As you may or may not be aware, the slogan for this little website is “from low brow to high class.” I am a woman of many different facets, and while I truly love a gorgeous, decadent chef’s tasting menu, I also have a trash heart and love hanging out at dingy dive bars. And, I don’t mean like hipster dive bars (cough cough, The White Horse), we’re talking some surly men are only cracking open bottles of Miller High Life and there’s nothin’ on the jukebox later than 1979, type of places. While Austin’s dives are maybe becoming something a little too few and far in between for my tastes (RIP old Lala’s…), the city does still have quite a few exceptional watering holes where you will NOT be sipping a fancy schmancy cocktail. And, God bless it.
Here are just a few of my favorite dive bars in Austin.
If you know about Chicken Shit Bingo, then you’ve heard of Ginny’s. Every Sunday people tailgate at this infamous dance hall and place bets on numbers a chicken may or may not defecate on. Besides the Sunday Funday shenanigans, this Burnet bar is also known for some great honky tonk tunes. It’s beer and wine only, but the lovely ladies of Ginny’s will also set you up with a liquor set up. Prepare your boots for dancin’ y’all!
5434 Burnet Road.
Honestly, I have no idea why this is called a “cabaret.” It is one of the most straightforward and simple drinking spots in Austin—and I mean that in an absolutely loving way. Seriously, it’s been around since 1951! It’s away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, it’s cheap as shit, and it’s SO laidback. Like, honestly, it’s one of the most relaxed places in all of Austin.
2315 Lake Austin Blvd.
Situated on top of Burger Tex on Airport Boulevard across from the Tax Accessor’s Office, you can’t really get more divey than this. The stairs are super dangerous, it’s incredibly dark in there, and there are some spots on the floors you swear you might fall through. But, it’s very chill—even when punk is blasting from the jukebox. And, the drinks are STRONG AND CHEAP. What more do you need from a classic dive bar?
5420-B Airport Blvd.
This is one of the only bars I really go to when I’m downtown, which is pretty rare these days. I love that it never changes—even during SXSW they still keep their prices low and there’s NO live music ever, which seems strange to tout in the Live Music Capital of the World, but I super dig it. The vibe is very dark and seedy, but the bartenders are friendly as hell. They also grill up $2 burgers on their back patio on Fridays.(PS: It’s owned by the same peeps as Barfly’s!)
407 E. Seventh St.
This campus bar is punk AF, and that’s basically all you really need to know.
2538 Guadalupe St.
Billy Hankey may be one of the best bartenders in Austin, but that don’t mean his bar is fancy. Sure, he’s slinging some frozen Bee’s Knees and offers rose wine, but this SUPER DARK bar is on a still-sometimes-questionable corner of the city, and the vibe is all dive. Do yourself a favor and order a pizza and ask Billy to whip you up any cocktail he wishes.
1906 E. 12th St.
I’m not QUITE sure if I’d label Nickel City a dive bar. It’s pretty effin’ hip, and you can get some killer cocktails here that sometimes veer into the high-falootin’ category. But, for a neighborhood joint with roots in Detroit, I’ll give it a pass for divey because I heart it so much.
1133 E. 11th St.
I don’t typically think of live music when I think of a good dive bar—I want a place where I can hole up and have a convo with my buds over cheap ass drinks more than anything. But Skylark Lounge is a great place to catch some tunes and still feel comfortable.
2039 Airport Blvd.
This bar is TEEEEEENY tiny, so hit the patio out back for one of the most easygoing bar environments on the East Side.
3526 E. Seventh St.
If you like delicious burgers with a side of attitude, this is the dive bar for you.
517 E. Sixth St.
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