10 Austin bars and tasting rooms with great indoor spaces

11:50 a.m. Thursday, July 6, 2017 Things to Do
Thao Nguyen/Austin American-Statesman
Sit at the bar at Small Victory to watch the bartenders make the most of their tiny work space, designed for efficiency and precision in cocktail-making.

 Despite being located in one hot, sticky state, Austin has a lot of patio bars, rooftop bars and other boozy spots with outdoor seating. They’re great and all during the three months of good weather we get but, in the summertime, are just about the last place we want to be. Instead, let’s take refuge at these bars, lounges and tasting rooms, which are all about the indoor (read: thrillingly air-conditioned) experience.

This cocktail bar from one of Austin’s veteran mixologists is tiny — no, really, it’s all of 800 sq. ft. — and cozy, with dim lighting and cushioned booths running alongside one wood-paneled wall of the narrow den. With little room for extra flourishes and excessive spirits, the bar program here is precise and focuses on the classics, like the gin-based, tropical-tinged Singapore Sling.

What to order: James Bond would approve of the martini at Small Victory, mainly because the bartenders let you order it how you like (vodka vs. gin, light or heavy on the vermouth, etc.) and then make it better than any martini you’ve ever had.

108 E. Seventh St., smallvictory.bar

Tom McCarthy Jr.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem has plenty of seating as well as a projector so that groups can have fun doing crosswords or watching films while drinking wine.

Step outside the South Austin urban winery to order mouthwatering new-school barbecue from the LeRoy and Lewis food truck, parked outside Infinite Monkey Theorem on most days, and then hurry back inside to one of the most colorful, un-winery-like spaces Austin has to offer. Graffiti art all over the walls, mismatched seating and a collection of vintage radios and typewriters — the eclectic look suggests sipping wine doesn’t have to be so serious an experience.

121 Pickle Rd., austin.theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com

Although Austin’s all about local beer these days, one Congress Avenue bar wants to remind us of all the good Belgian offerings that kick-started America’s beer industry in the first place. Mort Subite (named after an actual Belgian pub) offers a variety of Old World ales, from Chimay to St. Bernardus, on tap and in bottles and even has cocktails made from European spirits. There’s also a food truck specializing in pommes frites.

308 Congress Ave., mortsubite.com

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 local barman Billy Hankey elevates your evenings with simple yet tasty cocktails (namely, a now-infamous frozen potion known as the Bee’s Knees) and homemade pizza.

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

Jay Janner/Jay Janner
The basement-level Red Room Lounge offers all kinds of wine imaginable, with a list of high-quality options that won't break the bank.

This hideaway wine bar isn’t exactly easy to find on a low-key downtown street, but you’ll be well-rewarded when you step down into the crimson-colored, brick-walled space, cluttered with wine bottles, leather seats spread among the nooks and cozy corners. Here, you’ll find one of the best-curated wine lists in the city and not much else, with a limited menu of food and no other drinks. Just lots of top-rated but accessible wines.

306A E. Third St., redroomaustin.com

There are now two locations (and a third in the works) of this brewpub with pizza, house and guest beers, and plenty of long, bench-style seating. The Burnet Road location strives to offer different pies and pints from the South Lamar spot so that you and your family — the two brewpubs are huge draws for parents with kids — have reason to visit each one. One thing both have? Crowlers to take home.

What to order: Pinthouse Pizza’s top beer guru, Joe Mohrfeld, has mastered what has become known as the hazy IPA and makes ‘em low on bitterness but full of hop aroma and flavor. At the Burnet pub, try the Man O’ War IPA; at the Lamar location, slurp down the Electric Jellyfish IPA.

4729 Burnet Rd. and 4236 S. Lamar Blvd., pinthousepizza.com

You’ll get three rather differing experiences at the multi-story dining complex in the historic Seaholm Power Plant. Austin restaurant group La Corsha Hospitality has created the restaurant Boiler Nine in the main floor, the Deck Nine Observatory Bar in the open-air space above and the Boiler Room at the bottom of the building. Cozy and dark, the Boiler Room offers bar snacks and cocktails like the tiki tipple Zombie Zoo.

800 W. Cesar Chavez St., boilernine.com

The quintessential speakeasy in town requires a bit of prior know-how to get in, just like in America’s Prohibition days: You’ll have to enter through a sliding bookcase in the Firehouse Hostel. (No, but really, how cool is that? Still. Years later.) Built in the oldest standing firehouse in Austin, in 1885, the Firehouse Lounge has regular live music, killer cocktails and some of the friendliest bartenders in town.

605 Brazos St., firehousehostel.com

4th Tap often has beers you can only find at the taproom, whether that's a barrel-aged brew or something straight from a firkin.

Many of Austin’s breweries are built out of industrial warehouses, so the brewers often have to work hard to make their taprooms seem homey and welcoming. In North Austin, 4th Tap has done a good job of that, with an expansive space full of long benches, tons of board games for the borrowing and a beer menu that often changes with draft-only offerings, like the Mellified Man Amber with black tea and orange blossom honey. 

10615 Metric Blvd., 4thtap.coop

There isn’t much of an outdoor component to this Mickie Spencer-designed cocktail bar because, well, you’d literally be sipping your drink in the cold concrete cave of an actual downtown parking garage. And why would you want to, anyway, when the interior of Garage — with a circular bar surrounded by spindly stools and round tables around the perimeter — is such an inviting space?

What to order: Rather like the cars you would find at the working garage in which the bar is housed, the menu is divided into ‘custom,’ ‘vintage’ and ‘refurbished’ cocktails. Garage just released a new summer program with the likes of the Ingrid Bergman on the custom side: hibiscus rye, Thai basil, orange and lime.

503 Colorado St., garagetx.com


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