After almost 18 years of dishing out enchiladas, tacos, rellenos, and stellar margaritas from its East Austin café, one of the city’s most revered Tex-Mex spots is spilling the beans about an upcoming move.
El Chile Cafe y Cantina, the Manor Road Tex-Mex staple and flagship brand of Austin-based El Chile Group, will uproot from its longtime home in favor of a more grande location. But don’t get your tacos in a tangle about losing your favorite east side cantina; El Chile is moving right across the street.
Moving from its current location at 1809 Manor Rd., El Chile will take up new residence at 1900 Manor Rd., in the adorable structure that most recently housed El Chile Group’s Yuyo Peruvian Restaurant, which closed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Many Austinites will also know the space as the quirky triangle concrete island bordered by Manor Road, East Dean Keaton Street, and Lafayette Avenue.
El Chile announced the move Thursday, September 9, citing the restaurant’s need for an updated interior space and larger patio.
Renovations at the new El Chile location are underway and nearly complete, a company rep tells CultureMap, with the move happening in the coming weeks. El Chile doesn’t anticipate the restaurant to be closed more than a day or two during the moving process.
Key to the upgrades at the new 1900 Manor Rd. spot is the goal of creating a very cantina-esque dining experience for guests. New tile flooring has been added, along with a Spanish-style patio with comfy seating and new furniture. Bar seating will offer the ideal spot for sipping El Chile’s margaritas and new cocktail menu, which includes an expanded tequila and mezcal list and more frozen drinks.
The food menu will continue to feature longtime El Chile favorites, as well as some new items, and the snacks menu has been enlarged, courtesy of culinary director Alma Alcocer-Thomas.
“We thought a lot about a true cantina feel. We want people to come for lunch and dinner, of course, but we also want them to feel like they can stop by for a quick bite of ceviche and a michelada on their way to the game, or for a nightcap after a show at a nearby theater,” says Justin Audibert, the group’s new director of operations. “The extra seating, the bigger bar, the open floor plan are all part of that conversation.”
The new El Chile will be the first of the group’s full-service restaurant concepts with a designated takeaway window, which will offer curbside, walk-up, and to-go service, giving Tex-Mex fanatics the ability to place and pick up orders without having to go inside the restaurant. There will even be a cozy, TV-bedecked waiting area where customers can sip a cocktail while awaiting their grub.
Austinites will quickly spot the eye-catching “Cantina” marquee light (which has historic ties to the building) and the sure-to-be Instagram-worthy exterior mural from local artist Leigh Watson of Watson Murals that features the restaurant’s new brand.
The new and larger restaurant space will be a boon for El Chile Group, which also manages Mexican eatery El Alma and beloved taco shack El Chilito, especially considering the company has faced its fair share of pandemic-driven troubles, closing Yuyo and its East Seventh Street El Chilito location in recent months.
In terms of the future of the current El Chile space at 1809 Manor Rd., the company isn’t commenting on any specific plans, noting, “We have a good relationship with the landlord and are currently not able to comment on the outcome of our dialogue.”
Here’s hoping another excellent El Chile Group concept will bloom there. In the meantime, the folks at El Chile are aiming to delight Austin with its vibrant new cantina home.
“We are really excited about this space,” says founder Orlando Sanchez. “After this last year, it felt obvious to go back to our roots, to invest in our original brand before expanding and doing anything else. It’s easy to always be looking ahead to the next thing — and we have new things we want to do — but El Chile has been open for almost two decades. It’s where we started, and it deserves a big, beautiful, newly remodeled location. It’s really satisfying to pour some energy back into this concept.”
Follow El Chile on Instagram for updates.