In the Bar Crawl series we hone in on a neighborhood or street with an undeniably happening drink scene. We tell you which spots to hit, what the vibe is like, and what drink should be in your hand.
Mention of Austin's historic and perennially packed nightlife strip, 6th Street, will likely inspire an exaggerated eye roll from locals. The street is a must-visit for any first-timer to Austin, yes, but it turns out the area surrounding the main drag has some very worthwhile bars away from the tourist crowd.
For Bands and a Brew Fix
Where: The Ghost Room, 304 W. 4th Street, (512) 879-4472
What You're Drinking: Shot of Jack and a Pearl
The young, sister establishment of Austin's brew pub stalwart, The Ginger Man, is already making a name for itself — receiving a 2010 Austin Music Award for best new venue. The dark, cozy space can fit up to a 350-person crowd, offering live music three out of the five nights a week it's open (on Sunday afternoon stop in for Music Trivia). As you would expect from the bar's heritage, there's a great selection of beer to be had here.
For a Night Out with The Green Fairy
Where: Peché, 208 W. 4th Street, (512) 495-9669
What You're Drinking: Corpse Reviver #2
Fans of the absinthe cocktail revival can happily find a home at this pre-Prohibition style spot, the city's first restaurant and bar to specialize in the once-illegal spirit. Those in the know will also tell you that the other spirit to seek out here is mezcal, tequila's smoky cousin. Cocktails made with this very-hot-right-now liquor aren't listed on the menu, so you have to know to ask (we hear the Scorned Conzuela and Smoking Monk are good).
For the Love of a Damn-Good Dive Bar
Where: Deep Eddy Cabaret, 2315 Lake Austin Boulevard, (512) 471-0961
What You're Drinking: $6 Pitchers
The one-time grocery store has "quinessential dive bar" down pat: jukebox, pool tables, no frills, and dirt-cheap beer. OK, so it's a bit of a hike from the surrounding 6th Street area, but that's probably what patrons love about it. For an equally divey spot that's just off the main 6th Street drag, try the Mean-Eyed Cat on W. 5th Street.
For a Good Glass of Wine, or Two
Where: Max's Wine Dive, 207 San Jacinto, (512) 904-0111
What You're Drinking: A glass from "Bad Ass Reds" list
Proof that there is more to this area's bar seen than beer and college kid-strong mixed drinks — the original Houston location of this cozy-cool wine bar ranked among Bon Appeit's Top 10 Wine Bars in the country. Any one of their 100-plus bottles is available by the glass, and be sure to check in later at night for their "reverse happy hour."
For Late Night Dogs and More Drinks
Where: Frank, 407 Colorado Street, (512) 494-6916
What You're Drinking: Red Headed Stranger
A big night out almost always ends with a great late-night bite. For that, Frank's is ideal. This gourmet hot dog joint with a strong mixology program offers a special menu from 10pm until close, so that revelers can end their evening with a beer soaked brat and a nightcap.