Coffee, beer, and cocktails have been needlessly separate experiences for far too long. Thankfully, you can never really accuse Austinites of being prudes or traditionalists. This city is all about sitting outside for hours, mixing work and pleasure, and browsing long, eclectic menus.
These six neighborhood cafe-bar hybrids are staples in their communities for their breadth of offerings and commitment to the real deal. Open early, closing late, and hosting community events, they are home away from home for lots of locals and are quickly becoming one of Austin’s best identifying features. The great news is no one needs a fancy excuse to enjoy them, day or night.
This downtown bar boasts a wide variety of dishes, from vermicelli to pastrami to grilled halloumi. The Fourth Street location makes it easy to pop over in between errands or a walk from Zilker, and the long bar and booths make it easy to squeeze tons of friends together. The adventurous coffee menu includes flavors like cardamom, lavender, and lemon, while the Chagaccino showcases “wild foraged chaga mocha” sweetened with monk fruit. Here, unsurprisingly, the cocktails have an adventurous worldly slant, augmented by a healthy beer list (with at least one non-alcoholic option), and a long list of wines by the bottle. This low-key but chic gathering place is the epitome of Austin's wonderfully indecisive grab-any-drink-and-chat culture.
The Buzz Mill
This 24/7 Riverside community staple is as unpretentious as it gets. The log cabin could take you from one dawn to the next if you had the stamina, with coffee, beer, and spirits; vegan-friendly food trucks; and a rotating schedule of entertainment. Behind the bar, jugs of house-infused liquors line up, including blackberry apple gin, smoked peach whiskey, and … bear mace vodka. Let us know what that is, if you’re brave enough to try it. In case you do ever leave the premises, the Buzz Mill and Camp Master Chris Hyde prepare Lumber Society members with woodsy survival skills. The Seventh Street outpost has more limited — but still extensive — hours and offers plant-based brunch favorites from early morning well into the night.
Carpenter Coffee Bar
Another counter that changes jobs for the night shift, the coffee bar at the Carpenter Hotel feels a bit like a speakeasy, tucked away in a city library-like brick building just south of the river. The open, industrial interior looks like a community room converted into an artist’s collective loft, with vaguely mismatched leather chairs facing each other in little pockets and a wall of vinyls to browse and play. It serves coffee and pastries during the day (including some unique cafe offerings with opaque names like Ladybird and Ponyboy, along with the universal coffee standards). At night, it switches over to cocktails, wine, and a couple of beers, plus a gourmet snack menu. Stay for the transition and hit the pool in between.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden is practically a botanical garden. A central pond houses edible plants, frogs, fish, and more occasional visitors, and is self-sustaining with a tiny amount of help from an electrical pump powering a decorative waterfall. The bar’s efforts in maintaining this space, plus raised garden beds and a chicken coop, have earned the property its National Wildlife Habitat Certification. Food trucks on the lot use some of the edible plants harvested there, fertilized by waste composted onsite. Inside, the creative coffee and alcohol offerings overlap in “boozy” coffees: the Nitro Espresso Cocktail featuring Deep Eddy vodka, and a Rum Thai Iced Coffee, among others.
If it’s possible to be 100 percent Austin and 100 percent Mediterranean all at once, Opa does it. The busy little house on South Lamar is full of homey furniture, coffee table books, and board games. It would almost be overstimulating if it weren’t so darn cozy. The mostly meat-free menu is great for sharing, from unassuming but lovely thin-crust pizza to sampler plates featuring traditional Greek dishes like hummus and dolmas. This cafe offers some cocktails, but mostly focuses on wine, with bottles lined up at the end of the bar for perusing. There’s live music inside and outside on one of Austin’s most beautiful oak-shaded patios, and regular open mic nights. All this on a busy street means Opa can’t be beat for meetings, dates, or spontaneous solo unwinds.
Turnstile doesn’t do anything halfway, except its daily schedule. Instead of splitting attention between coffee and cocktails, this North Austin food park “transitions” from morning roasts to evening brews. It emphasizes quality, with locally roasted fair trade coffees, a “highly curated” roster of draft beers, and occasional craft cocktails. Equally over-the-top are the grass-fed burgers, piled high with sauces and veggies. Austin FC fans are a big part of the clientele, heading over from the Q2 Stadium half a mile away, but Turnstile stays connected to the broader community with Tuesday trivia nights, a weekly sustainable community market, and frequent donation drive collaborations.