This post is the final one in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments.
In the past ten years or so, East Austin has changed a lot. As real estate prices shot up, the neighborhoods east of I-35 were pretty much the only affordable places for people looking to buy a house, perhaps their first. My family and I are no exception to this rule. Back in 2004, my then-fiance and I were living in a rented condo on Elizabeth Street, which was super hip and cool and walkable to the super hip and cool SoCo area. But we were getting married and wanted to upgrade our living situation, so we bought a house in an old East Central neighborhood not far from what is now the Mueller development.
In the seven years since we bought our house (which we closed on right around the time I found out we were expecting the Big Kid), East Austin has changed even more. It’s become a vibrant enclave of artists and musicians, not to mention a couple of urban farms, and houses an embarrassment of excellent restaurants.
(There’s an uncomfortable conversation to be had about gentrification here, but that’s a post for another time.)
So, with all of that in mind, here are some of my favorite restaurants on Austin’s east side. Please note that this is totally subjective and not even approaching comprehensive. Buen provecho!
Gourmands is a relatively new entry on the Austin dining scene, specializing in gourmet sandwiches and soups (in bread bowls! YUM!). I think about the Cleopatra sandwich almost every day and how soft and fresh that bread is. My lord. I may have to make a late-night run.
This is a sweet little bistro/bakery on 11th Street that just nails the details, from the sweetly intimate back porch to the little stone trays your check arrives on. I highly recommend the tartines, little open-faced sandwiches in both vegetarian and carnivore options, and totally, totally satisfying. (Pro tip: Get there early or be ready to wait. We’re not talking Franklinlevels of waiting, but I don’t think Blue Dahlia qualifies as a “best kept secret” anymore.)
Ohhhh, Justine’s. How I love thee. I love your French 75s. I love your French onion soup. I love your moules frites AND your steak frites. And I love your creme brulee. I love how the tiny space is so intimate without feeling cramped. I love that middle-aged French waiter who exhibits just a whiff of disinterest without being discourteous. I love that you are the only place apart from Uchiko we’ve dropped $100 on dinner without any complaint from my husband.
East Side Showroom
Part steampunk bar, part farm-to-table bistro, East Side Showroom has gained much notoriety of late as Chef Sonya Cote enjoys her ascendancy on the Austin food scene. Also featured in my friend Christian’s excellent short doc, Local! I’m also really looking forward to checking out Chef Cote’s brand-new Hillside Farmacy, also located in east Austin, this week.
We actually don’t go to Hoover’s that much because it’s one of those restaurants that inspires my children to act like complete and total ingrates. But I really like the comfort/soul food on offer — ESPECIALLY the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and green beans! — and I’m super excited to go try out the Soular Garden! Hoover’s cobblers can’t be missed, either.
Honorable mentions (either because I’ve already raved about them here or they were suggested by other AFBA members but I haven’t been there): Contigo, Vivo, Nubian Queen Lola’s, Braise, Casa Colombia.)