As Austinites battle through a busy fall, catching up with friends or heading out on a quick date night can be a scheduling nightmare. In this year full of new restaurants and bars, making an on-the-fly decision about where to head for wine, cocktails or snacks can also be a bit overwhelming.
We've combed through new fall menus, specials and drink lists to find a solid happy hour picks for every night of the week. The selections vary from steakhouse to patio, but all offer good quality, value, atmosphere — and a much needed respite from your hectic week.
The deal: Double happy hour with five for $6 and eight for $9 menus
This surprising happy hour deal comes from fancy steak chain Fleming's, which you're more likely to associate with well-dressed expense account types than a place to kick back with friends. The steakhouse's ornate and large bar area does a surprisingly impressive daily happy hour from 5-7 pm, during which five cocktails, five wines by the glass and five appetizers are all priced at the $6 mark. Cocktail offerings are simple and classic: there's a Wild Turkey Old Fashioned, a Tito's Vodka spiced zinfandel lemonade and a Maker's Mark Ward 8. The appetizers are the most surprising element here, as dishes from a bacon cheeseburger to a tenderloin carpaccio are on the menu at discounted pricing. Other snacks include calamari and mushroom ravioli. A second happy hour returns at 8 pm, and while it doesn't compete with the earlier evening pricing, one can still grab a post-dinner cocktail or wine for $9 in posh surroundings. Eight different bar menu items are also on the menu at the discounted $9 pricing.
The deal: $5 cocktails, eight food items at 50 percent off
Cocktail fans have been flocking to Peché for years, and on weekends, it can often be packed to the rafters. The expert bar never fails to deliver a well-made cocktail, while the kitchen delivers well-executed (if often pricey) locally sourced snacks and main dishes. But on Sundays and Mondays the crowds thin out and the prices are outstanding. The bar's all-night happy hour has a selection of nine craft cocktails priced at just $5. The selections are nicely varied — you can choose a Negroni, a Dark and Stormy, a Ward 8 or a Sazerac, among others. Pair them with a $6 French onion soup, an $8 half-pound burger large enough to share or a $7 mac and cheese made with gruyere and Tasso ham. If you need an affordable, indulgent start to your week, you'll find it here.
The deal: $3 off five different cocktails, $2 off wine, $1 off draft beers, $2.50 craft cans, discount snacks
North Loop's perennially popular drink.well seems to be the rare spot that improves with age. The bar is never lacking for patrons, but nevertheless offers a late-afternoon happy hour that extends just long enough for you to order a round after work. A rotating selection of five cocktails are offered from the menu at $3 off (making them $6-$7). The current list includes the Sloe and Unsteady (which employs sloe gin and Fernet Branca) and the powerful yet balanced Vintner's Julep (Bonded Bourbon, Whiskey Barrel-Aged Rum, Spiced Zinfandel wine syrup, Verjus Rouge and mint). There are also discounts on snacks like crispy ancho chickpeas, edamame fritters and Antonelli's cheese boards. For beer drinkers, $2.50 Austin Beerworks and Hops & Grain cans are available, as are discount draft beers from the bar's small but impressive selection.
The deal: A double happy hour featuring classic (4-7 pm) and Champagne (6-10 pm) cocktails
Whisler's has mastered a simple but essential function on bustling East Sixth Street — a great balance of quality and speed at the bar. The cavernous but atmospheric spot has become our go-to for pregame drinks before concerts and dinners precisely for this reason: you never wait too long, and the cocktails are simple, classic and well-executed. The bar's $6 happy hour cocktail menu is full of favorites, among them the Old Fashioned, Aviation (gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, lemon), and Hemingway Daiquiri (rum, maraschino, grapefruit, lime). Wednesday nights up the ante with an overlapping "bubbles and booze" happy hour that kicks off at 6 pm and runs all the way until 10 pm. Bubbly creations like the Kir Royale, French 75 and Airmail are just $6 each, meaning that your group can live large on the cheap. If you need sustenance with your tipple, the Dumpling Happiness trailer is conveniently located in the courtyard.
The deal: 50 percent off Pinot Noir, free snacks (patio only)
Insider tip: Choose a warmer fall day to utilize this happy hour. Since Lenoir's main space is always full of dinner patrons, its happy hour is limited to the outdoor wine garden area. Each Thursday, the restaurant offers an early start to the weekend with 50 percent off its three Pinot Noir offerings. Full bottles of wine can be purchased for $26-$32. The restaurant sweetens the deal with free bar snacks like spiced nuts and shishito peppers, and offers a limited menu of small plates like charcuterie boards and red curry wings. The combination is decidedly low key and offers a great atmosphere to meet up with friends and chat around a (fancy) picnic table. It's a true blend of the best bits of old and new Austin. Note: Beers are available here as well, but cocktails are not.
Friday: W Austin
The deal: A double happy hour beginning at Trace from 5-7 pm and following at Living Room from 7-10 pm
When planning a weekend happy hour, one wouldn't really associate the splashy goings on at W Austin with "discounted happy hour." The hotel surprises, though, by offering not one but two happy hours on Friday in adjacent spaces. Running from 5-7 pm, TRACE is the discount drinks hub. Offered on the menu are seven cocktails for $7 each, along with six Texas beers for $4 each and nine Texas spirits (including Waterloo Gin, Dripping Springs Vodka and Red Handed Bourbon) for just $5. For wine drinkers, a generous selection of by-the-glass offerings are also poured at $5-$9. Our wine picks from the current menu are the Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc for $7 and the classic Seghesio Zinfandel for $8. If cocktails are more your sipping style, we recommend the Brother's Quarrel (Buffalo Trace, St-Germain, scotch and pineapple juice). The party continues in the interior Living Room bar from 7-10 pm, where eight different cocktails are discounted to $6-$9, which is a hefty discount from usual hotel bar pricing. The Living Room also has $3 Austin Beerworks cans and $6 house wine during the happy hour. The combo offers a stealthy way to enjoy a fancy night on the town at subsidized pricing.
Saturday: Vino Vino
The deal: $2 off wine, $2 off cocktails, half off draft beer and six half-priced appetizers
A neighborhood favorite, Vino Vino has thrived amid Austin's churn of trendy bars and restaurants by doing the little things right. The atmosphere here is subdued, the wine and cocktails are chosen thoughtfully, and the beers are crowd pleasers. The $2 happy hour discount from 5:30-7 pm takes a number of quality wines down to the $6-$8 range, meaning that you can try something new without feeling pinched. Draft beers also run a mere $2.75-$3 and offer selections like Real Ale's limited Grand Cru and Deep Ellum IPA. There is also a rotating selection of a half-dozen appetizers at half price like olives, pork belly and mussels for a brief Saturday happy hour.