The 13 Best Bars in Texas, According to Bartenders

From high-end cocktail lounges to old-school classics

July 18, 2023 7:28 am
The 13 Best Bars in Texas, According to Bartenders

Who better to recommend the best bars in any given city than the people who spend more time in them than anyone else? Welcome to our Best Bars in the United States series, where we’ve asked our favorite bartenders in the nation to select their most beloved drinking establishments in their city.

Texas is full of great bars. Some are located at conspicuously busy corners in major cities and follow modern trends, while others are stashed away in offbeat neighborhoods and haven’t changed in decades. There’s no shortage of bar options for the curious drinker — the only problem is choosing where to go. So let’s narrow down the field by asking the people who run them. 

Below are a baker’s dozen of the best bars in Texas, according to bartenders. These pro picks range from high-end cocktail bars to laid back wine gardens and loveable dives. Collect them all.

Adair’s Saloon (Dallas)

After running Deep Ellum favorite Black Swan Saloon for a decade, Gabriel Sanchez took over as general manager at Midnight Rambler, the gorgeous subterranean bar at The Joule hotel in Dallas. There he makes some of the city’s best drinks, but he knows that perfect cocktails aren’t the only way to earn loyal customers. “The best bars are always dark and welcoming with good music and patrons that are chill,” he says. “The style of music isn’t important, it just needs to be good. The bar is welcoming but not pandering, and the people who are drinking are being professional about it. They’ve drank before and are going to do it again on multiple occasions. My favorite bars are places where you need to squint just a little bit to see. One of the best Texas bars in my book is Adair’s Saloon.”

Exterior of Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston)
Anvil Bar & Refuge
Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston)

Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston)

Le Chau is a Houston hospitality veteran with more than two decades of experience. Today he works as the general manager and beverage director of Money Cat in Houston and Tobiuo Sushi & Bar in Katy, but when he’s not working, he has a favorite hometown bar. “My pick hands-down would be Anvil Bar & Refuge,” he says. “This is my go-to for any occasion, whether it be a birthday celebration or nightcap. The dimly lit ambience, upbeat music and the low roar of the crowd in the background just add to the vibe that I enjoy so much. Their cocktail menu is composed of classics as well as new, innovative cocktails that combine some of the most eclectic ingredients that work together so well. Their staff is always welcoming, and that’s a huge plus in a high-volume bar pumping out the best cocktails in Houston.” 

Travis Tober owns some of the state’s best bars, including Nickel City in Austin and Fort Worth, Old Pal in Lockhart and The Down ‘n Out in Fort Worth. He, too, shares a love for Anvil, calling it “the granddaddy of all cocktail bars.” He adds: “Now over a decade old, this cocktail bar has set the standard, not only in Texas but most of the nation. Perfect lighting, sound and the best customer service in Texas. This one will be around for years to come.” 

Better Luck Tomorrow (Houston)

Brennan’s of Houston is no slouch itself, with a Texas-Creole menu and New Orleans-inspired cocktails. Thomas Cordes, who just celebrated his 10th year behind the stick, presides over the bar, but he has a go-to when off the clock. “My favorite bar is Better Luck Tomorrow here in Houston,” he says. “The cocktail list changes frequently enough that it’s hard to pick standouts, but their spirit list is impressive and they always use unique and interesting ingredients. The staff is super knowledgeable, and it’s the best patio to day-drink in the city.” 

Two bartenders smiling behind the bar. One is shaking a cocktail shaker while the other reaches for a bottle on the shelf behind her.
Potluck Hospitality; Jody Horton 2022

Carriqui (San Antonio)

“The bar at Carriqui is the best bar in Texas because of the amazing history of the bar itself,” says Brittany Geissler, a 10-year hospitality veteran and the manager at Park Bar in San Antonio. “It’s the original bar from Boehler House, over 130 years old and many famous Texans have leaned their elbows on this bar. At Carriqui, they keep things classic but often add a bit of a modern twist — they make most everything in house like the cilantro syrup for their Ranch Water, housemade citrus salt for their margs, house-infused chile tequila and escabeche brine for their super fun Green Jay Martini. Pure South Texas! Some of our Park Bar alums work there now, so I may be a little biased, but it’s definitely a great neighborhood spot that takes care of employees and guests with some South Texas love.” 

Posters, hats, merchandise, sweaters and food hung up along the wall behind a bar.
Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret

Deep Eddy Cabaret (Austin)

Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group runs some of the best restaurants in Texas, including Emmer & Rye, Hestia, Kalimotoxo and Canje in Austin and Ladino in San Antonio. Bar Director Kate Houser oversees these concepts and has an eye for other great spots around town. There’s a reason Deep Eddy Cabaret has been an Austin staple since 1951,” she says. “It’s effortlessly cool, the beer is cold and the jukebox is full of amazing music. Breeze in after spending the day in the sun at Deep Eddy Pool and be immediately greeted with a cold, dark room (the way dives are supposed to be), where the walls alone are a conversation starter. Shot and beer in hand, put some country on the jukebox, try your hand at a game of pool and ease into an ideal Austin summer night.” 

Travis Tober also gives a nod to Deep Eddy Cabaret. “It’s one of the oldest bars in Austin,” he says. “The inside hasn’t changed much since it opened. They only carry one brand each of whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila and gin. [There’s a] cheap jukebox and a couple of pool tables.” 

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Fancy cocktail with sphere ice and herb spring on a bar counter.
Here Nor There
Travis Hallmark

Here Nor There (Austin)

“Here Nor There is a fantastic, underappreciated bar in Texas,” says Dallas-based Tanner Agar. He’s the creative director and CEO of Rye and Apothecary, a Tales of the Cocktail Best New U.S. Cocktail Bar nominee and one of the most creative cocktail bars in the country. “The intimate, richly-decorated space and warm hospitality is reason enough to visit, but the execution of their conceptual menus makes it unmissable on any trip to Austin,” he adds. 

Interior bar area at Higher Ground.
Higher Ground
Higher Ground

Higher Ground (Austin)

Madison Oslin is a veteran bartender and bar manager who currently serves as assistant F&B manager at the iconic Driskill in Austin. Her pick for best bar is High Ground. “I love this bar because of the aesthetic they’ve put together to go along with the cocktails,” she says. “The space is very dreamy and moody, and their rooftop outdoor area is gorgeously decorated. On Fridays, they have Four Record Fridays where they play four selected records and give them away as prizes to guests that night. Outside of the Four Record Fridays, I enjoy their taste in music, and I’ve always been treated well there by the staff.” 

La Perla (Austin)

If you’re drinking in San Antonio, don’t miss the vinyl-obsessed cocktail bar Amor Eterno from Aaron Peña. The veteran bar pro also runs The Squeezebox, but when he’s in Austin, he’s a big fan of lovable dive, La Perla. “La Perla proves that you don’t even need booze to be the best bar in Texas,” Peña says. “The joint screams family history and pride and somehow reaffirms my belief with every visit that a great bar is just a small place with warm friends and ice cold beers. Pop a few dollars in the juke, have Eddie Costilla (the owner) make you one of his world famous Ar-Modelos (Mexican beer dressed with salt, lime and a few dashes of Tabasco) and be transported back in time to when the neighborhood bar was king.” 

Bottle of wine on a bar counter next to a glass of red wine.
Lenoir Wine Garden
Lenoir Wine Garden

Lenoir Wine Garden (Austin)

Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine Lindsay Drew is the general manager at Pasta Bar, the tasting menu restaurant in East Austin. She knows her wine. “I love Lenoir Wine Garden for outdoor sipping,” she says. “They have a fantastic tucked-away area full of overhanging trees, lanterns and an incredible all-natural wine list. I like to go here when I want to escape and wind down but still have good beverage options. They also have great snacks that go well with the wine list and are ideal for outdoor summer drinking.” 

Exterior of Nickel City
Nickel City
Nickel City

Nickel City (Austin and Fort Worth)

If Jason Kosmas recommends a bar, it’s best to listen closely. He co-founded the award-winning Employees Only in New York and is currently the beverage director at Hai Hospitality in Austin, whose concepts include Uchi and Loro. “Nickel City shook off the ‘dive’ vibes often associated with a local establishment and reclaimed the title of ‘bar,’ he says. “No theme, just a reflection of its community through offerings and hospitality. It’s a real bar. Every night, Nickel City transforms itself to meet the needs of those who enter. It is a center of activity, and if I don’t run into someone I know, I will meet a friendly face willing to strike up a conversation.” 

Poison Girl (Houston)

Alejandro Medina is a bartender at Bandista at Four Seasons Hotel Houston, and he used to work at Anvil Bar & Refuge. Pretty good resume. “The best bar in Texas is Poison Girl, no contest,” he says. “The ambiance is Wild West — not the Wild West we’ve seen in movies, but the contemporary Wild West, the one that’s polluted with hipsters, punks, suits and foreigners crammed into a space the size of a coed public college dorm. And here they all are sipping cold Lone Stars and bourbon.” 

Revelers Hall (Dallas)

“As someone who loves exploring different bars in Texas, I know that picking the best one can be quite challenging,” says Eric Simmons, the beverage director at Monarch in Dallas who’s also overseen top cocktail programs in Chicago and Nashville. “However, I have a favorite go-to spot that I absolutely love: Revelers Hall. The staff there is incredibly hospitable, and they offer a fantastic selection of cocktails. Plus, they have live music that always adds to the experience. What really sets Revelers Hall apart, though, is the sense of camaraderie among fellow hospitality industry professionals. We all support each other, and that makes the experience all the more special.” 

Interior bar of the Roosevelt Room.
Roosevelt Room
Roosevelt Room

Roosevelt Room (Austin)

“As a history nerd and lover of all things old, I am a big fan of The Roosevelt Room in downtown Austin,” says Sarah Thornton, the general manager at La Condesa in Austin and a hospitality veteran with two decades in bars and restaurants. “From the decor to the menu to the hospitality of the staff, you almost feel like you’ve stepped back in time as soon as you walk through the door. Their menu features creative craft cocktails alongside classics from every era, as well as delicious snacks, so there’s something for almost everyone. This is definitely a spot everyone should have on their list!”

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