The great thing about Austin, other than the amazing food and music, is that there are pockets of magic and romance hidden among the excitement of the city. Austin is the perfect place to meet someone new, celebrate a long relationship or break the ice in a first date. What’s more romantic than historic homes, live music and drinks that sparkle like the conversation? So from bungalows in south Austin to speakeasies on 6th street, here is a list of creative date ideas next time you and a date are in downtown Austin.
Housed in the historic Waterloo district of south Austin, Moonshine is known all around for their bodacious brunch buffet and unique atmosphere. This restaurant is a true testament to the adage that “the best way to the heart is through the stomach”. Moonshine dishes out decadent southern style dishes that range from fried chicken to pimento cheeseburgers. But the thing that makes this place really stand out is the unique history of the property. Originally build in the 1800s, Moonshine used to be a dry goods store and boarding house for traveling families. The owner’s quarters were upstairs and the carriage house has been converted into a rich, oaky bar. You can take your date for drinks and dinner and impress them with facts about the origins of this one of a kind establishment.
A fairly new addition to downtown Austin, Spin is an ideal place for a casual date night out or even to break the ice on a possibly award first date. Spin is a ping pong bar with drinks, tasty bar snacks and, naturally, a room full of ping pong tables! The interior is loud and exciting, so it may not be the best place for intimate conversation, but there’s something about swinging around a paddle and throwing back beers that makes the perfect casual date. Their drink menu is filled with specials and spinoffs like the Seasonal Mule and the Summer Somewhere. And the food menu has savory snacks like Crispy Shrimp Bao Buns, Duck Duck Goose Sliders and tacos. You can take your date to Spin for a super casual dinner and drinks then let the sparks fly while you compete for ping pong champion.
Located among the chaos of 6th street, Midnight Cowboy is a great date idea if you’re looking for something intimate and elegant. The outside of the building is unassuming and blends in with the city backdrop. Even the website is deceptively labeled “Midnight Cowboy Modeling.” But inside is where the magic happens, both behind the bar and in the booths. Midnight Cowboy is reservation only, so picking this place shows real initiative and planning. Plus you beat the bar crowds of downtown Austin. The mixologists are knowledgeable and talented, making your drinks table side from a traveling cart. There’s no food on the menu, but you can impress your date with drinks made with panache and an intimate yet elegant atmosphere. It’s like a secret speakeasy in the heart of downtown Austin, and it is sure to impress any date.
Located behind the popular Clive Bar in south Austin, Bar Ilegal is a small treasure hidden in the middle of the city. This tiny tavern is cozy and warm, and boasts much of the original interior which includes a rich wood bar. There is no food on the menu. Instead, you’ll find a flavorful fiesta of fresh ingredients mixed with mezcal. You won’t find a basic martini or old fashion here. Because Bar Ilegal is a mezcal-focused bar, and is named so after the main brand of mezcal they use: Ilegal. This artisanal speakeasy definitely caters to the craft tequila and mezcal fans. They’ve got dry chile pepper, cinnamon and hibiscus infused cocktails that are sure to impress any date. You can start a conversation about the attributes of mezcal and tequila while you sip on hand crafted cocktails and freshly mixed libations.
Settled on west 6th street, Nightcap is a unique concept that offers more than your average dining experience. Built inside an old bungalow, this restaurant is rife with romance and has ambience for days. Step into the private dining room and take a gander at the gorgeous floral wallpapered ceiling, then head into the main dining room with rich hardwood floors and intimate seating for two. Nightcap used to be a post-dinner concept that offered creative cocktails and desserts, but has since evolved into a full blown dinner and drink experience that every Austinite should try. On the menu you’ll find seasonal sensations like Flat Iron Steak Frites, Seasonal Crudo and Waygu beef burgers. And the drink menu is saucy and full of fun libations like For the Hell of It, Ghost ‘Em Gurl, and Coffee, Chocolate and Men with the tagline “Some Things are Just Better Rich”. With its devilishly daring cocktail list and sweet and savory menu, Nightcap takes the cake as far as downtown date spots are concerned. Take your date here for a romantic anniversary or just to surprise them with something new and delectable.
Hidden beneath the popular Buenos Aires Cafe on east sixth street, Milonga Room is a dark and mysterious speakeasy that harkens back to 1920s Argentina. Fashioned with thick red velvet curtains and dim lighting from small candles, this sexy speakeasy is the perfect place to get a little closer to your date. You can have an authentic Mexican dinner upstairs at Buenos Aires, then head downstairs for post-dinner cocktails and intimate conversation. It’s sexy and sultry and so Austin all at the same time. And it’s reminiscent of a bygone time when courting was still cool and people had hours to sit and sip cocktails while they conversed. The cocktail menu at the Milonga Room is amaro focused and pays homage to the late El Barman Galante, who believed cocktails are meant to be sipped and savored. Milonga Room is romantic and worth a visit next time you and a date are cruising down sixth street.
Playful and fun with a European flare, Peche is a great date spot for girlfriends or for a more romantic evening. The interior is cozy and full of character, with hardwood floors, crystal chandeliers and a long bar. What’s unique about this place is the food and drink menu. The name “Peche” means “Sin” in French, and their menus are exactly that! They’ve got boozy milkshakes, which are just as amazing as they sound, plus a long list of custom cocktails and hand crafted creations made with vodka, gin, rum, brandy and even absinthe! The food menu is bursting with flavor in the form of Braised Short Ribs with duck fat mashed potatoes, Duck Confit and Pan Roasted Stuffed Quail with apples and brandied raisins. Both the food and the drinks are undoubtedly sinful and are a great way to spoil your date with decadence. Just be sure to plan for a ride home because this menu will knock you off your feet.
If you’re looking for a speakeasy feel, or something that’s mysterious and a little sexy, take your date to Garage Bar. This unique concept is actually located inside a parking garage in downtown Austin. In fact, you can almost miss it if you don’t know where to look. The interior is dark and dim, perfect for a midnight rendezvous or late night get together. There’s no food menu at this bar. Instead, you can let the mixologists work their magic and whip up fresh and inventive cocktails categorized into Vintage, Custom, Refurbished, GTO and Unleaded. Garage bar is great for something different and exciting in downtown Austin that isn’t your typical bar. Taking your date here means, “I want to get to know you”, and the Garage Bar is a unique place to start.
If your’e looking for a quintessentially Austin hangout in downtown Austin, you and your date head to Whislers. Not only do they have one of the most beautiful bar interiors in downtown Austin, but they’ve also got live music and a killer drink menu. The interior has exposed brick, gorgeous chandeliers and towering ceilings. And outside you can find ample seating and scenery, with street art murals all around and candles on the tables. They’ve also got great happy hours on some of their specialty drinks like the Moscow Mule, Whisler’s Old Fashioned and High Plains Drifter with tequila, Campari, honey and lime. Whisler’s makes a unique date spot because the atmosphere screams Austin and the drinks are among the best of Austin. You can hang out with friends, bring a date or celebrate life at this vibrant and beautiful bar. There’s no food menu at Whislers, but since you’re in the heart of the city, you and your date can find plenty of snacks just right around the corner.
A one of a kind concept in downtown Austin, Academia is a cocktail-focused bar with a collegiate theme. The interior is dark with exposed brick and hanging tapestries made to look like school banners. This is a fun place to take a date who’s looking for a little something different in their bar experience. The whole bar has a sophisticated and elevated feel, but still maintains that little bit of Austin weird. The drink menu is divided into Undergraduate drinks, Graduate drinks, which are obscure and experimental, and Elective Cocktails, which are the staff’s favorite picks. Try the Trinidad Sour with Angostura Amaro and Rittenhouse Rye, the What’s Simpson Doing with El Jimador Blanco Tequila or the Upside Down Manhattan with Santa Teresa Claro rum. Academia is a great place to take a date who has delicious cocktails on their mind.