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The Happiest Hours

At some of the swankiest spots in town, arriving early (and really, why wait?) means serious savings on killer cocktails and food that goes way beyond chicken wings.

Last year, Forbes ranked Austin the fourth-healthiest city in the country, and the fifth-drunkest. The achievements point to a collective respect for early-morning or lunchtime workouts and evening libations as glorious forms of stress relief and self-preservation. Austinites understand that happy hour is not antithetical to fitness. Citrus garnishes and mixers help prevent scurvy; and bar snacks and drink specials don’t necessarily translate to Cheetos and cheap pints of domestic (though the combination is brilliant and worth the orange stains). Many of the city’s upscale restaurants/bars, even those touting signature drinks and celebrity chefs, offer happy hour specials that make post-work fine dining and drinking more affordable. The options run the gamut from duck fat fries and edamame to watermelon jalapeño margaritas and gin gin mules. Here are a handful of our favorite favorites; don’t be surprised if that “quick glass of wine” leads to an entire evening of fun. Cheers.

Fonda San Miguel

2330 W North Loop Blvd, 512-459-4121 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 5pm-7pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. All-night happy hour Tuesday
  • DRINKS: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday $1 off margaritas and any tequila drinks, Tuesday $4.95 house margaritas and select glasses of wine; $1 off premium tequila drinks
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Silver Coin margarita
  • FOOD: Half off select appetizers
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Tacos al pastor (four per order) served with two sauces $5.
  • ATMOSPHERE: Airy, authentic, and relatively casual. The hacienda-style space is a refreshing departure from the proliferation of sleek new restaurants. There's Saltillo tile, vibrant color, and a chatty parrot. Families abound.

Lichas Cantina

11306 E 6th St, 512-480-5960 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 4pm-7pm daily
  • DRINKS: $5 cocktails, $10-$12 buckets of Coronas and Pacificos, and a $20 bottle of Brut
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: The Paloma (Tequila Silver, grapefruit, lime, grapefruit soda, spicy rim)
  • FOOD: A wide selection of $5 plates of sopecitos (black bean layered corn cups), huaraches (corn flatbread), quesadillas, and verduras (vegetables)
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Champinion huaraches (roasted mushrooms, peanut sauce, queso asadero, sesame cream)
  • ATMOSPHERE: Casual, "Old Austin," with stepped up service. Intimate interior and expansive outside spaces in front and back.

Swift's Attic

315 Congress Ave, 512-482-8842 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 2pm-6:30pm Monday-Friday
  • DRINKS: Half off all cocktails, including signature ice ball drinks, $5 wines, $2 Bud Light and Mickey's, $1 off domestic drafts
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Manhattan with Sacred Spiced English Vermouth ice ball, with orange and Angostura bitters, Knob Creek Rye $6
  • FOOD: All happy hour menu items are $10 or less
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Squid "fries" with roasted garlic aioli, charred lemon $6
  • ATMOSPHERE: Low-lit, sophisticated steampunk with brick that exposes history, an approach to vintage that is distinctly modern, and a din that lends itself to confidentiality agreements and large parties.
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Apothecary CAFÉ and Wine Bar

4800 Burnet Rd, 512-371-1600 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: Daily, times and specials vary
  • DRINKS: All day Sunday-Monday, $10 off select bottles of wine. 4pm-7pm Tuesday-Saturday, $1 off glasses and $3 off all bottles of wine. Half off bottles of sparkling wine on Saturday.
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: God bless oenophiles. Pick a glass or bottle of wine, any wine.
  • FOOD: Discounts on select appetizers
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Combo board, charcuterie and cheese $17 (normally $20)
  • ATMOSPHERE: A beautiful contradiction in terms with its dim lighting, airy space, intimate sensibility, and laid-back elegance. It's also as conducive to happy hour parties as to romantic dates.

Salty Sow

1917 Manor Rd, 512-391-2337 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 4:30pm-6:30pm daily
  • DRINKS: $2 off all signature drinks, wine, and beer
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Curly Tail Margarita with Pepe Z, cilantro, serrano, blood orange, and smoked salted rim
  • FOOD: Select $5 and $6 plates
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Duck fat fries with 110-minute egg, cold béarnaise
  • ATMOSPHERE: Lively, easygoing, and frequented by a motley crew of twentysomethings (and up). Locals, professionals, college students, and hipsters fill the restaurant's three unique spaces: a swanky front room, a patio with a front porch feel, and an airy, relaxed back room.

LaV

1501 E 7th St, 512-391-1888 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 5pm-6:30pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the Wine Bar and at Traditional Bar
  • DRINKS: A house-select sparkling, white, and red wine $7 glass/$28 bottle (selections vary), cocktails $8
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: House-made Bellini (Prosecco, peach purée)
  • FOOD: Though no happy hour food specials, there are reasonably priced bites on the bar menu.
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Beer-battered brandade fritters, smoked onion marmalade, black olive aioli $7
  • ATMOSPHERE: Prime for people-watching. Elegance teeters on posh. Though the crowd leans toward people accustomed to valet, the sartorial penchants swing from Dallas polish to East Side casual with a coat or heels for good measure.

Barlata Tapas Bar

1500 S Lamar Blvd, 512-473-2211 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 5pm-7pm Sunday-Thursday
  • DRINKS: Along with an assortment of cocktails and select beer and wine ($3-$7), there's a happy hour pairing of wine (or, on MOnday, a cocktail) and daily paella.
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Calimocho (red wine and Coke).
  • FOOD: Specials on an assortment of tapas and daily happy hour paella ($4-$5)
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Arròs negre paired with Rosé, the Wednesday night paella special
  • ATMOSPHERE: Northern Spain in South Austin. Barcelona reds. The decor hints at Gaudi-like playfulness. The ambience is the relaxed animation of a traditional tapas bar, though many of the patrons live in 78704.
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Jeffrey's

1204 West Lynn St, 512-477-5584 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 4:30pm-6:30pm Tuesday-Saturday, all night Sunday-Monday
  • DRINKS: $2 off cocktails, beer, and glasses of wine
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: It's so very hard to find a martini (gin or vodka) made with such prowess. So cold. So perfectly shaken.
  • FOOD: Half-price bar menu
  • CROWD-PLEASER: $12 dry-aged prime Wagyu burger with mustard frisée, Cambozola, caramelized onion
  • ATMOSPHERE: A unique combination of cozy, lively, and patrician. Low lighting, wood-burning fireplace, taxidermy, plush indigo banquettes, and generally well-heeled, well-dressed clientele.

Uchiko

4200 N Lamar Blvd, 512-916-4808 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS (aka Sake Socials): 5pm-6:30pm daily
  • DRINKS: Select sake and wine
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Takara Nigori (unfiltered sake) $3
  • FOOD: An assortment of discounted rolls, and hot and cold tastings
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Crunchy spicy tuna hand roll
  • ATMOSPHERE: Sleek, sophisticated, and, during happy hour, full of collective sighs of relief from patrons—a mixture of suited professionals and more casual creative types—who scored a table.

PECHÉ

208 W 4th St, 512-494-4011 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: All day Sunday-Monday, 4pm-7pm Tuesday-Friday.
  • DRINKS: $5 drink specials
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: New York Sour, with Buffalo Trace, lemon, simple syrup, and a red wine floater.
  • FOOD: Half-price appetizers and select items from bar menu
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Escargot with a garlic herb butter
  • ATMOSPHERE: Professionals of all ages, whose pressed suits and conservative dresses are noticeably relaxed. Though the bartenders will grimace at the word "vodka," they are kind, quick with non-vodka, non-tequila suggestions, and intimidatingly knowledgeable when it comes to spirits.
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St. Philip

4715 S Lamar Blvd, Sunset Valley, 512-358-7445 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 3pm-6pm Monday-Friday
  • DRINKS: Discounted glasses and carafes of house red and white wine. Beer cocktails $4.50, Lonestar pints $2.50, Texas craft beers $4 pints/$2.50 for the 10 oz.
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: The Woodsman (rye IPA, cider, maple syrup, lemon)
  • FOOD: Happy hour menu
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Pepperoni pull-aparts $4
  • ATMOSPHERE: Much like the rural refuge that is Sunset Valley, St. Philip is free of the kind of pretension that often creeps into high-profile restaurants. The smells emanating from the open kitchen are nostalgia-inducing. Though the space is modern, the ambience is relaxed rustic. It's a great date spot and a safe bet for low-key dinners with the folks.

Fabi + Rosi

509 Hearn St, 512-236-0642 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 5pm-6:30pm Monday-Friday
  • DRINKS: $2 off wine and beer
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: Domäne Wachau/Grüner Veltliner/Austria $7/glass
  • FOOD: $5 starters and $8 boards
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Metzger board (chicken liver pâté, Wagyu tartare, smoked pork terrine)
  • ATMOSPHERE: Refined without pretension. Housed in a transformed bungalow, the space is quaint, romantic, distinctly European, and mercifully quiet.

Arro

601 W 6th St, 512-992-2776 | Website

  • HAPPY HOURS: 5pm-7pm Monday-Friday
  • DRINKS: Select cocktails $5 or $7
  • ESSENTIAL SIP: The Normandy Orchard, made with Leprechaun Cider, Domaine Dupont Calvados, Grand Marnier, and lemon
  • FOOD: Select appetizers and an ice cream sandwich $5 or $7
  • CROWD-PLEASER: Raclette (classic French dish, cheese warmed to a fondue consistency and poured over seasonal chef selections)
  • ATMOSPHERE: A little more room to move between tables than at most French restaurants. The casual space features soft light, warm hues, and it's even a little sexy when the sun goes down. The noise factor (it can get loud) is offset by the unspoken permission to linger.

Credits

Photography by Hayden Spears

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