One of the biggest surprises I had after arriving in Austin was how drinking before sunset wasn’t such a big thing. Go to lunch and you’ll find suits engaging in a three-martini lunch. Stop by a bar around noon and you’ll find plenty of folks chugging along. Heck, even coworking spaces have beer on tap. Needless to say, the culture shock wore away by the time I hit the bottom of a margarita glass.
Day drinking makes a certain kind of sense if you’re an adult. It usually comes with food, ensuring you rarely tie one on, and during a stress-filled day, it offers an instant vacation. Let more conservative cities while their AM hours with cold brew and tea. These daytime Capital City spots may be the reason we got a rep for being so laid back.
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company
This South Austin hangout serves a mean pizza and is a three time winner of Brewpub of the Year at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. Plaudits or not, we go because it is one of the best spots to kick back on a Sunday. It’s the kind of place where one might see kids playing explorer amongst the patio’s rocks and trees or an older couple glide by in an impromptu two-step. It’s like going to a family reunion, only there’s no need to put on any airs.
Here’s our favorite life hack for locals who work remote. Head out to this West Austin cafe with MacBook in tow and order a ham biscuit with a slather of jalapeño-honey butter and a latte with an extra shot. Then, jam out those neglected emails, murder the quarterly report, and find a nice neutral background for a Google Hangout with the boss. After conquering that foreboding to-do list, celebrate with something festive like the bubbly Better Half Spritz.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden
When people say “it’s five o’clock somewhere," the somewhere they're referring to is just off South Congress Avenue at this lived-in joint, where craft beer, mimosas, and creative cocktails flow at almost any time of the day. For that reason and the sprawling front yard, complete with a small vegetable garden, fire pits, a koi pond, and a chicken coop, make Cosmic an essential stop at any time of the day.
A shot of tequila on an empty stomach may be the perfect way to start a night on the town, but it’s a killer combination before 5 pm. That’s where this East Austin bar’s two food trucks come in handy. One — the food truck version of Taco Flats — provides a natural pairing, traditional tacos made on fluffy (and filling) lard tortillas. The other — Thai great Dee Dee — is a little more unexpected. Who knew agave spirits went so well with larb?
Day drinking is about finding balance. A good mid-afternoon cocktail should feel a little naughty but not wreck the entire day. This salad-obsessed eatery strikes the right chord by tempering all the booze with garden veggies and herbs. The gin and tonic is so full of green botanicals — cucumber, lime, and chlorophyll — it almost seems like a juice. The buzz that comes with it? Why, that’s just joie de vivre.
The Austin hospitality biz gives a lot of lip service to neighborhood concepts, as if a residential location and some xeriscaping is all it takes to lure people away from their sofas. The real deals should feel like an extension of home. Workhorse’s clunky chairs and wooden benches aren’t exactly ideal for a night of Netflix, but they’re just perfect for a day gabbing with friends.
Yellow Jacket Social Club
A lot has changed in the seven years since this hip haunt took over the former Cafe Mundi space. Apartment complexes straight out of Minecraft now box it in on two sides and the Biggie Smalls mural across the street is a distant memory. No matter; YSJC’s gates provide a buffer to the development brigade. Inside, there are still bartenders wearing heavy metal T-shirts, and the Frito pie still comes in a bag.