Where to drink now

Where to drink in Austin right now: 5 brand-new gastropubs to belly up to this spring

Where to drink in Austin right now: 5 brand-new gastropubs to belly up

Uncle Nicky's Austin Garibaldi cocktail
Uncle Nicky's has taken over the former Dolce Vita.  Photo by Lyda Ham

If the pace of new restaurant openings has seemed has seemed slow in the first part of 2019, that’s not because Austin hospitality has come to a standstill. Some of the city’s most promising freshman eateries are arriving on the scene cleverly disguised as bars. Combining tasty cocktails and innovative comfort fare, these recent arrivals capture the Capital City’s inimitable spirit — fancy enough for a generation enamored with designer kicks, but still as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.

Frazier’s Long & Low
With its row of pool tables, pleather banquette seating, and long stretch of faux wood paneling, this new bar from The White Horse team has the lived-in feel of a ‘70s bowling alley. But the creative cocktails and globally inspired bites are anything but vintage. A take on the Moscow Mule gets a fizzy boost of Buddha’s Brew kombucha, a Beyond Meat burger is served on vegan bread, and Thai herbs freshen a chicken sandwich. Despite all those newfangled creature comforts, the place keeps it retro where it counts with low prices from another era.

Little Brother
Rainey Street’s tiniest bar does a lot with precious few square feet. Visitors can grab coffee and a pastry in the morning then return at lunch for a capsule menu of three hoagies and one “dope salad.” Then, when it’s time to close the laptop, they can make a third stop for playful cocktails like the gin-based John Boyd. Whether that’s named after the midcentury military strategist or the 24 actor, we don’t know. Either way, it's fitting inspiration for a place that’s pleasingly out of time.

Nicolaza’s
This new bar from the team behind Hopfields doesn’t yet serve food, but the promise of one menu item ensures that guests will be in for a treat. The Pascal burger — a marvel of Camembert, cornichons, and caramelized onions — will be traveling south when the watering hole’s food truck opens in a few weeks. While waiting, folks should still get acquainted with the cocktail menu. The Miel de Amor with reposado tequila, Campari, Cynar, and strawberry shrub is a peppy standout.

Oz. Tap House
On paper, this North Austin hangout seems to be the type of gastropub in which Austin particularly excels. The draft selection is enormous, with an encyclopedic selection of Texas beers from cult producers like Adelbert’s, Save the World, 4th Tap, and Lone Pint. The approachable food menu strikes the right balance with enough culinary bells and whistles to keep a sophisticated palate from getting bored. There is one key difference, however, that sets it apart from the field. Oz. has the Capital City’s first self-serve tap walls so guests can try as many beers as they would like without the wait.

Uncle Nicky’s
Taking over the spot of Hyde Park’s much-missed Dolce Vita, this casual Italian hot spot captures much of its sweet life. The food menu, heavy on antipasti and open-faced pane tostato, isn’t shy with seasoning — relishing in the immediacy of spice and brine. The zippy flavors are a pleasant counterpoint to a drink program focused on Italy’s famously bitter aperitifs, used in spritzes, negronis, and other classic drinks. Fans of the space’s former occupants will also be happy to know that Uncle Nicky’s still serves gelato. Try the mint with a shot of Fernet Menta.