Pioneering Mexican restaurant shutters flagship downtown Austin location
A month after announcing it will open a new location on South Lamar Boulevard, El Naranjo is shrinking its Austin presence. In an October 2 statement, the acclaimed Mexican restaurant announced it will close its flagship Rainey Street eatery on November 16.
“After seven incredible years, we are saddened to announce the closing of our beloved Rainey Street location,” said co-owners Iliana de la Vega and Ernesto Torrealba in the release. “While it’s a difficult decision, in order to continue doing what we love — and having fun with it along the way — we have made the decision to end services on Rainey Street.”
The owners did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision, but the Rainey entertainment district has changed rapidly since the restaurant first debuted in 2012. As the street’s historic cottages are gobbled up and transformed into bars, the street is increasingly known for its raucous party atmosphere. Even new restaurants — like Anthem — are known as much for drinks as food.
The changes made El Naranjo’s upscale dining experience seem increasingly out of place. The restaurant has had fast to old-school service standards while most of its neighbors are decidedly casual. Instead of blasting loud music, it prioritizes conversation.
Luckily, the closure will not deprive Austin of de la Vega’s James Beard Award-nominated cuisine. Consolidating operations to South Lamar will allow the team to introduce brunch on October 20, with lunch service following closely behind.
Meanwhile, the Rainey Street original will begin slowly ramping down business. The last lunch service will be October 4 and the last brunch on October 13. There's no word on what will become of the building, but the hot real estate is sure to be snagged quickly.