Look for the funky octopus mural and head into the fantastic happy hour at Alcomar. (Photo: Courtesy of Alcomar)
Austin seems to be at the top of every “Best Cities” list lately. While none of these lists focus exclusively on drinking, they usually all include a nod to Austin’s up-and-coming bar scene — and for good reason.
At the same time, part of truly enjoying the Texas capital is following Austinites, rather than just the current trends. These are Austin’s best — and most local — happy hours.
Mexican-Inflected Seafood at Alcomar
Even at full price, Alcomar is a great bargain. Located blocks from downtown along Austin’s homey South First Street, the octopus mural on its exterior facade foreshadows the delights within — and not just the Octopus Tostadas.
At Alcomar’s happy hour, which runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week (yes, including Saturdays and Sundays), you can enjoy discounted prices not only on appetizers like tostadas made with fresh cephalopod flesh, but also on drinks such as the watermelon-infused Rosita margarita, the spicy Hemingüey daiquiri and Alcomar’s own sangría.
Dai Due: Butcher Stall Turned Restobar
Longtime Austinites remember when Dai Due was nothing but a butcher stall at Austin’s Saturday Farmers’ Market. Well, not just a butcher stall: People would wait in extremely long lines for the outfit’s thick-cut bacon, among other meaty delicacies.
These days, at Dai Due’s charming storefront on Manor Road, you can still buy all the cold cuts they served at the Farmers’ Market. Behind the meat counter, however, sits a full-service restobar, which at happy hour (5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday) features discounted small plates that change daily as well as generous $5 pours of Trebbiano and Montepulciano, two on-tap wines (white and red, respectively) that wash everything down perfectly, be it “Carolina Reaper” hot wings or local grass-fed rib-eye.
Maiko Sushi Lounge: Austin’s Longest Happy Hour?
Back in the day, Maiko gained notoriety for the all-day happy hours it offered, which not only discounted Japanese-influenced cocktails and hot sake, but also cheap appetizers and sushi rolls. The good news is that this menu still exists; the bad news is that it’s not quite as long these days.
Well, at least not on days that aren’t named “Sunday” — Maiko’s Sunday happy hour runs from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., which still clocks in as one Austin’s longest. Maiko’s is located in the heart of downtown Austin, so perhaps here more than anywhere make sure you eat something to soak up the liquor that’s sure to be in your belly after a long day of drinking. (Hint: The “Orange Dragon” roll, which combines salmon and avocado, just $7 during happy hour, provides a great means of doing this.)
Backbeat’s Posh Panorama
Backbeat is a relatively new tenant along South Lamar Boulevard, formerly one of Austin’s “weirdest” roads but increasingly among its most upmarket. Backbeat’s enclosed terrace is an Austin must-visit at any price, with panoramic views of downtown Austin and heaters to warm you on the few chilly days the city experiences each year.
Happy hour here, however, is something to be celebrated. Running Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and all night on Sundays, Backbeat’s happy hour specials include $7 classic cocktails; $2 off all wine, sherry and vermouth by the glass (and 20 percent off all bottles!). You’ll also find $1 off all canned beers, ciders and radlers and $2 off all bar snacks.
Quality Seafood, Cheap Prices
Quality Seafood is unique on this list (and in Austin) for several reasons, first among them that it’s located several miles north of downtown in a building that seems anything but cool — or weird, as it were. It’s been dazzling Austinites for nearly eight decades, however, which certainly gives it some street cred.
The highlight of this local’s favorite happy hour at Quality Seafood is the $1 oysters, which are not only among the most affordable oysters in town, but almost certainly the freshest. There aren’t any special discounts on the bottled beer or wines-by-the-glass offered here, but the prices are very old-school Austin to begin with. Cheap oysters, cheap booze; happy hour, happy you.