While finding the potential human you’ll spend your life with happens mostly on the internet, you’re going to have to actually meet them in person eventually. And whether you’ve only gotten to stalk them virtually or you’ve been forcefully set up by a mutual friend, nothing about a first date is easy. What you need: a casual place (this isn’t a rose ceremony) that proves you know what you’re doing (this isn’t amateur hour) where you can actually hear each other talk, enjoy whatever it is you’re drinking, and possibly eat something too - because getting accidentally wasted probably isn’t the look you’re going for either.
Ready? Great, so are we. Here are Austin’s best first date bars.
It’s a Wednesday night and the guy you’ve been talking to on and off for two weeks finally mans up and asks you out. He suggests the East Side, but leaves the place entirely up to you. In this situation, choose Stay Gold. The lively patio situation has everything you need to keep things running smoothly (games, a food truck, and plenty of space), and if things are going well you can move inside for live music, dim lighting, and a more intimate vibe.
One of our go-to spots for fancy cocktails, this converted East Side house has magic powers for mitigating first-date awkwardness. The vibe inside leans romantic, but the backyard situation is much more upbeat. Order “The Falls” - it’s an excellent off-menu cocktail involving brown liquor and lime. And ordering anything off-menu instantly gets you 100 bonus first date points.
Looking for a low-key place where you can actually get to know someone? The Drafting Room, an excellent new wine bar, is a great choice for more serious contenders. This place popped up out of nowhere on Rainey Street, and no one is complaining. The patio is one of our new favorite hangs, and the French food you can order from L’Estelle House (which it’s hidden behind) is excellent. Go ahead and spring for the bottle, you’re going to want to stay a while.
Slightly off the beaten path, have faith in your GPS and you’ll find Yellow Jacket Social Club behind some train tracks and inside a tiny forest. The inside space is small and no-frills (at best), so you’ll want to be outside under the twinkly lights and trees, which are what you’re here for. Their frozen drink specials are always good, and when you start getting hungry order a shrimp and grits to share.
Fact: ordering mezcal makes you look a lot cooler than you actually are. And Whisler’s is one of the best places in town to do it. The tiny Mezcal-only bar upstairs has a great vibe, and once you’re tired of drinking the smoky stuff you can head to the always-happening patio downstairs for a full cocktail menu and some snacks from the Thai-Kun truck. Plan to go between 4 and 7pm to take advantage of the $7 cocktails during happy hour.
Whether or not you’re going out with someone who knows the difference between Rye and Bourbon, everyone likes nice things. So treat them (and yourself) right at Drink.Well., a place that delivers on its name. The cocktails are beautiful, the food is great, and the location is just removed enough to feel secluded - but not so far removed that you can’t make a quick exit should things go south quickly.
Casual, cool, and all things beer, Gibson Bar has just about everything on tap. Their cocktails are also a great option, especially during happy hour - and if you’re a gin & tonic person the well drinks also happen to be extremely affordable ($3). The low-commitment setting is ideal for a last-minute meetup, or a quick chance to feel things out. And if you have a few too many G&T’s, you can always soak them up (and save yourself from immense regret tomorrow) with a Luke’s Inside Out sandwich right next door.
Another wine bar that should be on your radar, especially for early in the game dates, is House Wine. Located in a quaint house right off Barton Springs Road, this is an excellent place for a glass of wine, a cheese plate, and hopefully learning more about each other besides your shared interests in excercise and dogs. If you’re dating on a budget, there’s also an outstanding happy hour and daily specials. And if you’re feeling adventurous, every Monday is open mic night, so test the waters and let sh*t get weird.
Brand new to Austin is Kitty Cohen’s, a cross between a chic 1970’s Palm Springs hotel and a chic grandma’s Palm Beach house. There’s a palm tree-covered patio, funky retro decor, beachy cocktails, and a pool - all of which add up to an environment that feels less like a bar and more like an alcohol-fueled vacation. So sit back, relax, and enjoy getting to know one another. Reminder: this is whole dating thing is supposed to be fun.