Note: This list is part of a much bigger collection I’ve put together of 101+ Weird and Unique Things To Do In Austin. (Bonus: there’s a google map on that page showing where everything is. It’s really helpful if you are just playing it all by ear.)
There’s loads of great and interesting bars and restaurants in Austin. Here’s some of the ones the most weird and unique. I’ll admit I’m not a foodie so if you find some more restaurants you think have something weird or unique about them, please let me know.
See the end of this post for links to my other weird/unusual/unique/forbidden Austin lists.
1106 E 11th St
This is a special place. This laid back outdoor music venue has food trucks and an awesome homegrown charm. Unlike much of the area that’s gotten more mainstream and fashionable, this place is real and real relaxed. Stepping into the venue as a band is playing is like stepping into a different world. Possibly Austin’s most unique venue. (Pro tip: most shows you can BYOB and there’s great food trucks in the yard).
It’s named for the East Austin jazz legend, Kenny Dorham and it is DiverseArts’ Performance Park, Mural Gallery, and Gardens venue. DiverseArts is a non-profit multidisciplinary cultural arts organization dedicated to the long-term development of the Austin African American Cultural Heritage District.
The venue is hidden in plain sight on east 12th by the Victory Grill in Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, a couple blocks from Franklin’s Barbecue. It’s named for the East Austin jazz legend, Kenny Dorham.
2207 Justin Ln
This unique Austin bar in a tiny old strip mall on Justin Lane off of Burnet Road has been celebrating Christmas every day since 1972. Nearly every inch of the place has some sort of holiday adornment. Many of the decorations have been around for years and there’s a jukebox that plays country crooners and other random selections. It shares the space with a barbecue joint and there’s a small patio out front. Sometimes a group of bagpipe players practices in the parking lot across the street.
1110 E 52nd St
This circus themed bar has a giant pink elephant statue on the stage and the walls are covered with smoke-stained murals of cirus performers. (Smoking is no longer permitted). There’s a other oddities and pieces of vintage Austin as well. There’s live music most nights from many different genres. Some people say it has a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe. Take that for what you will.
The Carousel Lounge is also one of Austin’s last remaining beer-wine-setups bars. What does that mean? They have a special license that allows them to sell beer and wine. And it allows you to bring your own bottle of liquor. You can’t drink it straight, though. You buy a setup of ice or some other mixers. Though of course you can make the drink as stiff as you want.
1621 W 5th St
This bar is an homage to Johnny Cash and his song Mean Eyed Cat. The walls are covered in quotes, photos. posters and other memorabilia of Cash but also keeps some of the ambience of its previous incarnation – a chainsaw repair shop. There’s not as much live music there as there used to be but you can find it on occasion.
#5 Don’s Depot
1600 W 5th St
Don’s Depot is a real treat. Part old train depot, part old train, part piano bar, part dancehall, this place is one of my favorites in town. It’s a mix of older-aged regulars, younger folks, and tourists. The women’s restroom is famous for its strange decorations and aged luxury. There’s live music every night that they’re open and most days are the same group that has played for years. Don himself plays often. Highly recommended if you want something off the beaten path and Texasy and weird.
5434 Burnet Rd
Often still referred to as “Ginny’s Little Longhorn”, this institution calls itself “The Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint In Town”. Great live music six nights a week, cold beer, two-stepping and the original home of chicken shit bingo in Austin. If you’re looking for a bar that has a soul and feels like Texas, this is one of your best choices in Austin.
2115 Allred Dr
This is one of those places that most locals don’t even know about, despite having been there for decades. Great music every night. Usually rock or two-stepping-friendly music in two doublewide trailers hidden in the woods of south Austin. This honky tonk has its bonafides in spades. A great outdoor area as well. Many musicians actually live on the property, creating an environment like nowhere else in Austin. Check out The Austin Chronicle’s piece on it from 2019 to learn more.
For years this has been pretty much the only bar near the capitol complex and attracts many Texas legistlators when session is in. It’s one of Austin’s few basement bars and not the easiest to find. I couldn’t even find a website or Facebook page for them. It’s dark down inside this bar. Very dark. There’s usually just one bartender working the place and she’s not going to rush for you but you should know what you want when she asks. Last time I was there, the bartender was out feeding a small zoo of racoons, possums and stray cats.
1413 Webberville Rd
Hands down my favorite bar in Austin. Live music most nights, this ramshackle live music joint on what used to be the edge of town is Austin’s home for African and other “world music”, though all types of bands play there. Messy string lights, velvet curtains, a floor that feels like it might fall through, and a low ceiling that looks like it might fall on you, a patio filled with scattered rusty furniture, very little AC, and a friendly parking lot attendant give this place more character, soul, and charm than most bars in Austin could ever dream of having.
#10 The Driskill Bar
604 Brazos St
The Driskill is Austin’s most famous hotel and the ambiance is what I’d call “Texas classy”: paintings of cowboys and landscapes, statues of bulls, leather chairs, dark woods, and carpeting. There’s live music most nights, typically singer-songwriter or small duo ot trio playing country music on guitars or the house piano.
#11 Purposely Hidden Austin Bars and Restaurants
I’ve split “hidden bars” into two categories. Here’s some of the ones that they made so only those in the know would know: Midnight Cowboy, Floppy Disk, Whisper Room, Milonga, Garage, Firehouse lounge, the secret bar in the W. There’s more if you know where to look or how to google.
#12 Not Purposely But Hidden Austin Bars and Restaurants
These are the bars that are not hidden on purpose, but when you go there you feel like you discovered something special. Some of my favorites: Butterfly Bar, Techo, The Continental Club Gallery, The Tigress, Ego’s, Small Victory, and The Cloak Room. Honorable mention (it’s too big to be secret but since it’s on a side street and has waterfalls I think it feels hidden): Cosmic Coffee
#13 Taquero Mucho
508 West Ave
Everything in this restaurant is pink. It is an Instagrammer magnet and uber-popular bachelorette party stop.
Want more weird, unique, and unusual stuff to do in Austin?
There was too much to write about on one page so split it up into related categories to help you find what you need faster:
- Weird Austin Activities. These are things you can do almost any week of the year.
- Weird Austin Events. These are events or things that happen sporadically. Plan ahead!
- Unique Austin Things To Do. Unique to Austin but not necessarily weird.
- Unusual Austin Things To Do. Unusual but not unique to Austin and really not that weird (but still cool).
- Overrated / Closed / Illegal Austin Attractions.
Too many lists for you? See a summary of all 101+ Austin Things To Do here!