The Global Barfly’s Companion #6 by Scott Gilman
Location: 503 Colorado St, Austin, TX
I pay $10 to park in the garage across the street, a fee I refer to as the Going Out Downtown tax. Don’t complain, just pay it, hopefully it’ll be good for the city. I’m at 5th and Colorado in downtown Austin to go to Garage, a cocktail bar hidden away on the first floor of a parking garage that you may not see if you’re not looking for it. On Colorado, don’t go up the ramp in the east side of the street between 5th and 6th, just look for the windows on the first floor and head towards them. A bouncer out front saw me taking pictures before I approached, and smiled as I went in. On the way out two hours later, around 11:00, there was a line to get in. Hadn’t seen that before. Normally I would never go to a place with a line to get in, especially for cocktails, even more especially downtown. Last time I was there was the Saturday night during SXSW, and the place wasn’t quite full and everyone I spoke to was from Austin. So perhaps the word is out now; I did see some tools in there, including two guys wearing a jacket and tie, and one guy in shorts and a white Polo shirt who ordered a Shiner Bock. Walk towards the candles, through the entryway with tiled walls that makes it feel you’re entering a parking garage office rather than a bar. Open the door, and now you’re in a dark, cool place (and I don’t mean just hip, but temperature-wise it’s cold in there) with some seating against the wall, upon which the sole décor is a brass horse’s head. Keeping going in and you’ll see the rounded nature of the place; the bar itself is a three-quarter circle. In the back, under the yellow neon dim of parking garage lights, is a square sitting area with tables and chairs and is a good spot if you can get it. I sat at a stool at the end of the bar, made friends with the bartender and had two Old Fashioneds and a Yamakazi 12. The Old Fashioneds were made with rye and had a sweet orange taste. The music on the sound system was good, mostly R&B with some classic rock thrown in. I remember hearing some version of “Mustang Sally.” There were no televisions. The bartenders were really friendly and dealt with the Friday night rush for drinks pretty well. Service was sharp, for me and others ordering at the bar. Old Fashioneds did seem to be the most ordered drink, though a cocktail named The Indian Paintbrush, named earlier this year as the 2015 Drink of Austin in a competition among local bars, was also popular. It’s got vodka and grapefruit juice (I like neither, which is why I didn’t try one) and other ingredients. Beers were sold by the bottle or can. I’m coming back here. It’s remarkably laid back and intimate for a downtown bar, even on a weekend. During the week it’s even better, as you can feel as if you own the place. Its hidden tough-to-find nature does it a service. Bring a date, meet a friend, bring co-workers; it has a vibe that can suit anyone and still feel appropriate. Before dinner drinks, after dinner drinks, an entire evening – this place works. I’d recommend bringing your coolest friends here, and keep the others in the dark.
Scott Gilman lives in Austin, Texas and enjoys exercise, reading, writing, eating and drinking. He is working on his first novel and a short story and essay collection. More of his writing can be found here.