West 6th Street has changed completely from when I first came to Austin. This side west of Congress Avenue has really come into its prominence within the last five years. It used to be the home of Katz Deli and adorned with various live music venues. Seemingly out of nowhere the area eventually shifted its style and gave way to a series of bars and hot spots. Places like J. Black’s, Kung-Fu Saloon, Key Bar, and many others now dot the landscape. West 6th is a great place to go when searching for a place that offers all the coolness of a bar, but serves that all important food when engaging in a heavy drinking session. The service at these establishments tend to better than at most other places around town, but the price of this service tends to be reflected in their drinks. The best part about this side of 6th Street is while the nightlife is obvious, the best kept secret is that these places are also opened during the day. I have been to West 6th during some awesome events. Depending on the day you can expect to find everything from free play arcades at Kung Fu Saloon, to F1 viewing parties at J.Black’s, and the game day atmosphere that is present during the University of Texas football season.
The area tends to cater to young professionals with a little more income to spend on their outings. This is not say you will not see a wide variety of people at these bars and hot spots. If you are not feeling the vibe at one place, it could be as simple trying the place next door. There is place and drink for everyone on West 6th Street.
The part of 6th Street that extends from Congress Avenue to the east until Highway 35 is collectively known as Dirty 6th. Although, I have no clue where the name comes from, it has become an accepted part of the Austin lexicon. When you are watching University of Texas football games on television and someone like Brent Musburger is talking about Historic 6th Street, they are referring to this particular part of town.
Dirty 6th is basically the first stop for college kids and tourist alike, and they take the chance to get buckwild. Similar to most places in town, there is something for everyone here. Tourist tend to flock to places like Dueling Pete’s Piano Bar, Coyote Ugly, or Dizzy Rooster. The college frat types usually hold court at their established venues like Jackalope (that’s were they hung out when I was in college and last time I went it was the same crowd just different people). Those that just want to go out a drink till that can not feel feelings anymore have numerous shot bars to choose from like Maggie May’s, The Library, Chuggin’ Monkey, or the Blind Pig just to name a few. Those that fancy themselves in the ways of mixology can get their fix with some of the finest drinks in town at the Midnight Cowboy. For those that want to take to the dance floor they should head over to Barcelona. If you want to catch something truly Austin original, head over to Esther’s Follies and enjoy a show.
Of course, no night is complete without food. If you have engaged in a heavy night a drinking your night needs to end with the Dirty 6th staple of a slice of Ropollo’s pizza. It may not best slice of pie in town, but it taste great after numerous shots and at 2:30am. Just to warn you now though, plan accordingly the line does get long.
The East Side
There used to be a time when only the bravest of souls would dare travel past east of Highway 35 for their night on the town. When I first moved here, except for a few restaurants, there was little reason to venture that far east. Well it still amazes me how things have changed over the course of just a few years. The area has gone through a complete overhaul. Gone are the small neighborhoods with the houses barley standing. Now what constitute the east side are a series of hip bars and restaurants with regular patrons.
The first thing that most people notice about the east side is that most of the drinking establishments are designed to be like dive bars in look and drinks. My theory is because it plays to the irony of the crowd that tends to visit these types of places, the hipsters. Hipsters have been gaining a foothold here in the Capital City, and eventually were able to carve out their own niche. Inside of a place like Shangri-La you will find a pool table, a jukebox which ironically has some great classic rock tunes next to some very obscure music (hipster culture is built on irony and the knowledge of obscurity), and the Pabst Blue Ribbion flows freely. Even if you are not a hipster a good time can be had these bars.
I would be doing this side of town a disservice if I only talked about the hipster bars. The east side also has some of the best food in the city. A restaurant like Justine’s is a great find. It offers great food, at a good price, and accompanies a very romantic ambiance. If you are looking for great cocktail, the east side is good place to start that adventure. One of my favorite places in town is Weather Up. It is not easy to find, but like I said, it is an adventure.
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