If you have a four-legged friend and you’re living in Austin, you’ll be pleased to know that the Texas capital is one of the most dog-friendly cities out there. With our plethora of parks and outdoor patios, your pup will be able to accompany you to brunches, days at the pool, and post-work happy hours.
Moving to Austin? Find a great real estate agent who is licensed and has completed their continuing education courses—they should be able to point you toward the right neighborhood with plenty of places where your dog will be as welcomed as you are.
Check out some of the best dog-friendly bars, restaurants and patios in Austin (listed in alphabetical order).
4th Tap Brewing and Co-Op
Amy’s Ice Cream (Burnet)
Banger’s Sausage House
Barton Springs Saloon
Billy’s on Burnet
Black Sheep Lodge
Black Star Co-Op
Bouldin Creek Cafe
The Buzz Mill
Central Market Cafe
Cheer Up Charlies
Cherrywood Coffee House
Crown and Anchor Pub
Dog House Drinkery
Fado Irish Pub
Gibson Street Bar
Hops and Grain
Irie Bean Coffee Bar
Luke’s Inside Out
Maria’s Taco Xpress
Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill
Motzart’s Coffee Roasters
North by Northwest
Opal Divine’s Marina
South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery
Spider House Patio Bar and Cafe
The Ginger Man
The Picnic – Foodtruck Park
Uncle Billys Brewery
Work Horse Bar
Yellow Jacket Social Club
When in doubt, just give your favorite establishment a call to see if your furry friend is welcome! You’d be surprised how many restaurants and bars are happy to have your pup.
If you’re looking for an authentic slice of Austin, almost completely untouched by the new, surrounding mixed-use buildings and retail stores, look no further than the Broken Spoke.
An Austin institution since 1964, the current iteration of the honky tonk came together two years later, when, in 1966, owner James White expanded the space to include a now-famous dance floor. It turns out that when White opened the Broken Spoke (named so after the Jimmy Stewart movie Broken Arrow and his kinship with wagon wheels) as a café and pool hall, people kept two-stepping to the country music playing from the jukebox. There was barely any room, so patrons would, according to the stories, dance wherever they could: in-between tables and even out in the parking lot. Sensing he had something big on his hands, White made the Broken Spoke what it is today, what he calls, “the last of the true Texas dance halls.”
Since then, some of country music’s biggest stars have graced the stage at the Broken Spoke, including Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, George Jones, Bob Wills, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, and George Strait. Local legends Asleep at the Wheel are regulars at the Broken Spoke to this day. Films such as Wild Texas Nights and Honeysuckle Rose and the television show Friday Night Lights have filmed scenes at the honky tonk. In 2016, a documentary about the historic venue and restaurant, called Honky Tonk Heaven, premiered at SXSW.
Inside, the checkered tablecloths and neon lights are just as they were 50 years ago, and everyone from city slicker tourists to longtime locals spend their time and money at the Broken Spoke. Tuesday through Saturday, visitors to the 2010 inductee to the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame can dance to live music, gulp down a couple of cold Lone Stars, or sample the Broken Spoke’s famous chicken fried steak. Whatever you do, don’t just stand on the dancefloor.
Photo by Makenzie Harrison.
There’s something about dive bars that makes them quite magical. Or rather, it’s the lack of some things. Now, before we dive into this list of Austin’s best, it’s crucial we get a few of these things straight.
First, dive bars are not concept bars. They were not designed to project any predetermined vibes. The interiors aren’t “inspired by” and the drinks aren’t “infused with” anything. The mismatched tables and stools are not ironically so, and there is no such thing as mood lighting (moody maybe).
There is no irony.
Dive bars are just really old bars. Think “B.C.” —Before Cocktails.
In the most respectable sense, they’re cockroaches that have survived Austin’s cataclysmic expansion, often appearing as misfits mashed between neighborhood developments, shiny strip malls, and fancy restaurants. Nonetheless, their musty walls, cranky bartenders, and carpet-clad floors have withstood the test of time.
Dive bars are remarkably unremarkable and that’s what makes them so magical.
So far we’ve covered age and irony, but here are a few more mandatories:
- Where there are dive bars, there are beer-guzzling loyalists, AKA regulars.
- Quarters are the key to operating anything beyond your beer can.
- There is likely a pool table or jukebox, but if nothing else, there’s a TV that plays some type of courtroom drama or Wheel of Fortune.
- The décor is nothing short of plastered Poloroids and handcrafted signs designating where you can and can’t smoke.
- The bar may or may not accept credit cards and may or may not serve liquor.
- There’s a bathroom so dank, no amount of soap can help you.
Now with these qualifications in mind, the following are six of my personal favorites.
Simply put, Donn’s Depot is a bar built out of a train depot from McNeil, Texas. And that train made its last stop on 5th Street over 40 years ago. Anyone who’s been will tell you: This place is something special. It’s not just old; it’s old-timey. It’s carpeted and cozy and strung with Christmas lights. The regulars are rambunctious and some of them have been frequenting the establishment since ’72 (they’re called the “Royalty Table”). There’s a dance floor that floods with people after 9 p.m. and a self-serve popcorn machine. Donn owns the joint and performs weekly on the piano, while his son runs the bar.
This next bar straddles a fine line between appearing oddly unassuming and utterly unoccupied. G&S Lounge is square and brick… and for the record, not vacant. In fact, it’s been up and running for over 25 years. It quietly sits between Warehouse Liquor and that one jail release billboard on South First. If you feel like you’re trespassing onto private property, you’re in the right place. But don’t worry—wonders await you! Come here to drink from the extensive beer collection and play pool or Pac-Man or Pinball or Zoltar. If none of that appeals (and why not?), you can sit out back and chain smoke while you pet the bar dogs. Get on their good side because I’m pretty sure they run the place.
If you find yourself in South Austin, I highly suggest you stop into Giddy Ups. The red-painted wood marks its territory on Manchaca Road right before it dead-ends into Ranch Road 1626. Now the rules get blurry here, call it a saloon, call it a honky tonk, I call it a dive bar. The structure itself has been a bar since the ‘50s but it was reborn as Giddy Ups over 15 years ago. Let’s just say, you don’t come to a joint like this looking to hit the town… a townie maybe. But don’t let “Mom” catch you; it’s Nancy’s bar and she’ll throw you out. This ain’t a barn, after all. That said, this place is rural. Like, tie-your-horse-to-a-post rural. Come play shuffleboard and listen to live music. Or if you’re lucky, you might find yourself in a washer-pitching tournament.
Looking for something less blue collar, more bureaucratic? The Cloak Room has been hiding under Austin’s Capitol grounds since the ‘70s, appropriately buried like many of the rumored political dealings that took place here. This basement bar isn’t just old and “divey,” it’s historic and distinguished—the sort of speakeasy where debates break out over Dewar’s and Dean Martin. But don’t let those classy tunes fool you; this is very much a dive bar. Just look for the massive Polaroid collection that lines the bathroom hallway. Now let’s talk about Bev—magical, mystical Bev. She’s a local legend whose been manning the bar since the ‘90s. I could go on and on about her but people already do. I will say that she’s big on manners. I learned the hard way not to kick my feet up on her chairs. Bev doesn’t have to tell me twice.
If there’s a mother of all dive bars it’s Dry Creek Saloon. This place doesn’t just have regulars; it has generations of regulars. People have been drinking at Dry Creek for decades, ever since it first opened on Mt. Bonnell as a cedar chopper joint in ’53. It’s rickety and old like a tree house or pirate ship. There’s no air conditioning and there’s no liquor. But there is a bartender and her name is Angel. She took over the place once her predecessor, “Crazy Sarah,” passed away at 91. Although rumor has it she still haunts the place. The beer is cheap, the selection is limited and the koozies are communal. Pick your favorite from the pile and escort your beer to the upper deck while you wait for your turn at the pool table, because there’s only one. This place has changed as little as humanly possible over the years, and that deserves some serious respect. The records run until they break and the same goes for the portable fans.
Last but not least, Deep Eddy Cabaret is not only a dive bar but also an Austin tradition since it opened its doors in 1951. It lingers right off of Lake Austin Boulevard, sharing a block with Deep Eddy Pool. If you’ve got a hot summer day to kill, I suggest a Deep Eddy double dip. Follow up a day at the pool with a round of pool. This place smells like cigarettes and sunscreen and is perfectly plastered with hand-rendered instructions outlining where you can and can’t put your beer. Until about eight months ago, this was one of the last-standing cash-only bars in town. But even though they take plastic these days, Deep Eddy will always have a cash-only soul.
So next time you’re itching for a change of scenery, skip the bar scene for one of these beauties instead. Perhaps you’ll walk in, have a beer, and never leave again. That’s been known to happen. Because hanging out at a dive bar is like spending time with an estranged relative. Sure, they’re mostly tired and a bit dysfunctional, but you’ll always get a good story and a cheap buzz.
Austin is famous for a lot of things. Live music, world-class barbecue, and hippies notwithstanding, the city is now a brewery mecca. In the past five years, the craft beer industry has boomed in the Capital City, thanks to a dozen or so very dedicated brewers cropping up in the area. None of them are run-of-the-mill taprooms, and all are worth visiting (because, at the very least … beer). Here are four of our local favorites:
“East on Sixth Street,” reads the Hops & Grain website, “when it ends you’re there.” Sample some of the award-winning drafts from this sustainable brewery, which is thankfully open seven days a week. Constantly evolving, beers like the Green House IPA are made with different hops every month, so you’re not always drinking the same beer. The taproom is humans-only, but the patio outside is a perfect place for a pint with your pup, and make sure to grab a bag of Brew Biscuits to go, made from malted grains left over from the brewing process. Take the tour, where you might get to try something before it’s released.
Try this beer: The One They Call Zoe, an American pale lager
Hours: Mon – Sun: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Tours start at 5 p.m. Tuesdays – Fridays and 1, 3, and 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
For a truly unique brewery experience, check out the other taproom on East Sixth, Zilker Brewing Co. Every aspect of the brewing process is on display for visitors at Zilker, as they sit at a custom, handcrafted bar in the center of the room. One of the newer spots in Austin, Zilker is fast becoming an East Side hotspot.
Try this beer: Coffee Milk Stout, a coffee milk stout
Hours: Wed – Thu: 4 – 10 p.m.; Fri: 2 p.m – 12 a.m.; Sat: noon – 12 a.m.; Sun: noon – 8 p.m.
The canned beer revolution in Austin all began at Austin Beerworks. These days it seems like every local beer only comes in cans, but when those curious white, blue, brown, and green cans starting cropping up all over Central Texas in 2011, it was a novel idea. Take a trip to the tap room, where you can sample the beers known as ABW’s core four, though we recommend tasting something from their “exclusives” list, which is where the brewery gets really experimental. Right now, ABW is pouring an IPA made with blood oranges, for example. There’s also a rotating schedule of offerings from some of Austin’s tastiest food trucks, like Evil Weiner and Texas Chili Queens.
Try this beer: Heavy Machinery, a double IPA
Hours: Thu: 5 – 9 p.m.; Fri: 5 – 11 p.m.; Sat – Sun: 1 – 7 p.m.
If you’re willing to go for a bit of a drive, it’s imperative you make it out to Jester King Brewery, a farmhouse brewery on a huge plot that is family (and dog!) friendly. Featuring some truly amazing sour beers, farmhouse ales, and imperial stouts, Jester King is a different experience than the others on this list, but no less important. Also of note: You can purchase to-go bottles of Jester King’s own suds, or from a remarkable list of beers that the brewery distributes. As a bonus, Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza is located on the property, featuring delicious pizza and pints of some of the best non-Jester King beers available in Texas, like Lone Pint’s incomparable Yellow Rose IPA.
Try this beer: Atrial Rubicite, a barrel-aged sour
Hours: Fri: 4 – 10 p.m.; Sat: noon – 10 p.m; Sun: noon – 9 p.m.
Tours start at 6 p.m. Fridays and 1, 3, and 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Source: Yelp user: Don R.
Adjacent to UT, Nasty’s has all the necessary elements for a great dive bar: coin-operated pool tables, darts, and an enclosed outside patio—perfect for chilly nights. While the dive has the typical selection of draught beers, they also provide a decent selection of crafts and locals true to Austin style. What separates Nasty’s from the rest of the bars on this list is their hip-hop Monday nights with DJ Mel—a must-see for anyone who ever pines for the days of after-hours dancing at the skating rink.
606 Maiden Lane, Austin, TX 78705
Source: Yelp user Paul D.
So low-key you might have to circle back around the block to find it, G&S Lounge blends right into the South 1st landscape. Walk inside and it’s a whole other story. With as many pinball machines and arcade games as a Celebration Station (remember those?) as well as more grown-up games such as billiards and darts. The bar has a decent selection of whiskey and beer, but you’re definitely going there for the bells and whistles.
2420 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
Source: Yelp user Tim Y.
LaLa’s Little Nugget
Famous for its yearlong Christmas décor, LaLa’s is a North Austin staple and the perfect place to grab a whiskey on a cold night. Also enjoy pool tables, foosball, and an old-fashioned jukebox for the dive-y experience beyond the fluorescent atmosphere. A bit reminiscent to New Orleans’s infamous 24 hour dive Snake and Jakes, you’ll be entertained by the variety of characters who roll in and out of this eclectic watering hole.
2207 Justin Ln, Austin, TX 78757
Source: Yelp User Joe P.
You know Side Bar is a dive because no matter how sunny it is on an Austin summer day, you walk in and it’s dark as Hell. On the other hand, Side Bar possibly has the best patio of this list. Large and open with plenty of picnic tables, it’s a great spot to meet up with large groups—or to run into someone you already know. Drink prices are reasonable, so grab a pitcher and catch up.
602 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701
Hole in the Wall
Since 1974, Hole in the Wall has been the heart of live music on the Drag. Somehow, it has survived the Urban Outfitterization of West Campus and still provides cheap drinks in low life with great music. Now with an East Side King trailer, you have no reason not to make this a stop on your tour of Austin’s best dive bars.
2538 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705
Whether you’re a karaoke superstar or if you’d rather just watch, Austin has some great (and unusual) places to fill the empty track. Here are some of our favorite spots:
If you’re planning a special party…
The Highball calls itself “Austin’s karaoke mecca.” Featuring seven individually themed rooms ranging from Haunted House to classic video games, you can one that fits your party’s personality. The Highball has a classic selection of songs to choose from, but if your favorite track is missing you can request they add it to the catalog. And if you’re not the sweetest of songbirds, don’t fret. They actually provide a voice synthesizer to save the rest of your friends from the struggle of hearing you try and hit the high notes of “Sweet Child of Mine.” Because, face it—you can’t.
If you’re looking to make some bad decisions…
Photo from Yelp user Natalie L. – April 30, 2013
Ego’s is the spot. It’s dark and just the right amount of seedy that attracts a plethora of Austin personalities. It’s popular, so be prepared to wait in line on busy nights. The drinks are strong, the lighting is minimal, and mistakes will be made. Guaranteed! The later it gets, the rowdier the room and eventually there’s no turning back. If you’re dead set on singing, get your request in early because the list fills up fast.
Pro tip: be generous with gratuity to the bartenders at Ego’s. They put up with a lot of crap.
If you’re feeling daring…
Photo from Yelp user S O. – July 11, 2015
Make your way to The Common Interest on Sunday nights for Karaoke Roulette. Step on up and spin the wheel to pick your genre. From there, the Karaoke Jockey picks your song for you—no turning back. Bonus: Sundays are also Service Industry Night, meaning happy hour prices all night if that’s your gig. And in Austin, that’s a lot of gigs.
Every other night of the week, The Common Interest is a little less daring. Think a classic karaoke joint with a full catalog, fun main stage, and available private rooms. You can also enjoy cheap drinks like $2.50 Lonestars while noshing on typical bar food.
If you want to go underground…
Photo from karaokeunderground.com
Meaning, if you’d rather croon to The Cramps or Fugazi, Karaoke Underground is for you. Their song list is a vast array of punk and indie gems you can’t find at your average karaoke night. Right now, bars hosting Karaoke Underground include Nomad (first Saturdays), Indian Roller (third Saturdays), and Drinks Lounge (last Sundays). But in true underground style, special events pop up all the time, so keep tabs by following them on Facebook or Twitter.
If you want to do it right…
Take the trip north to DK Sushi & Seoul Asian Food Market on Thursdays. Starting at 7pm, this low-key sushi haven turns into a raucous party handing out sake bombs to those brave enough to croon. Not only does Mr. DK himself may grace the stage on lucky nights, but you also get to enjoy no frills, fresh sushi at a decent price. Things may get weird as it gets later, but that’s why we love it.
Article Written by Danielle Barrow
Featured photo – Yelp user Bumble B. – September 7, 2013