The team behind Sixth Street restaurants and bars Happy Chicks and BBG’s (née Bikinis) opened up a new speakeasy this month in downtown Austin. ATX Brands’s J. Stephens Bar is now open at 214 East Sixth Street as of mid-August.
The cocktail menu focuses on the 1920s. Of the house cocktails, there are drinks like the light, fruity, and refreshing Once Upon a Time in Austin; the Embezzlement, a play on the Swizzle; and the tiki Kansas City Shuffle. There’s a list of classic cocktails from the era as well, spanning the Bee’s Knees to sloe gin fizzes to Vieux Carre to Mai Tais.
J. Stephens also serves food, as well, with a menu that works well in conjunction with drinking. Among the dishes are charcuterie boards, queso-infused meatballs, triple-decker grilled cheese sandwiches, and fried chicken skins served with smoke maple syrup.
Overseeing the beverages at J. Stephens is ATX Brands’s beverage director Mark Yawn, who had previously been with Ranch 616, She’s Not Here, and Midnight Cowboy. The food menu is courtesy of ATX’s kitchen manager Josue Escobar.
Owner Doug Guller based the name of the bar on the story of a man, John Waller Stephens, Jr., who had been the bookkeeper of a furniture store at the Sixth Street space in the 1920s. After being accused of embezzling money from the business, he committed suicide. Over the past ten or so years that Guller had operated restaurants in the building, employees reported strange things happening, like water being randomly turned on. He named the bar after Stephens, Jr., as a way “to make peace with him and get him on our side,” he said. Eater wasn’t able to independently verify this story.
J. Stephens is surrounded by other speakeasies in downtown Austin, ranging from difficult to entry to not-so-difficult, like Midnight Cowboy, Here Nor There, Small Victory, Firehouse Hostel, and Red Headed Stepchild.
J. Stephens is open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The entrance of the bar is found on the alley behind the Sixth Street building, indicated by the red light. Previously the space had served as extra seating for Happy Chicks and BBG’s.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.