Whether you’re powering up with a plate of migas in the morning, enjoying a light lunch in the middle of the day or celebrating a triumphant day of browsing and supporting the local arts scene, you’re going to need to eat this weekend when you hit the East Austin Studio Tour. I’ve compiled a list of 32 restaurants I recommend trying in East Austin. In order to keep the list manageable, I established boundaries of Manor Road (north), Airport Boulevard (east), Cesar Chavez Street (south), and I-35 (west). I didn’t include food trailers or places that are primarily bars. Don’t see one of your favorites (there are at least two dozen more in that area)? Send me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy eating, and happy EASTing.
Cesar Chavez Street corridor
Bufalina Pizza. 1519 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-2523, BufalinaPizza.com. The best Neapolitan pizza in the city and a great Italian wine list at this little East Austin restaurant makes the wait worth it. Also try the hand-pulled mozzarella and charcuterie plate, sourced from places like Iowa’s La Quercia.
Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311, cenoteaustin.com. Breakfast sandwiches, bagels and granola in the morning, with an afternoon of sandwiches giving way to bigger dishes like pan-roasted redfish at this café surrounded by a quaint white picket fence.
Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile. 3235 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-366-5808, jacobysaustin.com. Comforting ranch-to-table fare (crispy okra, chicken fried steak) and high design at this new spot with a large outdoor area that looks toward the Colorado River.
Juan in a Million. 2300 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-472-3872, JuanInAMillion.com. Juan in a Million has been putting out Tex-Mex classics such as huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos for more than 30 years. Expect a line.
East Sixth Street corridor
Buenos Aires Café. 1201 E. Sixth St., 13500 Galleria Circle in Bee Cave. 512-382-1189, buenosairescafe.com. A taste of South America in East Austin at this charming café that started on South First Street years ago. The selection of empanadas (spinach, beef, chicken and tuna) are not to be missed. Neither is the steak sandwich with a vibrant chimichurri.
Counter Café. 1914 E. Sixth St. countercafe.com. The second location of the breakfast and lunch diner on North Lamar Boulevard recently opened, serving favorites like crab cakes and eggs and a fat burger.
East Side Showroom. 1100 E. Sixth St. 512-467-4280, eastsideshowroom.com. Snack on shared plates of cheese, coffee-cured pork ribs and mussels with bacon while enjoying a classic cocktail at this whimsical steampunk-inspired spot.
Gardner. 1914 E. Sixth St. 512-354-1480, gardner-austin.com. The new restaurant from the Contigo owners lets vegetables be the star (without sacrificing big flavor). And there’s a cool bar tucked away from the main dining room.
Justine’s. 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900, Justines1937.com. Backyard garden fete … Left Bank bar party … This early East Austin adopter brims with personality and style while serving classic French bistro fare (steak frites, mussels) and a chalkboard of nightly specials.
Licha’s Cantina. 1306 E. Sixth St. 512-480-5960, lichascantina.com. Get a taste of Mexican street food like huaraches with huitlacoche at this rustic bungalow with expansive outdoor seating and great cocktails.
Qui. 1600 E. Sixth St. 512-436-9626, quiaustin.com. The tasting menu delivers flavors from Spain, Japan, the Philippines and more, and the patio and bar offer a happy hour with great value and big flavors. Bonus points: Wonderful cocktails and pro service.
Tamale House East. 1707 E. Sixth St. 512-495-9504, facebook.com/tamalehouse.east. The grandchildren of the original Tamale House founders carry on the family tradition with wet migas and famous breakfast tacos.
East Seventh Street corridor
El Chilito. 1623 E. Seventh St. 512-334-9660, elchilito.com. Soups, salads and a more than a dozen tacos (vegetarians: try the rajas con hongos) at this new location of the East Austin favorite. Breakfast tacos served all day.
Gourmands Neighborhood Pub. 2316 Webberville Road. 512-610-2031, lovethysandwich.com. The website says it all for these sandwich enthusiasts, who serve more than a dozen original sandwiches (along with snacks, bread-bowl soups, etc.) out of a pub that was once home to a Tejano club.
Hightower. 1209 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1448, thehightoweraustin.com. This neighborhood haunt now serves lunch, weekend brunch and dinner, with creative flavor profiles like a dish of ceviche with fennel mojo, popcorn crumble and scallion ash.
Kebabalicious. 1311 E. Seventh St. 512-394-6562, austinkebab.com. This small restaurant spawned from a group of successful trailers serving savory beef/lamb, falafel and chicken kebabs.
LaV. 1501 E. Sixth St. 512-720-8112, saylavaustin.com. An elegant addition to the scene from wine director Vilma Mazaite and chef Allison Jenkins, both veterans of Aspen’s Little Nell, LaV serves rustic, Mediterranean-influenced cuisine and an impressive wine list.
Nasha. 1614 E. Seventh St. 512-350-2919, nashaindian.com. This new restaurant in the old Mi Colombia space stays open late, serving a roster of curries and some traditional Indian appetizers, along with Mexican-Indian fusion dishes like goat masala tacos and paneer quesadillas.
Salt & Time. 1912 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1383, SaltAndTime.com. This butcher shop sells sandwiches with fresh, quality meat and turns out magnificent charcuterie plates, a thick juicy burger and other specialties on a rotating dinner menu. Also: beer.
East 11th Street area
Blue Dahlia Bistro. 1115 E. 11th St. 512-542-9542, BlueDahliaBistro.com. A leisurely back patio is something of a secret garden; the menu, an ode to light French cuisine.
East Side Pies. 1401 Rosewood Ave. 512-524-0933, eastsidepies.com. Cracker crust farm-to-pizza from a tiny walk-up with a little patio for dining. Get the Girther (avocado, blue cheese and roasted onions) and add bacon.
Franklin Barbecue. 900 E. 11th St. 512-653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com. The best barbecue I’ve had at a sit-down restaurant in Texas. That’s why the lines are so long. That and a blend of cultishness and curiosity. Aaron Franklin smokes brisket with a pitch-black caramelized bark that covers meat that falls apart like red velvet cake. Bonus points: Best barbecue sauces in town.
Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, HillsideFarmacy.com. Pâtisserie and café in the morning, solid deli in the daytime and an evening menu full of bistro classics and oysters, this well-designed space has a little something for everybody.
Taco Mex. 2944 E. 12th St. The tile-walled cafe has a welcoming vibe and cranks out excellent tacos, from the burnt-orange citrus and spice of pastor to chocolatey mole draped over pulled chicken.
Manor Road corridor
Contigo. 2027 Anchor Lane. 512-614-2260, contigotexas.com/austin. OK, it’s about a block outside of my parameters, but there’s no better place to end a day of wandering the east side with a group, whether you’re enjoying a perfect Manhattan, one of the city’s best cheeseburgers or a diverse ranch-inspired spread.
Dai Due. 2406 Manor Road. 512-524-0688, daidue.com. Part butcher shop, part restaurant, Dai Due epitomizes the seasonal, farm-to-table ethos with well executed dishes full of flavor, from French toast with cajeta in the morning to grilled pork chops at night.
El Chile. 1809 Manor Road. 512-457-9900, elchilecafe.com. The Tex-Mex-meets-interior spot is known for its enchiladas, quesadillas, chile rellenos, conchinita pibil and brunch offerings.
Eastside Café. 2113 Manor Road. 512-476-5858, EastsideCafeAustin.com. Comforting dishes that take a light approach, relying on seasonal vegetables at this quaint house in East Austin.
Hoover’s Cooking. 2002 Manor Road. 512-479-5006, HooversCooking.com. Get the chicken fried steak, mustard greens and Caribbean rice at this place that serves up comforting, rib-sticking classics with soul.
Mi Madre’s. 2201 Manor Road. 512-322-9721, mimadresrestaurant.com. The Torres family has been delivering tasty Tex-Mex for 25 years, and the restaurant now serves dinner in addition to its popular breakfast tacos and lunch options.
El Sapo. 1900 Manor Road. 512-366-5154, elsapoatx.com. More than a dozen burgers with a Tex-Mex twist from the owners of nearby El Chile.