Right in the thick of the South by Southwest madness, some local bars are going to be refuges for the weary, the tired, the badge-less — all the locals who just want their usual Austin reclaimed back from the tourists. Here are 10 such places, which for the most part don’t have any SXSW-related events going on.
(Just because they’re open, of course, doesn’t mean finding available parking is going to be that easy, even outside of the downtown core. Good luck!)
Bar Congress: The cocktail program, from respected bar veteran Jason Stevens, is one of the best in the city, and at the intersection of two busy downtown streets, it’s going to be the spot to watch SXSW unfold from a safe distance, drink in hand.
Craft Pride: Yet again, the Rainey Street beer bar is purposely choosing “not selling out.” Stop in to satisfy your thirst for a good Texas brew (no out-of-state suds here). And pair your pint with one of those irresistible Detroit-style pies from the pizza trailer, Via 313, out back.
Easy Tiger: The bar overlooking Waller Creek has some stellar downtown views, plus good beer, ping pong and food supplied by the in-house bakery. The cafe will be opened throughout the festival, but the beer garden will be closed all day tomorrow and until 6 p.m. March 20.
Garage: So named because it’s literally tucked away in the American National Bank parking garage at Colorado and Fifth streets downtown, it’ll be a darkened haven distracting from the ruckus outside with lots of good classic cocktails — one of which was recently named the Official Drink of Austin.
Hops & Grain: This East Austin brewery is throwing a St. Patrick’s Day party on Tuesday, so come in green and ready to enjoy Hops & Grain’s version of a dry Irish stout. The taproom, opened the rest of the week, often has small-batch brews not distributed beyond those walls. (Plus, it’s just been renovated, so you’ll want to come see the brand-new bar.)
Isla: You might need something strong after battling the crowds, and a nice stiff (and very colorful, well-garnished) drink is a particular specialty of this tiki bar and restaurant, opened in the evenings, that lets rum reign supreme among the spirits. Right next door is French-focused sister bar Peche.
La V: The extensive wine program at this upscale French restaurant on East Seventh gets all the attention, but its cocktails and aperitif/ digestif options are just as stellar. The bar staff even makes their own amer picon, a French aperitif that isn’t available in the states.
Weather Up: The New York-bred bar has gained its own Austin identity in the two years or so that it’s been opened. Renovations to the East Cesar Chavez-located bar’s outdoor area will make it a big springtime haunt soon — although it’s already a popular spot now. Save for one SXSW Music event Wednesday, it’s a guaranteed safe bet if you’re staying away from the fest.
Whisler’s: East Sixth Street is guaranteed to be packed, especially during the five days of SXSW Music, but the capable bartenders at Whisler’s are used to crowds and preparing top-notch cocktails quickly. The bar will be hosting an RSVP-only SXSW party Saturday night; otherwise, it’s open with a big patio suited for people-watching.