The Best Places to Experience East Austin's Latinx Culture

Celebrate Latinx Heritage at these classic restaurants, parks, and more.

When Matt Cisneros was a boy, he knew exactly where he could find his grandfather, Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros. The namesake of Cisco’s Restaurant Bakery & Bar, Cisco had a favorite table where he’d talk to people from all over East Austin neighborhoods and beyond.

“Walking in those doors, you had to make a turn to get to those tables,” says Matt Cisneros. “But knowing that he was there, holding court, that is one of the coolest memories I can think of.”

The exact date Cisco’s opened is often disputed, with some accounts saying 1943, others claiming 1955. Either way, it’s an old-school joint. In 2017, alongside his friend Will Bridges, Matt Cisneros purchased the restaurant from his uncle Clovis, who had inherited it from Cisco—making the restaurant one of the few remaining places in East Austin that can claim a longstanding multigenerational history with the city.

It’s no secret that East Austin has changed a lot over the years—one only has to look back at most accounts of the city’s history to see a clear tale of segregation and gentrification. Back in 1928, the Koch and Fowler city plan aimed to create a “Negro District,” specifically blocking out much of East Austin and a few other areas as the only places Black people could get access to key public services. Not coincidentally, these areas had the town’s weakest zoning restrictions. When the practice of Redlining (which is where federal benefits are denied to certain neighborhoods primarily along racial lines) became prevalent in the 1930s, these areas that were now primarily Black and Latinx saw opportunities limited even more with fewer financial investments. And now, with rising rent prices and East Austin's new status as national hot spot destination, more and more places from East Austin’s original vibrant culture have shuttered. Classics like Tex-Mex joint El Azteca, which had been open since 1963, have closed their doors within the past few years.

So places like Cisco’s, which is now in its third generation of family ownership, are all the more special. “We’ve got people here who have been working here since I was a couple of years old,” says Cisneros. “The same way, people have their home bar. Cisco’s is that home restaurant. It’s very traditional that way.”

As Latinx heritage month rolls in, we want to highlight some Latinx places in East Austin that have a long history with the city, as well as a few newer places that are starting their stories while paying homage to what has come before.

Additionally, in light of the catastrophic and ongoing damage inflicted by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, consider donating to the country during this time of need and widespread power outages. Ways to help include donating to national nonprofits, such as Hispanic Federation, or following local groups, such as Puerto Rican Organization for Educational Support and Advocacy (PROESA) at University of Texas, for more information.

When Matt Cisneros and the team took the helm, they wanted to maintain all the best aspects of Cisco’s while adding new life to it. Cisneros takes great pride in looping more people into the restaurant. Whether through social media or by emphasizing the restaurant’s history, Cisneros wants people to feel that they have a tie to the city through Cisco’s. That wish applies whether you’re a long-time resident or new arrival. “I consider East Austin like Brooklyn, it’s its own complete city,” he says. “I am glad to get new faces in the door that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.” All those who do stop by will find themselves greeted with an excellent variety of Tex-Mex options. The star of the show here is the Huevos Rancheros. You’d also do yourself good to pick up an order of Cisco’s famous homemade biscuits, which come in many delicious varieties.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

When you walk into Juan in a Million, you’re guaranteed to get a firm handshake (from the eponymous Juan) and some fantastic Mexican breakfast food. The shop has been operating since 1980 and many of the staff have been working there for decades. The big ticket item is Don Juan, a secret combination of potato, egg, bacon, and cheese in a hot tortilla. Some other taco joints may have trained you to think that you need a bunch of tiny and expensive tacos to fill you up. The Don Juan, a gigantic, affordable, and delicious creation, proves them wrong.

A true breakfast joint, Juan in a Million opens at 7 am sharp and is only open until 3 pm every day of the week. Originally opened by Juan and Myrna Meza, it continues as a family business. Their son Juan Jr. manages day-to-day operations, and their daughter Christina handles media relations.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

The Tamale House has been a part of Austin since 1958. It has gone through many different iterations, locations, closures, and openings throughout the years, but they have maintained a consistent level of high-quality food and community support. It serves old-fashioned recipes that have passed through the family for decades—all from scratch. As the name suggests, it offers a ton of amazing Texas-sized tamales, but the menu also boasts a wider range of Mexican food for every meal. It’s also worth mentioning that it makes a killer margarita and has one of the more comprehensive Tequila lists you’ll find in town.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout via Toast.

The family behind Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop have run businesses in East Austin for over 80 years. Joe’s mother Sophia and stepfather Florentino opened La Oriental Grocery & Bakery in 1935, which lived on East 9th Street for 22 years. Not long thereafter, the couple started a new bakery which was sold to Sophia’s eldest son, Joe, in 1962. Since then, it has continued for generations, with Joe and his wife Paula’s daughters and granddaughter now taking primary ownership of the restaurant. This truly authentic spot has had loyal customers for decades. Everything on the breakfast menu is great. Later on, get a barbacoa plate, Migas Plate, or some top-notch tacos. If you want good tortillas, you need to make your way over as soon as possible.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served counter orders or call (512) 472-0017 for takeout.

A well-fought labor of love coming from volunteers and the efforts of multiple agencies and individuals, the Tejano Trails run through the East Cesar Chavez and Holly neighborhoods. It’s an urban trail network that connects the Trail of Tejano Music Legends and the Tejano Healthy walking trail. The organizations behind it work to preserve historic structures and affordable homes, educate speculators and newcomers, and encourage healthy lifestyles. The trail highlights historic landmarks and tells rich stories of East Austin. They have a 1.5-hour free walking tour every third Saturday of the month.
How to book: Visit the website for tour information

Chicano park, also known as East Austin’s Fiesta Gardens, is the home of many regular hangouts and events for locals. The weekend car club meet-up on Sundays is a long-running local tradition, where residents come out to barbecue, listen to Tejano music and Texas Hip-Hop, hang out, and show off customized lowriders. It’s just a good time and all are welcome.
How to book: Stop by.

Known to be open late every day of the week, Las Cazuelas Mexican is a refuge of satisfying food during a long night. Rocking a red and white brick exterior, the restaurant has been operating in town for a good few decades—for good reason. It’s got a large menu with affordable prices, and its breakfast tacos, chicken mole enchiladas, or beef fajitas just might be what you need at any point of the day.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served counter orders or call (512) 479-7911 for takeout.

One of the newer places on this list operating for a little under a decade, Licha’s brings Mexico City soul food to the "Live Music Capital of the World." Named after owner Daniel Brook’s mother, Alicia “Licha” Rivera, the spot is known for having an excellent happy hour with $8 tequila, mezcal, and spiced rum cocktails. Expect to see dishes like Huaraches, a fried masa dish with various flavorful toppings.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Reservations
Jade Fabello is a contributor for Thrillist.