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Church-Themed Bar Higher Ground Opens in Downtown Austin

The new spot offers craft cocktails, Italian small plates and intimate indoor and outdoor social spaces

Lined with religious artifacts and antiques, a new Austin bar called Higher Ground seeks to elevate downtown’s nightlife scene with its unexpected atmosphere and playful drink menu.

The new watering hole, designed to look like a church, opened in July. It’s located on Congress Ave. across the street from the Paramount Theatre.

Higher Ground’s decor, including its stained glass window panels and wooden archways, were sourced from churches and homes across the United States and as far as France and Italy. A set of pews came from a decommissioned church in West Texas. A private altar was acquired from a Louisiana Victorian home. There’s also a nineteenth century organ, now transformed and repurposed as an LED-lit DJ booth.

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Behind the building on the second floor lies “The Sanctuary,” a greenhouse-style atrium for outdoor cocktails and al fresco dining.

The drinks menu includes beer and wine—and cocktails named after the Seven Deadly Sins. Highlights include “Lust,” made with tequila, mezcal, lime, house-made strawberry syrup, blackberries and absinthe; and “Gluttony,” a vodka cocktail made with heavy cream, Cafe Bustelo coffee infused Demerara, Licor 43 and nutmeg.

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Italian-inspired appetizers and shareable plates take the forefront of Higher Ground’s food menu. Stand-outs include the Prosciutto and Cheddar Crochette with savory Fra Diavolo sauce; and the Crispy Porchetta Sandwich served with arugula, peach mostarda and traditional basil pesto.

Higher Ground is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 12 a.m.