Happy Hours in Downtown Austin: Go for the Food, Stay for the Drinks

Happy Hour dishes at The Backspace in Austin, TexasLet’s play a little word association game. If I say (or write) “happy hour”, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I’d hazard a guess that it’s something like:

“cheap drinks”

“thank god”

“Friday”

“let’s go now”

I wouldn’t be surprised though if “tasty eats” or “good food” aren’t top of mind for you when you think about happy hour and that’s truly a shame. In Austin, not surprisingly if you think about our food culture, many of our happy hours have great specials on equally great food as part of their happy hour menus. Most of our best restaurants have lovely happy hours making it a little more budget-friendly to enjoy their food more often than you might otherwise. These happy hours are also a great way to share your favorite dining spots with friends and co-workers at a price everyone can afford.

So the next time you’re thinking about a happy hour, let your stomach lead the way. You’ll be in for a real treat. To get started on your adventure click the arrows below and find the best food-driven happy hour menus in the different parts of downtown. And if I’m missing one of your favorites, please be sure to share in the comments.

Close to the Convention Center

Eddie V’s

Known for its upscale menu and service, Eddie V’s is a hidden happy hour gem. Head to their spacious bar area and enjoy my personal favorite happy hour special: $1 oysters. Order a dozen. Heck, order two. Or indulge in the velvety and rich Main Lobster and Shrimp Bisque or the Tartare of Pacific Ahi Tuna. Truth be told you can make an entire meal out of their happy hour offerings or just enjoy nibbles and drinks before you head out on the town. Valet parking makes it easy to get in and out and, as you’d expect, the service is impecable.

Specials: $1 oysters, other appetizers from $6 – $10; $1 off drinks, $5 select cocktails and wines by the glass

Great for: intimate drinks and appetizers with friends when you don’t mind dressing up just a little

Happy hour hours: 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm nightly Tuesday – Saturday, all night Sunday and Monday

Address: 301 E. 5th Street, Austin, Texas,  78701 [map]

Fleming’s

As happy hour specials go, this is one of the more fun and catchy ones: 5 for $6 til 7. That’s right, at this upscale steakhouse you can enjoy 5 appetizers, 5 cocktails, and 5 wines by the glass for $6 each until 7pm. And the appetizers are substantial: pork belly, calamari, mushroom ravioli, tenderloin carpaccio, BBQ shrimp, and (as a bonus) a prime burger all appear on this menu. Combine a couple of these, or order all of them to share with a friend and you’ll have a substantial meal in front of you. Fleming’s is known for its wine by the glass menu so their happy hour offerings are excellent, including a cava, chardonnay, merlot, red blend, and cabernet. If your’e a wine and food lover this is a great way to start your evening or end your work day.

Specials: 5 appetizers, 5 cocktails, and 5 wines by the glass for $6 each

Great for: drinks with co-workers and business partners, a start to date night, or a little time to yourself

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm nightly

Address: 320 E. 2nd Street, Austin, Texas, 78701 [map]

Max’s Wine Dive

Chef Erica Beneke does something lovely with each of her seasonal menus: she selects a few appetizers and small bites for happy hour so you have a chance to sample her favorites and whet your whistle befor dinner. The current winter menu features bone marrow popcorn, green chili hummus, rabbit rillette, warm olives, and bleu cheese fondu and she’ll shake up the menu again come spring and summer. Max’s also prides itself on its wine list so you can select from a variety of, well, varietals to pair with your nibbles. Max’s is a rollickin’ sort of place so it’s starting your evening with a happy hour there always means trouble – in the best way of course.

Specials: $2 off regularly priced appetizers and small plates

Good for: friends, foodies, and co-workers you actually like

Happy hour hours: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Monday – Friday

Address: 207 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, Texas, 78701 [map]

TRIO

This is hands down my favorite happy hour in Austin. If I could I’d head to TRIO a few times a week. They get absolutely everything right, from the complimentary valet parking to the exceptional wines by the glass list and of course the food. I’m particularly loving the corn fritters and Brussels sprouts and fries combo these days. Chef Grant MacDonald has done a lovely job of transplanting his Pacific Northwest sensibilities to Austin, taking advantage of Gulf seafood for his ceviche. Happy hour is only in the bar area, not out on the patio, but that’s okay because the bar offers a lovely view of the lake and is immune to the fickle Austin weather. Be sure to sample one of the many wines by the glass available for 1/2 off during happy hour. Sommelier Mark Sayre is one of Austin’s two Certified Master Sommeliers and he works diligently to bring a diverse, interesting, and accessible wine list to the restaurant.

Specials: $5 appetizers and 1/2 off select wine by the glass

Great for: smaller, more intimate groups; the bar space accommodates groups of up to six beautifully

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Monday – Saturday

Address: 93 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, Tx 78701 [map]

Congress Corridor

The Driskill Grill

Take a step back into Texas history at the storied Driskill Hotel. Perfect as a getaway from the madhouse that 6th street and Congress can become, relax on a leather couch and take in the western ambiance as you enjoy snacks and nibbles along with a glass of wine or beer or your favorite cocktail. And of course at a bar as storied as the Driskill, “snacks and finger foods” aren’t your typical bar offerings. The bar snacks menu includes Truffled Popcorn and Bacon-Wrapped Dates (stuffed with manchego and chorizo). The finger foods up the ante with offerings like Wild Boar Mini Corn Dogs, Braised Pork Belly Flatbread, and an Heirloom Tomato Grilled Cheese. This is another spot where you can easily make an entire early dinner at happy hour.

Bonus: They have free wi-fi so you can finish up that last bit of work (or check Facebook) as you get your happy hour started.

Specials: half off snacks ($3) and finger foods ($5), daily drink specials

Great for: larger groups, co-workers and business associates, a little time for yourself

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm Sunday – Wednesday, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm Thursday – Saturday

Address: 604 Brazos St., Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

Roaring Fork

Nestled under the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin hotel, the Roaring Fork channels the sprit of Texas with rich leather interiors, a polished bar, and menu to match.  Their tastes are decidedly Southwestern with the happy hour appetizer menu featuring their signature dish: a Kettle of Green Chili Pork. Pair it with guacamole or in case you want a little more pork and cheese the Queso con Puerco. The Beef Tenderloin Fondue is fun and great for sharing. The Roaring Fork happy hour menu is smaller than others but each of the dishes is filling and great for sharing. As a bonus you can step right out the door and get a great view of the Capital, making this a fun stop when you have guests from out of town.

Specials: half off appetizers, $5 select wines by the glass and $2 off all other wines, $3 select draft beer, specials on margaritas, signature drinks, mojitos, and martinis

Great for: appetizers and drinks with business associates, catching your breath before you tackle downtown for the evening

Happy hour hours: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm nightly

Address:  701 Congress Ave., Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

6th Street

Parkside

When you think 6th street you don’t often expect great food or a classic interior, and for almost every spot on the street that’s true. Parkside is the sublime exception to that rule and there you’ll find the best happy hour you can have for dinner in downtown. Their entire bar menu is half off for the first hour and a half of service each night. That does mean you have to have dinner early, but if you plan ahead and have a light lunch you’ll be happy you did. And if you’re an oyster aficionado, get yourself to Parkside one evening and order an oyster platter, or two. Clearly I think two orders of oysters are always better than one. The Parkside staff sources the best oysters from around the globe so you’ll never have the same combination. On Wednesdays you can pair that with 1/2 price bubbles and what’s better than oysters and bubbles? Not much, that’s what. You’ll also find a collection of small plates like the lump crab fritters and crispy calamari that are great for sharing. Or you can have the bar steak with fries, fried egg sandwich, or the cheeseburger for a full entree all to yourself. What’s best about this menu is they offer it anywhere in the restaurant so you can make an early reservation and take a group.

Specials: half off the entire bar menu, beer, and liquor

Great for: an early dinner with foodie friends and co-workers, a treat for oyster and raw bar lovers

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm nightly

Address:  301 E. 6th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

The Backspace

Just behind Parkside, and from the same chef-owner, you’ll find The Backspace, an intimate space that revolves around a wood-fired oven. And while their main entrees are pizzas, their antipasti menu which is the focus of their happy hour, is robust, varied, and full of tasty roasted vegetables. It’s truly unique among Austin happy hours. Order a couple of dishes per person and you’ll be noshing happily with a glass of wine or beer in hand for quite a while. My favorites on the menu are the Marinated Mozzarella with Lemon Zest and Chili Flake, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fontina, Lemon, and Breadcrumb, and the Chickpeas with Tomato, Onions, Basil and Oregano. And while it’s not on the happy hour menu, you should seriously consider splurging on the Cheese and Meat board because it will round out your hour. Be aware that when I use the word intimate to describe The Backspace I’m not kidding. It’s small. Don’t bring a huge group there unless you plan to rent out the place. Instead make this spot a getaway with a good friend or co-worker or two.

Specials: half off all antipasti, wines by the glass, and beer

Great for: making connections with two or three friends and co-workers

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm nightly

Address:  507 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

2nd Street and Warehouse District

Lambert’s

Refined meets rustic and the result is Southern-inspired food, with a twist of course, at Lambert’s. Sitting at the polished wood bars downstairs or upstairs you’ll find unexpected takes on traditional favorites like  Broiled Gulf Oysters with BBQ butter, poblanos, and lump crab or Frito Pie with goat cheese and queso. During happy hour they feature both their bar food menu and their dinner menu appetizers so you can have a complete entree like the Oak Grilled Natural Hanger Steak with jalapeno butter or a Chopped Beef Brisket Sandwich or sample smaller plates like Crispy Wild Boar Ribs (my favorite – also great at lunch), Deep Fried Boudin Balls (get your mind out of the gutter), and Spicy Deviled Eggs with paprika and American Caviar. Lambert’s is upscale enough that you can bring business associates along but relaxed enough to hang out with friends. It’s walking distance from the ACL Live theater as well as hip joints like La Condesa and the W Hotel so it’s a great way to start off an evening with friends.

Specials: half price appetizers and bar food, $2 off all beverages at both bars

Great for: intimate drinks with a couple of companions downstairs, larger groups upstairs, anyone who loves meat and Southern food

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm nightly

Address: 401 W. 2nd Street, Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

Mulberry

Mulberry will be the first to call themselves cozy. They’ll also say they are unique and I think both of those statements are true. Nestled (quite literally) under a high-rise across the street from the Austin Music Hall this hot spot features a bar square in the center of the space with a few tables for larger groups added in for good measure. Their happy hour dishes include nibbles like crostini and bacon-wrapped stuff dates as well as more substantial offerings including a pear and parmesan sandwich and savory, tender meatballs in lemon broth. Because Mulberry is a bit off of the beaten path I like it as a quiet spot with just a couple of friends but it would also be good for an important but private business discussion.

Specials: deals on snacks, sandwiches, and plates ($3 – $11) as well as wine and beer by the glass ($4 – $10), and 20% off of bottles of wine

Great for: Drinks with a friend or two, a quiet business discussion before joining a larger group

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm weekdays

Address: 360 Nueces St., #20, Austin, Texas 78701 [map]

Truluck’s

Truluck’s is another upscale restaurant that you can enjoy during happy hour for much less than you’d spend at dinner. A fair representation of the types of dishes you’ll find on their regular menu, the Lounge Menu features a collection of small plates including Crispy Oysters, Baja Ceviche, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Blue Cheese Potato Chips (addictive!) and Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers. If you’re so inclined order a collection and you’ll have a substantial dinner or just graze for a bit before you go out for the evening. Truluck’s is one of my picks for entertaining clients so it’s high on the list as a pick for taking a client to happy hour. It’s also one of my hidden gems when I need to treat myself to some quiet time and a glass of something.

Specials: half price Loung Menu, 25% off bottles of wine, half price cocktails

Great for: time with business associates, a bit of an upscale meetup with friends, a little quiet time for yourself

Happy hour hours: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm nightly in the Stone Crab Lounge

Address:  [map]

 

Downtown Austin Foodie Happy Hours Treasure Map


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