Bars in Austin have evolved into much more than simple drinking establishments. At any given bar, the focus may be on whipping up fancy custom cocktails, presenting live music, brewing craft beer, hosting trivia, or offering games such as ping pong and cornhole. Whether you’re looking for an activity-packed evening or a quiet date night, one of these bars will meet your needs.
Best Bar for Country Dancing: Broken Spoke
The most reliable sign of a high-quality dance hall in Texas is the presence of elderly folk, particularly old people who skillfully dance and spin and are blissfully unaware of anyone other than their partner. On some nights, the Broken Spoke is bursting with lively seniors who dance circles around the youngsters. Usually, there’s a mix of young and old, cowboys and hipsters, Austinites and tourists. The rectangular wooden dance floor splits the room in two with seating areas on either side. The bands, whether they’re young or old, play mostly traditional country music. Because that’s the kind of music owner James White likes, he’s been doing things this way since 1964, and he has no intention of changing. Another fan of traditional country music, Willie Nelson, has been known to drop in here when he’s not touring.
Best Gay Bar: Cheer Up Charlies
Featuring an intimate and colorful indoor space plus a sprawling outdoor patio against a limestone cliff, Cheer Up Charlies is just plain fun. Expect themed dance parties, live music, drag shows, film screenings, and karaoke. Arlo’s vegan food truck offers a delicious way to refuel after a long night of dancing. And if your digestive system needs a little boost, there’s even freshly brewed kombucha on tap.
Best Cocktail Bar: The Roosevelt Room
If you want to learn about the history of the cocktail as you imbibe, The Roosevelt Room can take you to school. The menu is broken up by era based on when the drink was created. In the elegant downstairs area, customers are seated, and full table service is available. Reservations are recommended. Upstairs, you can seat yourself at the long bar, or have a more private experience at one of the sleek booths. Snacks and light meals are also served, ranging from spiced nuts to spinach and arugula salads.
Best Whiskey Bar: Seven Grand
Whiskey connoisseurs will find 400 premium selections to choose from at Seven Grand. Even if you’re not an expert, the bartenders are, and they can help guide you to just the right whiskey for you. Whether you prefer your whiskey straight or as part of a handcrafted cocktail, this is a classy spot to hang out or enjoy a game of pool. There’s also a large outdoor patio where live bands perform on occasion.
Best Bar for Casual Friend Meetups: Shangri-La
A dog-friendly bar on the east side, Shangri-La features a slightly divey indoor space with pool tables and a large outdoor patio. In addition to standard cocktails and beer, the bar has an extensive selection of frozen drinks, such as the Dmango Unchained and the Tangri-La. The Baton Creole food trailer sells crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and other Louisiana delicacies.
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