If you live or work in North Austin, you might as well forget about making it downtown for happy hour. Between the cruelly short times and the traffic, you're lucky to catch 15 minutes of deals. Fret not, you don’t have to risk a speeding ticket for cheap food and drinks. Some of the best local socials are right in your backyard.
With one of Austin’s most celebrated chefs at the helm, and an unwavering commitment to using peak local produce, Barley Swine isn’t the cheapest restaurant in town. But that doesn’t mean you need a big budget to catch the buzz. Tighten your purse strings for Swine Time running Sunday to Friday, when the eatery offers specially priced dishes and $7 draft cocktails between 5-6:30 pm. The offerings rotate with seasonal availability, but expect innovative small plates like jalapeño biscuits with spicy sausage and leek jam, fried chicken with fish bone caramel and pickles, and aged Akaushi beef rib meat with fried egg foam and broccoli.
While it’s tough to resist hearty dishes during happy hour, we like this Domain Northside hangout because it offers some lighter dishes alongside the heavier pub grub. On weekdays between 3-6 pm, snack on $6 chopped salads and smoked salmon bruschetta while indulging in wine or sangria for only $5. Or tell a white lie to your trainer and enjoying a heaping plate of pork belly nachos and a draught pint instead.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Owner Jack Gilmore has created a mini-empire based on the revolutionary understanding that not everybody lives in Central Austin. Even if you don’t live or work up north, there’s plenty of time to catch Jack Allen’s weekday happy hour between 3-7 pm, where you can enjoy half-off Texas-inspired appetizers like red chile fries with garlic aioli, chicken “nachitos” loaded with slow roasted chicken, and the restaurant's perennially popular pimento cheese. And enjoy plenty of deals on cocktails — including the excellent margaritas.
Mia Italian Tapas & Bar
With its brick walls, dim Edison bulbs, and cozy banquettes, this contemporary Mediterranean kitchen feels light years away from the office. Escape the fluorescent glare of your cubicle Sunday through Friday from 3-7 pm, with drink deals that include $2 glasses of wine, $5 local and domestic draft beer, and $8 signature cocktails. Then order several small plates like chicken parmigiano sliders, fried calamari, prosciutto toast, or a legit charcuterie board without breaking the bank.
Pour House Pub
Sure, taking 50 cents off a beer may not be a jaw-dropping deal, but this North Austin dive is already so affordable that the happy hour is just the icing on the cake. Available weekdays from 3-7 pm, the pricing applies to the pub's terrific selection of local brews from Hops & Grain, Blue Own, Austin Beerworks, and Thirsty Goat. Still, we often don’t mind ponying up for the full price cocktails. Try the spicy Yellow Jacket with tequila, pineapple, lime, and jalapeño — it's a steal at $8.
Punch Bowl Social
Like a Chuck E. Cheese without screaming kids and creepy mascots, this playful Domain bar and restaurant is packed with games to keep you entertained. But you won’t have to suffer through terrible pizza to join in the fun. Instead, think pimento cheese with bacon marmalade and Pullman toast, new school nachos with queso fundido and roasted cauliflower, and black-eyed pea hummus with crudité and kettle chips. All are under $8 between 3-6 pm during Punch Bowl daily happy hour. Being an adult does have some perks.
Second Bar + Kitchen
The lobby of the Archer Hotel recently underwent a renovation, turning it into a swanky cocktail lounge for the on-site Second Bar + Kitchen. There’s no better time to see it than during Second's daily happy hour between 3-6 pm, when you can enjoy a rotating selection of classic cocktails for $5 and half-off select bottles of wine. Some of SBK’s greatest hits are also available on the cheap, from $5 blistered shishito peppers and veal meatballs arrabiata to $10 avocado fundido, Congress burgers, and Black and Bleu pizzas.