New York has the cramped basement bar. Los Angeles has the red-carpet club. But Austin has the outdoor pub. And if you’re visiting town but don’t have your own back yard to relax with friends, our outdoor bar scene is the next best thing.
Derived from the most scientific survey ever conducted*, I bring you the Great List of Austin’s Best Outdoor Pubs/Bars/Clubs/Dens of Iniquity. Of course it’s not exhaustive, because that would be exhausting. Instead, here are my recommendations for the coolest spots to enjoy the outdoor scene while imbibing legally, socializing, enjoying live entertainment, or just making an ass of yourself.
There’s a variety here. Some are true pubs, some are sketchy dive bars, some lounges, and some more of a restaurant while also known for their drinks and overall good times. None of these are national chains or touristy. You also probably won’t find most of these by following the conference herds. But all of them are regarded as great spots, by locals, for good reason.
*Citation unavailable; not responsible for alcohol-influenced miscalculations.
Mugshots – Relaxed downtown dive. Cheap drinks, friendly bartenders, and a photo booth in one of Austin’s old stone buildings. Big outdoor space with plenty of tables.
Scoot Inn – “The oldest continually running beer joint in central Texas.” Started as a railroad saloon back in 1871. A real institution, and a very fun place. Even with its reputation, they’ve managed to prevent it from becoming just another gimmicky tourist spot. Great drinks and food selection in their outdoor courtyard, and their outdoor stage hosts world-class acts.
Yellow Jacket Social Club – Sophisticated-but-friendly lounge and restaurant. Excellent menu, especially weekend brunch. Good bar selection. Variety of beer and wines to pair nicely with cheeses and smart dishes. Nice outdoor courtyard.
The Brixton - Punk dive bar. Local craft beers. The place for Clash fans. Outdoor covered patio.
Butterfly Bar – Hip lounge and avant-garde theater. Think Portlandia. Impressive drink selection, good Italian trailer food. Unique shows at its Vortex theater, in addition to a variety of live music and outdoor movies. The large outdoor space with ample seating keeps it a wonderfully relaxing place to chill.
Sidebar – Friendly traditional bar with cheap, stiff drinks. No live shows, just a good jukebox. Big back yard.
Ginger Man – American pub. “First multi-tap specialty beer bar in America.” Over 100 specialty beers, and good German pub grub. Backyard beer garden with stage.
Dry Creek Café and Boat Dock – Quirky dive saloon with an awesome view. Has neither a cafe nor a boat dock, but it is right down the road from Austin’s highest peak, Mount Bonnell. Cheap beer and a jukebox playing old 45s. Outside deck offers a great panorama.
Draught House – Pub and brewery for beer geeks. Pronounced “draft” house. Astonishing brew selection. Long lines though. Don’t even think about a mixed drink here; everyone will go medieval on you. Large outdoor beer garden with picnic tables.
The Hideout – Cheap drinks, cool pub near good trails. Picked for its proximity to Walnut Creek park and some of the city’s best mountain biking trails, not to mention $1.50 Lone Star and High Life. Good burgers and wings too. Large outdoor patio.
Whip In – Funky hippie-Texan vibe. Indian grocery-restaurant-bar with great brews and live music. One Yelp reviewer said it best: “This place makes no sense.” Outdoor stage and patios.
Hotel San Jose – Relaxed-chic lounge and restaurant. This is one that’s on other lists, for a reason. It’s a great bar, with excellent wines, mixed drinks, and sophisticated food in a beautiful setting. Classy and stylish, but not snobby. Live jazz and DJ, depending on schedule. Peaceful outdoor courtyard (and pool for hotel guests).
Moontower Saloon – Rootsy backyard complex. Full bar with local beers, live music, and multiple food-trailer options – all on “a cool three-acre park-like lot shaded with mature oaks, pool, games, washer pits, and more.”
Sam’s Town Point – Dirty blues and bluegrass, backyard dive. Looks like a decrepit school annex in a residential neighborhood. Not “hip,” but very soulful. Real Austin locals. I agree with the Yelp reviewer who said, “This ain't no hipster bar. The trucker hats are not meant to be ironic.” Outdoor stage areas, patios, and picnic tables.