No-Barter Starters


Inexpensive, upscale appetizers that taste like a million bucks? Totally

Peanuts and pretzels do the trick, but some of our favorite restaurants offer up some incredibly luxurious bar snacks for just a handful of singles. Grab a barstool and dig in.

Fried cheese sticks. Hot wings. Chicken fingers. Happy-hour food specials are so ubiquitous, so dyed-in-the- wool, that they occupy sort of a no-man’s-land in the culinary landscape. Meeting friends to throw back a couple of drinks after work? These trampy little tarts and their gang of degenerate friends can be found in just about every corner bar. And while they may succeed in filling a biological need at a usually conscience-free price point, they don’t generally succeed in evoking a feeling, much less producing a memory.

For just a few bucks, several Austin restaurants offer an inspiring selection of small plates and starters that go hand-in-hand with elegant after-work libations that will make your taste buds think without imposing a luxury tax on your wallet.


Green Chile Pork Stew at Roaring Fork

Perching in the amber-lit bar, soft shadows rolling by and high-rollers spinning political deals just outside of earshot, you might think your server undercharged you for that delicious bowl of green chile pork stew. But no, that’s right–it’s only $6, not to mention $2 off roaring Fork’s ar- ray of specialty cocktails (how about a chocolate martini with that green chile?) during happy hour.

701 Congress Ave., 583-0000 |


Bleu Cheese Chips at Ringside at Sullivan’s Steak House

Melted bleu cheese and a smart little toss of fresh scallions make these warm and crispy potato chips all that and a bag of–oh. Right. Thursdays and Sundays at Sullivan’s adjoining bar offer $5 appetizers and $5 martinis. Not a member of the 9 to 5 set? No need to sneak out of the office early to feed your upscale junk food habit. Sullivan’s has your back with reverse happy hours offering the same deals from 9 p.m. until the chips run out.

300 Colorado St., 495-6504


Pulled Pork Tostadas at Max’s Wine Dive

A less mature gay magazine would find it hard to resist a joke about mouthwatering pulled pork, so instead we’ll take the high road and just plant the seed. The pulled pork tostadas at Max’s Wine dive are a sexy deal at $6 during their 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour, providing a dish of three perfect accompaniments to a glass or two of Max’s intriguing wine selections, which are discounted $2 per glass during happy hour, as well as reverse happy hour (10 p.m.–midnight on Monday and Wednesday, and midnight–2 a.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

207 San Jacinto Blvd., 904-0106


Fleming’s Prime Burger at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Fleming’s 5 for $6 ‘til 7 menu features five cocktails, five wines by the glass, and five appetizers–each for $6 until, you guessed it, 7 p.m. thrown in for good measure (and good taste), the Prime Burger stands on its own–both in the menu and on your plate. Big, juicy, and all the other words you like to hear in connection to a burger, it’s a luxurious way to end the day or start the night.

320 E. 2nd St., 457-1500

207 San Jacinto Blvd., 904-0106


Frito Pie at Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue

OK, yeah–as a dietary staple of Texas high school football games, there’s absolutely nothing upscale and chic about Frito Pie. But this is Texas, and we’re allowed to take some things a little too seriously, and high school football and Frito pie both qualify. There is absolutely no shame in digging into a $5 messy mound of Fritos and all the fixin’s while throwing back a grown-up cocktail during happy hour, Monday–Friday, 5 p.m.–7 p.m.

401 2nd St., 494-1500 |