For the latest installment of my Austin speakeasy series, I visited Garage, a cocktail bar in–you guessed it–a garage. Like so many speakeasies in Austin, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may miss it.
Look for a parking garage on Colorado Street, directly south of Dirty Sixth. There, set back away from the street, is a set of doors where entering may stop time altogether. At least, I learned, that is the intent.
After finding the entrance but before entering the bar, there’s an important moment in the Garage experience. And yes, it is an experience. This place is entirely unique to Austin. This is a “cocktail bar with mystique,” as General Manager Paul Finn phrased it.
But back to that moment. Passing through the doorway, there’s a curved entryway, causing you to veer left. “The entrance is important,” Finn told me. “It’s a process of entry into a private little world that feels timeless.” Open the next door and suddenly, you’re no longer in an entryway, but a dark and hidden space with modern, yet mid-century vibes. Welcome to Garage.
Finn, who has been with Garage since it opened in March 2014, explained to me that architecture has always been incredibly important to the bar’s ownership, as well as to Garage’s overall ethos. Architecture is responsible for that sense of timelessness, as well as that feeling of discovery when you enter.
While Garage didn’t set out to be known as a speakeasy, its creators embrace the categorization. “We recognize that the modern speakeasy is its own sort of thing,” Finn said. “It’s a label we didn’t necessarily go after, but we don’t mind.” This makes sense, as Garage can boast great cocktails (more on this later) and maintains a relatively low profile.
It’s a delicate balance speakeasies must maintain: being open to all but preserving their secrecy. Garage strikes this balance by focusing on the moment of discovery. The bar’s website is minimal and they don’t have any advertising.
“We want people to come in and experience it for the first time in person,” Finn said. “We want people to have that surprise and discovery, for it to be intimate and feel like it’s theirs.” Preserving the experience is a conscious effort that motivates how Garage interacts with the world. And yes, the experience is worth it.
Preserving the Eternal Moment
Garage is meticulous about ensuring its space represents a sanctuary from life. When people visit, the hope is that time disappears, that it feels like Groundhog Day. In fact, Garage takes this to such an extreme that everything must look and feel the same every day. The lighting, temperature, even the furniture. Each piece of furniture is measured and reset to its exact place every day.
The Garage space is actually located in what used to be a valet ticketing office. The high ceilings, 15-seat curved bar, and brick the same as the original walls all create an experience in which one feels one is in an historical yet timeless space.
Garage is one of my favorite places in Austin to catch up with friends. The relaxed, private setting also makes it a great spot for dates. Sit at the bar or at a table, where “silent service” (unobtrusive table service) is the goal, as is getting your cocktail order to you as quickly as possible.
The service at Garage is noticeably deliberate, and it adds a sense of class to the experience. I was curious as to how Finn and team foster such incredible service. Turns out, it isn’t an accident. The staff here is team-oriented. Finn explained, “We really care about people’s wellness and well-being.”
Garage ownership and management take the approach that hospitality begins with the self. “If you treat yourself well, you’ll treat coworkers well, and then treating customer is a natural progression,” Finn said. As such, Garage provides healthcare for the staff and treats team members as family.
Timeless to the Last Drop
I love stopping by Garage for happy hour (Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m.) and I tend to stick with the $6 old fashioned. Garage’s version of this classic cocktail stands up to any in the city and just feels like the right drink for the scene.
But make no mistake, there are plenty of options. Other popular orders include the Indian Paintbrush, a vodka drink with rosemary, or the Seven Day Weekend, a mezcal cocktail.
Garage prides itself on its whiskey collection and a menu that changes seasonally. With so many quality cocktail bars in Austin, Garage more than holds its own, standing out for its superb drinks as well as atmosphere. While competition is inevitable, the team at Garage is happy to be a part of this Austin cocktail scene. “The food and beverage scene is so strong in Austin, it’s inspiring,” Finn told me. “High tide raises all boats.”
503 Colorado St. — Instagram
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you parked yourself at Garage yet?