Neighborly vibes abound at these two downtown locales.
By April Cumming
The Boiler Room Bar
800 W. Cesar Chavez St., boilernine.com
Located in what was formerly the Seaholm Power Plant’s boiler room, the appropriately named Boiler Room Bar is now a clandestine, candle-lit, basement-like escape. This is the place to come for those after-work drinks with friends, especially for the crowd that wants to stay in the heart of the city and, most importantly, stay alive in the incomparable heat of a summer afternoon in Austin. The Boiler Room Bar is the lowest tier of the four-level restaurant Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, which helms the main floor. Before retreating down the elevator and into the dim, curtained-off, cavernous space below, it’s worth making your way to the top tier—the Deck Nine Observatory Bar—to soak in the sunset.
Once you’ve made your final descent to a table at the Boiler Room Bar, act like a regular and place an order or two of beer bread, two house-baked rolls served with barbecue salt, smoked beef-fat butter and beer jam. Yes, it’s as delicious and decadent as it sounds. (Pro tip: For your first libation, try the Drop City with bourbon. Mixed with wildflower peach, lemon, black-tea bitters and spearmint, the drink is a sweet and citrusy concoction that feels just light enough to order up another.)
It may sound cliché to call a bar a hideaway, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a place more deserving of the title.
1401 W. Sixth St., nightcapaustin.com
Although this charming date-night locale has been open for only about a year and a half, step inside and you’ll find an emanating sense of permanence and place. Then again, that’s exactly how this spot should feel. After all, the bar and restaurant are housed in a renovated West Sixth Street home. There’s a comfortable, low-key elegance about the deep-purple- and gray-hued dining room and a convivial friendliness among the bar staff that makes hours after entering seem to pass by in minutes.
For those looking to enjoy a pleasant night out without getting too close to the rowdy scene on Sixth Street, Nightcap is your antidote. Nightcap was originally promoted as a desserts-and-drinks-focused dining spot, but the dinner menu is more than capable of holding its own in the spotlight. (Pro tip: Place an order of Adam’s Olives to start.)
Be sure to swing by the bar on Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m. for Nightcap’s Burgers & Burgundy night. Ask to top your house-made burger with homemade bacon jam, smoked avocado and a sunny-side-up egg. Just don’t be alarmed when you find yourself in a satiated, transcendental state. To digest, retreat to the grassy front lawn and spend the remainder of the evening resting languidly on a couch and sipping a Red Light Special, a cocktail consisting of mezcal, green chartreuse and pomegranate, topped with a sprig of torched rosemary.