On any month of the year, bars are packed to the brim in notoriously boozy Austin. That goes double at year’s end when a festive mood seems to overtake the city. But unless you want your Instagram account to look like TMZ, we advise you to not indulge on an empty stomach. Luckily, Austin is full of bars where the food is no mere afterthought.
From the sparkling decor to the extravagantly garnished drinks, everything in this swanky spot feels like it came straight out of a midcentury magazine. So, of course the nibbles — za’atar spiced meatballs, pickled beet crostini, and marinated olives — would have the same swinging vibe. Playboys and Cosmo girls will especially like the gruyere fondue, served with croutons, shishitos, and fingerling potatoes.
Delray Cafe at Nickel City
The atmosphere is so comfortable at this east side newcomer that lingering for just one more drink is inevitable. But we never have a hangover the next morning thanks to the attached Delray Cafe food truck. Drink a couple of glasses of water and line your stomach with an overflowing basket of chili cheese fries and you’ll never have to choke down Similac again.
Italian food may be more closely associated with wine than with, say, an Old Fashioned, but chef Tim Lane’s apertivo-inspired menu at Garage is versatile enough to be paired with both. You can’t go wrong with the fior di latte featuring daily house pulled mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, olives, and pungent basil or beef and pork sugo stuffed croquettes with peas, saffron, and Calabrian chili.
Hi Hat Public House
If nachos were works of art, Hi Hat’s goat version would be the Mona Lisa. A mix of Windy Hill goat, poblano peppers, tamarind, roasted tomatoes, and beer cheese, the piled plate will turn your enigmatic smirk into a full-toothed grin. The tacos and daily pizza specials are masterworks, too.
King Bee Lounge
With its dark corners and sexy cocktails, this comfy bar is one of our favorite first date haunts. And there’s no better way to accelerate your evening out into full Lady and the Tramp cuteness than to share one of the tavern-style pizzas with your soon-to-be boo. The already hitched can still appreciate the punny, Bob’s Burgers-style names like the Fen-nel Countdown.
The Little Darlin’
This South Austin favorite has the feel of laid-back college dive, but the ever-changing menu has graduated well past the loaded nachos you used to eat after class. The menu is loaded with comfort classics, but with a few clever twists. Mac and cheese is beefed up with bone marrow, pimento cheese is fried up into croquettes, and sliders get down with confit pork jowl.
Three Little Pigs at The Aristocrat
This north Austin dive’s name is a little tongue-in-cheek, but the food served out of the attached food truck certainly is fit for a king. The long-running Three Little Pigs food truck offers considered comfort fare like bacon-wrapped meatloaf served with cheese grits and collard greens or maple-glazed pork belly sliders with sliced green apple and fried onion. Check out their Facebook page for daily specials and the occasional poem.
Turf 'n' Surf Po Boy at Lavaca St. Bar
The three locations of this popular sports bar always give you a reason to cheer, even if you could care less about the game. The fresh menu at chef Ralph Gilmore’s Turf ’n’ Surf Po Boy offers tacos, salads, and sandwiches topped with a wide variety of the highest quality seafood and meats. The jalapeno hush puppies are the perfect accompaniment to a local pilsner.