Cisco’s will remain open under new ownership group with ties to founder

4:07 p.m Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 Austin360 Eats
East Austin institution Cisco’s Restaurant will remain open following its purchase by a group that includes the grandson of founder and namesake Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

Score one for the preservation of Old Austin. Cisco’s Restaurant — the legendary East Austin migas and biscuit spot and regular hangout for politicos and locals — will remain open at 1511 E. Sixth St.

An ownership team that includes Matt Cisneros, grandson of restaurant founder and namesake Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros; Antone’s co-owner Will Bridges; commercial builder and co-owner of historic Hoffbrau Steakhouse Rick McMinn; and Bryan Schneider, a local business and real estate investor, intends few immediate changes for the restaurant that opened in 1946. Future updates will include the addition of a liquor license and evening hours, but there is no announced timeline for those changes.

Previous owner Clovis Cisneros, the uncle of new co-owner Matt Cisneros, had put the restaurant in the 103-year-old building on the market last year for $3.5 million after unsuccessfully trying to sell it in 2010.

“I got burned out,” Clovis Cisneros told the Statesman’s John Kelso in 2010. “I’ve been coming in here 40-something years, and I’ve had enough. Can you imagine waking up on weekends and putting out a thousand orders of migas in one day?”

An Austin native, Bridges, who is a partner in Lamberts and helped revive Antone’s along with Gary Clark Jr., made a similar move in 2014 when he and his father purchased Austin institution Deep Eddy Cabaret. While they added liquor and credit card payments, the vibe and aesthetic remained true to the original version. I’d expect a similar update — but not overhaul — at Cisco’s.

“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to not only keep Cisco’s going but to one day be a part of the ownership,” Matt Cisneros said. “It is our hope that with this new team, we can preserve an iconic East Austin institution that my grandfather founded … and help maintain its place in East Austin’s culture. We look forward to continuing to serve our East Austin neighbors and Austin residents, who together have been instrumental in keeping this local establishment alive for the better part of a century.”

National nod

Bon Appetit ranked Kemuri Tatsu-Ya eighth on its list of best new restaurants in America last week. The East Austin restaurant from the founders of Ramen Tatsu-Ya blends Japanese izakaya and Texas smokehouse conventions for good eats and a good time. The food captivated the Bon App writers, as did the vibe. The magazine’s restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton wrote:

“And at no place did I party more than at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya in East Austin. That’s bound to happen when you combine a raucous izakaya (think Japanese pub) and a smoky Texas BBQ joint with the ‘keep it weird’ mantra of the capital.

The writer also praised the kitchen’s “penchant for playfulness,” as evidenced in the “Hot pocketz” — fried tofu slices sandwiching brisket and gouda cheese — and the chili-strewn fried octopus balls.

This wasn’t the first national nod for Kemuri. The restaurant took a spot on the Best New Restaurants list from GQ earlier this year. And, of course, I raved about it in the Statesman with my review in March.

Now open

After sitting dormant for about two years, the former Tres Amigos space at 1801 Loop 360 has a new tenant.

Vaqueros Café and Cantina recently opened, serving classic Tex-Mex dishes like enchiladas, fajitas — which the restaurant smokes with mesquite — and more. The restaurant is owned by Steiner Ranch Steakhouse owner Bobby Steiner and Don Burdette.

The restaurant, which blends Mexican and Texas ranch design elements, features hand-tooled leather saddles with silver horns and stirrups flanking the door, on loan indefinitely from Steiner’s friend, former Gov. Rick Perry, according to Westlake Picayune contributor Suzanne Majors Davis.

Tres Amigos assistant general manager Issi Faria Dobbs and 79-year-old waitress Joyce Dooley, otherwise known as “Grandma,” have returned to the restaurant, along with a cook and server who also returned, according to Davis.

Closing

East Austin staple Porfirio’s Tacos will close its door next week. The restaurant at 1512 Holly St. announced on Facebook that it will close Aug. 30 after 32 years in business. Porfirio’s says it has no plans to relocate.

Here is what former Statesman critic Mike Sutter had to say about their humble breakfast taco in 2010: “It’s nothing but smoky beans and commercial-grade yellow cheese on a soft flour tortilla. But out of 40-some tacos I ate with Mando Rayo of Taco Journalism last year, this is the one I still crave.”

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