When you’re drinking at a bar, it’s always important to remember that you’ve got to eat to stay clear-headed.
Sometimes that means having dinner elsewhere before stopping into your favorite watering hole for a nightcap, but a number of Austin bars and taprooms have become one-stop shops for your dining and drinking needs — not only offering stellar booze options but also food programs that go beyond your basic buffalo wings.
So if you’re looking for an all-in-one date night, here’s where to go. This list incorporates both casual and slightly more high-end choices and also exclusively includes places that have their own kitchens, rather than on-site food trucks (many of which are great, but that’s a list for another day).
Drink.Well, 207 E. 53rd St.
One of Austin’s top cocktail bars will have you eating well, too. While sipping on seasonal drinks like the sherry-accented piña colada in the inviting North Loop hangout, chow down on what you might call fancy pub food. Drink.Well’s food menu tends to rotate with the seasons, like the cocktails, and features dishes including an always dependable burger and Mediterranean-leaning options like hummus tahina.
The Cavalier burger with its cornbread brioche bun isn't your average burger. Have it with the rum-filled Zombie.Arianna Auber / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Cavalier, 2400 Webberville Rd.
Combining dive bar vibes with the sort of food and drinks you’d find at a more upscale restaurant isn’t easy, but the owners of the East Austin watering hole that replaced the Dog & Duck Pub earlier this year have managed it beautifully.
Here, find dishes that riff on Southern comfort, such as buttermilk fried chicken, a cheeseburger on a brioche bun and chicken liver mousse. You might have a tough time deciding between having these with one of the 17 drafts beers or a cocktail — such as the Zombie, so filled with rum it’s got a two-drink limit — but you can’t go wrong either way. Oh, and did we mention the tantalizing weekend brunch?
Waller Creek Pub House, 603 Sabine St.
The downtown bar across from Easy Tiger opened as a craft beer alternative to much of the rest of Sixth Street in 2015, and it’s found a niche as a casual lunch and dinner hangout. Expect pub classics — the "fancy fries" you can order in one of three ways are a good place to start — paired with a versatile beer list of 30 taps alternating between local and national offerings.
Plus, next door to the pub is Edwin’s Sports Bar, which the Waller Creek Pub team created earlier this year as a more sophisticated version of the average sports bar. It boasts similar fare to its sister spot.
Aviary Wine + Kitchen, 2110 S. Lamar Blvd.
Once a quirky wine bar tucked within a furniture store, the reborn Aviary kept one thing from its previous iteration when it reopened last year with a full-scale kitchen: how much it loves wine. Each of the shareable plates on the small seasonal food menu, from shrimp risotto to daily rotating oyster specials, is intended to pair with a glass or bottle from the eclectic, wide-ranging wine selection.
Oasis, Texas Brewing, 6550 Comanche Trail #301
It was once a brewery atop the massive Oasis complex that you could visit before or after a requisite stop at the Oasis restaurant. Now, the ever-expanding Oasis, Texas Brewing offers everything you need in one place: stunning Lake Travis views, easy-drinking session ales and a food program marked by fresh, seasonal veggies and upscale comfort staples like poutine made with duck confit.
Vista Brewing opened as a destination brewery this spring.Peary Photography
Vista Brewing, 13551 FM 150, Driftwood
Another brewery, deeper into the Texas Hill Country, hasn’t been open for long but implemented a farm-fresh food concept from the outset. It’s super fresh: Vista’s chef, Andrew Stiver, built his small program around the produce cultivated from the brewery’s on-site farm, orchard and apiary and from meats ordered from Central Texas ranches. Pair your meal with the DreamWeaver Braggot, made with locally sourced honey.
Hopfields, 3110 Guadalupe St.
Two words: Pascal burger. Here’s four more: pommes frites with aioli. This French-inspired gastropub in the campus area offers one of the best burgers in town thanks to the camembert cheese, caramelized onions, cornichons and brioche bun dressing up the juicy, meaty center. But you can also get a little more adventurous by ordering ratatouille — or perhaps moules frites? Whatever you do, enjoy it with a beer.
The Little Darlin’, 6507 Circle S Rd.
Nondescript on the exterior, the far South Austin bar might surprise as soon as you walk in. The laid-back spot comes alive with a couple of pool tables, both indoor and outdoor seating, and a massive, dog-friendly outdoor patio, complete with yard games, that’ll leave you feeling like you’re hanging in your best bud’s backyard. If your best bud is a top chef, that is. Order the fried chicken sandwich along with a local beer.
School House Pub, 2207 Manor Rd.
It’s always recess at the bar along East Austin’s bustling Manor Road. While you’re splitting a couple dishes with your date — might we recommend the decadent mac ‘n’ cheese, with aged cheddar, parmesan and crispy pancetta — get schooled in the gospel of good drinks. Most of the cocktails are boozy nods to the school house theme, like the mezcal-based Intro to Spanish and the sparkling wine-topped Bubbly Cheerleader.RELATED: Driving through Austin: 22 things to do along Manor Road
Weather Up, 1808 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Don’t miss brunch at this chic east side bar built out of an old two-story house. Weather Up, the Texas outpost of a New York-born bar concept, doesn’t just have impeccable cocktails. (In this summer heat, they appropriately include frozen options like the Lavender Bee’s Knees.) Here, you can find a full brunch menu, in addition to happy hour and dinner items. The brunch biscuits tend to be a good bet.
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