The Best Patios for Eating and Drinking Outside in Austin
Sunshine, fresh air, cocktails...
If you have to be convinced to go and drink on a patio in Austin, you probably live in the wrong city. Having a Lone Star at an outdoor bar is as essential of a local experience as breakfast tacos, barbecue, and taking a picture with the Willie Nelson statue. Regardless of what type of drinking experience you’re looking for, you're sure to find something on this list that fits your expectations—whether it be classy or dive-y, food-driven or dog-driven, and everything in between. So best get out there: The spring isn’t going to enjoy itself you know.
Sitting outside under Aba’s 100-year-old oak tree, lined with glass and metal lanterns from Morocco and the Middle East, you would never guess there’s a Lululemon around the corner. That's the kind of oasis created on this patio with Mediterranean-inspired food featuring fresh ingredients and plentiful use of olive oil that just might convince your taste buds that you’ve landed in Athens. Take a date and order a couple small plates, like the crispy Short Rib Hummus with grilled onions, sherry, and beef jus, to split.
If you’re looking to impress your friends from LA or New York with a slick cocktail bar and unbeatable views of the city, Zanzibar is the place to go. Their patio may be on a rooftop downtown, but with its plentiful placings of greenery and rattan chairs, it strikes the perfect balance between the urban and the natural. The drink menu is also a nod to the jungle feels of the space—we’re talking tiki drinks, complete with ceramic cups and tiny umbrellas. Go classic with their take on a Mai Tai, or try one of their signature Jet Pilots that, with rum, absinthe, and hints of cinnamon, is sure to have you buzzed from take-off.
Pet adoption is so big in Austin that the joke goes you’re not even a dog person unless you have two or more pups. It makes sense then that Yard Bar is such a popular spot—not only does its spacious patio make for a great place to meet the whole crew, it literally doubles as a dog park. Yard Bar’s staff even provides a watchful eye on your dogs, so Fido’s tendency to bark at the entrance gate won’t get in the way of you downing drinks. And while your furry pal may have to stick to water only, your human metabolism can process all the sugar in a Doc Brown’s Zoomies cocktail, made with grapefruit vodka, St. Germaine, and mint simple syrup.
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden
From the outside, with its huge expanse of space and red wood paneling, Banger’s looks like the nicest house on Rainey Street. On the inside however, it is a lot less formal and a lot more fun—the type of beer garden where you can waste the day away drinking pints. This is especially true during their legendary weekend brunches, which light up Rainey Street with music and the kind of general merriment you can hear from a block away. You can chow down on one of their trademark sausages or subs to the sounds of a live brass band. We should warn you about their Manmosas, a take on the brunch staple which features a whole bottle of champagne—consuming a whole one almost always leads to breaking out in cheesy dance moves.
Back in the day, the location where cafe and bar Kinda Tropical, stands was once a gas station—and, although you may not be able to get a lotto ticket and a packet of Slim Jims from there now, it continues to fuel the Austin population in other ways. Not just with their tasty food and bountiful drinks, but with the friendly and relaxing vibes to be found on their back patio. It is a place where you can as easily meet up with friends as you can go and hang out by yourself with a good book. For a total cure-all for the workweek blues, order one of their activated charcoal Paint it Black margaritas alongside their take on one of the ultimate comfort foods, curly fries.
The Salty Sow
Should your ideal image of Happy Hour be incomplete without a charcuterie board, the patio at Salty Sow might be what you’re looking for. As the name implies, get ready to indulge in some decadent, savory meats and small bites to accompany their amazing selection of cocktails. While their patio may not be the biggest on this list, the fact that it is packed nightly is a testament to the enjoyment, and excellent service, to be found there. We like to start with the previously mentioned charcuterie board and a Curly Tail, a blood-orange inspired tequila drink, before making our way to an order of their maple glazed Old Fashioned with a side of the exceptional bacon-covered deviled eggs.
The retro, Palm Springs-inspired vibes of Kitty Cohen’s will have you coming back again and again—that, or the opportunity to take a selfie with the portrait of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug that is framed in the bathroom. In fact, that detail may tell you everything you need to know about the type of hang it is—a quirky escapist paradise, where you can laugh away through Happy Hour and long after. For an ideal afternoon, lounge under their white-scalloped umbrellaed tables, and order the exquisitely-named Sex Panther, made with El Silencio Mezcal, passion fruit, lemon, sugar, and bitters. There is even a small pool that decorates their patio which, depending on how much you drink, you may be tempted to put your feet in for a dip.
Radio Coffee & Beer
Radio is like the ultimate neighborhood coffee bar with a twist—a place where you can pull up with your laptop and work all day, then stay at the same table to meet your friends for a boozy Happy Hour later. That adaptability might be due in part to their patio, whose picnic benches and tables sit amongst shaded trees, and are always the spot for some prime people (and dog) watching. There’s another added bonus as well—Radio is open until midnight, so it is the perfect spot for those nights where you have to shoot out some emails, but can’t bear to sit inside at your work-from-home makeshift desk one moment longer. In those times, grab a cup of their cold brew and a migas from the Veracruz taco truck parked there—the combination is sure to get you through that deadline without a sweat.
Easy Tiger Linc
There are three locations of Easy Tiger in Austin—one in the north, one in the south, and one in the east. Despite their differences in physical proximity, they all share some common characteristics that make Easy Tiger such a local favorite—mainly, a wide selection of beer, fluffy baked pretzels, and, perhaps most important of all, amazing patio spaces. In its true essence, Easy Tiger is a beer garden, and the energy of the classic German staple is evident to anyone who has spent time on any of their patios. We’re talking long picnic benches under great oak trees, filled with groups of friends clearly celebrating time spent together. And if that isn’t something to toast a beer to, we don’t know what is.
The Lounge at Hotel San José
After a busy day of searching for the perfect vintage jeans in the shops on South Congress, nothing hits the spot like a frosé (or two) from the Lounge at Hotel San José. Walking from the busy street to the hotel’s courtyard, where the Lounge sits, feels like entering a different world—the busy, chaotic energy of the South Congress drag fades away into a tranquil hideout of plants and patio tables. For those who don’t get down with pink wine, their take on Ranch Water, a mix of tequila, Topo Chico, and lime juice, is as refreshing as the hotel’s pool (which is visible from the courtyard) looks on a hot August day. Pair it all with some of their Togarashi Popcorn, which features a Japanese spice blend, and congratulate yourself for resisting the urge to buy those overpriced boots.
The Little Darlin’
As the saying goes, “X marks the spot”—although, in the case of The Little Darlin, it is a bright blue neon arrow off the road that marks the location of this easy-going, dive bar gem. As well, anyone who has been to The Little Darlin’ will tell you the patio is the main attraction—with its large, string-lit oak tree, and a variety of swinging benches and Adirondack chairs for you to kick back in, you can feel the weight lift off your shoulders the moment you enter the area. This ease only increases once you start in on their food and drinks—order a carnitas slider with their version of a michelada, aka a beer and a bloody mary popsicle, and let the stress of your workday melt away.
Spider House is the kind of place that caters to every crowd in Austin—you can as easily find a mix of families, UT students, and man-bun-clad hipsters decorating their patio everyday. Its truly beloved-by-all status has helped it remain popular over the two decades it's been around in a city where bars come-and-go on a monthly basis. Spider House’s spacious patio is decked with rainbow-colored string-lights—not to mention, the atmosphere is usually filled as bright with the live music, poetry readings, or independent film screenings that happen there on the regular. It’s the type of place to grab a shot of whisky and a Lone Star and tuck into one of the tables that fills the bar’s nooks and crannies for a great conversation.
Better Half Coffee & Cocktails
While so many spots in the West Downtown area can feel overdone or like they’re trying too hard, Better Half is like the cool cousin you have who seems to effortlessly fit in anywhere. With a selection of both great alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, its patio is as equally good a place to down a double-espresso as it is to shoot back some martinis. The food there also ticks all the boxes, with vermicelli salads and cauliflower tots adding further flavor to the hip-picnic vibes conveyed by the pink umbrellas that cover their tables. For a true amalgamation of the best-of-both-worlds mood that Better Half gives off, order the Waiting for Coffman, a blend of booze and cold brew.
Molly Moltzen is a Thrillist Contributor.