East Austin is booming with restaurants, bars, and shops, but it retains its soulful roots. Photograph by Megan Bucknall.
An Insider Guide to Downtown East Austin
BY STIRLING KELSO
The East Side of ATX, a soulful and artistic enclave with Black and Mexican roots, has seen tremendous growth over the last decade. Despite rapid development, the area still delivers on chef-driven restaurants, creative boutiques, and music venues ranging from neighborhood bars to honky tonks. As a result, residents and guests at Sentral East Austin's locations at
1614 E. Sixth
1630 E. Sixth
can find some of the city’s best food, shopping, art, and conversation — right in their own backyard. Here are some of our favorites.
Explore East Austin Area Map
EAT LIKE AN EAST AUSTIN LOCAL
The izakaya small plates at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya are perfect for sharing. Photo by Jane Yun.
Bright, inviting interiors, a menu that changes with the seasons, and owners with stellar credentials — NYC’S Gramercy Tavern and Austin’s Olamaie are on their résumés — keep East Side neighbors coming back to this new city bistro. Look forward to dishes such as tilefish in a chilled corn broth, and eggplant with mint, honey, and Calabrian peppers. Fresh fruit cocktails and biodynamic wines also make the menu.
birdiesaustin.com, 2944 E. 12th St., Unit A.
An East Side institution for Tex-Mex food, Cisco’s has been slinging huevos rancheros, migas
(fried tortillas with eggs, sausage, and cheese), and enchiladas since 1943. The founder’s grandson took over a few years ago, expanding the hours and adding margaritas to the menu — but the greasy spoon decor, thankfully, has stayed.
ciscosaustin.com, 1511 E. 6th St.
EASY TIGER EAST
At this bakery and beer garden in a 15,000-square-foot East Side green space, linger at picnic tables over pints of local brews — the Carl by St. Elmo’s and Meanwhile Brewing Co.’s Secret Beach IPA are two favorites — as well as delicious BLTs, bratwursts, and boards of sausages, jams, and cheese from local monger Antonelli’s. All breads are made in-house; bring home a loaf of Austin Sourdough, leavened with a wild yeast starter, for tomorrow’s morning toast.
easytigerusa.com, 1501 E. 7th St.
This 11th Street barbecue joint has won national acclaim for its tender brisket, peppered ribs, juicy sausages, and zippy sauces. When the dining room reopens (the restaurant is currently still curbside pickup only) be prepared to stand in line — only Obama was allowed to cut. Don’t skip dessert, either: The key lime and banana bourbon pies from local baker Cake and Spoon are also excellent.
franklinbbq.com, 900 E. 11th St.
GATI ICE CREAM
After attracting a cult following for her gluten-free treats and coconut milk ice creams at
restaurant in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, owner and chef Jam Sanitchat opened this East Side outpost dedicated just to desserts. The cheerful shop has inventive scoops such as Mexican horchata
and golden milk (turmeric), as well as brownies, cookies, and cakes — all made with flour alternatives.
gatiicecream.com, 1512 Holly St.
The husband-and-wife team behind Intero, which means “whole” in Italian, strive to use every part of the animals and vegetables they bring into the kitchen. Bones, veggie scraps, and onion skins? They’re the backbone for delicious broths that make their way into seasonally changing soups, housemade pastas, and risottos. Diners also rave about the pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven, and the meticulous wine list.
interorestaurant.com, 2612 E. Cesar Chavez St.
The seductive vibe at this East Side French restaurant is thanks to its gated garden, twinkling lights, and cozy café tables. Diners are encouraged to linger over French classics — mussels and frites,
garlicky escargot, steak tartare — and bottles (and bottles) of wine.
justines1937.com, 4710 E. 5th St.
Originally known for drawing lines out the door for ramen served from a strip mall joint in north Austin, the Tatsu-Ya restaurant family later opened this izakaya
in an unassuming low-rise on an East Side side street. Here, dishes like smoked octopus skewers and salmon crudo in a Mexican-inspired michelada
consommé are popular for sharing. But you’ll want to keep your cocktail (like the Kaizen Whisky, made with fennel and kokuto sugar, or the grapefruit sour spiked with Mizu barley shochu
) to yourself. Both reservations and walk-ins are accepted.
kemuri-tatsuya.com, 2713 E. 2nd St.
Along with barbecue classics like pork ribs and beef hot links, this food truck on E. Cesar Chavez Street is known for its doughy kolaches
— if you’re new to Texas, the Czech pastries are a staple around the Hill Country — stuffed with brisket and cheddar cheese. Weekends only.
kerlinbbq.com, 2207 E. Cesar Chavez St.
At this laid-back restaurant and bar just off a tangle of highways, breakfasts start with oat-milk lattes and dinners end over mezcal cocktails. The eatery is not only a favorite among East Side locals for its sprawling backyard and tiki-lit interiors, but also its fresh take on Austin classics, like a queso made with charred tomatillo and sesame oil, and a pulled jackfruit sandwich — a vegetarian’s answer to barbecue pulled pork.
kindatropical.com, 3501 E. 7th St.
Housed in a former laundromat, Launderette has earned accolades for Instagram-worthy plates such as charred octopus in a garlic aioli and branzino served whole with preserved lemon. The nostalgic desserts, like birthday cake ice cream sandwiches, are also a hit. The restaurant and covered porch are pretty and sleek, worthy of a date night or a lunch that lingers.
launderetteaustin.com, 2115 Holly St.
Edgar Rico, the chef behind the counter at this popular taco joint, has serious cooking chops. Before moving to Austin, he worked in kitchens like Pujol in Mexico City and tasted everything from street food to fine-dining dishes on a research road trip through Mexico. His corn tortillas, prepared via ancient Aztecan methods, nearly steal the show, but the inventive taco fillings (soy and citrus-soaked yellowfin tuna, avocado, and microgreens; slow-roasted duck confit with salsa and radishes) vie for attention. Finish off your meal with a coconut paleta or rice pudding made with saffron, turmeric, and cardamom in the dog-friendly backyard.
nixtataqueria.com, 2512 E. 12th St.
Like many of Austin’s best restaurants, this breakfast and lunch spot started as a food truck. Is first brick and mortar — a contemporary build with artful tilework and selfie-inspiring interiors by Austin-based Chioco Design — opened on the East Side’s E. 11th Street. Snag a table for inventive pastries (spiced veggie kolaches
; grapefruit pop-tarts), healthy granola or plant-forward kale bowls, and breakfast sandwiches like maple sausage and egg, or thick-cut bacon and pimento cheese.
paperboyaustin.com, 1203 E. 11th St.
SNACK AND SIP
The low-lit, vintage-vibe interior at Whisler’s bar. Photo by Mark Weatherford.
This brick East Side building with garage door–style windows is home to one of Austin’s first independent coffee roasters. Come for a single origin espresso, and leave with a few bags of their roasts, from the chocolatey Karmadillo — a blend of South and Central American beans — to the velvety El Salvadorian java.
cuveecoffee.com, 2000 E. 6th St.
FLAT TRACK COFFEE
There are three parts to 1619 Cesar Chavez on East: a coffee roaster, a java shop, and Cycl-East, a bike store that gives the interiors a cool, industrial edge. An AM crowd cues up for expertly crafted cappuccinos and macchiatos; many whip out their laptops at the outdoor café tables. Buy a bag of beans for your at-home coffee maker: The in-house roasts, made from Peruvian, Mexican, and Ethiopian beans, are smooth and potent.
flattrackcoffee.com, 1619 E. Cesar Chavez St.
LOLO WINE BAR
Dedicated to natural wines from all over the world, this chic East Side bar and wine shop is designed with pops of orange and has a sprawling outdoor patio. Owners Christian Moses and Adam Wills make it their mission to educate drinkers on this increasingly popular category of vino; tastings are thoughtful, fun, and unpretentious.
lolo.wine, 1504 E. 6th St.
Expect to see a slew of East Side regulars at this low-slung brick bar, a favorite neighborhood watering hole for cold beers and classic cocktails. The food — tater tots, chicken wings, and chili cheese fries, among other gut-sticking dishes — will take you back to your college days, or nights.
nickelcitybar.com, 1133 E. 11th St.
Housed in a 1917 granary, this bar’s low-lit, limestone interior is outfitted with vintage chandeliers and French café tables. Cocktail crowds clamor for the classic old fashioneds as well as house concoctions like the Scarlet Envy, made with strawberry and bell pepper–infused gin. Upstairs, a mezcaleria
has over 30 smokey spirits, served in traditional copitas
, or little clay cups.
whislersatx.com, 1816 E. 6th St.
East Austin Succulents will add a bit of greenery to your life. Photo by Olena Shmahalo.
EAST AUSTIN SUCCULENTS
From paddle plants and lace hedgehogs to aloe vera and heart leaf hoyas, this decade-old nursery sells dozens of cacti and succulent varieties. The knowledgeable staff can help you pick the best varieties for a sunlit patio or indoor décor; arrangements in beautiful pots and planters also make memorable gifts.
eastaustinsucculents.com, 801 Tillery St.
Austin’s East Side is home to the flagship store of these work and leisure boots, designed in town and cobbled in Maine. They’re hailed by shoe lovers for their refined styles, comfortable fit, and fine craftsmanship. The East 6th store also carries leather care accessories and gifts such as belts and weekend bags.
helmboots.com, 1200 E. 11th St.
Welcome to the future of clothing: Not only are the American-made pieces coming out of this East Side showroom timeless — dresses are especially popular due to their architectural, versatile designs — they’re also ethically made from natural fabrics (linen, cotton, and silk) and plant-based dyes.
shopmirandabennett.com, 1211 E. 11th St.
SON OF A SAILOR
William Knopp and Jessica Tata, the husband-and-wife team behind this shop and brand, create the handmade items on display in a back-of-the-house studio. Along with their own geometrical jewelry, copper barware, and leather goods such as keychains and dog leashes, they also showcase the work of other small-batch designers from across the U.S. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the duo at work on their latest line.
sonofasailor.co, 916 Springdale Rd., Building 3, No. 105,
It’s easy to lose track of time in this jewel box of a shop, which imports distinctive gifts from all over the world. Peruse the shelves for crocheted trivets from Japan, fine wooden puzzles and art sets for children, minimalist stoneware, and matcha tea sets and whisks.
takeheartshop.com, 12 E. 11th St.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE (AND BRING A FURRY FRIEND!)
The trail encircling Town Lake attracts biking and strolling locals with its picturesque views. Photo courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
Officially known as Edward Rendon Sr. Metro Park at Festival Beach, this 81-acre waterfront green space is dotted with live oaks and picnic tables. Here, you’ll see people kicking soccer balls, tossing frisbees, and relaxing with friends and fur babies. Fiesta also hosts some of Austin’s most popular festivals like PRIDE and Cinco de Mayo.
austinparks.org, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.
ANN AND ROY BUTLER HIKE AND BIKE TRAIL
Austin’s central running and biking trail circling Lady Bird Lake — or Town Lake, as it’s known among locals — is one of the best spots to people-watch and take your dog for a stroll. The trek’s highlight, a sleek overwater pathway with picture-perfect skyline views called the Boardwalk Trail, is just across Fiesta Gardens, east of I-35. The trail also loops through off-leash dog parks and across city bridges, and you’re bound to pass a musician or two strumming on the pathway’s tree-lined borders.
SOAK UP SOME CULTURE
The view from the front porch of the French Legation is one of Austin’s best kept secrets. Photo courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.
Talents ranging from sculptors and painters to ceramists and photographers have set up studios in this arts center and community hub for creatives. Meet the artists, peruse their works, and stick around for an espresso or lunch — Japanese milk bread topped with smoked salmon; chicken karaage
and a kale salad — at Sa-Tén Coffee & Eats, located in the middle of the complex.
bigmedium.org/studiosatcanopy, 916 Springdale Rd.
FRENCH LEGATION STATE HISTORIC SITE
Even in-the-know Austinites overlook this small house museum on the East Side, the former residence of Alphonse Dubois, France’s representative to the Republic of Texas after it was declared a sovereign nation. (Interestingly, Texas was only recognized by two countries after declaring independence from Mexico in 1836: the United States and France.) The grounds are free and open to the public, and tours are available with advance reservations. Post a pic of the Texas Capitol Building, snapped from the house’s pillared front porch: The overlook is a protected Capitol View Corridor, meaning new buildings and development are prohibited from obstructing it.
thc.texas.gov, 802 San Marcos St.
If you’re looking for a classic spot to hear live music in Austin, look no further than this veteran East Side honky tonk and its revered corner stage draped in smoky red curtains. Dancers take swigs of Lone Stars before hitting the dance floor; while country music is a staple, you’ll hear everything from indie rock to bluegrass seven nights a week. Keep an eye on the calendar for swing dance and two stepping lessons.
thewhitehorseaustin.com, 500 Comal St.
Explore East Austin Area Map
Ready to become an East Side local — or just play like one for a little while? Live or stay alongside your fellow explorers and creatives at Sentral’s two East Austin locations:
Explore Sentral East Austin 1614
Explore Sentral East Austin 1630