Coffee, beer and cocktails have been unnecessarily separate experiences for far too long. Luckily, you can never really accuse Austinians of being prudes or traditionalists. This city is all about sitting outside for hours, mixing business and pleasure, and browsing long, eclectic menus.
These six neighborhood cafe-bar hybrids are staples in their communities for their wide range of offerings and commitment to the real deal. Open early, close late, and hosting community events, they’re home to many locals and are quickly becoming one of Austin’s best features. The good news is that no one needs a fancy excuse to enjoy it, day or night.
This downtown bar offers a wide variety of dishes, from vermicelli to pastrami to grilled halloumi. The Fourth Street location makes it easy to get between errands or a stroll from Zilker, and the long bar and booths make it easy to gather tons of friends. The adventurous coffee menu includes flavors like cardamom, lavender and lemon, while the Chagaccino features “wild mocha chaga” sweetened with monk fruit. Here, unsurprisingly, the cocktails have an adventurous socialite twist, complemented by a list of healthy beers (with at least one non-alcoholic option) and an extensive wine list by the bottle. This low-key but chic gathering spot is the epitome of Austin’s wonderfully indecisive culture.
The buzz mill
This staple of the 24/7 Riverside community is as easy as it gets. The log cabin could take you from dawn to dawn if you had the stamina, with coffee, beer and spirits; vegan food trucks; and a rotating entertainment program. Behind the bar, jugs of house-infused liquors line up, including blackberry and apple gin, smoked peach whiskey and… Bear Mace vodka. Let us know what it is, if you’re brave enough to try it. In case you leave the premises, Buzz Mill and Camp Master Chris Hyde prepare Lumber Society members with wood survival skills. The Seventh Street outpost has more limited — but still extended — hours and offers plant-based brunch favorites from morning until late at night.
carpenter coffee bar
Another counter that switches jobs for the night shift, the Hotel Carpenter’s Coffee Bar is a bit like a speakeasy, tucked away in a brick building that looks like a public library just south of the river. The open, industrial interior resembles a community hall transformed into a collective artist’s loft, with loosely mismatched leather chairs facing each other in small pockets and a wall of vinyl records to browse and play. It serves coffee and pastries during the day (including unique coffee offerings with opaque names like Ladybird and Ponyboy, as well as Universal Coffee Standards). In the evening it switches to cocktails, wine and a few beers, as well as a menu of gourmet snacks. Stay for the transition and go to the pool in between.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden is practically a botanical garden. A central pond is home to edible plants, frogs, fish, and more occasional visitors, and is self-contained with a small amount of help from an electric pump feeding a decorative waterfall. The bar’s efforts to maintain this space, along with raised garden beds and a chicken coop, have earned the property its national wildlife habitat certification. The food trucks on the site use some of the edible plants harvested there, fertilized with waste composted on site. Inside, creative coffee and alcohol offerings overlap in “boozy” cafes: the Nitro Espresso cocktail with Deep Eddy vodka and a Rum Thai iced coffee, among others.
If it’s possible to be both 100% Austin and 100% Mediterranean, Opa does it. South Lamar’s bustling little house is full of homey furniture, coffee table books, and board games. It would be almost too stimulating if it weren’t so comfortable. The mostly meatless menu is great for sharing, from the unpretentious but lovely thin-crust pizza to the sampler plates featuring traditional Greek dishes like hummus and dolmas. This cafe offers cocktails, but focuses primarily on wine, with bottles lined up at the end of the bar to browse. There’s live music indoors and outdoors on one of Austin’s prettiest oak-shaded patios, and regular open mic nights. All this on a busy street means Opa is unbeatable for meetings, dates or spontaneous solo relaxation.
Turnstile doesn’t do anything halfway except its daily schedule. Instead of dividing attention between coffee and cocktails, this North Austin food park “switches” from morning roasts to evening beers. It emphasizes quality, with locally roasted Fair Trade coffees, a “very curated” list of draft beers, and the occasional craft cocktail. Equally overdone are the grass-fed burgers, piled high with sauces and veggies. Austin FC fans are a big part of the clientele, heading from Q2 Stadium 800 yards away, but Turnstile stays connected to the wider community with Tuesday trivial parties, a weekly sustainable community market and frequent collaborations with collection of donations.