, directly across from the Paramount Theatre, focused on the cocktail program from lauded local bartender Justin Elliott, the food (mainly small plates) and live music deserve a deeper look. Behind the main room is a smaller black box-style concert area where excellent acoustics make live shows stand out. You can thank the Townsend’s co-founder and local musician Kathy Valentine for that.

The Townsend is not just a cocktail bar with delicious small bites on Congress Avenue; it doubles as a performance venue with excellent acoustics for live music. (Tom McCarthy Jr.\/For American-Statesman)

The Townsend is not just a cocktail bar with delicious small bites on Congress Avenue; it doubles as a performance venue with excellent acoustics for live music. (Tom McCarthy Jr./For American-Statesman)

South Austin Brewery

415 E. St. Elmo Road, southaustinbrewery.com.

The guitar-clad brewery logo makes it clear that South Austin Brewery, founded in 2012, loves music as much as Austin does. Open on weekday evenings for happy hour and during weekends, the taproom plays host to live shows that sound oh-so-good with beers like South Austin’s Six-String Saison, a nontraditional take on the farmhouse ale. On Sundays, the brewery also opens its upstairs listening room for more intimate concerts.

South Austin Brewery has a stage for live music next to towers of beer cans waiting to be shipped out. (Arianna Auber\/American-Statesman)

South Austin Brewery has a stage for live music next to towers of beer cans waiting to be shipped out. (Arianna Auber/American-Statesman)