**This is a Mini Review while working in Austin, TX this summer**
Cuisine: Organic and Local-Grown, Healthy Eating
Address: 2113 Manor Road Austin, TX 78722 (512) 476-5858
Links: East Side Cafe Website
Atmosphere: The East Side Cafe is located in a renovated house, just off Manor Rd. There are several dining areas within the restaurant, occupying the former rooms of the house which give it a quiet, intimate atmosphere. Outside the restaurant is a large garden where many of the fresh vegetables for the restaurant are grown. There is also a pen of chickens, which supply eggs for the restaurant.
We also ordered one of the Daily Specials, which were Eggplant Potstickers served with a cucumber relish. I have to say that I was highly disappointed with these. The potstickers were decent sized, served with six in the order, but I thought they were overpriced at $10 for the order. They were flavorless despite the ginger-soy sauce they were served upon and the texture of them was kind of mushy. Even the cucumber relish was lacking in flavor, with tiny pieces of cucumber and that’s pretty much it. Would’ve been so much tastier with rice wine vinegar and sugar.
I wasn’t sure what to order at first but both the Chicken Enchiladas and the Artichoke Manicotti caught my eye, so I asked our server her opinion. She was quick to note that the Artichoke Manicotti was really good and one of the most popular menu items at East Side Cafe, so that is what I ended up ordering for my entree. I had the option of ordering one or two shells filled with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese but I forgot to designate whether I wanted one or two shells and the server didn’t specify; only one came out which was enough to fill me up (however if I had wanted leftovers, I would’ve been very disappointed). The shells were topped with sun-dried tomato cream sauce and parmesan cheese. I liked the dish but thought it was overpriced at $14 for just one shell ($17 for two). The second side item I got with my entree was the fresh heirloom tomatoes (straight from the on-site garden!) with a lemon vinaigrette. Delicious!
One of my companions ordered one of the Daily Special which was the Mahi Mahi Sticks. The order came with five “sticks” of Mahi Mahi fish, breaded and deep fried, served with some kind of tartar sauce. Heirloom Tomatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette were the side of choice.
Another companion ordered the Rosemary-Skewered Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes. The two skewers contained several large pieces of flavorful pork, slightly seasoned and rubbed with fresh rosemary. Very good, the pork was tender and cooked just right.
The biggest winner of the evening was the Thai Chicken Salad, with romaine and green leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, and marinated grilled chicken. Topped with toasted peanuts and served with tangy Asian Vinaigrette. This dish had the most flavor of any that we ordered, thanks to the fresh veggies and the dressing it was mixed with.
Overall Impression: East Side Cafe had been highly suggested to me by a friend, so I wanted to try it out. I like the concept of using fresh produce grown on-site (and at a sister-site just a few blocks away), but it is much more costly. The prices seemed expensive for the amount of food you get and to be honest, I just wasn’t impressed with the food. My perception however, is that East Side Cafe is a very popular restaurant, as it was very busy, with a wait.