According to Wikipedia, the origins of “Happy Hour” are shrouded in mystery, but we are grateful nonetheless. Just as mysteriously, finding the perfect happy hour can be difficult in a city full of watering holes, but the well informed won’t have to travel far.
Believe it or not, some of the city’s more affordable cocktail hours happen to be in the heart of downtown, conveniently close by to that afternoon meeting of yours. Maybe happy hour should even be combined with the meeting?
The following four locales are a great place to start any evening, but this list is just the tip of the happy hour iceberg.
Frank is known to many in Austin for their hot dogs and well-curated live music. But it is known to me for its half price fries happy hour.
Fries at Frank are as well-dressed as the hot dogs, and a small order is enough to share. They also boast a very local drink menu, with a nice selection of Austin Beerworks brews for $3 a pint.
Need some extra energy before moving on to the next stop? Coffee is buy one, get one for $1, and there is always a weekly coffee special to keep things interesting. I tried the “Sugar Baby” and enjoyed the sweet finish.
Editor’s Note: Malaga closed in September 2016.
Ready for more? Malaga is a tapas secret, tucked away on the end of 2nd Street. Happy Hour is a tradition here, and they have a well organized menu with both eats and drinks at the ready.
Save money by filling up on the $4 items, but splurge on the deep fried goat cheese. It’s worth it. Wine is not my area of interest, but the house sommelier, Oscar, is usually on hand to make a recommendation. All the vintages originate in Spain, and the Sangria is always a popular choice.
Lamberts is often thought of as one of the more expensive barbecue restaurants in town, but the happy hour is an affordable deviation.
The typically pricey drink menu may deter diners from multiple rounds of craft cocktails (during happy hour drinks are $2 off), but show up between 5 and 7 PM and have a seat at the bar. The short but savory bar menu is the best dinner deal in the area, with a full plate with two sides costing $7 (half off!).
The bar staff is friendly, especially if you get there early. Don’t show up without a backup plan though. Lamberts is often rented out for private parties.
Are you always running late, even to happy hour? Bar Chi has a solution. In addition to their daily happy hours, they host a reverse happy hour on Thursday through Saturday for all night owls.
Starting at 10 PM, you can sail through the ocean of sushi specials and accompanying appetizers, in addition to the expected drink specials. The clean décor and colorful lighting make for a lovely last stop, and the smaller than expected bill was better than dessert!
Recommendations aside, sometimes the best kind of happy hour is one you make yourself. Find a great local bar near your home or place of work, make nice with the bar staff, and become a regular. You never know what tonight’s special might be.
What are some of your favorite Austin happy hours – downtown or otherwise? Share them in the comments below!
All photos courtesy of Trevor Yopp.