What makes a bar great? Driskill Hotel (Austin)

May 08, 2012 Being from New Orleans, growing up in a family hospitality enterprise, and then spending six years living in the French Quarter, I view myself as a bar aficionado. It seems small details make all the difference and are so often overlooked. I was in Austin over the weekend and made my mandatory stop at the bar inside the Driskill Hotel. Escaping the heat and bright sunlight into the soothing Driskill Bar had me contemplating why this place is so perfect. Here are my thoughts on what they do right.
  1. Lighting: Even on the brightest Texas days, they effectively use their shutters to keep it dark but lit. You can see the warm glow outside but feel like you are in a protected zone.
  2. Staff and Service:  The wait staff is always right there. They are not in the back doing some other task; they are customer focused at every minute. They do not stand around idly chatting to each other; they engage with customers, offer suggestions, and smile.
  3. Cocktail Menu: Not ridiculously long or complicated, a few well chosen cocktails that tie into the hotel's heritage and the local flavor.
  4. Decor: Low ceiling height with "antique" tin ceiling, Texas themed art, a mix of seating options; the decor makes you feel right at home no matter who you are.
  5. Dining looks inviting: The wood framed glass allows you to see (and envy) the dining area. If feels accessible and approachable like the logical next step in your evening.
You can tell by the diversity of the crowd that the Driskill Hotel bar hits the right notes. On the afternoon I was there, there were twenty-something college kids at a large group table and 50-somethings drinking at the bar at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon.  There aren't many hotel bars that get it so right. Stop in and visit the next time you are in Austin.

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