Austin

Austin’s Essential Dive Bars for No-Frills Drinking

Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret

Most major cities are deeply divided over what truly constitutes a “dive bar,” and Austin’s no different. Some places that purport to be a dive bar are only doing it for marketing purposes, but a real dive bar doesn’t need marketing. A real dive bar will call to its chosen people with the siren song of cheap beer, the ambient glow of old neon, and the promise of an evening where no one gives a damn about who you are or what you do. The dark and often-musty halls of these haunts offer a reprieve from the mixology-driven $15-per-drink madness that we’ve been tricked into. Load your pockets with cash, trade out your button down for a well-loved T-shirt and belly up at one of Austin’s tried-and-true dives.

Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret

Deep Eddy Cabaret

Est. 1951 | Tarrytown
Neon-lit nostalgic Austin original where you can BYO food

Named after nearby Deep Eddy Pool, this dim dive bar is right out of a movie set. A hodgepodge of pictures, posters, and beer signs illuminated by the glow of hanging string lights pepper the bar while mismatched tables and chairs jostle for space in the shotgun-style setup. There’s a small smoking patio and a tiny bathroom — and yes, they have erotic photo hunt, if you were wondering.

G & S Lounge

Est. 1986 | South Austin
No-frills spot with sports memorabilia and cold beer mugs

Though the exterior screams, “We’re closed,” the inside of this dilapidated bar is oddly welcoming, home to a Zoltar machine, a beer mug fridge, and tons of sports memorabilia, plus dogs that sometimes let you pet them. The bar is stocked with a great selection of liquor and beer. Stay entertained with the number of bar games, including air hockey and foosball. But be nice to the owner/bartender‚Ķ he doesn’t take no guff.

St. Roch’s Bar

Est. 2010 | East Austin
Intrepid NoLa-inspired bar with Abita Purple Haze on tap

St. Roch’s is difficult to capture in words — it has a hole-in-the-wall feel, patrons that lean towards punk, and somehow still pulls off a New Orleans flair. Come here for frozen coffees with Tullamore Dew, enormous poboys from onsite food trailer La 1 Poboys, any Sunday for the Saints game, the occasional crawfish boil, and to rub elbows with the true blue tattooed dudes that hang on the graffiti-ed smoking patio.

Flickr/Yelp Inc.
Flickr/Yelp Inc.
Flickr/Yelp Inc.

The Side Bar

Est. 2004 | Downtown
Inconspicuous bar with heavy pours and picnic tables

Just a block away from the madness that is “Dirty 6th,” Side Bar redefines cheap, strong pours that are the dive bar standard. The bartenders’ heavy hands are so well-known that the over-the-top serving has even earned itself an Urban Dictionary listing for “ridiculously excessive.” When you’re on your fourth hour trolling the jukebox, remember that we warned you.

The Cloak Room

Est. 1970s | Downtown
Legendary Capitol-area political hangout

If your immediate reaction to The Cloak Room is to tell us this subterranean, Texas State Capitol-adjacent bar isn’t a dive, allow us to make the case. Low light? Absolutely. Snappy, sassy bartenders? We love them for it. The occasional sketchy patron? Politicians! A solid variety of whiskeys? Pull up a stool. It even gets bonus points for being not much larger than the average Austin apartment’s living room.

Barfly’s

Est. 2001 | North Loop
Nondescript dive with dirt-cheap drinks

Barfly’s sign is the first indicator that you’re in for a treat. Follow the neon martini glass to one of Austin’s favorite neighborhood haunts: a friend to those on a budget, Barfly’s drinkers can snag a beer for as cheap as a buck-fifty or a mixed drink for a dollar more. Aside from the pocket-change booze, you’ll be kept entertained by the pool tables, jukebox, and old movies playing on the TV as you inevitably lose track of time in the complete lack of natural light.

MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr
MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr
MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr

Carousel Lounge 

Est. 1963 | Mueller
Circus-themed throwback with eye-catching murals

In all its strange, circus-themed glory, Carousel Lounge rescues you from the blandness of Mueller with brightly colored paintings of fire-eating ladies, sexy snake charmers, sad clowns, and of course, carousels. A life-sized pink paper mache elephant behind the stage completes the effect. They have live music every night and a newly decent selection of crafts and wine and, as a bonus, you can bring your own liquor.

Buddy’s Place of Happiness

Est. 1997 | North Burnet
Shuffleboard, a cowboy mannequin, and really cold beer

In a building comprised almost entirely of blue cinder blocks, you’ll find the best dive bar on Burnet Road. The ceilings are low, the patio is their parking lot, and they serve setups only (meaning you have to BYOL) along with beer and “wine.” They have a mostly-country jukebox, a shuffleboard table, a cowboy mannequin named Jasper, a questionable cut-out of a farmer and a sheep, plus a pool table. The beer is also the coldest in town, and if you see the owner, ask him about his boot-saver.

Texas Mist

Est. 2016 | Way East Austin
No-frills biker-friendly metal-heavy music venue

Definitely one of the newer bars on our list, Texas Mist is exactly the opposite of some of the more Texas-y dives‚Ķ it’s metal, baby. They have metal/hard rock shows nearly every weekend, motorcycles parked outside, and no sound ordinance restrictions — so if that’s your flavor, this is your spot. There’s also an outdoor area with incongruous picnic tables if you need to take a break from headbanging (but no food, sadly).

Sam's Town Point
Sam’s Town Point
Sam’s Town Point

Sam’s Town Point

Est. 1986 | Way South Austin
South Austin honky-tonk and two-stepping paradise

Americana, country, bluegrass, and everything in between grace the well-worn stage at Sam’s Town Point. It’s wood-paneled walls have seen a couple of decades of two-stepping Austinites. It’s the kind of place people think of when they hear the words “Texas dancehall” and it epitomizes every bit of that. Wear your boots or your chucks, your cowboy hat or your snapback and experience a bit of old Austin and a lot of great music.

The 04 Lounge

Est. 2008 | South Congress
South Austin lounge with daily drink specials and a pool table

South Congress is suddenly a hot spot for mixed-use developments and coffee/cocktail bars. That’s why we’re happy that the 04 Lounge still stubbornly holds its own. It’s impossible to overstate our enthusiasm for their daily drink specials (like $2 Lonestar, $1 PBRs) and the tasty jello shots. The crowd skews a little older — people who have been hanging here for years and on weekends — and the patio is crammed with people having a High Life and a smoke. Pro-tip: You get a discount if you use cash.

Ego's
Ego’s
Ego’s

Ego’s

Est. 1979 | South Congress
Karaoke dive with cheap snacks and stiff drinks

Tucked under an inconspicuous parking garage along South Congress, Ego’s is easily missed but well worth finding. The dive stays dark until the stage lights come on and karaoke brings the place — and the dance floor — to life. Get here early to avoid a wait and wash down a bowl of $1 cheezballs or pretzel mix with a stiff drink, always served in an incongruous glass goblet. They often do Grill N Chills on Sunday, so keep an eye on the calendar.

The Lost Well

Est. 2013  | Webberville
Non-pretentious east side punk- and metal-bar 

Chances are if you regularly hang on west sixth, Rainey, and even neighboring Kitty Cohen, you will stick out at Lost Well. This is where the hardcore crowd previously displaced from LoveJoys has reassembled. Punk hair, metal T-shirts, everyone in black with piercings and cooler music knowledge than you. The bartenders are ruthlessly efficient, the bathrooms have fantastic graffiti, and everyone hangs out on the front and side patio between sets during their frequent live music nights.

Flickr/MarkScottAustinTX
Flickr/MarkScottAustinTX
Flickr/MarkScottAustinTX

The White Horse

Est. 2011 | East Austin
Where the dancers are as good as the drinks

The White Horse has that special dive bar funk, with top notes of fresh popcorn and sweaty dancers. While it’s cool to hang there anytime, their stage plays host to Americana, Bluegrass, and Country-Western bands playing live every night (and there’s usually no cover). Get there at 3pm for the start of happy hour, take advantage of free dance lessons at 7pm, and stumble out after having your life saved by a bomb taco from the on-site taco truck.Sign up here for our daily Austin email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Kelly Stocker is a contributor for Thrillist.

Austin

Get Lucky at These Irish Bars in Austin

Drink a green pint on St Patrick's Day at these Irish bars in Austin.

Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by Melissa Vinsik, courtesy of Cork + Barrel

In the midst of all the SXSW chaos, it helps to remember that there’s a rainbow at the festival’s end-that is, the hangover-blessing we’ve been granted of having St. Patrick’s Day 2023 fall on a Friday. Whether you attribute this small win to the Gregorian calendar or the luck of the Irish, it’s sure to amp up the already liver-damaging activities associated with this cultural celebration. However, √Čire is more than just leprechauns and Colin Farrell-it’s a breathtaking land full of warm, welcoming, and good-hearted people. Fortunately, there’s a way you can get a taste of the Republic’s spirit, and a dark stout, at the same time by hitting up one of Austin’s various Irish pubs. From cozy, intimate spaces decked out like small taverns in Cobh, to modern dives with all the party energy of Temple Bar, our list has the best spots in the city to “erin go bragh” all out on March 17.

Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys
Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys
Photo by Jane Yun, courtesy of BD Rileys

B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub at Mueller

Mueller
With a giant model of a beer tap literally decorating their front door, you can’t miss B.D Riley’s, nor doubt that this East Austin hang is a spot to down some serious brewskis. And its name, and perfect pours of Guinness, aren’t the only aspects they draw from the Emerald Isle-the entire pub itself was actually designed and built in Dundalk, Ireland, and shipped over for assembly in Bat City. Such authentic decor calls for equally authentic sounds, therefore, on St. Patrick’s Day, B.D. Riley’s will feature an all-day, four-artist bill of live, trad-inspired music. So, while you may not start the day knowing all the words to “The Galway Girl,” you are bound to sing along by last call.

Kelly’s Irish Pub

Bouldin Creek
Having only opened this past December, Kelly’s is the new kid with a brogue on the block. Occupying the space which formerly housed tapas restaurant Winebelly, this pub had big shoes to fill for South Austin barflies, but quickly won them over with an impressive whiskey selection and friendly atmosphere. A big reason behind the real deal √Čire vibes can, most likely, be chalked up to the fact that one of Kelly’s owners was actually born and bred in Ireland-and the dedication to delivering a true-to-life experience is evident in everything from the shepherd’s pie to the witty bartenders. For St. Patrick’s Day, they are getting the party started early with live music and an opening time of 8 am.

Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger's
Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger’s
Photo courtesy of Jack & Ginger’s

Jack & Ginger’s

The Domain
While The Domain may boast more bars than you can shake a shamrock at, there’s only one spot in the North Austin entertainment behemoth that can be properly called an Irish pub: Jack & Ginger’s. Start off the night with selecting a tasting flight from their over 82 beers on tap, then, move onto shots poured straight from their Irish Whiskey Tours-after loosening up with a round or two, you might just find yourself with the gift of gab. And, before snapping a selfie over Jack & Ginger’s see-through glass floor, balance out that buzz with food offerings like a giant soft pretzel or a round of fried pickles.

Photo courtesy of Foxy's Proper Pub
Photo courtesy of Foxy’s Proper Pub
Photo courtesy of Foxy’s Proper Pub

Foxy’s Proper Pub

Downtown
Here’s a spot that visibly radiates with Irish pride-at Foxy’s, the glow of green beams out from the bar’s lighted panels, and across their chandelier made of Jameson bottles. When it comes to cups and chow, their commitment to the theme continues-the use of the word,”proper,” in the pub’s name alone indicates you’re in for a heavy pour of the standards. Consequently, the taps are abundant with essential Irish sips, including Guinness, Magners, and Smithwick’s. With Lone Star on draft, there’s also a nod to Texas tradition as well. But don’t fear if you’re bored of beer-Foxy’s variety of whiskey-based cocktails will let you switch it up (and still keep it Celtic). March 17 will find them celebrating with live music, whiskey tastings, and swag giveaways.

Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel
Photo by LEVY Architects, courtesy of Cork + Barrel

Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery

Round Rock
Compared to a flight to Dublin, the 30-minute drive to Round Rock’s Cork & Barrel is much more convenient-not to mention, won’t require waiting in a TSA line. A mix between a modern Austin beer garden and a historical Irish pub, this spot’s spacious interior and expansive outdoor patio guarantees there will be enough room for the whole crew to cheer “sl√°inte.” And, their microbrewery’s signature beers are the ideal drinks to do such a toast with. The menu of specially crafted drafts includes a blueberry wheat, an Irish red ale, and a vanilla stout. This St. Patrick’s Day also marks Cork & Barrel’s two-year anniversary, and they are throwing down for the double-celebration with live music, yard games, Irish food specials, and plentiful amounts of green beer and Irish Car Bombs.

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Molly Moltzen is a Thrillist contributor.

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