A Grown-Up Guide to Austin's 'Dirty' 6th Street

Long considered Austin’s most notorious strip for drinking alongside raucous groups of undergrads, East Sixth Street in Downtown Austin features a wide array of dollar-shot pubs, dance clubs blasting EDM, and food trucks peddling fries and cheap slices of pizza.

Austinites who are a few years past their college days generally avoid what locals call “Dirty Sixth” whenever possible. However, by doing so, they’re missing out on some genuine gems with polished environs, creative libations, and chef-driven dishes oriented toward more sophisticated tastes. We’ve found six excellent examples of Sixth Street venues perfect for a grown-up evening out. 

Midnight Cowboy

Courtesy of Midnight Cowboy Modeling

Right in the thick of the Sixth Street hubbub, there’s a discreet building with an apartment-style buzzer panel beside the door. If you’re armed with the secret buzzer code, you can press the correct button and head up to Midnight Cowboy, a speakeasy-esque drinking den complete with dim lighting, exposed brick, and tufted leather banquettes. 

They offer an experimental cocktail list filled with seasonal signature beverages like The Awkward Pause (bourbon, rum, Cointreau, chamomile, violet, and cardamom) and the Too Late To Say I’m Sorry (rye, tequila, Pedro Ximenez sherry, Cointreau, artichoke leaves, black walnut, and espresso dust). 

This reservations-only spot is a must-visit for anyone in search of an intimate and chic date night spot.

Easy Tiger

Courtesy of 6th Street

Easy Tiger is a multipurpose hangout for all times of the day. In the morning and afternoon, patrons can enjoy locally roasted coffee and house-baked bread and pastries like a Tiger Claw with spiced pecan filling and a nine-grain Breakfast Stick studded with raisins and pecans.

In the afternoon and evening, the beer garden offers picnic table seating, a curated list of domestic brews, specialty cocktails, and German-inspired eats like housemade bratwurst, freshly baked pretzels with Easy Tiger’s proprietary mustards, and tangy green cabbage sauerkraut. 

If you need a Dirty Sixth venue for a group of friends, Easy Tiger is the place to go. 

Academia

Courtesy of Academia / Facebook

While Academia’s decor draws inspiration from collegiate life—specifically, from Ivy League faculty lounges—this Downtown cocktail bar just two blocks from Dirty Sixth is absolutely intended for adult professionals.

The beverage menu includes upmarket twists on bar classics, like the Trinidad Sour (Angostura amaro, Angostura bitters, rye, orgeat, lemon) and the Fresh Pressed Cosmopolitan (vodka, house-pressed cranberry juice, lime, Cointreau, orange oil). 

Parkside

Courtesy of 6th Street

Featuring farm-to-table small plates and a comfortable yet stylish aesthetic, Parkside on Sixth Street claims to be Austin’s first-ever gastropub. The menu tends toward a classic American theme with modern touches, featuring dishes like marrow bones with herb salad and shallot jam; pappardelle with salumi butter, cauliflower, and Meyer lemon; blue crab chowder with smoked turnip, pear, and a bay biscuit; and Duroc pork with fennel sauerkraut, potato, and dates. 

For a classy yet casual dinner with friends or an upscale (but not too upscale) dinner date, Parkside is your Dirty Sixth go-to.

Searsucker

Courtesy of Searsucker

Need a Sixth Street pick for a hearty, hangover-destroying brunch with your crew? Searsucker, a New American eatery from “Top Chef” alum Brian Malarkey, has you covered.

This sunny, cheerful spot filled with natural wood and industrial touches serves up cheffy takes on brunch standards, like brown butter fries with prosciutto, parmesan, and chipotle ketchup, brioche French toast with strawberries and Grand Marnier syrup, short rib chilaquiles with eggs, refried black beans, avocado, and salsa verde, and bacon-infused Bloody Marys with sriracha and bleu cheese.

Searsucker also serves weekday lunch and dinner, but its brunch really shines, making it a genuine Sixth Street dining destination.

Swan Dive

Courtesy of Swan Dive / Facebook

While Sixth Street boasts a dizzying number of live music venues and bars with stages, Swan Dive, which is just a block over from Sixth Street, stands out as a particularly unique and eclectic place to take in a live show while enjoying a cocktail.

With a speakeasy vibe encouraged by its unmarked door, leather booths, and crystal chandeliers, Swan Dive combines the best of a high-brow lounge and a low-brow dive. Along with local bands of many genres, Swan Dive also hosts burlesque performances, karaoke nights, and dance parties, establishing it as a prime locale for evening entertainment just off Dirty Sixth.

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