“Date Night” in East Austin
published on February 4, 2012
East Austin is known for its juxtaposition of old and new, creating a charming “Austin” experience for a date night. The automatic thought for an East Austin date night may be to peruse bars and live music venues on East 6th street, but a little searching will yield dining and activity gems for every Austinite’s “must experience” list, the same way a short drive through East Austin neighborhoods will yield treasures of Austin history and Austin homes for sale. Neighborhoods like the flourishing Riverside and Mueller developments are just two East Austin scenes rife with restaurants, food trucks, boutiques, and hands-on experiences to be explored. Below are a few ideas to make an East Austin date night special:
Lola’s Nubian Queen
Lola Stephens is an Austin transplant from Louisiana, who settled in town in the 1980’s after falling in love with the city. Serving up authentic Cajun food, Lola’s Nubian Queen has become a highlight of Austin restaurants, not just because it’s delicious, but because it’s one of the only Cajun restaurants in town. On Sundays, Lola closes shop to feed the homeless, but every other day, diners can enjoy spicy burgers, crawfish etouffe, Louisiana gumbo, fried shrimp, and southern sweet tea for lunch or dinner.
An Austin staple since 1991, the family-owned Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant caters to omnivores and vegetarians with a large selection of traditional Ethiopian dishes. Served in the traditional style on injera bread with vegetarian side dishes, the restaurant will provide a fun experience for a couple dining together for the first time or the 500th time.
Rio’s Brazilian Café
Rio’s Brazilian Café serves traditional and contemporary Brazilian cuisine, made fresh and from scratch on site. The East Austin café has patio seating for when it’s warm, and an indoor dining area for all seasons. Popular treats are the vegetarian, savory cupcakes, known as Empadão. They are made with delightful ingredients like hearts-of-palm and Japanese eggplant and can be ordered with a meal or taken home for a late night snack at the end of a successful date.
Uncorked Wine Bar provides a perfect after dinner change of scenery and a staggering selection of wine, paired with tapas snacks, an elegant bar, and patio seating. Uncorked also offers weekly wine tastings and wine classes that make a fun outing. The wines at Uncorked are hand-picked from around the world and meet high expectations of quality and value. If your date likes wine and it’s just not for you, they also offer a small beer selection.
Hill Country Pierogi
Pierogi is a Polish word for boiled, baked or fried dumplings, traditionally stuffed with potato filling, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. Pierogi are found in many variations throughout Eastern and Central Europe, and now, in the heart of East Austin. Most people picture pierogis as slathered in sour cream and chives, but they also make delicious desserts when stuffed with apples, topped with Dulce de Leche, powdered sugar and mascarpone, or stuffed with blueberry cinnamon compote. Either option is made even better with a scoop of ice cream on the side. Hill Country Pierogi is located at the corner of 11th and Lydia St, across from the Longbranch Inn.
Bennu Coffee, located on Martin Luther King Blvd. across from the United Way of Central Texas, offers a large, comfortable, and warm room filled with armchairs and tables to chat up a date over a cup of coffee and a pastry. Bennu Coffee features French press, designer mochas, loose leaf teas, and cold brewed coffee. Food options include fine baked goods, salads and sandwiches from Austin suppliers like Torchy’s Tacos, Russell’s Bakery, Fricano’s Deli, The Green Cart, and Hoboken Pies.
Live Oak Brewing Company
Live Oak Brewing Company is truly a home-grown Austin enterprise. Two of Austin’s own homebrewers, Chip McElroy and Brian Peters, literally hand-built the brewery and were the two main brewers, keg washers, delivery persons, and proselytizers. Live Oak has grown since then, but they’re still just as passionate about providing delicious old-world style beers that are rarely available commercially. The special beers are brewed in limited quantities in a small east Austin brewery on the corner of 5th and Allen Streets, and tours can be taken with beer tastings.
The New Movement Comedy Conservatory
Opened in February 2009 as a full time comedy conservatory, The New Movement offers classes, shows, and fun for anyone in attendance. The founders brought something new to the Austin Improv scene – a specific approach to the craft that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the country. The difference has paid off as The New Movement continues to attract eager rookies and veteran performers to its Eastside theatre. Improv classes can be a fun activity with or without a date, and The New Movement has class options in both Improv and Sketch comedy.
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