You can always count on Austin’s best breweries, wine bars and the best hotel bars in the city to make for a boozy evening out, but what if you’re looking for hidden bars and speakeasies to escape the crowds? Quench your thirst at a bar that’s a little more off the beaten path—maybe one with a secret bookcase entrance, perhaps? These watering holes may not be super easy to spot, but they’re serving some of Austin’s best cocktails—a worthwhile reward once you find the place.
Best hidden bars and speakeasies
It's hard to resist a good secret entrance—especially one that’s hiding in plain sight. In the rowdy middle of Sixth Street, a cryptic white sign advertising "Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage" juts out of a building. Underneath is a nondescript door and what looks to be a buzzer box for different residences. Push the button for Harry Craddock and you're in at this former brothel, now craft cocktail sanctuary. Word to the wise: Your best bet is to make a reservation ahead of time or you'll have to gamble with whether they're accepting walk-ins (if the red light about the doorway is aglow, you're good to go).
As you might've guessed from the name, the secret to this hidden bar is that it's located in a fully functioning parking garage downtown. Spot the black sign that says "Cocktails" and follow the path to the turquoise, neon vertical sign to the bar nestled under the ramp. Appropriate for the slightly industrial theme, the drinks are divided between Custom, Vintage and Refurbished. We recommend trying the Indian Paintbrush, a concoction with vodka, grapefruit, lime and rosemary that earned itself the title of The Official Drink of Austin in 2015. Small bites are also available for you to snack on while you enjoy your carefully crafted beverage.
As the popularity of mezcal, a smoky agave-based liquor, continues to rise across the city, Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar has made a name for itself with its laid-back vibes and impressive drinks. This small, intimate bar is perched atop the popular Tex Mex restaurant Mi Madre's, but you'll actually have to walk through School House Pub's patio to reach the staircase that takes you to that delicious mezcal. Feel free to enjoy a cocktail, or opt for a copita or standard shot of one of their mezcal varieties. If you stop by during their happy hour Tuesdays through Fridays between 5 pm and 7pm, you can score a mezcal-rita for a steal.
In the basement of Buenos Aires Café lies Milonga Room, a dimly lit speakeasy with an aptly Argentinean-influenced cocktail program (think amaros and fernets). It’s highly advised that you make a reservation, upon which you’ll receive a special password required for entry. Head to the alley behind the restaurant, ring the doorbell on the bright red door and say the secret word. The lush, vintage décor inside will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time to 1920s Buenos Aires. Along with the delicious tapas available to order and the possibility of catching some live music, this romantic space serves as a great hideaway from the outside world.
Be honest: how many of you dreamed of having a secret bookcase that led to a hidden lair when you were a kid? Firehouse Lounge gives you a chance to act out those childhood fantasies. The place is indeed a working hostel, but push that bookshelf in their lobby to the side and you’ll discover a speakeasy lounge. You can snag a cocktail or opt for beer or wine. This hidden spot in the heart of downtown makes for a great location to meet new people and the perfect place to impress your out-of-town friends.
You’re sure to come across plenty of unusual sights while wandering around downtown, but a Floppy Disk Repair company is a little out there even for Austin. Turns out the big “Floppy Disk Repair Co.” sign next to Handlebar is just a front for the speakeasy Red Headed Stepchild. You’ll need to put in the secret passcode, which changes frequently, on the keypad outside to enter, or you could always hope that someone with the right connections lets you slide in with them. Waiting for you is a small space where the drinks are fun and the vibe is creepy-cool (there’s a neon sign saying “mmm… your hair smells pretty,” as well as a framed chainsaw).
There may not be a secret word or entrance to get into Small Victory, but its unassuming door and location may have you wondering if you’re in the right place—the bar is in the corner of a parking garage after all. Once you’ve gone through the door, up a short flight of stairs, and through another door, you’ll be greeted by a narrow but classy interior with blue velvet chairs and booths. Pick your poison from their menu of craft cocktails, which just so happens to include a $60 Philadelphia Fish House Punch and a helpful flow chart for making your ideal martini.
What’s the best place to hide a bar? How about in the back of another bar in one of the city’s busiest entertainment districts? Clive Bar has been a part of the bustling Rainey Street scene for a while now, but not many realize that there’s another noteworthy drinking hole right in its backyard. Bar Ilegal is a stone cantina dedicated to mezcal. The candle-lit space may be small but the drinks are strong, and the bartenders are eager to take you on a journey featuring the agave-based spirit.
The Good Life Bar Bar—more affectionately known as Bar Bar—is a hidden speakeasy behind the Good Life Barber Shop in downtown Austin. Stop by for local craft beer and Texas wines, a Washington State University Cougars game (they're the only Cougars home bar in Austin!) and a chance to kiss their brick wall for good luck—lipstick included.
You may have visited Tellers to catch some live music—or maybe you’ve simply stumbled by it after a wild night out on Dirth Sixth—but few know there’s actually a secret speakeasy inside. Head into the bar, find and push through the fake wall panel on the left and make your way to a small side room with a wall full of vinyl records and a DJ booth, all washed over in atmospheric red lighting. You may just end up dancing the night away at this hush-hush bar.
Everyone knows that part of the fun of visiting Alamo Drafthouse is that you can drink while at the movie theater, but the Mueller location takes it to a new level with their carnival-themed bar, Barrel O’Fun. What acts as a family-friendly space with boardwalk games during the day transforms to a bar at night. They serve a variety of barrel-aged cocktails, highballs, flips and bombers—oh, and there’s beer and wine too. Throughout the week, Barrel O’Fun also serves as a space for different events like karaoke and trivia. Come one, come all!