Where to go out for people who. . . don’t like to go out.
Where to go out for people who. . . don’t like to go out.
For the shy, the introverted, the fans of intimate conversation, dim lighting and light crowds, finding a peaceful place to grab a drink can be tough in a town bursting with popular bars. Even the most outgoing of folks sometimes seek a quieter night out in a less busy, tucked-away spot. These new and old favorites won’t be ghost towns (a bar without any customers would be a closed one), but each place on this list possesses a welcoming atmosphere and has a couple of nights a week when you can relax with a great drink, grab an empty seat and actually hear what your companion is saying.
Weather Up, East Cesar Chavez’s sophisticated spot to enjoy sinfully delicious cocktails was opened just over a year ago by Kathryn Weatherup, who first started her brand of slinging drinks in Brooklyn. A shady, lush outdoor patio with vintage metal furniture makes for a dreamy place to enjoy the weather when it’s nice, and Weather Up’s signature hand-cut ice helps ease Austin’s hot summers. With devoted patrons as diverse as the drink menu, the interior is cozy, minimally designed and like the drinks, well made. No live music or trivia nights here—the focus is on well-crafted cocktails and meaningful conversation. Those on the hunt for the lightest crowds are advised to visit mid-week, early evening.
1808 East Cesar Chavez | Open Monday through Friday and Sunday 4pm to midnight, Saturday 4pm to 1am
Texas’s first kava bar, SquareRüt, has been open for more than a year and offers Austinites an alternative to alcohol: kava, a drink loved for its ability to blanket one’s body with calm feelings. The interior is full of deep, comfy sofas and friendly servers happily answer questions. Newbies to kava should order at least 12 ounces; you need more kava in the beginning to feel the effect than regular drinkers. For the kava hesitant, the options also include an array of teas and sodas. Co-owner Tracy Moreno suggests Sunday through Wednesday evenings as the best time for the crowd-averse to get their kava-calm on, with a Monday happy hour running from 5pm to 8pm.
6000 South Congress Avenue | Open every day noon to midnight
The tiny but potent Tigress Pub has been a favorite for locals in the North Loop neighborhood for a few years now. Tigress’s claim to fame is the killer combinations of cocktails paired with stunning glassware. For introverts, its tiny, low-lit interior and calming ambience might serve as a comforting cocktail hug. Simple decor keeps your focus on drinks and conversation. And a future expansion might make this small spot a little roomier. Those shy about trying new things will meet nothing but a friendly bar staff, ready to help you find the ideal thing to imbibe. Tiny bars can get crowded even with a few people, though, so go early on weeknights.
100 W. North Loop Boulevard | Open Tuesday through Sunday 4pm to 11ish
You might spot a Monarch butterfly at the Butterfly Bar while enjoying a cocktail, wine or beer. This spot next to East Side’s VORTEX Theater has been cultivating a butterfly garden since opening in 2011. Filled with soothing, creative energy, this bar comes with an ample outdoor area, a softly lit wooden patio and a charming indoor bar, enjoy desserts or partake of Patrizi’s Italian food truck parked in the yard and featuring a light food menu. An events calendar during the week offers movies under the stars, trivia nights, and the occasional live jazz music, so Bonnie Cullum, VORTEX’s producing artistic director, says the crowd-shy should aim for Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday evenings when looking for a quieter night out.
2307 Manor Road | Open every night 5pm to midnight
Open since 2009, a dramatic, exotically decorated interior with dark woods and low lighting makes for an atmosphere that is instantly comfortable, and a welcoming patio is dog and introvert-friendly. Owned by Niraj Mehdiratta and run by a group of close friends, Apothecary has a delicious menu of thoughtfully prepared entrees and snacks inspired by travel and different cultures. Those who are thirsty can choose from local beer, tea and coffee or from the seasonal wine selection. Niraj says the best nights for quiet are Monday and Tuesday—and Monday nights they offer $10 off any bottle in the house.
4800 Burnet Road, #450 | Open Monday through Saturday 4pm to midnight, Sunday 10am to 10pm
At the oldest original bar in South Austin, you feel transported through time as soon as you walk through the door into a cozy space with a jukebox and folks playing shuffleboard. With cold air-conditioning and beer, it’s the sort of place that’s been in television shows, and celebrities are known to pop by. Its comfort comes from its history, the nice folks behind the bar, and the casual atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re at home and among friends. And with fun restaurants that have moved in nearby in recent years, it’s the perfect dive-bar ending to a peaceful and delicious night out.
2034 South Lamar Boulevard | Open Monday through Sunday 12pm to 2am
Like to enjoy your wine and local charcuterie while sitting on some of the hippest contemporary furniture from around the world and Austin? Drop in at Aviary Lounge and Decor, run by stylish couple Marco Fiorilo and Shanna Eldridge. Shanna mans the furniture store during the day, while Marco ushers in patrons as the space transforms into a comfortable and inviting lounge in the evening. Rare is the opportunity to be able to take home the wineglass you’re drinking from or the chair you’re sitting in, but here, everything’s for sale. Enjoy a cool beer or wine, from Spanish reds to Italian whites and more. Nearly every night of the week features a deal (hello, $2 house wine Tuesdays). And for those seeking the least-busy nights, Marco suggests stopping by after dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays.
2110 South Lamar Boulevard | Open every day noon to midnight
Tucked within view of the Capitol and down some nondescript stairs, this tiny bar can quickly get crowded, but you can usually grab a dark corner table and order a well-priced drink. A staple of the Austin nightlife scene since the 1970s, it used to be the place politicians went to let off a little steam. These days, it’s well known to locals and has even gotten national attention. But the pre-Instagram wall of photos winding up the stairwell that leads to the bathrooms and the presence of a genuine pay phone make this throwback bar worth the trip. Go early on weeknights to miss crowds, and consider avoiding it during tailgating season.
1300 Colorado Street | Open Monday through Friday 3pm to 2am, Saturday 8pm to 2am
Surrounded by trees, Open Room Austin is a long, painted aluminum table anchored by four chandelier-like posts. It requires no reservation, is open to the public, affords beautiful views, and depending on the evening, could be just for you and your friends. Located at Sand Beach Park off Cesar Chavez near Lamar Boulevard, this sculpture was created in 2010 by the artist team of Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar. Follow Austin Parks and Recreation Department rules and fill this blank canvas with your favorite beverage, meal and friends, for whatever peaceful mood you’re looking to create.
Sand Beach Park
The Longbranch Inn saw the potential of East 11th Street way before the current crop of hip businesses swooped in. A seasoned favorite taken over by folks from all nightlife-loving walks of life and featuring a dark interior, this bar has something that appeals to the quiet of heart. Perhaps it’s the array of taxidermy and art that offers plenty of things to observe while waiting for a friend. Maybe it’s the old furniture that allows you to sink in deep and feel comfortable. Affordable drinks and friendly patrons help. It’s the definition of laid-back, and its narrow patio is the perfect place to people-watch. Go early on weeknights to enjoy this place at its most serene and avoid nights with live music which can be crowded.
1133 East 11th St | Open Monday through Friday 4pm to 2am, Saturday and Sunday 6pm to 2am
For those with a big appetite who crave a quiet night out, Sagra on hip East 11th Street near downtown is the perfect spot. There’s plenty of room to find a peaceful spot inside or out, and the low lighting and lovely atmosphere guarantee you’ll be welcomed and comfortable. The menu of Italian food, drinks and interior decor are inspired by classic designs, but with a comfortable, casual update. Go early on weeknights to avoid crowds and enjoy happy hour prices.
1050 East 11th Street | Open Monday through Thursday 11am to 10pm, Friday 11am to 10:30pm, Saturday 10:30am to 10pm and Sunday 10:30am to 9pm
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