Austin

Austin's Best Bars: Belly Up for a Cold One, Austin-Style

Filed Under: Austin, Beer
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Austin offers a haven for hip music lovers, and the city's nightlife revolves around live music, strong drinks and funky bars. Whatever your drink -- microbrew beers, wine or liquor -- or your style -- country, rock 'n' roll or indie pop -- there's a bar Austin to suit your needs.

Many of Austin's bars line the 7 blocks of Sixth Street, which runs from Congress Avenue to State Highway 35, an epic street known for big crowds, lotsa booze and loud music. Other bar hotspots can be found around town in Austin neighborhoods like the Red River District and Rosedale.

Casino el Camino
At times the Sixth Street bars attract a very tipsy University of Texas crowd or hordes of tourists. Not so the 2-story Casino el Camino. The bar has been a true locals’ hangout since its 1994 debut. There's generally some serious drinking happening in the dimly lit and quirkily decorated bar (think creepy gargoyles and faux skulls). In warm weather, patrons fill seats on the patio out back. The bar's claim to fame is a toss-up between its eclectic jukebox voted best jukebox in Austin for 15 years straight (you can hear Los Zafiros, also coined "The Cuban Beatles), and its giant 3/4-lb. hamburgers that come topped with everything from hot wing sauce and blue cheese, to serrano chilies, jalapeno cheese and cilantro mayonnaise.

Driskill Bar
Housed in Austin's iconic, high-end Driskill Hotel, the Driskill Bar proves a luxurious find in the midst of Sixth Street's admittedly divier bars. Built in 1886 as the residence of a wealthy cattle farmer, the Driskill's marble floor, stained glass dome and stately decor represent Austin at its most opulent. Shiny leather couches, dark mahogany tables, western-themed sculptures and art greet the bar's patrons, who can order from an array of wines, spirits, and draught and bottled beers. The bar also features excellent daily drink specials, like cocktails and Texas beers during happy hour, as well as half-price happy hour bar snacks. Guests won't have to travel far for live entertainment: The Driskill Bar offers live music most nights, including piano players, jazz singers and R&B musicians.

Club de Ville
A hipster haven tucked away in Austin's Red River District just north of Sixth Street, Club de Ville's dark and grungy vibe is offset by the stylish crowds that gather inside the bar as well as in an enormous outdoor courtyard, which lies dramatically under a limestone cliff adjacent to the bar's property. Bands frequently play both inside the bar and on a stage set in front of the cliffs, offering a memorable backdrop to any performance. Call the bar or check the website for a calendar of music and events; Club de Ville often plays host to fashion shows featuring apparel from local designers.

Draught House Pub and Brewery
Tucked away in Austin's Rosedale neighborhood lies one of Austin's hottest microbreweries, the Draught House. The Tudor-style British pub showcases exposed wooden beam ceilings and heavy oak tables. Make note not to sip on wine or liquor here; this is a haven for beer lovers and more than 50 can be found on tap, including multiple European imports and homemade microbrews. The beers brewed on-site vary, but often include American-style and Belgian ales, wheat beers and stouts. Try to plan a visit here on a Saturday, when the Draught House offers free bratwursts.

Carousel Lounge
The Carousel Lounge has been doing a bang-up job helping "keep Austin weird" with its kitschy circus motif and quirky furnishings. Dancing elephant and lion tamer murals deck the walls, lamps made from hubcaps offer light, an enormous plastic elephant hangs on above the stage and a miniature carousel sits behind the bar. The bar's front booths feature individual jukeboxes, and a pinball machine and an old-school walk-in phone booth also entertain the clientele. Most nights the Carousel offers live entertainment, from rock bands to country bands and occasionally, even belly dancers. The Carousel serves only beer, though patrons are welcome to bring their own liquor and buy "setups," or ice, glass and mixers, from the waitstaff to make their own cocktails.

Broken Spoke
Austin's greatest honky-tonk and dancehall, the Broken Spoke, has played boot-stomping country tunes to eager dancing crowds since its opening in 1964. Country music greats like Willie Nelson, George Strait and Kitty Wells have performed at the Spoke, while bar patrons dance the 2-step. Not a bona fide country dancer? No problem. The Spoke hosts all kinds of guests, from cowboy boot-wearing fans to out-of-state tourists in sneakers watching the shenanigans and drinking cold beers. A visit to the Broken Spoke wouldn't be complete without stopping by the "Tourist Trap Room," a space dedicated to housing memorabilia collected throughout the bar's history, like photos of Hank Williams and Lyle Lovett, cowboy hats, fiddles and even a chicken-fried steak plate autographed by Randy Travis.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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