2015 Readers Poll
2015 Critics Picks
Best Cocktail Bar

The Driskill Hotel is notorious to locals and visitors alike. The history and haunted nature of the hotel make it a unique establishment in its own right. The hotel’s tasteful elegance extends to their bar. Located upstairs past the portrait of Mr. Driskill himself is the best cocktail bar in Austin. Sprawled across the carpet are a variety of comfortable leather couches and chairs. The walls display a variety of Texan and Southwestern artwork and antique firearms, giving you the feeling that you’ve traipsed into the past. Classic cocktails, a solid wine list, live music, and spectacular service put the Driskill Bar over the top. The atmosphere is perfect for either causal drinks or something more sophisticated for business or your girlfriend’s parents. Just make sure you bill it to someone else’s room.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos

Best Dance, Dance, Karaoke

The HighBall boasts seven very eclectic and whimsically themed karaoke rooms, but we are here to talk about another, different kind of party. Ever so often, the good folks at the HighBall will clear the tables and chairs to create one mega dance floor. Why do they do this, you ask? Because there ain't no party like a music-video dance party. We can jam out to everything from Britney to Backstreet Boys with glowsticks in hand. Nineties not your thing? Don't worry, they go through many different decades for your groovin' pleasure.

The Highball
1120 S. Lamar

Celesta Danger

Best Dive Bar

Dark, decrepit, and oozing character, Barfly’s epitomizes the ideal dive bar. Located on top of a Burger Tex on Airport Boulevard, this neighborhood bar draws all types of residents from Hyde Park, North Loop, and surrounding areas. Up the stairs and behind the steel door, you step into almost complete darkness. Dim lights illuminate worn pool tables. The cocktail tables are small and usually occupied by two or three very different people, Lone Stars in hand, usually laughing. A jukebox shines a colorful light through the opaque air. The bartenders are friendly and the people friendlier. Barfly’s is the perfect spot to grab a few cold beers and shoot some pool. We also recommend a shot of whiskey to go along with that Lone Star. No lemon drops here, folks.

5420-B Airport

Best International Music Ambassadors

A conversation with Music Canada’s VP of Public Affairs at South by Southwest last year sparked the Austin music and film promotional project ATX6. Three months later, songwriter Chris Brecht and six hard-working, prodigious songwriters were on a plane for Toronto to represent Austin music at NXNW. Brecht, who runs Austin Independent Radio online, and company then shuttled off to Germany’s Reeperbahn Festival. This spring, he rounded up another sextet for NXNE, a crew then bound for France this week to represent the Live Music Capital. Brecht’s likely already prepping next year’s chosen ones.


Best Intimate Music Moments

While the Continental Club is world-famous, the Gallery is the coolest intimate venue in Austin and still a bit of a secret. Located over Southside Tattoo on South Congress, the Gallery goes from charming to eclectic with a 40-person limit. You never know what rock or movie star might show up and sit behind the scenes of the bar. The Gallery hosts a variety of jazz (Elias Haslanger, Eprhaim Owens, Mike Flanigin, Robert Kraft), singer-songwriters (James McMurtry, Jon Dee Graham, Hilary York, Guitar Pull), and jam bands (Kalu James, Matt Hubbard) throughout the week, and is home to the quarterly Tertulia (an Iberian tradition of a mix of poetry, song, and performance).

Continental Club Gallery
1313-A S. Congress

Best Little Audacious Film That Could … and Did!

When Richard Linklater began the marathon of Boyhood in 2002, there was scant consideration of greatness but plenty of concern that the experiment could even be completed. Making a movie over 12 years with the same cast on a pittance budget? What could possibly go wrong? And yet … hardly anything did go wrong, and so much went so right. The cast and crew met annually to create what is now considered cinematic genius. Sure, it was passed over for the Oscar (widely considered one of the most egregious errors in Academy history), so solace has to be taken in Boyhood's appearance on more critics' annual lists in 2014 than any other film.

Detour Filmproduction
3109 N. I-35

Best Local Entertainment App

Ever wish you could use a flux capacitor to tip that hunky server? Ever dream about ditching out early to make that movie, but can't find your server? Want an easy way to avoid those embarrassing walks of shame to get your debit card from a bar where you left it the night before? Love free drinks as much as we do? Just download the TabbedOut app, check out their loyalty program, and enjoy the ease of playing and paying right from your phone.

1135 W. Sixth #130

Best Mezcal Selection

One may not think of a divey lounge on East 12th as a haven for this en vogue Mexican spirit. But co-owner Billy Hankey is a fan of the smokey elixir, and he has made it his personal goal to have the most complete collection of mezcal available in any Austin bar. With 35 labels and counting in all styles and varieties, Hankey is always happy to share a unique cocktail or to pour a flight of some of his favorites. He has ample knowledge of the spirit and will enthusiastically share it with one and all.

King Bee
1906 E. 12th

Sandy Carson

Best Movie Theatre You Should Go to More Often

As the home of Austin Film Society’s impressive, ongoing lineup of archival screenings and special series (many are hand-picked by Richard Linklater himself) and also a satellite venue during festivals like SXSW and Austin Film Festival, the humble Marchesa is the place to see the best independent, classic, new, and rare films showing around town. So why don’t you go here more often? Don’t squander the fact that you live in an excellent film town, y’all. Seriously.

AFS Cinema
6406 N. I-35 #3100

Best New Draught Beer

It's not surprising that Hops & Grain’s first year-round draught is a delight. The Pale Mosaic has an aroma, flavor profile, and body that is appropriate for any occasion. As nose inches closely to pint glass, nostrils tingle with the faint aroma of pine. The beer has a pale copper hue, a cloudy appearance, and medium body. The first cold sips are crisp, and the Mosaic hop really shines with pine resin and grapefruit pith flavors tingling the pallet. These earthy and light fruity flavors are backed up with a moderate hoppiness, yet nothing near as bitter as your average IPA. Finally, there’s nothing like a smooth finish. Its subtle character gives the beer its versatility when it comes to pairings, the season, and the person. Cheers!

Hops & Grain Brewery
507 Calles

Best Pseudo-Healthy Cocktail

With kombucha for your gut, whiskey for your soul, and ginger for an overall health and flavor kick, the Golden Ticket at Austin’s beloved “ambiguous everybody space” is refreshing, reasonably priced, and virtuous enough to drink on the regular (we think so, anyway). It pairs perfectly with a night of dance partying or parking garage protesting, making this cheerful and effervescent cocktail one of many reasons to visit this precious Red River hang-out.

Cheer Up Charlies
900 Red River

Best Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Campaign

Now that Stevie Ray Vaughan’s officially plaqued in Cleveland, attention turns to getting Doug Sahm inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Joe Nick Patoski’s new feature documentary, Sir Doug & the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, serves as catalyst to the campaign, premiering at SXSW and raising more than $90K on Kickstarter. Meanwhile, local stars have rallied in live tributes across Texas and in promoting the official petition. It's the rejuvenation of Sahm's legacy for a new generation 15 years after the musical polymath’s passing to the ultimate Groover’s Paradise.

Society for the Preservation of Texas Music

Best Spaghetti Western Shot in Austin

Austin auteurs Duane Graves and Justin Meeks know that making a movie is to worship at the altar of celluloid past while desperately creating something fresh. Their Western Red on Yella, Kill a Fella is a case in point. The guys created the Texas Bigfoot tale The Wild Man of the Navidad and teamed with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel on the bloody Butcher Boys. Now they've taken a genre leap forward with a spaghetti Western chock-full of grit and blood mixed with an existential storyline that surprises. All we ask is an Austin premiere. Pronto.

Greeks Films

Best Texas Wine Ambassador

Sommelier Rae Wilson started her company, Wine for the People, as a way to make wine approachable to all. As the concept grew and evolved, Wilson's role changed from educator to consultant, which fueled her passionate advocacy for Texas wines. Wilson works to connect up-and-coming Hill Country wineries with her growing list of clients, therefore giving us the opportunity to find excellent Texas wines at more local bars and restaurants. And as a winemaker, she sold out the first production of her 100% Texas-grown Dandy Rosé within two months. We look forward to any and all of her future endeavors.

Wine for the People
1601 W. 38th

Best Visions of the Future

Science fiction isn’t just about space ships and lasers. It’s about what it means to be a human in strange times. Austin’s first ever dedicated sci-fi film festival went to infinity and beyond in its inaugural year, with former Austin Film Festival booker Bears Fonté selecting the most bizarre, hilarious, and moving titles the genre has to offer. Before it returns this December, its year-round programming has kept highlighting beautiful and unearthly cinema. Keep watching the skies … and the screens.

Other Worlds

Best Way to Lose Your Voice

Sing us a song, you’re the punk rock man/rebel girl! Kaleb Asplund and wife Hannah Ford have been building Karaoke Underground’s song list since 2004. Currently at roughly 1,000 songs, there are plenty of choices to belt your heart out to: Nick Cave, Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Minutemen, etc. Don’t be surprised if you get joined onstage by a member of the band whose song you’re singing. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats once went next door to Cheer Up Charlies after playing a show at the Mohawk to join a lucky fan onstage for “This Year.” Sleater-Kinney also popped by for a Girls Rock Camp benefit to catch a glimpse of fans singing the entire “Dig Me Out” album. In addition to standing gigs at Nomad Bar and Drinks Lounge, KU has nights all over town, can come to your private event, and occasionally takes its show on the road.

Karaoke Underground

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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