Booming restaurant row offers enticing mix of classics, upstarts
Running through the center of an East Austin enclave near the University of Texas campus that is home to a mix of families, students and creatives, Manor Road has seen new coffee shops and restaurants popping up between businesses that have been a cornerstone of the community for years. We like to park, walk and take it all in.
It's easy to lose track of time at this old-school gas station turned burger joint, where tables are scattered inside the converted garage bays and black stools and red vinyl chairs line the bar. Stop in for an old-fashioned milkshake and one of the all-natural, grass-fed burgers (always cooked through) or a vegetarian option; patties are hand-formed and cooked with chopped onion to provide an extra bit of flavor. The freshly squeezed lemonade is the just-right combination of tart and sweet.
At this stylish, farmhouse-inspired spot, the menu is a reflection of seasonal local products — and it works. A nice meal can be constructed simply from side offerings: fried smashed potatoes, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. But we like the starters too, especially the oyster boudin fritters with chipotle remoulade and the roasted organic beets with Pure Luck goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette. For the main course, try the candied pork belly with collard greens and soy balsamic syrup. Dr. Seuss fans will want to taste the green eggs and ham.
The roses have left the building, but the famous puffy tacos still rule. We love to hunker down at one of the cozy tables on the tricked-out patio (think lush greens and soothing water features) while we sip on a margarita and peruse the menu. Offerings include everything from the veggie chalupa (a crisp corn tortilla covered with beans, cheese and alfalfa sprouts) to the Steak Jalisco (a skirt steak topped with grilled green onion). The Pollo Vivo — a grilled chicken breast covered with tomatillo sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and avocado slices — is perfect for something light.
This brand new spot, which opened on September 10, hasn't had a chance to prove itself yet but is certainly generating some buzz. Conceived by the team behind Black Sheep Lodge, Haymaker serves regionally inspired comfort food; their horseshoe double cheeseburger, served open-faced on Texas toast, sausage balls and nutty grilled cheese is a prime. In addition to a well-curated craft beer selection, Haymaker offers a dynamic cocktail menu and drink specials every day. With its 13 television screens, this restaurant-row addition should become the go-to place on Manor Road to catch a game.
Hoover’s Texa Mexi Que Trailer
Housed in a trailer across the street from Hoover’s Cooking, the comfort-food cafe owned and operated by the man who jumpstarted the restaurant renaissance in this area, serves barbecued meats by the pound or dolled up in a sandwich. It’s all good—whether you prefer pork loin, turkey or brisket (hormone free). Add a side of pintos and cole slaw, and you're set. If you are inclined to take a treat to your significant other or someone else you care about, we suggest a one-pound pack of nitrate- and gluten-free hot sausage (just heat and eat). Oh, and don't forget the peach cobbler.
How does your garden grow? This tiny cafe inside a quaint, refurbished cottage was sourcing produce and herbs from its own onsite patch long before local became trendy. That commitment to fresh ingredients and seasonal cooking still shows, from the beef and goat cheese enchiladas (with locally raised, Betsy Ross grass-fed beef) to the garden burger (a vegetarian burger made with lentils, brown rice, fresh herbs and Monterey Jack cheese). We like to sip on a glass of wine and stroll around the property.
Elaine’s Pork & Pie at Eastside Cafe
Order at the counter at this small spot next to the mothership, then sit at one of the shaded tables outside on the wooden deck (or lounge for a bit in one of the Adirondack chairs). The other white meat is the specialty here — and you can get it pulled in a sandwich or taco (our preference). Other offerings include lentil vegetable soup with jalapeño cornbread. Don’t even think about leaving without a bourbon buttermilk pie (wow!).
Funk — and then some. This locally owned cafe has attitude and personality, which is why so many Austinites like to chill here. The outdoor space — dotted with picnic tables dressed with purple umbrellas — is perfect for people-watching. The direct-trade coffee, which is mostly roasted in nearby Spicewood, is the big draw. We always seem to find room for a pastry from Quack’s or a breakfast taco from Tacodeli. The other drink of choice here is craft brew, such as Live Oak Hefeweizen or Fireman’s 4. Grab a table and stay awhile.
This old-school, no-frills Mexican food spot serves the staples: enchiladas, nachos and carne guisada. But the tacos — with combos ranging from black bean with egg and cheese to pork carnitas with avocado and cilantro — keep the crowds coming back for more. For a quick fix, order at the take-out window.
A clever name is only part of the appeal of this sleek pub, which opened in late August. Inside, you’ll find a well-designed space (a book sculpture hanging from the ceiling, a chalkboard that reads “I will not make out under the bleachers,” written out eight or so times) and a curated draft beer selection that changes frequently. The menu ranges from appetizers such as duck pie (a spicy guajillo chile topped with cotija cheese and crema) to burgers and sandwiches, including the Pig Pen burger (a pork patty studded with bacon and ham). Grab a cold one and sit at one of the tables out front for a while.
This happening spot always seems packed on beautiful evenings. Dining is outdoors only, but the space is accommodating, inviting, partially covered and vibrant. Burritos (think pollo asadero, among others) and tacos (tinga de pollo and carne asada, to name a couple) dominate the menu. Paletas de crema or fruita are a must.
CORRECTION: CultureMap originally reported that Hoover's Cooking was closed. It is not closed and remains open at 2002 Manor Road, directly across from Hoover's Texa Mexi Cue Trailer. We regret the error.