Whether you love it or loath it, Sixth Street is one of the most iconic streets in Austin. It’s the epicenter of what made Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
There are three sections of Sixth Street in Austin: West, East and what locals refer to as Dirty. West Sixth is the section of Sixth Street that runs west from Congress Avenue. For the most part, the nightlife scene ends at North Lamar Boulevard.
Technically, and according to street signs, East Sixth starts at Congress Avenue and runs east, but that’s not what you’ll hear from locals. We refer to the section of Sixth Street that stretches from Congress Avenue to I-35 as Dirty Sixth. Then East Sixth is anything east of I-35. Don’t get confused by the street signs; you’ll be talking like a local in no time.
There are actually quite a few wonderful businesses on Dirty Sixth that aren’t as “dirty” as you might imagine. Yes, there are bars that offer dollar shots, and plenty of people who don’t know how to handle their alcohol. But there is also a charm that often goes overlooked. So here are the diamonds in the rough; the best of the best on Dirty Sixth Street.
The Driskill Hotel & Bar
There is nothing classier than the historical and haunted Driskill Hotel. Located at Sixth and Brazos, its cowboy decor is far from a hipster’s ironic attempt at being Texan. Rather, it holds a traditional and tasteful representation of the true spirit of Texas.
This is great place to start or end the night, where you’ll find live music almost every night of the week. I recommend the bacon-wrapped dates and Sage Advice cocktail.
604 Brazos St. – Website
Buffalo Billiards is catty-corner to The Driskill Hotel. This Wild West-themed bar is a playground for our inner child. Considering there’s 22,000 square feet of entertainment, if you’re bored, then you’re not trying. They have pool tables, shuffleboard tables, darts and, if all else fails, they have oodles of TVs to keep you entertained. This is the place to get “active” after your refined experience at The Driskill. And with a typical drink and food menu, you could set up shop for the entire night.
201 E. 6th St. – Website
As you head east on Dirty Sixth, you’ll run into The Parish. This is one of the best music venues in town. Alongside supporting up-and-coming local artists, they host well-known musicians without the high price tag. Be sure to stop by to see who’s playing–if the show isn’t already sold out. You may stumble upon your new favorite band.
214 E. 6th St. – Website
Parkside, which in my opinion has the best happy hour in town, sits on the corner of Sixth and San Jacinto. During happy hour, you can enjoy half-off cocktails, beer and bar food such as calamari and shishitos. And if you venture just a tad off Sixth, right behind Parkside, you’ll find The Backspace, one of my five best pizza joints in town.
301 E. 6th St. – Website
You may miss Midnight Cowboy as you continue down Dirty Sixth because it’s a modern day speakeasy, trying to remain unnoticed. Only a red light leads the way to this reservation-only cocktail bar, which gets its name from the once secret brothel in the same location: Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage. This unique space and the outstanding cocktails are a must when hitting Dirty, so be sure to plan ahead and make a reservation.
313 E. 6th St. – Website
Alamo Drafthouse Ritz
The Ritz is my favorite of all the Alamo Drafthouse locations. You don’t go to the Ritz to see a movie. You go to the Ritz for the sing-alongs, quote-alongs and performances such as Master Pancake Theater. There’s something about being in that old building that makes these events even more fun.
320 E. 6th St. – Website
Maggie Mae’s is another great music venue, which features live music seven days a week. The venue kind of feels like a hodge-podge of bars all in one, but they have the best rooftop patio on Dirty and some of the coolest lounges attached (Gibson Guitar Lounge and Les Paul Lounge both feature amazing guitarist memorabilia). Definitely worth a visit, even if it’s just to people-watch from the rooftop.
323 E. 6th St. – Website
Iron Cactus is a triple threat: Mexican food, margaritas and an amazing rooftop patio. I could spend an entire night on the rooftop of Iron Cactus, sipping on fresh margaritas, eating chips and people-watching.
606 Trinity St. – Website
Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar
I often equate piano bars with Billy Joel, but Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar is far from the soft rock of good ole’ Billy. What started as a one-man show grew into a dueling spectacle of good times and good music. Stay five minutes and they’ll have you singing and laughing along to whatever they play.
You don’t have to make reservations, but if you go with a large group you may want to call ahead. There is a cover charge, depending on the day of the week and the time you arrive.
421 E. 6th St. – Website
Don’t let the location fool you. Located just outside the craziness of Dirty, this amazing and authentic French bistro bears mentioning. Started by three Parisians over 30 years ago, the food at Chez Nous is top-quality. They’re even open for lunch if you are totally adverse to nighttime on Dirty Sixth. Be sure to try the escargot!
510 Neches St. – Website
Casino El Camino Bar & Grill
No Dirty Sixth guide would be complete without a mention of Casino El Camino. This neighborhood bar and grill has been around since 1994. Since then, it has earned recognition from the Food Network and local publications, including the award for “Best Jukebox” from the Austin Chronicle.
517 E. 6th St. – Website
Esther’s Follies & The Velveeta Room
What goes best with a plate of laughter? More laughter, which is why I lumped these two comedy venues together. Esther’s Follies offers sketch comedy acts with a side of magic, while The Velveeta Room is straight-up stand up. You can spend your entire evening on Dirty at these two venues alone, and I highly recommend doing so.
True Blue Tattoo
What fun-filled, crazy night doesn’t include tattoos? Okay, mine typically don’t, but I can’t talk about Dirty Sixth without talking about tattoos, and the top spot for ink on Dirty is True Blue Tattoo.
While it’s technically located on Red River between Sixth and Seventh, True Blue deserves the top spot should you consider a tattoo during your stroll down Sixth Street. Although my decision to get a tattoo wasn’t spur of the moment, I can attest to the quality of True Blue’s work and professionalism.
607 Red River St. – Website
Basically the last bar on Dirty before getting to I-35, Easy Tiger is not your average, German-inspired beer garden. They have a killer bake shop, which makes speciality breads, pretzels and cookies; several of their meats are made in-house; and they have over 30 local beers on tap.
During warmer months, the back patio is equipped with ping pong tables. The patio backs up to Waller Creek, giving it a fun and friendly backyard vibe. Try anything on the menu! You won’t be disappointed.
709 E. 6th St. – Website
If you purposefully avoid Dirty Sixth Street, I challenge you to enjoy it as it was originally intended. And if you frequent Dirty often, but have never heard of some of the places mentioned above, then stop by next time you’re downtown. These amazing Austin businesses have stood the test of time for a reason.
@jpino9 wants to know:
What’s your favorite Dirty Sixth Street spot?
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