The Best Restaurants On The East Side guide image

ATXGuide

The Best Restaurants On The East Side

Our favorite spots to eat on Austin’s East Side.

These days, the buildings on the East Side are getting taller, the dive bars are a little less dive-y, and there are significantly more places to pick up a bottle of kombucha. But some things haven’t changed. From taco trucks and barbecue trailers, to French brasseries, it’s no secret that the East Side has always had some of the best food in Austin. Here, you can grab lunch at the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in the city, then walk down the street to a natural wine bar, and maybe pretend you’re getting some work done. You already know there are great restaurants in the neighborhood, we just put all of the very best ones in this guide.

THE SPOTS

Suerte imageoverride image
8.5

Suerte

$$$$

1800 E 6th St, Austin
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

The suadero tacos at Suerte have developed a cult-like following, due in equal parts to the tender confit brisket, the house-made nixtamalized corn tortillas, and something called black magic oil. What’s black magic oil, you might ask? It’s a secret, which basically just means that they probably don’t even know. What we do know is that it’s garlicky, funky, a little spicy, and we’d put it on everything if we could. Come here for the suadero tacos, but stay for the excellent cocktails and lively dining space that manages to stay packed at all hours of the day.


photo credit: Taylor Hannan

Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop review image
8.5

Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop is an East Side staple that’s been around since 1962 serving exceptional Tex-Mex/Mexican diner food. We’re big fans of the breakfast tacos here, made with fluffy house-made flour tortillas. Get the miga taco con todo, with still-crispy tortilla chips, as well as the super-crispy bacon that defies all the laws of pork belly physics. And don’t miss the super-tender carne guisada taco, here made with pork.


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La Barbecue has been at it since 2011—with a family history that goes back way, way longer— amassing a large, dedicated following. The seasoning here leans heavy on the pepper in both the barbecue and some of the sides (a make or break for some people). But once you make it through the inevitable line, you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful piece of brisket. Grab as much meat as you can carry, and enjoy it on their shaded patio or a nearby park on Town Lake.


This place is one of Austin’s few Argentine restaurants, and has held its own on the East Side for a while now. The empanadas are crusty (in the best way)—you should go for the chicken or vegetable options. If you’re here for lunch, the steak sandwich is one of the best we’ve had. And if you’re here for dinner, you’re also going to want to order a steak. And as if we needed another East Side secret to try to keep, there’s a speakeasy bar under the restaurant called Milonga Room, with vintage ’20s decor and excellent cocktails.


R&B’s focuses on one type of sandwich, and one sandwich only—the cheesesteak—in classic or in hoagie form (with onions, tomatoes, and lettuce). Both sandwiches feature thinly-sliced Texas ribeye on an Amoroso roll with your choice of Cheez Whiz, provolone, or white American cheese (we’re on Team Whiz, by the way). They also sell loaded fries—the perfect opportunity to forgo all social graces and find yourselves knuckles-deep in a mountain of crinkle-cut potatoes, cheese, steak, and onions.


Sometimes the main draw of a coffee shop isn’t actually the coffee itself, no matter how good that is. So much of what we love about Cenote—which happens to serve wonderful coffee—has to do with the homey environment and great food. There’s an outstanding breakfast burrito and a delicious Cubano for lunch (which you should eat outside). It’s an all-day cafe, so after staring at your laptop all day and getting all jittery because you drank a gigantic cold brew, you can switch modes and drink some local draft beer with your friends.


There aren’t a ton of things that almost everyone in the city universally agrees on, but if any statement were to cross all party lines and gain universal support, it’s that Veracruz All-Natural makes the best damn migas tacos in town. Come here first thing in the morning—either to start a day of hopping around the East Side, or to recover from a long night out—and make your way through the ever-present line to enjoy some of the best breakfast tacos in Austin. Make sure to grab one of their great aguas frescas, or hop over to Fleet Coffee next door for a morning pick-me-up (we like the espresso and tonic).


Housed inside (you guessed it) a converted laundromat, Launderette is one of the most attractive restaurants on the East Side. It’s located a few blocks away from the busyness that is East Sixth, meaning it’s a great spot for a quiet dinner or a romantic date night, but it’s also bright and airy enough to be one of our favorite brunch spots in Austin. Whether you’re ordering off their brunch, lunch, or dinner menu, you’ll probably want to finish your meal with the birthday cake ice cream sandwich—just don’t ask them to sing any songs when they bring it out. 


Kemuri Tatsu-ya brought with it a whole new food category: Japanese izakaya-meets-Texan smokehouse, involving things like “guaca-poke” and chili cheese takoyaki. There’s also a big focus on barbecue, where you can get things like brisket burnt ends in a bento box, complete with rice, pickles, and sheets of nori to make your own DIY brisket handrolls. All the while, you’ll be sipping from an extensive menu of sake, shochu, Japanese whiskey, and playful riffs on classic cocktails (try the matcha painkiller).


The longtime East Austin barbecue spot Sam’s first opened in 1957 and  has been serving smoked meats ever since. They have all the classics—like smoked brisket, ribs, and sausage—but our favorite thing to get here is the mutton, when they have it. They’re also home to Austin Daiquiri Factory, where you can pick up frozen daiquiris by the cup or by the gallon, depending on what kind of night you’re having.  


As Steve Jobs one said: “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” This is the mantra at Discada, where they only offer a single taco blending marinated beef, pork, and veggies that have been cooked on a large wok-like apparatus called a discada and served on a corn tortilla. They come topped with onion, cilantro, and pineapple, and they’re delicious. If you’re the indecisive type, the only choice you’ll have to make is if you’ll be ordering three, five, or eight, followed by whether or not you’ll be ordering more.


Counter Cafe captures all the feel of an old-school diner, without ever feeling like some new-age restaurant trying to capitalize on nostalgia. Grab a seat at one of the barstools looking out across the large flat top and overhear your neighbors passionately discussing the latest Marvel movies over bottomless cups of coffee. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch, so plan to start your morning here with a plate of crab cake benedict or an order of hot cakes bigger than your plate.


photo credit: Holly Dirks

Licha’s Cantina review image
7.7

Licha's Cantina

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

open table

Happy Hour usually ends with coworkers discussing things they’ll regret the next day and a very empty stomach. We can’t help with the first part, but we can send you to Licha’s to fix the second. It’s within a short walk of most drinking spots on the East Side and offers plenty of seating on their front patio, inside, and in their backyard. The queso fundido is only made better with the addition of roasted mushrooms, and they have taco plates for everyone at the table— including a spicy marinated fish and shrimp option for the pescatarian, sweet potato and mushroom for the vegetarian, and al pastor for Jared who will eat anything with meat in it.


Salt & Time is equal parts butcher shop and restaurant, with a dedicated natural wine shop next door. So whether you’re looking to pick up some meat for later, or grab a plate of meat for right now, they’ve got you covered. Try the burger if you’re dining in—it’s made with all the leftover beef trimmings of the day, so it’s just a little different every time. This is a great spot for a casual dinner with friends, or a better-than-average lunch during the work week.


Juan In A Million is most famous for the Don Juan, which is basically a small mountain of potatoes, bacon, eggs, and cheese, with a side of tortillas. We’ve managed to form two or three solid sized breakfast tacos out of it without even making a dent in the thing. Novelty foods usually disappoint, but the breakfast tacos at Juan In A Million actually taste good—it’s a rare crossover where value meets quality. But the best part about it all might be the giant handshake you’ll get from Juan himself, who’s usually roaming about and making everyone in the restaurant feel like part of the family.


Justine’s is the closest thing Austin has to a classic French brasserie you’d expect to find on the streets of Paris. The only difference is it’s set amongst a bunch of warehouses and breweries in East Austin. The food here is solid, but don’t expect to be blown away. What will impress, though, is the romantic bar with vinyl records spinning, the semi-private tented cabanas with chandeliers, and the chill and relaxed winter tent with the oyster bar. Despite being a little farther east than most of the other spots on this guide, Justine’s can get packed, so plan accordingly.



photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Las Trancas imageoverride image
7.9

Las Trancas

Las Trancas is one of Austin’s favorite spots for late-night tacos, and their close proximity to downtown on Cesar Chavez makes them perfect for soaking up a few drinks after a long night out. Regardless of the sun’s location, Las Trancas has made a name for themselves by offering a pretty extensive menu of tacos, tortas, and quesadillas. There are a lot of options here—all of them great—but you should definitely make some crispy tripas, lengua, carnitas, and campechano tacos a part of your order.


Paperboy has come a long way from its humble origin as a popular food truck on the East Side, selling breakfast sandwiches, parfaits, and cinnamon toast. Now, they’re a quintessential brunch spot, also on the East Side, but with a dining room and a rooftop patio. Their claim to fame may have been the BEC sandwich, but there’s a big menu of toasts, hashes, and even steak & eggs for your friend who’s still on a keto diet. There’s also a full cocktail menu in addition to a coffee menu, whether you’re in recovery mode or are still trying to keep the party going from last night.

Nixta Taqueria is the kind of place that could only exist in Austin. It’s a lo-fi East Side spot, with colorful corn murals, fluorescent lighting, and a golden disco ball—the restaurant version of an independent film on a shoestring budget. The food here treads a line between the super-traditional (they make their own masa) and the unconventional (you don’t see many taquerias where duck confit stands in for carnitas). They also have a massive patio out back, with its own bar serving natural wines from Texas, France, and Mexico.


Between the long lines, and the soundtrack that could only have been picked by a DJ-turned-ramen chef (true story), getting into Ramen Tatsu-ya feels like you just walked into Austin’s hottest club. And it’s conveniently located in walking distance from most of the bars on the East Side, making it a great place to start, or end, your night with some fuel.


Cisco’s claims to be the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, and considering it opened in 1950, we have very little doubt about the fact. There’s a small counter up front that feels like (and probably is) an old school diner bar, and an open kitchen. Behind that, is some kind of Narnia-esque hallway that leads to a series of large dining rooms that make this place infinitely bigger than it initially looks. The menu is made up mostly of Tex-Mex staples—migas and huevos rancheros by morning, fajitas and enchiladas by night—which is exactly what you want out of a place that pioneered the cuisine.


The regularly changing menu at the wine bar/restaurant Birdie’s is made up of excellent and seasonal small plates pulling from American, Italian, and French influences. Order the beef tartare with pecans or one of their handmade pasta dishes, then prepare to not stop talking about it for the next two days. Birdie’s is the type of cozy neighborhood cafe where you could just as easily bring a date or pop in for a solo bite and a glass of wine. But they don’t take reservations—so be ready to wait in line with a glass of wine (or two) to keep you company.


Cuantos Tacos specializes in Mexico City-style tacos, consisting of a double layer of tiny corn tortillas filled with a few different meat options (plus a mushroom one). Ask five friends what their favorite is and you’ll end up with five different answers, but the suadero and cachete are our favorites, along with the weekly lengua special. The tacos are small enough that you can try them all if you’re up for it. Just ask them for one of each then get ready to enjoy an excellent taco flight. Find Cuantos in the Arbor Food Park on East 12th, in a large, BYOB park full of picnic tables, so grab a six-pack from Quickie Pickie right down the street before you grab some tacos.


Micklethwait Craft Meats is housed in a vintage yellow Comet trailer that’s covered in illustrations of leaves and chestnuts in what looks like the home of a well-to-do squirrel. The barbecue here is some of the best in town, with a menu that covers the classics—brisket, pork ribs, and turkey—plus a few items you might not see every day like pulled lamb, pastrami, and barbacoa. The lines tend to be a little calmer here than some of the other popular spots in town, but still plan to show up early if you want to minimize your standing time.


Tamale House is an Austin institution that’s existed in various forms and locations since 1958–it’s been in its current home on East 6th Street since 2012. The charming Mexican tile-centric decor, full bar, and the mini fridge packed with salsas make this one of our favorite Tex-Mex spots in town. There’s even live music on weekend mornings, which can either be a positive or a negative, depending on the severity of your hangover.


Bento Picnic is one of the best places to go if you haven’t seen a vegetable in three days. They specialize in seasonal Japanese-inspired bento boxes, with a big focus on local produce. Most of the boxes and bowls start with a vegan base, with the option to add some protein—like shiokoji-braised brisket or miso-ginger chicken sausage—making this also one of the best spots to visit with your plant-based friends. In the back of the restaurant, you’ll also find a small shop specializing in natural wine and sake, so you can easily spend one or four hours here.


photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Marcelino's imageoverride image
7.6

Marcelino's

Perfect For:BreakfastLunch

Sometimes you want good tacos, but you also need them fast—and that’s when you should head to Marcelino’s, a scrappy operation on the East Side. For lunch there are mainstays like barbacoa and some excellent carne guisada, but it’s the breakfast tacos that we come here for. The tacos are scoop and serve, made assembly-line right in front of you, with a seemingly endless array of classic fillings to choose from, plus a few we don’t see as often, like repollo asado (grilled cabbage), rajas (poblanos in cream), and the incredible papa ranchera (French fries tossed in salsas). 


If you’ve ever had the sinigang chicken wings at Fil N’ Viet, there’s a good chance your friends politely asked you at some point to stop bringing them up in every conversation. They do more than just wings at this Filipino-Vietnamese trailer though—some of our favorites include the crispy sisig bánh mì and the chargrilled chicken inasal with chicken fat rice. They’re located in Camp East—a mixed-use, outdoor complex that also houses a natural wine bar, a bakery, and a stick-and-poke tattoo parlor, though we don’t necessarily recommend visiting them in that order. But you do you.

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