Downtown Austin is full of happening night spots, rich history and all kinds of interesting sights. Virtually everywhere you look there are beautiful old buildings steeped in Texas history and preserved in the true style of Austin. Gentrification may have a strong foothold in south Austin, but these turn-of-the-century bars have proven their worth as authentic pieces of Texas history that aren’t going anywhere! So from former brothels and boarding housings to stage coaches and cattle baron houses, here’s the story behind some of Austin’s most beautiful and historic bars.
Buffalo Billiards – 201 E 6th St.
Located in the historic 6th street district right across from the beautiful Driskill Hotel, Buffalo Billiards is known as a true piece of “Wild West History” straight from the turn of the century.
The former “Missouri House”, built in 1861 by the Ziller family, was the first boarding house in Austin – and is also rumored to have been a brothel for wandering cowboys to get their kicks!
Now, over 150 years later, the Missouri House still stands as Buffalo Billiards, named the nation’s best new pool hall by Billiards Digest Magazine in 1999. Patrons from all over have come to Buffalo Billiards to shoot a few games of pool, enjoy daily drink specials and take in the cowboy culture of this awesome Austin landmark.
Tip: Go from 8PM-Close and enjoy $1 off every drink in the house
Firehouse Lounge & Hostel – 605 Brazos St.
Right in the heart of downtown Austin among the hustle and bustle of the city is Firehouse Lounge & Hostel, an uber hip hostel for wandering travelers with a swanky bar hidden behind a bookcase!
This unique hostel is located inside Austin’s longest standing fire station, built in 1885, which housed a brigade of volunteer firemen throughout the turn of the century. Today, the firehouse stands as one of Austin’s most hip hostels and lounges, with gorgeous murals from local artists, live music and amazing drink specials in the lounge.
Tip: Guests of the hostel enjoy $1 drinks at Hole in the Wall right down the street
The Driskill – 604 Brazos St.
A stunning historic landmark in downtown Austin, The Driskill Hotel has been a popular travel destination for decades. This beautiful building was built in 1886 as a showplace for a wealthy Cattle Baron and restored to all its original opulence and splendor over a century later.
Now the Driskill offers 189 grand guest rooms and suites for guests to enjoy while they take in the best of Austin’s history and culture. Every detail of this luxurious hotel is dripping with decadence, from the marble floors and columned entry to the delicate stained glass windows and gorgeous artwork adorning the walls.
The Driskill also includes a AAA 4 diamond award winning grill and gorgeous bar that is ranked as one of the top 50 southern bars! Visit the Driskill Lounge and enjoy tasty handcrafted cocktails, rich southern fine dining, live music and all the beauty and grandeur of this historic building.
Tip: Visit the Driskill Bar during happy hour from 4-7 daily and take advantage of $4 wine by the glass, $7 local flair cocktails and $3 select Texas beer.
BD Riley’s – 204 E. 6th St.
Located in Austin’s historic entertainment district, B.D. Riley’s Pub is a unique cultural and historical feature of the city. The pub itself was built in 2000 on the ground floor of the beautiful Hannig Building and is home to great drink specials, rich Irish comfort food, live music and a bit of traditional Irish culture.
The Hannig Building dates all the way back to 1875 and was originally built by Joseph Hannig and his wife Susannah Dickinson, the last Alamo survivor. The name BD Riley’s was inspired by Bessie Dee Riley, born in 1896 to Irish immigrants escaping the Irish potato famine.
The Riley family never returned to Ireland as they hoped, but instead built a life right here in Texas, where their bar still stands as one of Austin’s most historic watering holes.
Tip: Try their Irish Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef, rich gravy and lightly browned mashed potatoes.
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill – 303 Red River St.
Housed in the historic pre-Austin settlement known as Waterloo, Moonshine Bar & Grill has a story as unique and rich as the food! Built in 1866 by German settler Henry Hofheintz, the “Sunday House” was used as a storehouse for Hofheintz’s trade goods as well as a corncrib for his mule team and boarding house for rural families.
This historic building, now over 150 years old, is used as a private dining room for guests and boasts original limestone walls, ceilings and interior beams. But the story doesn’t end there! the main dining room at Moonshine, which offers delicious southern-style comfort food and hand-crafted bar drinks, was formerly Hofheintz’s dry goods store, with his living quarters right upstairs.
Below the dining room you’ll find Moonshine’s gorgeous wine cellar, which was originally built in 1866 as a saloon and domino parlor that ran through the prohibition era and now houses Moonshine’s extensive wine collection. Lastly, the beautiful Carriage House Bar was built in the 1870s as a carriage house for Hofheintz and his family and now stands as one of Austin’s most historic bars.
Tip: Try Moonshine’s amazing Sunday Brunch buffet
Scoot Inn – 1308 E. 4th St.
Steeped in 19th century history, the Scoot Inn has been one of Austin’s most popular bars and live-music destinations for decades! Their story begins with two former slaves who made their way to east Austin to form a settlement that would become known as Masontown.
In 1871 when the railroad came through Austin, Sam and Nancy Wilson opened a mercantile and grocery store “where you could get anything you need, legal or otherwise.” From bootlegging to gambling, this small store was a popular thruway for many travelers and renegades.
In 1955, Aubrey “Scoot” Ivy purchased the store and gave it the name we all know today: Scoot Inn. Now a historic Austin watering hole, the Scoot Inn is a great place to grab a drink and catch a live show!
Tip: While you’re there, grab a tasty bite outside at Arlo’s curbside food truck.