Austin Area Guide: East Side’s Hidden Gems

With a population of around 800,000, Austin is not huge. It’s relatively young, founded in 1839 as the capital of what used to be called “The Republic of Texas.” Even so, our neighbors Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio experienced massive growth and still dwarf the capital city.

However, Austin’s population holds a large political, educational, and cultural base that creates a strong identity. The city’s downtown area is relatively small, yet dynamic. To the North there is the University of Texas. To the West we have the start of the “Hill Country.” South of downtown is where the vibrant and “weird” part of Austin dwells. To the East is an older residential area that’s undergoing a change – many artist shops, restaurants, businesses, and a few hotels are beginning to spring up. The “East Side” is where we’ll focus in this regional guide.

Map - East Austin to Circuit of the Americas

Click here to see our map of alternative routes to the Circuit of the Americas via East Austin streets*

What to expect on the East Side:

Hidden gems. Top-notch and blue-collar restaurants and coffee shops are tucked between 120-year-old houses. Artists’ houses are marked by sculpture displays in the front lawn, or even a sign designating it as an “East Austin Studio Tour” stop. Motorcycle repair garages, night-time hipster hangouts, professional architecture firms, handmade shoe shops, Mexican restaurants, food trailers, modern condos – these are the fibers that create the fabric of Austin’s East Side.


Breakfast Tacos are an Austin classic. Photo: jeffreyw


Mexican food is prevalent in the areas between E. Cesar Chavez (the common name for 1st street) and 7th street. Start your day here with a couple of breakfast tacos or a plate of migas. For lunch or dinner, try a hot plate of enchiladas or sizzling fajitas. Other Tex-Mex essentials include chiles rellenos, margaritas, and Mexican Martinis. Other more worldly offerings can be found throughout all of the East Side – French, Brazilian, Ethipian, Colombian, and of course, southern Soul Food. The large creative and startup communities fuel the need for plenty of coffee shops here.

East Austin Essentials: Las Cazuelas | Juan in a Million | Takoba | Porfirio’s |Franklin BBQ | Nubian Queen Lola’s Soul Food | Food Trailers

Coffee: Progress | East Village Café | Bennu | Thunderbird

World Food: Blue Dahlia Bistro (French) | Casa Colombia | Justine’s Brasserie | Buenos Aires Café |


The East Side is where you’ll find vintage shops, independent designer studios, and thrift stores.

Charm School Vintage | Solid Gold Boutique | Domy Books | Take Heart (Décor)

Hotels in East Austin:

Two new hotels are planned for the East Side, which we’ll report on when they are close to their opening date. There are plenty of other hotels on Interstate 35, which divides this part of town from the rest of Austin.

-Hilton Garden Inn


-Holiday Inn Town Lake

-Doubletree by Hilton University

- Super 8

Getting Around:

The East Side provides roads that connect downtown Austin with the Circuit of the Americas. These roads are small, but they can be used to avoid much of the highway congestion that Austin is famous for. East Cesar Chavez connects to Highway 183, which will take you almost directly to the F1 track. Martin Luther King (MLK) will take you to 183 or all the way to Toll Road 130, which will also take you to the track. Because the East Side is mainly residential, it’s very bike-friendly. There is also a metro rail stop which will take you to Downtown or to north Austin, or you can hop on a city bus. Austin has a multitude of taxi cabs during major events. If you want to drive a car, parking can be tricky but is manageable.

Bus/Metro information (Plaza Saltillo) | Yellow Cab Taxi info | Bike rentals

*Maps and retailers listed for informational purposes only. Businesses are not endorsed by AustinRaceHotels or Suite Pass, LLC. Please check current roadway conditions before using these directions. AustinRaceHotels is not responsible for inaccurate or out-of-date information.

Burrito photo by LoriNY. Menu photo by Gina Pina.

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