The fabled image of a dive bar is a dimly lit establishment permeated by cigarette smoke and old, spilt booze, and, yes, it is that. But there’s also the addition of heavy pours and cheap drinks and, typically, some extra element that the regulars take pride in and make them claim that spot as their own watering hole. These are the best of Austin’s dark, comfortable dives. Find your favorite to claim.
A friend to those on a budget, Barfly’s drinkers can snag a beer for as cheap as a buck-fifty or a mixed drink for a dollar more. Aside from the pocket-change booze, the pool tables, jukebox, and old movies playing on the TV will keep you entertained as you inevitably lose track of time in the complete lack of natural light.
Named after the Deep Eddy Pool located behind the bar, this place has been an Austin dive for 65 years and plays up the nostalgic, comfy vibe with a hodgepodge of pictures, posters, and beer signs illuminated by the glow of hanging string lights.
Located just across the bridge from downtown and tucked under an inconspicuous parking garage along South Congress, Ego’s is easily missed, but well-worth finding. The dive stays dark and stuffy until the stage lights come on and karaoke brings the place to life. Have a few cheap drinks and take the mic to belt out your best “Maggie May.”
Amidst the quickly changing east side neighborhoods of Austin, Hard Luck has managed to retain its old local charm. In other words, it’s barebones (think jukebox bolted to the wall and a single pool table in the back), no one knows your name when you’re drinking there, and you should love the bar all the more for both of those reasons. Grab a pint and escape to the backyard beer garden for live music throughout the week.
From the outside, this neighborhood bar looks like it closed down years ago, but inside it manages to be a little more inviting. The bar is stocked with a great selection of liquor and an even better selection of beers, both on tap and in the bottle. Drinking alone? G&S’s roaming dogs will keep you company.
When a bar looks like time stood still on Christmas in the '60s, it easily gets our vote as a fantastic dive. Lala’s is decorated for Christmas all year round along with a mishmash of NFL pennants and old caps. The drinks are cheap, the bartenders are friendly, the jukebox is loaded with a vast selection of doo-wop and rat pack crooners, and you’ll get into the holiday spirit when you walk through the doors... even when it’s 100-degrees in July.
Just a block off of the madness that is “Dirty 6th,” Side Bar redefines cheap, strong pours that are the dive bar standard. The bartenders’ heavy hands are so well-known that the over-the-top serving has even earned itself an Urban Dictionary listing for “ridiculously excessive.” When you’re on your fourth hour trolling the jukebox, remember that we warned you.
St. Roch’s bring a little NOLA to Austin with their Louisiana Cajun culture. The low-key bar hosts crawfish boils, doles out the occasional lagniappe food, and throws Saturday Cajun Jams, giving it a decidedly French Quarter dive-vibe. Just avoid the spot on Sundays if you’re not a Saints fan (Go Texans!) as it’s Austin’s official viewing bar.
If your immediate reaction to The Cloak Room is to tell us this subterranean, Texas State Capitol-adjacent bar isn’t a dive, let us make the case. Low light? Absolutely. Snappy, sassy bartenders? We love them for it. The occasional sketchy patron? Politicians! A solid variety of whiskeys? Pull up a stool. It even gets bonus points for being not much larger than the average Austin apartment’s living room.
The only thing we like more at bars than cheap drinks and typically non-existent covers is that heavy odor of fresh, buttery popcorn that is singular to movie theater lobbies and the best dives. Luckily for us, White Horse has all three, as well as a stage for live bands, a small patio with a great taco truck, and a bar running nearly the length of the building so there’s plenty of space to belly up all night long.
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Mike Cortez is an avid writer and photographer in Austin as well as the author of the book “Beer Lover’s Texas”. He loves craft beer, good whiskey and great food. Check him out on Twitter @TexasBeerGuide and share in his love for beer.
1. Barfly's5420 Airport Blvd, Austin
2. Deep Eddy Cabaret2315 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin
3. Ego's Lounge510 S Congress Ave, Austin
4. Hard Luck Lounge3526 E 7th St, Austin
5. G & S Lounge2420 S 1st St, Austin
6. Lala's Xmas Bar2207 Justin Ln, Austin
7. The Side Bar602 E 7th St, Austin
8. St Roch's Bar515 Pedernales St, Austin
9. Cloak Room1300 Colorado St, Austin
10. White Horse500 Comal St, Austin
Founded in 2001, Barfly's is a dive bar with some of the cheapest drinks in all of Austin.
This longtime local favorite has been serving cheap drinks in a nostalgic, comfy atmosphere for over 65 years. The walls are decorated with a hodgepodge of pictures, posters, and beer signs lit up by the string lights hanging throughout the bar.
Tucked away under a parking garage, Ego's is easy to miss, but once you figure out where it is, you'll want to keep coming back. With plenty of regulars and a friendly vibe, Ego's is easily one of our favorite dive bars in Austin. Come for the cheap drinks and stay for the wild karaoke.
Hard Luck Lounge takes the idea of “dive bar” to a whole new level in the greatest way possible. This Irish pub is complete with an old-school jukebox, outdoor patio, a pool table and full bar, plus just the right amount of grunge. At any time you walk in there may be live music. HLL is a can’t-go-wrong option for when you’re looking for a feel-good, low-key night out. Just try to resist its (lucky) charm.
With live music shows, a fully stocked liquor bar and beer by the bottle and on tap, this friendly dive bar seriously delivers. Plus the roaming G&S dogs are always around to keep you company if you're drinking alone.
You'll feel like you just entered a warm and fuzzy time warp after walking into Lala's, one where it's always Christmas thanks to plenty of colorful twinkle lights and a jukebox that plays a festive mix of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. The classic cocktails here are poured stiff by the super-friendly bartenders, and don't be surprised if a regular approaches you with a joke or a coin trick. Lala's is just that kind of place.
The Side Bar is a wonderful product of a classic dive bar formula: cheap, strong drinks + friendly bar staff + great jukebox + pool (+ sometimes Roombas are the ones playing pool).
St. Roch's Bar brings a little bit of NOLA to Austin with crawfish boils, the occasional lagniappe food, and Saturday Cajun Jams, playing up its French Quarter dive-vibe. But be warned, St. Roch's is the official Saints viewing bar so avoid it on Sundays if you're not a Saint's fan.
Hit up Cloak Room for a jukebox that pumps out the likes of Johnny Cash and Otis Redding, and a clientele heavy on in-session legislators looking to get their drink on.
From two notable Hole in the Wall vets looking to bring country to the East side, The White Horse (formerly Club La Trampa) is an old-school, Tejano-jukebox'd ballroom that will host live bluegrass/R&B/folk & country artists every night of the week and emphasize cheap drinking, from koozied canned domestics to the T.W. Samuels-fueled "S**tty Lemonade", after which you won't be able to stand no matter how many nickels people give you.