Austin’s public transit has some issues. But ignore the haters for a second, because the novelty of riding a train in Austin still hasn’t worn off, and the MetroRail system has the potential to bring a car-free (or, let’s be honest, car-reduced) future to your doorstep. The best way to entice locals to give it a try? Booze. Here are the best bars within walking distance to each MetroRail station, from north to south. Trust me, you’ll be glad you don’t have to drive.
The only station outside the city limits, Leander isn’t necessarily the most pedestrian-friendly stop. Bring good shoes.
• 10 minutes away you’ll find beer and wine alongside celebrated Cajun fare at Mouton’s Southern Bistro.
• A little further down the street is Leander Beer Market, a genuine craft beer destination with more than 300 different bottled brews available.
Lakeline and Howard
Welcome to the dead zone. You should probably skip Lakeline and Howard stations unless you’re planning to drink in an empty field, brown bag style.
Here’s where it gets interesting. This station brings you to north Austin’s burgeoning brewery district.
• The closest outpost is Circle Brewing Company, only a five minute walk away.
• If you’re already tired of beer, pleasant neighborhood bar Detour is also within walking distance.
• Up for a slightly longer hike? The various bars and restaurants at the Domain are about 15 minutes away.
If it were up to me, every station in town would be like Crestview.
• The same shopping center will also soon be home to crowdfunded gaming bar Vigilante.
• For craft cocktails and small plates in a quaint house space, walk four minutes to Royal Jelly and imagine what this list would be like if more stations had so many great spots nearby.
Another bit of a dead zone unless you’re going to Austin Community College or looking for those famous Jack in the Box tacos.
• The assorted bars along Manor Road aren’t too far away, but my preference is the Skylark Lounge on Airport Boulevard. The walk takes 12 minutes, but you’ll be rewarded with one of the best dives in the city, with cocktails, pizza, and live blues acts.
Judging by the speed of development on the east side, this stop will probably have a lot more drinking options soon.
Here’s a station that really justifies this bar crawl.
• Also nearby is the historic Scoot Inn, the oldest bar and music venue in central Texas — it first opened in 1871.
This is where it all ends — or begins, depending on which direction you’re riding. Either way, you’re spoiled for choice, within an easy walk of the galaxy of Rainey and Sixth Street bars.
• My favorite option is Easy Tiger next to Waller Creek on East Sixth, with a dedicated outdoor whiskey bar and numerous craft brews served with arguably the tastiest baked goods in town. Who says you have to drink all your bread?
The MetroRail doesn’t run very long past midnight on the weekends, and only until the early evening during the week, so this crawl may be better suited as a daytime excursion, unless you’d like to wait a few years for expanded service hours. It also requires a fair bit of walking to reach the closest watering holes to each station, in most cases. Despite these caveats, the route has promise — consider it a demonstration of what well-funded, thoughtfully-designed mass transit in Austin could do.
Next priority? Someone open a decent bar on Howard Lane.