For the Time Being, Eastside Cafe Garden Has Some Suerte

Pastrami shop set to open in former Elaine’s Pork and Pie space

Suerte owner Sam Hellman Mass took a moment during SXSW to talk to the Chronicle about the future plans for his recently-purchased piece of East Austin property.

Eastside Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

In January, Eastside Café owner Elaine Martin announced that she sold her property to Hellman-Mass and that the café would close on January 31. Closing the doors to what was for decades the sentinel farm-to-table restaurant in Austin – it opened in 1988 – is yet another emblematic example of the now familiar cycle of new East Austin merging with the old. But one thing not following the trend of Eastside developments is the fate of the beloved garden. For now.

Hellman-Mass said that, for the time being, the gardens are going to remain as they are. While he said eventually he wants to do something with the secondary piece of property, he shared that, at the moment, his hands are full with planning his newest restaurant – he wouldn’t offer any hints as to what would grace the glossy pages of his menu.

Mum Foods, the farmers' market stand most known for its pastrami, will open in the property’s side shop, formerly home to Elaine’s Pork and Pie. The small seasonal menu will focus on sandwiches, making that famous pastrami sandwich even more accessible. The restaurant expects to open soon, and will continue to operate their stand at Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller.

Beet tostada at Suerte (Photo by John Anderson)

Hellman-Mass reiterated that he would like to keep the garden as a garden for as long as it is financially feasible. In a gesture of goodwill, he noted he was meeting with some neighborhood members and the District 1 council office to get their thoughts on what they would like to see become of the property.

The Chronicle called several nearby neighborhood associations and no one was aware of any plans for the space or any meetings on the books with Hellman-Mass, but the nearby neighborhoods did express their eagerness to open a dialogue about the iconic property. Rumors have been flying about the fate of the parcel of land and its potential to become yet another block of shiny condos. However, since the property is currently zoned for single family usage, there is little chance of that happening without Hellman-Mass asking for a zoning change and going through the court of public opinion.

While there is no guarantee – and property prices show no signs of cooling off – neighbors may continue to enjoy the lovely green space that the property’s garden offers to Manor Road.

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