There comes a point while making plans with friends when someone inevitably asks, "Where should we go?" If you're like us, you have a short list of favorite haunts. But what about the nights where you just want to go somewhere new?
Never fear, CultureMap has you covered. We combed the city (it was rough work) and rounded up a few of Austin's newest joints, jives and bars that are must-visits for spring.
C-Boy's Heart & Soul
We've been here a few times since this SoCo joint opened its doors in the former home of Trophy's. We even stopped in on Super Bowl Sunday, which may have seemed a weird choice to watch the game, but it worked out swell considering the Seahawks fans in our group could scream their hearts out without complaint.
From the same folks behind the Continental Club, think of this spot as the Continental's sultry sister. The owners maintained some of Trophy's, ahem, edge — they haven't totally softened the joint. Overstuffed leather booths, silver streamers and red lighting add nothing but style to this new South Congress haunt.
What you're drinking: No fuss, no frills; just order a basic cocktail. (Think vodka tonic, bourbon on the rocks, even the house wine is pretty decent.)
2008 South Congress Ave.
Emerald Tavern, Games & Cafe
Board games and beer — it doesn't really get much better than that. Located in a fairly nondescript shopping center just south of 183, Emerald Tavern is a game-lover's paradise. Specializing in both coffee and beer, Emerald Tavern has played host to a number of special gaming events since it opened in October. And don't worry if you can't convince a friend to come along with you. Simply show up and "fly the flag," which alerts nearby tables that you're looking to start or join a game.
What you're drinking: Emerald has a lux La Marzocco espresso machine behind the bar, making the lattes a can't-miss.
9012 Research Blvd., Ste. C6
First and foremost, the praise being heaped upon this craft cocktail joint is well deserved. From the talented bartenders to the thoughtful design elements, Half Step is a reprieve from the usual Rainey Street madness. Perhaps the best approach to Half Step is to let your bartender — and your palate — be your guide. Come with a group on an off-night and snag one of the intimate tables in the back. From there, just sip and soak in all of the wonderful little details (dentist bib napkins, artful tile work) that make Half Step such a special place.
What you're drinking: Bartender's choice.
75 1/2 Rainey St.
With a menu designed by cocktail guru Jason Stevens, Wonderland opened quietly in March in the old Cheer Up Charlie's spot on East Sixth Street. This dark bar, complete with white leather booths and glittery tea light candles, offers "craft drafts" (craft cocktails pre-made and available on draft). Though we found the craft drafts overly sweet, we'll chalk that up to new bar kinks that just need to be worked out.
What you're drinking: While the craft cocktails on draft are novel, we preferred the drink our bartender made to order.
1104 E. Sixth St.
As the saying goes, "as soon as one door closes, another one opens" — at least if you're Bridget Dunlap on Rainey Street. Though Lustre Pearl closed at the end of March to make way for condos, Dunlap's latest venture, Container Bar, had already opened its doors. Constructed entirely out of shipping containers, this bar is an exercise in kitschy — and indoor/outdoor — construction.
Not willing to brave the elements? Many of the containers come with private seating and individual themes, letting patrons take a load off.
What you're drinking: Good ol' Texas beer to enjoy the Texas sunshine.
90 Rainey St.
Porter Ale House and Gastropub
Despite taking up a sprawling space on the ground floor of a new South Austin building, Porter Ale House feels cozy. Boasting an impressive craft beer menu and the perfect mix of pub fare (think wings, fish and chips, and pork sliders), in just a few months Porter Ale House garnered a reputation as a go-to destination for South Austinites.
What you're drinking: While we appreciated the novelty of the Banana Nut Old Fashioned, we suggest ordering a pint of your favorite brew, plus a few snacks, too.
3715 S. First St., Ste. A