It’s had a name change and a few false starts, but the upper level bar at downtown’s Fareground is finally opening. Sleek watering hole Ellis will make its debut at the corner of Second Street and Congress Avenue in early June, according to a release.
Austinites have been eagerly awaiting the concept since Fareground debuted in January 2018. Originally, the bar was slated to open in the spring of that year — a date that was later pushed backed to spring 2019. Although the team promises June is definite, the exact date is still uncertain as the staff works out kinks through practice services.
The new name Ellis — evocative of its namesake island in New York Harbor — is a “nod to the coming together of community and ideas to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts,” according to the release. The bar is meant to be a welcoming gateway to the food hall. Lit up at night, the glass building even looks like a torch of sorts.
But far from being just ornamental, the strikingly angular structure designed by superstar local firm Michael Hsu Office of Architecture packs in plenty of space to mingle. Although the limestone and ceramic tile indoor bar only makes room for 17 guests with an additional nine seats available at the outdoor counter, a back patio/private dining space can hold 28 people while another 82 can lounge on the raised heritage oak-shaded deck.
The drink program offers a separate experience from the main Fareground bar. Four Seasons alum Sarah Rahl, who was nominated for the 2019 CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Bartender of the Year, leads the cocktail program, a mix of classics and originals like the bourbon and maraschino liqueur Devil in a Blue Dress and aquavit-based Freyr’s Negroni. The bar will also serve a selection of eight frequently rotating draft beers and a curated selection of wine.
Food will, of course, be provided by the six Fareground vendors. Food can be ordered from any of the stalls and served at the bar, so there’s no need to traverse the stairs for some hummus from TLV or a taco from Dai Due Taqueria.
The unique setup gives the space uncommon flexibility. Patrons can intimately catch up with a friend at Ellis, then take the drinks below to the lawn to join a larger group. The easygoing vibe is sure to make it one of the hottest spots to grab happy hour this summer.