2017 Readers Poll
2017 Critics Picks

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Best Style Inspo for a No-FOMO Night Out

Kaidon Ho styles herself and others in outfits that will have you looking at the clothes you already own in a brand-new way and considering purchases you never knew you needed. Her creative, built-up silhouettes can be re-created by mixing pieces found in most wardrobes, and, wow, you’ve underestimated the versatility of a cowboy hat for too long already. Scroll through her Instagram feed and stop waffling over whether or not to go out – you do have something to wear.

Best Code-Required Cocktail Bar

Is your evening in need of a hard reboot? If you can gain access to this seeming "computer store," you’ll find a speakeasy worthy of a bootlegger. Requiring a code that you’ll either have to steal from someone leaving or find through internet sleuthing, once you gain entrance to this bar you’ll find nary a floppy disk. Instead, the Red-Headed Stepchild awaits, the shadow twin to Repair Co. Boasting cleverly named drinks, and the special allure of light rum-infused milk with shots of cereal, this speakeasy takes a strange mash of influences and makes them the creepiest of cools.

Floppy Disk Repair Co.
119 E. Fifth

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by John Anderson

Best Song Jackpot

When the White Horse opened in 2011, the Eastside dance hall swiftly evolved into a central clubhouse for Austin’s singer-songwriter, country, folk, and honky-tonk communities. Word gets around fast, and once the White Horse vaulted onto every when-in-Austin bucket list for tourists, the best songwriters in town moved their hang to sister business the Hard Luck Lounge, opened in 2015 by White Horse co-founders Denis O’Donnell and Marshall Mchone. The tiny bar with a big backyard is now a crucial spot to see Austin’s up-and-coming songsters nightly – either performing or drinking ’til 2am.

Best Sh!tfaced Skate Night

Whether it's the BYOB policy, or the DJs' bumping playlists, the twice-weekly Adult Night at Austin Roller Rink makes those awkward adolescent memories of your birthday skate parties seem a little less cringeworthy. Now that you’re of legal age and an adult with stressful responsibilities/unresolved teen angst/etc., celebrate making it through hump day or sweat out those Sunday-night-existential-crisis feels with a set of quad skates and a cold one.

Austin Roller Rink
11600 Menchaca Rd., Bldg. 101

Photo by Jana Birchum

Best Beat Down

Experimental electronic musicians Ben Webster and Andrew Brown – known on wax as Butcher Bear and Soundfounder – established the Exploded Drawing party on staunchly Fugazi-like principles: $5 cover, all-ages, fiercely DIY. Seven years later, the semi-monthly event remains a lighthouse for Austin’s producers, beatmakers, and artists. Inhabiting warehouses, art studios, and underground venues, the popular event locks in local talent with national headliners and acts as a petri dish of creative collaboration in the scene.

Exploded Drawing

Best All-Vinyl DJ Crew

Officially launched in December 2014, the collective is an outfit of all-female, vinyl-only DJs, identifying with nationalities and cultures including Latina, Tejana, and Chicana. Currently spread out in seven chapters in California and Texas, these crate-digging women run the gamut of genres, never focusing on any specific sound. With each spin, these proud and prominent women continue to carve out artistic spaces for the preservation of musical and cultural roots.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

Photo by John Anderson

Best Mocktail Menu

Leave it to the incomparable Callie Speer and her team at this Downtown punk rock diner to create a drink list so inclusive you might choose a defiantly booze-free frozen lemonade over your go-to bev. Bar manager Jen Keyser’s menu also includes four mocktail choices – Spicy, Sweet, Citrus, and Energy – plus delicious herbal shrub sodas to sip under the watchful eye of King Iggy Pop himself. Staying sober just got a whole lot tastier.

Holy Roller
509 Rio Grande

Best Place to Sing “Delta Dawn” 'til Dawn

We’ve all been there: It’s 2am, and suddenly, in the heat of the moment, your crew feels the need to belt out some Beyoncé. But the bars are all closed! Well, don’t stop believin’: Hi Tunes is open ’til 5am all weekend. BYOB to clean, cool rooms with proper lighting and sound. Tambourines and sanitary microphone covers included.

Hi Tunes Karaoke
911 W. Anderson #117

photo by John Anderson

photo by Adrienne Whitehorse

Best Neighborhood Bar Marquee

Come to East Austin's newest watering hole for the daily dose of humor. Stay for the impressive beer-and-a-shot specials. Or the frozen Irish coffees. Or the rye whiskey flights. Or the coney dogs …. Once we're perched at Nickel City's historic oak bar, it's pretty hard to find a reason to leave.

Nickel City
1133 E. 11th

Best Five Spot

Pere Ubu for five bucks at Beerland??!! Yep, that happened – and allll thanks to the programmers of Austin Jukebox, who curate these quarterly lineups featuring artists of different genres (including at least one out-of-towner) that they want to see, and you should too.

Super Secret Records

Photo By Montinique Monroe

Best Substitute for an Actual Lesbian Bar

Ask the nearest queer person where the best lesbian bar is in Austin, and you'll get a seemingly endless stream of "R.I.P." statements about days gone by. Enter Where the Girls Go, a collective of queer promoters and DJs who, two years ago, started the roving Guerrilla Queer Bar, a "trans-positive, all-gender-inclusive, anti-isms/ists, pro-makeout affair" that swoops in on different bars all over town. The vibe is always chill, and the pop-up nature keeps anything from getting too clique-ish. Think of it as a once-a-month rowboat ride under a sparkling willow tree. Go on. Kiss the girl.

Where the Girls Go Guerilla Queer Bar

Best Boozy Spot to Tap Into Your Inner Child

During the day, this carnival-inspired bar is strictly G-rated, where kids and their adult tenders can toss beanbags and slurp house-made sodas. But it’s at night, when they shave the ’rel off the door sign to become a Bar O’ Fun, that we most love this cozy space on the ground floor of the new Alamo Drafthouse Mueller. No matter the name, fun is fun, whether you’re showing off your smarts at the regular trivia nights, sussing out subtext at Queer Film Theory 101, or sipping a vodka cherry-lime rickey in the retro-cool Tilt-a-Whirl booths.

Barrel O' Fun
1911 Aldrich Ste. 120-B

photo by Richard Whittaker

photo by John Anderson

Best Second Downtown

Remember when the Domain promised it would be a second Downtown? Well, Rock Rose at Domain NORTHSIDE fulfills that promise as North Austin's nightlife hub, boasting two dozen restaurants and bars. Upmarket shopping in the day sets you up for informal fine dining at Bazille, fun and games at the bubbling Yard House, and heavy grooves on the Rose Room's top deck. If you yearn for the OG Downtown experience, there's a branch of the Lavaca St. Bar and fusion cooking institution Thai Kun. Plus, unlike the original Downtown, the parking is free and plentiful.

11700 Domain Blvd.

Best Candlelit Astroturf for a First Date Kiss

Down past Dirty, where West Sixth gets dark and quiet, is a plum-colored bungalow that’s just the right amount of fancy. Provocatively named cocktails pair perfectly with cheese plates and panna cotta, but their late-night vibe – complete with evergreen fake grass, candlelight, and lounge-worthy patio furniture – makes this spot ideal for making out. That, or for a spontaneous 11pm cornmeal funnel cake topped with seared foie gras, which is its own kind of love connection.

1401 W. Sixth

photo by John Anderson

photo by Shelley Hiam

Smallest Square Footage for a Night on the Town

The best date nights unfurl in three acts: Dinner. Entertainment. Drinks. At the Vortex compound, you can knock out all three without ever moving your car. Beloved on-site food trailer Patrizi’s will have you stealing bites from your sweetheart’s plate of cacio e pepe. Mere steps away, settle in at the tiny but potent Vortex Theatre for a typically first-class performance – and prime opportunity to hold hands in the dark. Then it’s back out to the Butterfly Bar’s seductively lit patio for a cocktail or cooling sangria, the stage perfectly set for that eternal late-night question: Your place or mine?

2307 Manor Rd.

The Vortex
2307 Manor Rd.

Butterfly Bar at the Vortex
2307 Manor Rd.

Critics: Kids & Family
Critics: Politics & Media

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