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North, South, East, West | EAST

Come On In—Austinites in every direction share their secret spots and stories of the ‘hoods they love most.

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The Bailey Family’s Holly Neighborhood

by Clarissa Hulsey Bailey

There are characteristics of our neighborhood that are magical.

I step out onto my front porch every morning, even when making the mad dash in my hazy stupor to get my son to school, and I feel it. It is in the air. I can see it in the ambient light reflecting off Lady Bird Lake. This microclimate brings back memories of Texas campgrounds next to slow-moving rivers and balmy breezes—those trips I made mostly in my childhood. On windless days there is double-digit humidity and it can get so creepy with condensation lingering in the air that it can turn the vegetation black with mildew. It feels exactly like a campground. We are living in a vacation spot weighty with vegetation, and we have named it McDaniel Ranch in honor of my grandparents.

Our home is across the street from the Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach in the Holly neighborhood of East Austin. There is a community pool and the Lady Bird Lake hike-and-bike trail, which is a two-minute walk further south from our front door.

The mornings and evenings are full of birdcalls and swooping butterflies, dragonflies and salamanders and one very loud owl in residence in the high trees at night. It is messy around here in a natural, verdant way. It only takes a week of distracted, busy living for the vines, bougainvillea, morning glories, palm trees, lemon and orange trees and cactus to spread out and takeover. Even the pecan trees that cover our neighborhood and dot the park are messy, dropping either their weird translucent flapping seeds or their edible fruit.

Our home is a collection of small houses that we have adapted for our family. Not one is big enough for all of us. Its been more of a challenge then I care to admit, but there are moments when comforting our baby girl in the middle of the night on the front porch of our small sleeping bungalow, dead quiet except for that one unseen hooting owl accompanying me, that are strangely invigorating. They set me straight and remind me of the potential that this place holds.

I wouldn’t call our neighborhood manicured or offering any rigid uniform aesthetic requirements. There is a lot of personality cultivated in its yards and homes. I tend to like it that way. Its quiet, most of the time, but I wouldn’t call it quaint.

Although our neighborhood is slow-paced, it does revel in a good celebration. People fill the park with picnics of smoking meats, piñatas and family hoopla on Easter, Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo and any other three-day holiday weekend. Fiesta Gardens is host to celebrations like Pachanga Festival, the Celtic Festival, the Austin Chronicle’s Hot Sauce Festival and more.

You haven’t experienced a Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve party until you have observed (or joined in) the firework’s chaos in the streets here. It’s a little intimidating at times. One must be ready to embrace rather than resist. And it wouldn’t be our neighborhood without what we loving refer to as the East Side Car rodeo almost every Sunday evening around nightfall. It’s a tradition.

Ours is an urban oasis exotic in its amenities and its location. We can take the hike-and-bike trail and walk to Rainey Street restaurants or the Four Seasons for a glass or two in a matter of minutes. Our urban retreat is five minutes by bike to Cesar Chavez and Congress and 10 minutes by car to ABIA. It is pretty marvelous to us and we feel lucky to be here.

Clarissa Hulsey Bailey is a designer and the owner of écru moderne, a residential and commercial interior architecture and design firm. Ed Bailey is the vice president of brand development for Austin City Limits. Their family includes Atlas, who is five and a half and who is a daring, energetic and genius boy, and Davis, who is almost a year old and who is a darling sublime and genius girl! They never let a day pass without giving it all they’ve got.

Ed + Clarissa's Top 10

Veracruz All Natural (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St.)—Veracruz has been in business for over four years although we just discovered their fantastic food trailer near Weatherup. Inspirational migas tacos and I heart the El Reyna.

Sunday-afternoon band practice in the park (2101 Bergman St.)—Band name remains a mystery, but we dig their humor and passion.

Cenote (1010 E. Cesar Chavez St.)—I love their great coffee, simple but delicious menu, and a space to be productive and work all rolled into one.

Justine’s Brasserie (4710 East 5th St.)—This is one of our favorite places for late-night outdoor dining and mingling.

Holly Plant Decomissioning ( and future park—We have a great people-watching neighborhood with dog walkers and baby walkers and bike riders and Segway tours crossing through our street. Our new future park will enhance that even more.

Rainey Street—We love to walk to Bangers (79 Rainey St.) when craving beer or links and El Naranjo (85 Rainey St.) when we want a margarita and Mexican cuisine. We also love Papi Tino’s (1306 East 6th).

Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail (at south end of Chicon)—meets all of our requirements to exhaust our children and to be outdoors. We have had marathon bike rides and extensive excavating on giant dirt piles.

Ice cream trucks and paletas carts—Not a novelty in our neighborhood but a way of life. Even during warmer winter days they magically appear.

East Austin Studio Tour (—Surrounds us for two wonderful weekends in November. Easy to access and equally enriching.

Juan in a Million (2300 E. Cesar Chavez St.)—Because it satiates the Sunday-morning desire for huevos rancheros after a long night out.

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The Hodgson Family’s Swede Hill

by Brad Hodgson

Our story has to start with this confession: We are constant movers. I don’t know why, but we just seem to want to be somewhere else every year. We grow restless and want something new again. We’ll love an area, live there for a year and then move on. We always try and explain it away to make ourselves feel more secure about the decision (and to keep our family and friends from being super annoyed every time we call them up asking for help) by saying it was overpriced, or too far from work, or too far from the places we love...etc.

So, we were living near Mueller, and after a year we realized it wasn’t the right fit for us. Before that, we came from Travis Heights. We both want history in structure, something that has an old story to tell, so when our friends told us the house across the street from them was going to be available soon, in the old Swede Hill neighborhood right downtown, we jumped on the opportunity to check it out.

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As soon as we walked in, we fell in love—with the area, the house, everything. The house is old and a little warped. Doorways slide angular into corners in some places, like a Tim Burton film. The house felt old and calm and wise, retaining most of its old beautiful components, and there was an energy in it that made us want to plant there, raise our family there—an odd feeling for people used to constantly moving around, but a totally rewarding one to feel like we were home.

The neighborhood is a beautiful area, too. It’s full of old homes, and some new ones. A mix of interesting and diverse people live here. There are overgrown areas, neatly trimmed areas, big houses, tiny houses. It’s a lovely balance of environment. Downtown is 100 steps down the sidewalk, but the neighborhood is always calm, and somehow the traffic of 35 is diffused enough to be just a subtle rumble in the background.

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The house is a place for us to relax, dance, play, invent and work. It serves all of our needs, both casually and professionally, and keeps us loving it every day. The neighborhood is friendly and eclectic and weird and progressive and quiet. It’s seconds from downtown, but when we are sitting on the porch with a beer in the evenings, it doesn’t feel that way. I’m not sure there is anywhere else we’d rather be... right now or anytime soon.

Brad Hodgson is an animator/designer for his own company, Perfect Form ( He is based in Austin and has a second location in Kansas City, Missouri. Amber Hodgson is a craft perfumer and stylist at Sabia. Lowe is two and a half and will take over the world someday.

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The Grgic/Marusich Family’s Rosewood

by Paola Marusich

A couple years ago we decided it was time to try something a bit more personal, friendlier and less crowded. We did our research, compared cities across America and Europe, and settled on Austin. Why East Austin? I attended law school at UT and lived downtown; we knew South Austin already and wanted to try something new. We tend to like places on the edge of gentrification and have a tendency to head east (southeastern Europe, Lower East Side in NYC), so we settled in East Austin, in an incredible neighborhood just at the foot of the French Legation. We were attracted by the diversity and walkability of the neighborhood, its proximity to downtown, to the airport, and the up-and-coming vibe. The area feels fresh and young, and that is a major plus in our books.

Paola, Lázaro and Borut are a small family of three. Lázaro was born last October, just a few weeks after the family moved to Austin. The couple were next-door neighbors in college at Stanford and have lived all over the world in the years since. Borut was an international energy consultant, and Paola was a New York–based lawyer. Nowadays, however, Paola is fully invested in the food industry, running a chocolate factory in Mexico City and setting up a food-production facility in Southeastern Europe, and Borut is an investor. Paola Marusich is originally from Mexico City (via Corpus Christi) and Borut Grgic is from Slovenia (via Abu Dhabi).

Paola's Top 10

The diversity of the people living in this area is incredible, which comes through nicely in the types of businesses, new and old, around here.

Long walks along the eastern side of Lady Bird Lake are peaceful and less crowded than the Lady Bird Trail.

The French Legation (802 San Marcos St.) outdoor spaces are a beautiful and serene place to spend an afternoon in the shade, and the Texas State Cemetery, believe it or not, makes for a very pleasant morning walk to start the day.

Hillside Farmacy (1209 E. 11th St.) functions well as a neighborhood food/coffee stop, and has some very nice staff, though it would be really nice if they opened earlier.

Paul Qui and East Side King (1618 E. 6th St.)—Bring the umami.

Quickie Pickie (1208 E. 11th St.) is a recent and very welcome addition, with its refreshing draft beer selection.

East side BBQ is exceptional; obviously Franklin’s (900 E. 11th St.), but theMicklethwait trailer (1309 Rosewood Ave.) is also fantastic.

Flattrack Coffee (913 E. Cesar Chavez St.)is tops.

The Hope Farmers Market has some fantastic vendors and is really making an effort to build community.

With the traffic being what it is, you can’t beat five minutes to the best workouts in town: Pilates with Vlada Scheber at Ballet Austin, Ride Indoor Cycling and morning runs with Gilbert’s Gazelles.


EAST Photography by Julie Cope


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