CHAMPAGNE DINING AND DRINKING ON A BEER BUDGET
Just hearing the phrase “happy hour” gets people salivating. We love sipping delicious, inexpensive drinks and nibbling delectable bites while relaxing with friends. What a perfect way to end a workday.
Austin is loaded with great places to eat and drink. Austin Woman/What Are You Drinking combed the city to find some of the best happy-hour deals on food and drinks, and the most relaxing places to enjoy them. Although there are many great happy-hour offerings in locations throughout the city, our list features establishments that are centrally located and accessible, no matter where you live in the city.
BEST FREE NOSH: ITALIC
123 W. Sixth St.
Chef Andrew Curren and the ELM Restaurant Group opened Italic, the downtown Italian hotspot, earlier this year. The bright and cheerful place to meet friends quickly became a popular happy-hour destination, with $1 off draft beers, Italian house wine for $4 a glass or $16 for a 20-ounce bottle and $2 off the house Negroni. A huge bonus is that focaccia sandwiches are complimentary with drink orders.
“We have excellent prices on appetizers like the prosciutto and baked ricotta, which are about half price,” says Assistant Manager John Tillery. “We have a fantastic atmosphere with a minimalist design that lends itself to an upscale feel without being pretentious. There are a lot of great places in Austin and we want to set ourselves apart with great guest service.”
BEST HIDEAWAY: GARAGE
503 Colorado St.
Tucked inside the American National Bank parking garage, this clandestine bar isn’t exactly easy to find. Nevertheless, early in the evening, it’s full of creative types and downtown office workers unwinding in the dark, cozy bar in the round. Garage has a selection of custom and classic cocktails at happy-hour prices—about $4 off—and $1 off beer and wine. In addition, an in-house charcuterie tray comes with recommendations for pairing with the vintage cocktails.
“The bar is like no other place,” says Bar Manager Chauncey James. “You can get a really well-made classic cocktail at a very reasonable price in a cool space. Our bartenders know what they are doing. We have a fun time on Monday and Tuesday, in particular. It’s like Sunday, part two.”
BEST ODDITY: ODD DUCK
1201 S. Lamar Blvd.
Do you remember when Odd Duck was a farm-to-food-truck destination in South Austin? Now, this Bryce Gilmore creation wows locals and critics alike with its inventive American cuisine. Enjoy the Afternoon Snack menu Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5 p.m., offering discounts on select nibbles. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 to 10 p.m., with $5 Moscow mules and 25-percent discounts on bottles of wine and bottled or canned beer.
BEST WINE MENU: LAV
1501 E. Seventh St.
The elegant fine-dining destination laV draws crowds with its drinks and food specials during happy hour. It offers an “après-midi” happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday in the wine bar and cocktail bar. Offerings include 25-percent discounts on select bar bites and $7 glasses of sommelier-selected red, white or sparkling wine, as well as $8 craft cocktails. Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., laV’s massive selection of wine, the largest in town, is half off by the bottle. Well, anything less than $500, that is.
“laV is always full of fun people,” says Sommelier Vilma Mazaite. “Coming at happy hour is a good way to sample laV. We’re a wine-driven destination. We want people to try something amazing they haven’t had before. During happy hour, for the price of one, you can have two bottles, so you can experiment.”
BEST ECLECTIC BARGAIN: SWIFT’S ATTIC
315 Congress Ave.
Swift’s Attic has great deals on food and cocktails. Happy hour generously runs from 2 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with all kinds of deals. There are $6 specialty cocktails, $5 select wines, $2 Bud Lights and Mickey’s and $1 off domestic drafts. Monday nights, there are $3 pints all night long. The cocktail selection is inventive, with creations like the Champampaloma, made with TY KU citrus liqueur and sparkling wine. The happy-hour food menu is loaded with delectable treats like the braised pork cheek bao sandwich.
“Swift’s Attic is a great place for drinks and excellent food after work,” says Co-owner CK Chin. “Everyone can have the Swift’s experience at great prices. There isn’t anything on the happy-hour menu that is over $10.”
BEST TOUCH OF NEW ORLEANS: PÉCHÉ
208 W. Fourth St.
On any given afternoon, the bar at Péché is full of people wearing a mix of ties and T-shirts. The sounds of lively conversation dance with jazz music, letting that New Orleans bon-temps vibe seep into every pore with every pour. Happy hour rules all day on Sunday and Monday and from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Cocktails like the Lions Tail, made with bourbon, lime, allspice dram and angostura bitters, are $5, and food noted on the menu with an asterisk is half price.
“The specials are the draw,” says bartender Scott Doherty. “You can get one of the best cocktails in town for $5. It’s a super great deal.”
BEST WINE GARDEN: LENOIR
1807 S. First St.
Lenoir may be considered a chic fine-dining haunt, but its backyard wine garden is uber chill. Pull up a picnic-table bench and enjoy bar snacks for $2 off and half-price punch made with vermouth and Spanish grenache wine from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy half-price bottles of pinot noir all night on Thursdays.
“We originally opened the backyard as a place to wait for tables in our dining room,” says Co-owner Jessica Maher. “Now we offer small plates and bar snacks with delicious drinks in a super casual atmosphere. It has a private feeling, with the shade of huge oaks. Bring your dogs and kids and let them wander around. It’s a great place to hang out.”
BEST SUSHI DEAL: FINN & PORTER
500 E. Fourth St.
This contemporary steak and sushi restaurant inside the Hilton Austin draws convention visitors and locals with its beautiful ambiance, delicious drinks and killer happy-hour deals Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Go for the half-price signature sushi, like the salmon ikura and tuna togarashi, as well as the chef’s tasting menu with fantastic nibbles. Pair that lovely sushi with discounted wines by the glass. Better yet, visit Friday, when all bottles of wine listed at less than $100 are half price.
BEST HOTEL HAPPY HOUR: W AUSTIN HOTEL’S LIVING ROOM BAR, WET DECK AND TRACE
200 Lavaca St.
You’re just as likely to meet a local as you are a tourist in one of the bars at the W Austin Hotel. Regardless of where guests are from, this spot makes for great people-watching in a stunning setting. The primetime reverse happy hour draws gorgeous Austinites to the cozy, cool Living Room Bar seven days a week from 7 to 10 p.m., with half off signature cocktails, as well as a specialty-nibbles menu. Wednesday through Sunday, you can shake it to tunes spun by local DJs during the primetime happy hour. Grab your bikini and head poolside each Thursday from 5 p.m. until sunset during the summer for happy hour on the Wet Deck and $7 drink specials. If you prefer to stay dry, the Trace outdoor patio has happy hour every day from 5 to 7 p.m., with deals on bar nibbles, Texas beers and cocktails, and half off selected wines by the glass.
BEST EASTSIDE COCKTAILS: WHISLER’S
1816 E. Sixth St.
Belly up to the bar in the historic stone building, or while away the last hours of sunlight in the outdoor courtyard at Whisler’s. This Eastside cocktail den has happy hour every day from 4 to 7 p.m., and from open to close on Monday. Whisler’s has a select menu of classic cocktails for bargain prices and beers for $1 off. The bar doesn’t have a kitchen, but the swoon-worthy East Side King food truck Thai Kun is parked just outside.
“The place is unique,” says bartender Victor Bernal. “It’s been a part of Austin for more than 100 years. We have great drinks at reasonable prices. Whisler’s Old Fashioned is our most popular drink at happy hour and all the time. It’s been proclaimed Austin’s No. 1 Old Fashioned.”
BEST RAW BAR: PARKSIDE
301 E. Sixth St.
Parkside is a culinary oasis in the midst of Dirty Sixth. It’s a treat to watch chefs artfully prepare ceviche and raw-bar staples behind a long stainless-steel bar. They will toss you a plate full of oysters, along with Champagne, for half price every Wednesday until 7 p.m. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday, 5 to 6:30 p.m., with half off all beer, liquor and the entire bar food menu. The Garden, made with TY KU soju Korean rice liquor, jasmine liquor and orange blossom water, is blissfully refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to ceviche.
“We have an excellent deal on some of the best raw seafood in town,” says General Manager Kevin Pearce. “Our oyster platters are a great deal and the bar burger and steaks are fantastic.”
BEST NEWCOMER: VOX TABLE
1100 S. Lamar Blvd.
Where a funky strip mall used to stand on South Lamar Boulevard, the Lamar Union now houses the refurbished Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and several shops and restaurants, including Vox Table. This new spot is quickly gathering accolades for its farm-to-table cuisine, as well as its creative cocktails. Happy hour runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at the bar, with $4 draft beer, $5 select fortified wines, $6 classic and house cocktails, half-price wines by the glass and half off items on the happy-hour food menu. The Herb is the Word cocktail, made with Fords Gin, lemon, herb-tea syrup, Cocchi Americano and yellow chartreuse, goes well with the Tongue + Cheek bun with Yorkshire pudding.
This story was originally published in the August issue of Austin Woman Magazine.