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Photo: Carlos Delgado / Unsplash

Places

The best bars and nightlife in Austin

Check out these local favorites when it comes to bars and nightlife in Austin during SXSW. That is, if you want to avoid standing in line for hours just to get a cocktail at the bar.

Every year, thousands of film aficionados, tech fiends and music lovers descend on Austin for SXSW – it’s sheer madness, to put it mildly and safe to say that Austin is a crowded place during the festival. You’ll probably need a cocktail or two to put your mind at ease during the chaos, but if you don’t want to wait in line for five hours just to drink a margarita, check out these beloved neighborhood bars, breweries and other local late-night haunts. 

Photo: Radio Coffee & Beer

Enjoy craft brews under the stars

For a taste of SXSW sans the massive throngs of other festival-goers, head to this homey, unassuming bar right off the interstate. Hanging out at Radio is like being in a friend’s backyard—the twinkly-lit outdoor space tends to be full of dogs laying on patchwork quilts and barefoot children dancing in the grass. Although Radio typically has SXSW showcases, they’re low-key and family-friendly and you’ll have no problem getting in.

Radio Coffee & Beer

4204 Manchaca Road, Austin

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In addition to craft beers and wine, a colorful on-site food truck, Veracruz Tacos, serves some of the best tacos in the city – be sure to come thirsty and hungry.

Drink at one of Austin’s oldest watering holes

Founded in 1951, the infinitely charming Deep Eddy Cabaret is where you’ll find the real Austinites drinking and escaping the SXSW fray. This well-worn West Side dive bar is the perfect place to hide out with a cold Lone Star while listening to old-school Willie Nelson tunes on the jukebox.

Deep Eddy Cabaret

2315 Lake Austin Boulevard, Austin

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Photo: St. Elmo Brewing Company

Visit a brand-new brewery

Austin isn’t short on breweries, food trucks, and fabulous outdoor patios, but St. Elmo Brewing Company stands out in all three of these categories. The city’s newest brewery provides a peaceful respite from SXSW craziness, and the resident food truck, Soursop, serves delicious Asian fare to pair with each of the beers.

St. Elmo Brewing Company

440 St. Elmo Road G-2, Austin

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Photo: The Butterfly Bar

Sip handcrafted cocktails amidst artists and butterflies

Intimate and blessedly non-descript, Butterfly Bar is connected to the acclaimed avant-garde performing arts space Vortx Theater, and it’s easily one of Austin’s most eclectic sipping spots. In addition to classy drinks and a spacious outdoor area, the on-site food trick, Patrizi’s, churns out killer handmade pasta and other Italian-inspired eats.

The Butterfly Bar

2307 Manor Road, Austin

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Photo: Whisler’s

Check out a secret mezcal bar

Hip, rustic-chic Whisler’s boasts potent cocktails and a moody, funky ambiance all its own. But you can skip all that and, instead, head upstairs to the shadowy "secret" bar, Mezcaleria Tobala. This Oaxacan-style bar carries a wide selection of wild varietals of mezcal (a smoky, agave-based liquor) in a cozy, candlelit nook that feels a world away from the crowds on East Sixth.

Whisler’s

1816 E. 6th Street, Austin

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Choose from over 50 brews

Co-owned by two beer-nerd best friends, Workhorse Bar is a popular (with the locals, anyway) neighborhood tavern that has 50 regularly available drafts, plus rotating seasonal taps and an extensive selection of cans and bottles to boot. If you’re into beer, burgers and a lively, friendly atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Workhorse Bar

100 E. North Loop #B

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