East Austin’s bar scene may be just as diverse as its art scene. While you’re taking in the art on the East Austin Studio Tour, take some time out for some liquid refreshment.
With about 75 to 80 canned beers available at Bar 2211, the owners’ goal of offering the largest selection of canned beers in the state might well have been achieved in the few months since the bar opened. Co-founder Jason Steward, who also owns Rainey Street bar Bungalow, has always liked drinking beer out of a can and wanted to make them such a focal point that the laid-back bar doesn’t have a draft system or sell bottled beers. But Bar 2211 does have plenty of other booze: 40 different kinds of whiskey, for one, another favorite drink of the owners.
(2211 Webberville Road. 512-699-1830,
Butterfly Bar at the Vortex
Go see some theater; have a cocktail or a beer while you’re at it. The Vortex Repertory Co. has been a fixture in Austin theater for more than two decades, performing regularly in a low-slung building on Manor Road, but the bar next door didn’t come along until much later, an organic addition once theatergoers got in the habit of buying wine, beer and bar snacks while they waited for a show to start. Now, the Butterfly Bar, which serves up specialty cocktails, too, and the Patrizi’s food truck nearby have become a neighborhood hangout for East Austin residents who might not even be there to catch a show.
(2307 Manor Road. 512-478-5282, butterflybaraustin.com)
East Side Show Room
You might forget you’re in the 21st century when you step into the cozy confines of one of the first bars in Austin that made it clear good cocktails could go beyond vodka cranberries and Jack and Coke. Designed by co-owner and artist Mickie Spencer to evoke the same sort of romantic speakeasy vibe of pre-World War II-era bars, East Side Show Room makes Prohibition-era classics as well as signature drinks that switch out with the seasons.
(1100 E. Sixth St. 512-467-4280, eastsideshowroom.com)
Hi Hat Public House
Feeling like a dark-as-night stout during winter’s cold embrace? Heard about the latest special release from your favorite brewery? Chances are good that you can get both of those and more, including seasonals, rare brews and comforting staples, from the wall of 24 taps at Hi Hat Public House, a bar that also offers elevated comfort food on weekdays and a small brunch menu on weekends, when beermosas and micheladas are the perfect elixirs to cure a hangover.
(2121 E. Sixth St. 512-478-8700, hihatpublichouse.com)
King Bee Lounge
A frozen drinks machine usually might have no place at a craft cocktail bar, but at the King Bee Lounge, it’s the centerpiece of the drinks program — in the best possible way. Bar owner Billy Hankey has taken over the space formerly inhabited by the Legendary White Swan and, much like the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail he’s made brand-new again with the help of the frozen drinks machine, he’s turned it into exactly the sort of late-night neighborhood bar the still somewhat seedy area around the King Bee needs. Although it also offers freshly made pizza, local-only beer and live music, it’s that cocktail program and most specifically the frozen Bee’s Knees that will turn you into a regular here.
(1906 E. 12th St. 512-600-6956)
School House Pub
Here, happy hour is called recess. The cozy old building in which the Manor Road bar is housed looks so much like the sort of one-room, slat-walled place where kids would’ve once learned their ABCs that its yellow exterior inspired School House’s name and theme — without being too cutesy or overdone. The original cocktails on the menu have names like “Intro to Spanish” and “Teacher’s Pet,” and customers receive their checks on tiny clipboards. The bar also offers a robust draft beer list and tasty pub-style food. Look for parking in Mi Madre’s small lot or in the alley behind School House.
(2207 Manor Road. 512-469-7630, schoolhousepub.com)
The third bar from New York cocktail queen Kathryn Weatherup, who gave her name to each, has found its own distinctly Austin identity in the two years since it opened. It was the first bar in town to start an in-house ice program around a Clinebell machine, an industrial machine manufactured for ice sculptors that can handily produce eye-catching ice specifically for cocktails. All those pretty ice cubes and spears certainly don’t steal the show from the drinks and the stately interior, however, which are both top-notch examples of how Weather Up’s found a home here.
(808 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-0464, weatherupnyc.com)
It’s just as unpretentious as its previous bar incarnation, the long-standing Rabbit’s, albeit with consistent hours, less of a hole-in-the-wall vibe and expertly executed cocktails. But just because Whisler’s bartenders are just as happy to serve customers a shot of whiskey as they are to make an Old-Fashioned (one of their strong suits), it doesn’t mean they don’t take their jobs seriously. Best of all, the upstairs room is home to a mezcal bar open Thursday through Saturday nights only. It’s an ode to the beauty and romance of Oaxaca, and it’s where Whisler’s passion for things made well really shines.
(1816 E. Sixth St. 512-480-0781, whislersatx.com)
When the minds behind the upscale restaurant Congress and its more casual sister Second Bar + Kitchen announced they were opening a dive bar in Cheer Up Charlie’s old space in East Austin, people didn’t know what to make of the label until it opened. Make no mistake — Wonderland pays as much attention to craft as the La Corsha places do, with four cocktails on draft created by one of Austin’s top bartenders, but it fits in easily with the other laid-back bars along East Sixth. One thing you’ll only find there: East Side King’s delightfully spicy Thai-Kun trailer.
(1104 E. Sixth St. 512-469-7860, wonderlandaustin.com)
Wright Bros. Brew & Brew
In Austin, it’s easy to find coffee shops with a few beers on tap or bars with a couple cold-brew coffees, but you can’t easily fit the Brew & Brew into either of those descriptors. As the name suggests, it places equal importance on both beverages, offering a variety of top craft brews as well as lattes and mochas made with locally roasted Flat Track Coffee and an espresso brewed with San Francisco beans. Plus, for those who love both just as much as the owners do, there’s the option of an actual Brew & Brew: a snifter of beer accompanied by a cortado, an espresso cut with warm milk.
(500 San Marcos St. 512-493-0963, thebrewandbrew.com)