So far, I’ve focused on some basic details about Austin, the Texas essential cuisines, and a guide for vegan and veggie eats. This post will be a switch, as it will be about an “entertainment district”, and thus includes food, bars, and other entertainment (music, dancing, etc).
This particular entertainment district is known as Rainey Street, and it is just south of the Convention Center, so convenient for lunch, happy hours, after session drinks, and socializing. I’ll also add that it’s not a place I hang out. Basically, I find it a little expensive and full of yuppies. I also don’t know how it gets a pass on gentrification, considering that it’s a traditional, historic working-class neighborhood that was rezoned as a bar district by the city (read this slightly biased – but in a way I agree with – Wikipedia entry for details).
However, there are several places that have gotten rave reviews from my friends. Futhermore, I would not be doing this guide properly if I ignored one of the closest places to socialize, even better for most SAA attendees with no worries about the horrific parking situation.
By far, the top recommendation is Bangers, which is a place I’ve been meaning to check out (even if it means going to Rainey). As my British and Anglophile readers might have guessed, Bangers is a sausage house and beer garden. The sausages range from traditional to exotic and include veggie options, with a seasonal and rotating menu. There are also many other food options (one friend mentioned the beet and goat cheese, and the creamed corn) including poutine for homesick Canadians. There is also a huge beer garden, which goes well with the fact they have 100+ beers and ciders on tap, plus more in bottles and cans, with a huge selection from Austin and central Texas breweries. It apparently can get crazy over the weekends, but they handle crowds well.
Another place with several votes is Craft Pride, which as might be expected specializes in craft beers. Specifically, they specialize in Texas craft beers, with “54 taps and 2 casks representing over 20 breweries”. They look to have some outdoor space too. Another thing they have is a Via 313 trailer serving Detroit Style
cheesy bread pizza starting at 5 pm. I’ve had Via 313 at their other location and while my New York self won’t call it pizza, it’s really really good, and it looks as if they have dairy-free options as well.
One friend mentioned Javelina (great Texas name there), on the south end of the Rainey Street district. Having not been there, it looks to have a decent bar area and outdoor space, a number of Texas beers on tap, some local and some lowbrow (my style) can beers, and some cocktails on the menu that look well suited for warm weather drinking. They also serve food, which they call the best bar food in the Rainey district. For the late-night sweet tooth, there’s a mini-donut trailer across/down the street called Little Lucy’s that my friend also recommends.
Someone else (an architectural historian who works for a CRM firm) mentioned seeing a show at Blackheart, a place she called just OK, saying “Too crowded inside, but the back patio has potential- you can see the skyline behind.” The bar area looks nice, tried to capture something of the historic idea of the district.The concept is a New Orleans brothel theme, and the bar is a whiskey bar, with numerous options. Anyway, if that’s your kind of thing, there you go. They also have live music over the weekends.
One last recommended place may not be for everyone, although they certainly welcome everyone: Chain Drive, Austin’s oldest LGBT nightclub. Not strictly a leather bar, but one of the main clienteles. They have a great patio and backyard spot with a view of the skyline, and dancing Friday and Saturday nights.
After this, no recommendations, but a couple other places that are down there:
G’Raj Mahal Cafe was an extremely popular food trailer that has now moved to a brick-and-mortar spot. They do Indian food, they now serve beer and wine, have a big patio. I went to the trailer once, didn’t want to wait 90+ minutes for food, and split. They have an pretty extensive vegan and vegetarian menu.
Bar 96 is an upscale sports bar with a taco trailer (Bomb Tacos). Clive Bar is, now that Lustre Pearl closed, the quintessential Rainey Street bar, with a wide cocktail selection and craft beers thrown in with low brow cans and bottles. There is some outdoor seating and a fancy indoor bar. Finally, Container Bar is a two-story bar and dance club built from shipping containers (perfectly in character with early 20th century bungalows), that’s only been open for a little over a month. They apparently have a tree-lined courtyard and are contemporary-yet-casual.
So that’s Rainey Street, or what I was able to suss. I apologize if I was overly negative and snarky, please feel free to avail yourselves of other review sites for more details and less bias!