Let's just say it: parenting has its limits. There are certain habits we once held dear that, with the arrival of kids, we either no longer want to do (stay up until 4 am, for instance) or no longer can do (stay up until 4 am). There is an adjustment period, a period of mourning our youth, casting misdirected hostility at our single friends and falling asleep on the couch in a way that is no longer attractive.
Parents do have something singletons do not, and that is the new ritual of "Happy Hour with Kids in Tow." Austin parents know that getting together at family-friendly watering holes is a lot better than drinking alone. And Austin bars and restaurants are getting hip to the trend. Here's a list of our top 10 places to raise a toast to your new, exhausting, amazing life.
If Contigo's sleek, cool interior is where all the first daters (and future parents!) are stationed, the expansive outside patio is the place to be if you have a 4-year-old in tow. This celebrated east side restaurant has become the place to catch up with other happily exhausted parents while the kiddos cavort around the benches. Contigo has a very grown-up menu, but the pigs in a blanket, aguas frescas and popcorn will tide over the kids while you enjoy an adult beverage or two.
Texas Chili Parlor
Introduce the kiddos to proper "Old Austin" at the Texas Chili Parlor. The Chili Parlor is known for providing more than 30 years of friendly service to the campus and Capitol crowds. The dimly lit interior is warm and woody with plenty for the little ones to look at on the walls. They mix a mean margarita — no bottled mixes here — and they have an excellent selection of beers on tap. Kiddos can enjoy lemonade and a menu stocked with kid-friendly options.
Yellow Jacket Social Club
Hipster? Parent? Hipster-parent? This may be the place for you. The Yellow Jacket Social Club has the cheery feel of a friend's backyard patio. (The interior is usually crowded, dark and really only kid-friendly enough for potty breaks.) The expansive outdoor area is shaded by trees and offers wide picnic tables to gather, share stories and listen to good music while your kids make mischief. There is also a small menu of nibbles that are perfect for sharing. Just make sure to go early, this place gets very crowded come dusk.
Ski Shores Cafe
Looking for a staycation with the little ones? Ski Shores is a great day trip destination. Situated on Lake Austin, Ski Shores Cafe has a history that dates back to the '50s and is an iconic spot that is perfect for families. A play structure and a game room make it clear that all ages are welcome. Rent a boat for the day and pull up to the dock for lunch, or enjoy live music while soaking up the sun. Enjoy craft beers, homemade sangria and a full bar.
Why include a pizza joint in this lineup? Because House Pizzeria serves the dual purpose of alleviating parental guilt (you are feeding them!), while also allowing you the pleasure of a few glasses of good vino. This unassuming little spot offers excellent happy hour prices from an impressive wine list, which also means it can be overrun with families by 5 pm. The modern, industrial interior is kid-proof and there's an awesome jukebox that, along with a fistful of quarters, will make your kid very happy.
Freddie's Place combines three great things: kids, dogs and Bloody Marys. If it's a Bloody Mary kind of morning, nothing tops the Bloody Mary buffet at Freddie's. Fat spears of okra and an abundance of green olives can make your cocktail feel, well, a little healthier. Kids can play king of the mountain on the playscape or put on a show on Freddie's stage area. This South Austin restaurant offers a laid-back, classic "kid-friendly" experience not to be missed.
The Butterfly Bar
The Butterfly Bar feels like a hippie house party that you've just stumbled into. It's the most recent hipster bar being overrun by families with kids, but bars should note, if you're going to put hula hoops on your patio, kids will come. Located on Manor Road near the Vortex Theater, expect friendly service, an expansive yard and food trailers, making it a fine place to spend both happy hour and dinner.
Dolce Vita has got the formula down. Not only does it serve an impressive array of adult beverages, there's also a full gelato bar for kids of all ages. Let your offspring get amped on sugar while you try to wind down with a glass of Italian wine or a cocktail. There is outside seating if you need to move the party outdoors, or if your hyped-up kiddo becomes insufferable to the twentysomethings sitting inside.
Shady Grove, as its name suggests, is a cool, quiet respite from your day as a parent. Shaded by pecan trees, the patio gives revelers a break from the relentless Texas sun. Wine Down Wednesday offers half-priced bottles of wine, as well as the perfect excuse for stay-at-home moms to get together and raise a toast to the shared joyful anarchy of their lives.
Sure, Central Market is a grocery store, but it also offers beer and wine and expansive outdoor patio space. To live in Austin with kids and not include this go-to destination would be absurd. This is the place to let your kiddos run wild on the playscape or climb the giant trees while you share a bottle of good wine with a group of similarly disenchanted parents.