Ask Austinites what their favorite bar is and you'll be faced with hundreds of different, stylish options. Visitors heading to the city have access to everything from intimate wine bars to boisterous college canteens to chill craft alehouses with hundreds of beers on tap. With such a wide variety of high-quality watering holes in town, it can be difficult to narrow down where to go. So U.S. News asked local experts to spill the sudsy secrets on their favorite Austin, Texas, bars to sit back, relax and enjoy a swig or sip.
"On Rainey Street you have Craft Pride, where the bartenders are knowledgeable and help you find the beer you're looking for," says David Scheffke, front office manager at the Hotel Ella. "They have 54 craft beers on tap, so you can try a new beer every time you go, plus a gorgeous patio, and the Via 313 pizza truck is there as well."
[Read: The Best Hotels in Austin.]
With a wide selection of Texas beer and wine, Craft Pride displays a large, colorful menu above the bar that describes its beverages. Try the Live Oak Brewing Co.'s HefeWeizen for a light, wheat flavor or the Pinthouse Pizza Electric Jellyfish for an intense IPA experience.
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden
Also calling Rainey Street home is Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden, which showcases 30 house-made sausages, live music, pig roasts and more than 100 beers on tap. Its humongous outdoor beer garden with long picnic tables gives the place a lively German beer hall vibe, and it's dog-friendly, with an off-leash dog park and specialty sausages just for Fido.
During your visit, consider trying Austin Beerworks' Peacemaker, Austin Eastciders' Original Dry Cider, Blue Owl Brewing's Little Boss or Thirsty Planet's Thirsty Goat.
"Whisler's is a fantastic one," says Tony Ingargiola, concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin. "It's in a historic building with lots of charm and stone. Great craft cocktails, and they have one of the better food trucks behind them, Thai-Kun."
Known for its excellent seasonal cocktail menu and its mezcal bar, Mezcalería Tobalá, Whisler's in East Austin has some of the best drinks in town. Its welcoming, chill spaces indoors and out, and its house Old-Fashioned cocktails are beloved by both locals and visitors.
Garage Cocktail Bar
Garage Cocktail Bar's unique craft cocktails, including the vodka-infused Indian Paintbrush, plus exceptional eats draw in those looking for a low-key place to unwind in downtown Austin.
[Read: 5 Austin Breweries to Visit.]
"It's in a parking structure, so you can't see it unless you know about it, which gives it that speak-easy feel," says Angela Ashley, former assistant front office manager at the South Congress Hotel. "It [has] midcentury modern decor with concrete, the cocktails are fantastic and sometimes they have live music."
Ranch 616's signature cocktail, Ranch Water, is a must-try when you take a trip to the capital of Texas. This downtown spot with a great patio has colorful lights and funky accents, like a bull's head, hung on the walls. Margaritas, beer and wine are served alongside craft cocktails featuring tequilas and mezcals.
"They also have a Fire in the Hole shot, which is a hollowed out jalapeno filled with a vodka shot," says Katherine Wise, communications manager at Visit Austin, the city's tourism organization.
The Roosevelt Room
The Roosevelt Room's extensive cocktail menu starts with mixed drinks invented before 1880 – like the Sazerac – and ends with modern classics – like the Trinidad Sour, with angostura bitters, lemon, orgeat and rye whiskey. Beer, wine and small bites are also available inside this luxe, modern bar.
Once a sleazy massage parlor, downtown Austin's Midnight Cowboy is now a reservation-only lounge where you can book a table for up to two hours. If space is available, you can stay longer in the bar area or in the private back rooms, or head to the new patio area.
[Read: 9 Must-Try Austin Steakhouses.]
"It's so Austin-y, kitschy and unique," says Steven Leigh, chief concierge at the Archer Hotel Austin. "You make reservations online and get a code. When you walk up, there's no address. You have to press a button and give them the code [to get in]." Visitors looking for creative cocktails made tableside should think about booking a spot here.
The Cedar Tavern at Eberly
For a taste of history, sidle up to the 150-year-old bar at The Cedar Tavern at Eberly in the Zilker neighborhood. The classic mahogany counter was transported to Texas after its Greenwich Village home closed.
"They took a bar out of a tavern in New York City, pulled it apart, shipped it to Texas and put it back together," Ashley says. "It looks like it's been there for 200 years."
The Cedar Tavern attracts locals and travelers with its seasonal American food bites, wines, craft beer and master cocktails. Try The Innkeeper, made with Eberly Barrel Select Patrón Añejo, creme de violette, lemon and lavender.
The Cloak Room
Right next to the Capitol is The Cloak Room, an unassuming spot with the longest happy hour in town and a jukebox that plays classic hits.
"It's where politicians go to make backroom deals," Leigh says. "Very quiet and dark, and it's down some stairs in the basement." This dive is easygoing and relaxed, with strong drinks from a longtime bartender who treats guests like friends.
To experience more of what Austin has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
15 Best Foodie Destinations in the USA
Ellis graduated cum laude with a bachelor's in English from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Texas Freelance Association, Freelance Austin, and Women Communicators of Austin. You can find her on LinkedIn and her website, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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