For decades, ATX’s social epicenter has been made up of 6th Street, South Congress, Auditorium Shores and Zilker Park, and all the Central Austin streets, restaurants, and shops in between. Lately, however, as noobs relocate to Austin in waves, we’ve seen a major shift in that sort of thinking. Instead, we’re beginning to appreciate the different areas of Austin for what they are — integral parts of our weird and wonderful microcosm.
South Austin is still as quirky as always, but West Austin has been steadily setting itself apart, and even North Austin is transforming its reputation for being boring into a new flavor of Austin weirdness. But it’s East Austin — long overlooked due to a great many troubling social issues, both present and past — that is starting to represent many of Austin’s core values even more than our typical centers of Weird.
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East Austin offers lower-priced housing than many areas of town, a creative community atmosphere, and a major emphasis on supporting local business and living sustainably. There’s also much more cultural and ethnic diversity in this area of Austin. For all of these reasons and more, if you consider yourself to be a true Austinite, you need to spend time east of I-35. If nothing else, embrace these 10 perfect East Austin experiences that prove our circle of weirdness is definitely expanding…
1) Meet the Blue Starlite, the world’s first and only miniature urban drive-in theater.
If you’ve been to your fair share of drive-in theaters, you will probably agree that aside from screen and sound quality and parking space, most drive-ins provide exactly the same experience: a fun movie, popcorn and sodas, starry nights. But East Austin’s Blue Starlite Theatre is not your average drive-in. Seeing a film at the Blue Starlite feels like ordering deliciousness from one of Austin’s kazillion epic food trailers — like you’ve just discovered some rare hidden treasure that not many people know about. As a mini urban drive-in, Blue Starlite is only big enough for 45 cars and 100 pedestrians. It’s quirky, intimate, and it’s the very first of its kind.
And we’re not the only ones singing Blue Starlite’s praises. Our little drive-in has even caught Condé Nast Traveler’s attention; the popular international travel magazine included the Blue Starlite in its list of top 5 drive-in movie theaters in the world that are unquestionably worth visiting.
2) Spoil your taste buds’ at a beloved Eastside eatery.
Next time you plan to eat out, we dare you to try one of East Austin’s top restaurants or food trucks. The Eastside food scene can be overwhelming for noobs, but lucky for you, we have prepared several excellent recommendations for just about every type of nom:
East Side King 1618 1/2 E 6th St. 512-422-5884. Open Tues 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Wed – Fri 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Sat 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop 2406 Manor Rd, Suite B. 512-912-6628. Open Tues – Thurs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri – Sat 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Franklin Barbecue 900 E 11th St. 512-653-1187. Open Tues – Sun 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
John Mueller Meat Co. 2500 E 6th St. Open Thurs – Tues 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dan’s Hamburgers 844 Airport Blvd. 512-385-2262. Open Mon – Thurs, Sun 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri – Sat 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cenote 1010 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311. Open Mon – Fri 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sat 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Eastside Cafe 2113 Manor Rd. 512-476-5858. Open Mon – Thurs 11:15 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri 11:15 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat – Sun 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Hillside Farmacy 1209 E 11th St. 512-628-0168. Open Sun – Wed 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thurs – Sat 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cajun & Creole:
Nubian Queen Lola’s 1815 Rosewood Ave. 512-474-5652. Open Mon – Fri 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Wed – Fri 9 p.m.), Sat 5 to 9 p.m.
The Buzz Mill 1505 Town Creek Dr. 512-912-9221. Open daily 24/7.
Bennu Coffee 2001 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-478-4700. Open daily 24/7.
Thunderbird Coffee 2200 Manor Rd. 512-472-9900. Open daily 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sat – Sun 8 a.m.)
Quickie Pickie 1208 E 11th St. 512-479-0136. Open daily 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Sat – Sun 8 a.m.)
Salty Sow 1917 Manor Rd. 512-391-2337. Open Sun – Thurs 4:30 to 10 p.m., Fri – Sat 4:30 to 11 p.m.
Juan in a Million 2300 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-472-3872. Open daily 7 a.m. to p.m.
Mi Madre’s Restaurant 2201 Manor Rd. 512-322-9721. Open Mon – Tues 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wed – Sat 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Veracruz All Natural 1704 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-981-1760. Open daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
East Side Pies 1401 Rosewood Ave. 512-524-0933. Open Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri – Sat 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Spartan Pizza 1007 E 6th St. 512-484-0798. Open Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sun 9 p.m.), Fri – Sat 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Contigo 2027 Anchor Ln. 512-614-2260. Open Mon – Wed 5 to 11 p.m., Thurs – Sat 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sun 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Red Star Southern 1700 E 6th St. 512-962-3674. Open Mon, Thurs – Fri 6 p.m. until sold out, Sat – Sun 2 p.m. until sold out.
Haymaker 2310 Manor Rd. 512-243-6702. Open Sun – Fri 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sat 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Counter Culture 2337 E Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1540. Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3) You should really try East Austin weird on for size at the Museum of Ephemerata.
If you’re ever feeling anxious about Austin becoming less and less weird, then you need to take a trip over to Eastside’s Singleton Ave to visit the home of longtime Austinites Jen Hirt and Scott Webel. The front portion of Hirt and Webel’s residence doubles as an eclectic dime museum of oddities called The Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata. There’s no telling what you’re going to find included in MNAE’s delightfully unconventional permanent and traveling exhibits, which have been known to display artifacts such as Marilyn Monroe’s lipstick-stained cigarette butt, a tuft of Elvis’ hair, and yes, an entirely legitimate stuffed jackalope. MNAE operates entirely off of donations, so for those of you who lament Austin’s dwindling weirdness, here’s a way for you to keep that train rolling.
1808 Singleton Ave. 512-320-0566. Open select days weekly or contact to arrange a tour. Website.
4) And don’t you forget about East Austin’s thriving music scene. Because it IS thriving.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of amazing live music venues east of the usual downtown spread. Whatever your taste in tuneage, you’re bound to find a club, pub, or lounge that makes all of your musical dreams come true. Sahara Lounge, Historic Scoot Inn, Hotel Vegas, The Coliseum, and The North Door are all easy East Austin favorites and host a wide variety of hot and up-and-coming musical talent.
To hear boot-stomping honky tonk and two-step the night away, stable your ride at The White Horse on the corner of East 6th and Comal. Fans of alternative music will find a friend in Emo’s, a two-stage venue on East Riverside containing multiple bars and a beer garden. Skylark Lounge brings in bands from many different genres, but nobody does the blues quite like them. Like art with your music? There’s a good chance you’ll dig East Austin’s two funky art bars: Dozen Street and East Side Show Room.
Sahara Lounge: 1413 Webberville Rd. 512-927-0700. Open Sun – Mon 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tues, Sat 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wed – Fri 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
Historic Scoot Inn: 1308 E 4th St. 512-394-5486. Open daily 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
Hotel Vegas: 1500 E 6th St. Open daily 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
The North Door: 502 Brushy St. 512-485-3002. Open Mon – Fri 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sat – Sun 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
The White Horse: 500 Comal St. 512-553-6756. Open daily 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
Skylark Lounge: 2039 Airport Blvd. 512-730-0759. Open daily 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Website.
Dozen Street: 1808 E 12th St. 512-236-1770. Open daily 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Website.
East Side Show Room: 1100 E 6th St. 512-467-4280. Open Sun – Wed 5 to 10 p.m., Thurs 5 to 11 p.m., Fri – Sat 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Website.
5) If you’re not careful, you’ll catch the sustainable produce bug!
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Austin is serious about buying and growing organic, local produce. We’ve got honeybees in our hotels, we host hopping farmers markets every day of the week, and we flock to sustainable and organic restaurants who are committed to sourcing ingredients from local farmers and ranchers. Oh, and did we mention that our community gardens are freaking amazing?
Whether you knew it or not, East Austin is a major hub for this sort of thing. There’s a delicious ranch-to-table restaurant called Contigo along Anchor Lane, and Eastside Cafe grows all of their produce right from their own backyard, much like Georgetown’s Monument Cafe. On top of that, East Austin is home to roughly half of the city’s community gardens and at least four urban farms: Green Gate Farms, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Boggy Creek Farm, and Springdale Farm. So go dig up some ‘taters on Sunday mornings at 5604 Manor, buy some at Springdale Farm on Wednesday or Saturday mornings, or gobble some right up during a nutritious sit-down at Eastside Cafe. Your body will thank you and East Austin gardeners and farmers will too.
Green Gate Farms: 8310 Canoga Ave. 512-484-2746. Open Tues 3 to 6 p.m., Fri – Sat 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Website.
Johnson’s Backyard Garden: 9515 Hergotz Ln. 512-386-5273. Open Mon – Fri 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Website.
Boggy Creek Farm: 3414 Lyons Rd. 512-926-4650. Open Wed, Sat 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Website.
Springdale Farm: 755 Springdale Rd. 512-386-8899. Open Wed, Sat 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Website.Hit ‘next’ to see the rest.