It’s difficult to believe any city in America still has hidden bars. “Speakeasies,” if you will. Places you can’t get in without a secret password or places you can’t find at all without knowing where the private entrances are hidden.
Per capita, Austin has more bars than any other zip code in the U.S. Also per capita, they have more secret bars than one would find in most major cities. Wouldn’t it be fun if you knew where some of them were?
There is no problem with not being welcomed, you just have to know where to look and how to get in. What better way to get to know the city than by mingling with its peeps. The locals. Don’t be shy. Austin is a friendly place.
Here is the inside scoop on some of them, and here is what you need to do to get in. Just remember… You didn’t hear it here.
The Midnight Cowboy sits right under everyone’s noses, but you wouldn’t give it a second glance. The nondescript sign attached above the overhang of a brick building reads, “Midnight Cowboy Modeling – Oriental Massage.” To make things easier, the address is 313 E 6th St.
If the outside sign is lit up, there’s still room inside. Likewise, if it’s out, they are at capacity. Even being so cleverly hidden it’s a popular local spot. The owner saves tons on advertising expenses.
The best way to get in is to do a search and make a reservation online. Once again, you have to know to even look for a website. When you arrive push a buzzer by the iron grate door. It will be marked, “Harry Craddock.”
Once inside you will be escorted to a dimly lit booth. The room can only be described as “swanky-chic.” Here is a direct quote from Midnight Cowboy’s website: “We strive to offer a relaxing oasis in the midst of the 6th Street liveliness. Therefore, we do not allow smoking, guns, phone calls, laptops or rowdiness. If you must smoke or make a call, please step outside. We ask that you keep your conversations at a reasonable level and enjoy fine cocktails and the finer company of your companions.”
This one isn’t as secret as some of them, and no password is required, but if you aren’t local you’ll pass it right by and that would be a shame. There is one catch though. If you don’t know how to get in you never will.
Austin’s historic firehouse, built in 1885, which is actually a hostel, is the cloak of disguise for this bar. One of the bookshelves inside the hostel’s lobby slides. Find the right one, walk in and order up.
Firehouse Lounge offers an array of exotic drinks to appease all taste buds. A favorite is the Moscow Mule but they have plenty more, some of them house originals. A good majority of them are prohibition era recipes.
Add a very eclectic mix of music to the ambiance, and it’s the perfect place to hang out. You’ll probably meet travelers from other countries who are staying at the hostel.
This one is a challenge. You’ll have to work at getting in and there is only one way to do it. Ask around. All the cool kids know where it is and they will have to give you the passcode. It changes often so you’ll have to do this during every visit.
The bartenders at the bar next door, “Handlebars,” know the code, but you better at least buy a beer and tip accordingly.
It’s in the downtown area and is located behind a door advertising floppy disc repair. The place is a cracker-box and decorated with Quija boards, taxidermy, swings at the bar, and a sign that reads, “mmm… your hair smells pretty.”
Red Headed Stepchild has been described as being on the creepy side of cool, but their drinks are described as being out of this world. Try a frozen Pina colada or a Nobody Actually Liked Miranda.
Even their website is secretive and comical. To the unknowing who stumbles across it, the site means nothing. Actually, the site really does mean nothing.
This one is kind of tricky. The address is 503 Colorado Street, but even knowing that you might still wander in circles. It’s called The Garage for good reason. It’s located inside of a parking garage.
You have to enter the parking garage and then search until you find a green neon sign that reads, “Garage.” Paul Finn, the bar’s manager, recommends ordering an Indian Paintbrush, claiming it “Captures the essence of Austin.”
Bar snacks such as blue crab toast and other succulent treats are available from renowned chef, Philip Speer. The atmosphere is a mixture of intimate and industrial. This is a very cool spot.
Go to Clive Bar at 609 Davis Street. You will never spot Bar Ilegal from the street. Go through Clive bar and head outside. There you will find a stone cottage. It will be small and lit up with candles. Welcome to Bar Ilegal.
Now. Get yourself in the mood for some mescal or you may as well leave. They serve artisanal mescals and a variety of cocktails, all mescal based.
People come here to relax in an intimate setting away from the bustling crowds on Rainey St. The bar is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 8 pm to 2 am.
Decorated in South American art deco, the Milonga Room is a throwback to the 1920’s. It is by reservation only, so a person has to call ahead for a password.
It is located below the Buenos Aires Café on Sixth-street. Enter the cafe and walk to the very back. There you will find a door. Press a buzzer. When you are asked, say the password. Bingo. You’re in.
Now that you know the secret places where the locals hang out, go enjoy Austin like one of them. You’ll find a memorable experience that you just can’t match at the popular tourist joints.