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.
For locals, Dirty Sixth runs from Congress to I-35 even though technically, and according to street signs, East Sixth starts at Congress Avenue and runs east. But when you hear locals talk about East Sixth, we are referencing anything east of I-35. Don’t get confused by the street signs; you’ll be talking like a local in no time.
East Sixth as we know and love it today is an eclectic blend of shops, restaurants, dive bars and cocktail bars. It’s also quite new–in relation to Dirty or West Sixth–with the gentrification of east Austin surging in the past 10 years. Here are some of my favorite East Sixth Street establishments you won’t want to miss when you visit.
Start your East Sixth jaunt in style by heading to Helm Boots. These handmade American boots are the epitome of craftsmanship and Austin entrepreneurism. One of our Austinot bloggers checked in with owner Joshua Bingaman last fall as Helm Boots opened their flagship store.
900 E. 6th St., Suite 101 – Website
As you continue down East Sixth Street, you’ll come across one of my favorite dive bars, Shangri-La. As an east side “veteran” that has been around since 2008, this spot has won the hearts of many locals…and Bill Murray, who helped serve up drinks during SXSW in 2010.
What I love about Shangri-La is they’re all about having fun. If you’re not having fun, it’s your fault, not theirs.
1016 E. 6th St. – Website
Via 313/Violet Crown Social Club
Just down the road, you’ll find one of the last remaining food trailers on East Sixth Street, Via 313. Even though Via 313 has two brick and mortar locations now, their trailers are as popular as ever. And you can’t have pizza without grabbing a beer. Violet Crown Social Club is the perfect backdrop for relaxing with friends to enjoy that pie and cold one.
Buenos Aires Cafe/Milonga Room
Buenos Aires Cafe is owned and operated by Argentinians who aim to recreate the atmosphere of Buenos Aires within their restaurant walls, highlighting traditional Argentine dishes. If you don’t know what chimichurri sauce is, do yourself a favor and order from the grill.
The same owners recently opened speakeasy Milonga Room in the basement, adding a whole new level to the Argentine history and ambiance they share. Don’t forget to check for the weekly passcode, which can be found on social media.
Editor’s Note: As of December 2016, Rio Rita has moved to 1203 Chicon St.
The next East Sixth veteran you’ll reach on your tour, which opened way back in 2007, is Rio Rita. A coffee shop by day and bar by night, Rio Rita is like no other spot on East Sixth. It’s a little dingy and it’s a little dark, but it’s always a good time. This spot is especially great for low-key gatherings, and you’ll want to check out Bring Your Own Vinyl night every Monday.
1308 E. 6th St. – Website
Hotel Vegas/The Volstead
If you’re in the mood for music and dancing, then head to Hotel Vegas and sister bar The Volstead. Think swanky dive bar with fancy damask wallpaper next door to a bar that has a stage for live music. You can easily switch between the two bars through the back patio area, making this the center of East Sixth entertainment.
1500-1502 E. 6th St. – Website
The White Horse
If you’re looking for Texas-inspired dancing, then check out The White Horse, right around the corner from East Sixth on Comal Street. This honky-tonk gem features live music seven days a week. On certain nights, you may even see a few horses parked in front of this venue.
Don’t know how to two-step? Just stop by on Saturday nights for arguably the best two-step class in town. The White Horse also features pool tables and an outdoor patio, with a taco truck to cure the munchies.
500 Comal St. – Website
The Liberty is another one of the original dives on East Sixth, dating back to 2009. It’s also home to the original East Side King trailer! And since the outdoor signage was recently upgraded, you literally can’t miss it. Be sure to stop in and stay for a while.
1618 E. 6th St. – Website
Zilker Brewing Company & Taproom
Austinites are incredibly lucky to have so many micro breweries to choose from in the city. And now there’s even one on East Sixth, Zilker Brewing Company. They opened their doors last year and already have an enthusiastic following. While there isn’t a kitchen on site, they host local food trucks on a rotating basis.
1701 E. 6th St. – Website
Another dive bar on East Sixth, The Grackle offers patrons several whiskey options, as well as a covered patio and large draft beer selection. You may also notice their new fancy signage from the same folks who did The Liberty Bar’s: Blackout Signs and Metalworks. This is another great spot to enjoy a low-key night out with friends.
1700 E. 6th St. – Website
Whisler’s is the final venue on my East Sixth Street list and another personal favorite. Their rotating cocktail menu always features classic drinks with a twist, made by mixologists who know what they’re doing.
Whisler’s also has an outstanding Mezcal bar on the second floor. To boot, they are the only craft cocktail bar with an East Side King trailer: Thai Kun. Order the #8 and they’ll make you sign a waiver because it’s so spicy.
1816 E. 6th St. – Website
Despite the growing pains, Austin’s East Sixth Street is home to fantastic venues for any mood you’re in. So get out there and start exploring the east side!
@jpino9 wants to know:
What’s your favorite East Sixth Street venue?
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