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Half a mile long, lined with more than 20 bars, Rainey Street's entertainment district bustles as a large part of Austin's nightlife scene every weekend. With themed bars, a food truck park and an excitable atmosphere, it's no wonder why.

In 1885, Rainey Street sprung up as a quaint residential neighborhood with many of its turn-of-the-century homes still standing today. Over 130 years later, Rainey Street is reliably busy every weekend and one of the booziest streets in the city.

Whether you're looking for a fruity frozen cocktail, a full meal or an ice-cold beer, you can find it all on Rainey Street.



Best overall drinks: Half Step, 75 1/2 Rainey Street

Half Step's old fashioned cocktail is celebrated among visitors. (Half Step/Instagram)

​This tiny bar has a huge patio to sprawl out on and it is serving up high-quality cocktails that are made with love. Choose from elevated classics like the draft Paloma and old-fashioned or a tantalizing take on yacht club punch made with absinthe. There will probably be live music playing when you get there and you can get a snack at Little Lucy's Mini Donuts, parked right nearby.

Most elaborate drinks: The Tipsy Alchemist, 70 Rainey Street

The Strawberry Tea Fizz is made with lemon, strawberry reduction, gin and topped with a rose. (Tipsy Alchemist/Instagram)

This elevated cocktail bar makes drinks with science while you observe Rainey Street from above. With an upscale yet wacky atmosphere, The Tipsy Alchemist serves different drinks that push the boundaries of physics, travel through a tube across the entire bar, are made with liquid nitrogen and come in a coconut.

Most "Austin" atmosphere: Javelina, 69 Rainey Street

Javelina was started by four Austinites who wanted to create an ice house, dance hall and beer joint. (Javelina)

This bar's unique fare is something the four local founders call "Hill Country Soul," so suffice to say the menu is savory and hearty. Just about anyone would feel more like a local after dining on some green chile pork fries or a cornflake-crusted chicken sandwich paired with a Hill Country lemonade. You can also get a meal until 1:30 a.m. here, later than any other kitchen on the street. Keep an eye out for the live music, drag queen brunches and burger specials that keep this bar weird.

Best overall atmosphere: G'Raj Mahal, 73 Rainey Street

G'Raj Mahal imports many of their furnishings directly from India. (G'Raj Mahal/Instagram)

​This warm, colorful atmosphere will make you want to stay all night. Though the restaurant serves upscale Austin-inspired authentic Indian, and specifically Goan, food, Texas' signature Southern hospitality is not lost. Either outdoors or on the spacious patio, you can enjoy a traditional saag paneer or nutty korma made with free-range and grass-fed proteins while you people-watch or enjoy the full bar menu. As the restaurant says, they welcome you to "Sit and Namaste a While."

Best food truck: Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts, 75 1/2 Rainey St

Try the "Poodle," "Schnauzer" or " Maltese" flavors. (Little Lucy's/Instagram)

You've had donuts before, maybe even ones with creative names and fancy ingredients, but they don't compare to the donuts you get when you go to Little Lucy's. These mini donuts—just a little larger than a golf ball—are fried then doused in a luxuriously-flavored flavored sugar while still hot and fresh. We recommend the "Schnauzer," which are pistachio, lavender and vanilla flavored, or the "Maltese" Italian cream cake. I can already smell the donuts cooking 🤤

Best lunch and dinner: Emmer & Rye, 51 Rainey Street inside SkyHouse

The blackened grapefruit panna cotta is topped with beet bubbles and benne seed shoyu streusel. (Emmer & Rye/Instagram)

While this restaurant is some of the very best on Rainey Street, this is not the place to go to end your night. This menu changes with the season and the famer's harvest, meaning you're likely to try something new each time you visit. You have two options when you dine in at Emmer & Rye, stick to the menu or forget it and get the off the menu option, which comes out with a variety of dishes meant to be shared. You can also order specials off carts that travel around the dining room during the meal. Be prepared to shell out but enjoy it when you do!

Best tap beer selection: Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden, 79 Rainey Street

Banger's has an ever-rotating selection of brews on tap. (Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden)

You're going to be hard-pressed to find anything but beer at Banger's Sausage House but you will find more than 80 types on draft. In addition to the vast lineup of beers from all over the country, plus a few domestic choices, dozens of brews come straight from the capital of Texas. If that's not enough, the bar also has a pretty expansive food menu.

Best specials: Idle Hands, 85 Rainey Street

Idle Hands has tropical drinks on deck, plus a healthy selection of beer and wine. (Idle Hands)

In addition to the fruity cocktails, full menu and tropical atmosphere, Idle Hands offers a new special Monday-Thursday. Time your visit right and you can get $10 draft cocktails, 50% off a Cubano sandwich or a $4 slice of cheesecake while you relax on one of the bar's swinging wicker chairs. If those specials don't tickle you, keep an eye on the bar's Instagram, where it announces specials like Paella Night or free oysters for early guests.

Best brunch: Anthem, 91 Rainey Street

With Asian barbecue brisket and curry potatoes are the stars of the brisket breakfast tacos. (Anthem/Instagram)

If you're looking for a break from the classic eggs benedict and pancakes, Anthem has you covered with it's umami-filled brunch menu. Branch out with Thai doughnuts topped with yuzu icing, basil and black sesame seeds or a more traditional JFC biscuits & gravy with sriracha hot honey and shoyu gravy. The main menu is filled with plenty of Asian-inspired bites, so there's reason to visit anytime. You can still get your mimosa or Michelada but brunch is only served on Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Best place to dance: Augustine, 86 Rainey Street

(Augustine)

​With a spacious front patio, indoor space and plenty of room in the backyard, Augustine is "a little classy, a whole lot of groovy," with plenty of room to get down. With a colorful cocktail menu, great photo ops and a glowing green sign, it's impossible to miss this bar.

Where to park:

(Laura Figi/Austonia)

You might be able to find street parking if you visit Rainey Street between Monday-Wednesday, but don't count on it. Rainey Street does have an attached gravel parking lot but costs tend to be expensive, like $10-20 per hour type expensive, so the best option is to walk, Uber or branch out to one of the many options that will be cheaper to park.

Free

You can try your luck with the many street parking options around Austin or get free parking at...

  • 742 Interstate 35 Frontage Road
  • Triangle Park and Ride, 4600 Guadalupe Street
  • Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River Street (only free on Sundays)

You might just have to do a little walking!

$5 or less

Finding parking for a small fee is very doable if you're willing to do some scouting.

  • Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road ($4)
  • N Interstate 35 Frontage Road / E. 6th St ($5)
  • 801 Trinity Street ($5)
  • 1501 E. 6th St ($5)

$10 or less

This category gives you the most options while still saving a little bit of cash for Rainey.

  • 604 Driskill St. ($10)
  • 314 East Cesar Chavez St. ($8)
  • One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road ($8)
  • 707 East 7th St. ($10)
  • AMLI Downtown Garage, 201 Lavaca St. ($6)
  • 419 East 7th St. ($10)
  • 313 East 7th St. ($10)
  • 717 Red River St. ($6)
  • 108 West Gibson St. ($6)

Where to stay:

(Hotel Van Zandt)

If you're trying to stay walking distance from Rainey Street, you have options across the board.

In the two-star range, Rainey is home to some eclectic hostels. The Heirloom Lounge and Rusty Railway Hostel is a colorful homage to old Austin, not just another "hipster hostel," offers $3 breakfast buffets and regular movie nights. With a cafe and bar onsite, Native Hostel is an upscale hostel tucked away inside an 1890s railroader hotel. Though you'll be sharing a room with four to six people, the luxurious furnishings will make you feel cozy and you might even make some new friends.

For a guaranteed private room, you'll need to move to the three star range. Homewood Suites has rooms from around $140-$200 and sits along I-35, right behind Rainey Street, so you won't even have to Uber. Just a little further away is the Holiday Inn, sitting further South on IH-35, but is still a very comfortable walk to Rainey Street. You can stay there for cheaper too: around $90-$175.

If you can swing it, Austin has some luxurious hotels to lay your head for the night. Four-star hotel Locale Austin offers fully-furnished apartments to stay in, so you'll feel right at home, and comes complete with expansive views of the city. Hotel Van Zandt has been named "#1 Hotel in Texas" by Condé Nast and you can enjoy the downstairs restaurant Geraldine's for a fancy meal, or have them bring it to you as part of the 24/7 room service. Both hotels are just a stone's throw away, sitting right beside Rainey.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
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Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

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We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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