For a long, long time, there was only one “6th Street” in Austin. And it was Dirty. But that’s no longer the case. Over the past few years, East 6th and the surrounding area has become the coolest place to drink in town. Whether or not you get excited about what’s new and hot, there’s no denying that there’s a high concentration of awesome bars around here.
So whether you’re finally ready to move on from your Dirty 6th routine, or you’re visiting Austin for the first time and want to know where the “cool people” drink, here are our favorite bars on the East Side.
Kitty Cohen’s may have a pool, but it’s nothing like Barton Springs or Deep Eddy. Instead of swimming laps or listening to screaming four-year-olds, you go to Kitty Cohen’s to dip your toes in the two-foot-deep water and drink cocktails with names like Bo Derek and Roman Holiday. With pink flamingo wallpaper, live music on Sundays, and rotating restaurant pop-ups, it’s one of our favorite spots to cool off on the East Side - no lifeguard required.
We’ve heard it’s not cool to bring alcohol to a pet store, so when you want to drink beer all day surrounded by dogs, head to Lazarus Brewing instead. They have a solid beer selection, plenty of bar seating, and a shady patio ideal for hanging with friends and slowly recruiting more people (and dogs) to join you. When everyone has had a few drinks and inevitably gets hungry, Lazarus serves tacos and sandwiches too.
For everyone who complains that Rainey Street just isn’t what it used to be, Lustre Pearl East is the solution. It’s the original bungalow that was uprooted from Rainey when they needed to make way for condos, but now with more outdoor space and way fewer UT students. Even though it’s further east than most places on this list, it’s worth the extra five minute bike or Uber ride. It’s never too crowded, but there are always enough people to make it feel like a house party you’d actually want to be at.
Part coffee shop, bar, hostel, and coworking space, Native is a great spot to grab drinks before heading further east for the night, or if you’re on your way downtown for whatever reason. No matter what time of day you come here, there’ll be people working on their laptops, drinking at the bar, or plotting out which taco or barbecue spots to hit during their visit. It’s usually pretty low key, but expect a crowd if you come by on a Friday or Saturday night.
Located inside the old Longbranch Inn, Nickel City is a dive bar where you can drink frozen cocktails, eat Detroit-style coney dogs, and completely avoid the sun. The music’s never too loud and they have lots of beer and cocktails to try out on a first date or when you come here to catch up with a friend. Stop by for a night cap if you live nearby or when you want to play pinball and avoid the crowds on Sixth.
Multitasking is great until you face plant while walking and texting simultaneously, but sometimes it works well and you end up with a place like Brew & Brew. It’s the kind of coffee shop/bar where you can network while being surrounded by “entrepreneurs,” custom motorcycle designers, and grad students avoiding working on their theses. Swing by during their daily Happy Hour for a post-work caffeine boost and to try any of the 30+ beers and ciders on tap.
The Liberty is one of the oldest bars on East 6th and while the warehouses that once surrounded it have been replaced by condos, it’s still one of the best places to drink on the street. Inside you can play pool or post up around the bar, or you can head to the backyard and grab a spot at one of the many picnic tables. You’ll run into someone you went on a Tinder date with three years ago while you wait in line at East Side King, but just say hi and offer them a fried beet, or do your best to completely avoid eye contact.
La Holly is a mezcal, tequila, and sotol bar located far enough down East 6th that you won’t come across too many birthday and bachelorette parties. While the back patio is where you should spend most of your time here, there’s also a long bar inside where you can do a proper mezcal tasting if that’s your sort of thing. There are taco trucks out back too, which means you can basically spend an entire afternoon or night here without having to leave.
Hidden under a bunch of trees in front of some train tracks on a side street, you’d probably never know Yellow Jacket Social Club was here. This divey spot isn’t just a great place for a low-key hang in the shade, though, they also serve a surprisingly great brunch. Start the day off with a frozen mimosa and the shrimp and grits and see where the afternoon takes you.
Between ladies night, the snow cone truck out front, yoga-brunch (do with that information what you will), and a big back patio - Craftsman knows what the people want. We like to start out here for cocktails, then head next door to Stay Gold for live music - but this place is really an all-around good choice for any kind of night.
This is the sort of place you can only find in Austin: a casual, easy spot to catch some actually-excellent live music (they have it every night, typically with no cover), plus an awesome patio and food truck combo. A perfect weeknight hangout spot, especially for a first date/getting-to-know-you type of situation.
The all-mezcal bar upstairs is the reason you should check out Whisler’s, but the spacious patio downstairs and the option to snag some Thai Kun from the truck will definitely keep you there for a while. Ideal for starting off an East 6th night, but no one in your group will complain if you end up shutting down the place either.
Keeping it highly casual, Violet Crown’s outdoor seating and divey inside are where you meet up with your friends to simultaneously complain about your job and try to remember why you have one. Also, the fact that Chi'lantro is posted up out front makes it that much harder to say no to Wednesday night beers.
Not from Austin? Hosting an out-of-town friend? Generally looking for a fun night but don’t have a real agenda in mind? All are excellent reasons to go to White Horse, where it’s pretty impossible not to have a good time. It’s always crowded, and filled with all kinds of people - older Austin hippies, young tech people who just moved from San Francisco, former frat stars, and definite weirdos. That melting pot crowd, plus the always-solid live music, plus the actual honky tonk dancing that goes down, all make White Horse one of the best places to spend a night in Austin.
If your ideal Friday night involves sweatpants and red wine on the couch, stay far away from The Eastern. This dive hosts a weekly “Fck Me Fck Me Fridays,” which is essentially a sweaty, packed hip hop dance party. If that sounds like something you’d be intrigued by, go ahead and follow your instinct because it’s a great time. And if it’s not a Friday, you should still keep this place on your radar for cheap drinks made even cheaper during Happy Hour.
If you don’t mind a cover charge, Hotel Vegas is a good place to come if you’re looking for something a little rowdier (bordering on sh*tshow material). Loud live music (usually up and coming bands) inside, big scene on the back patio outside.
The sister bar to Hotel Vegas, Volstead is another great choice for a Friday night dance party. The backyard, which it shares with Hotel Vegas, is great for catching up with an old friend or throwing your own party - just keep in mind the place fills up quick.
Even people that never go out on this side of town have been to Shangri-La. It was one of the original East Side bars, and is still one of the most popular. Cheap drinks, a huge patio that’s good for making new friends, and a Happy Hour until 9pm all make this an easy choice for weeknights or a first stop on a weekend crawl.