Austin patios are joyous gathering places for eating, drinking, people-watching, and–ideally–basking in the golden glow of the setting sun with a glorious view. Happily for us, we have Gabriela’s Downtown for all of the above.
Gabriela’s seems to have hit the ground running, almost immediately attracting friendly crowds to its beautiful patio. Besides tasty margarita flights, massive micheladas with over-the-top extras, and homemade horchata that alone is worth a visit, Gabriela’s also has great food.
Gabriela’s Downtown serves a solid menu of Michoacán staples like tacos, tortas, and queso flameado with veggies or choriqueso, as well as unique cocktails. The hot spot has earned its reputation by providing quality offerings in a whimsically Instagrammable locale.
Family and Michoacán
The food is inspired by owner-siblings Gabby and Arturo Bucio’s native Michoacán. In February 2018, they opened Gabriela’s in east Austin to honor the food and drinks from their childhood in Mexico.
By sticking to what they know: well-crafted, authentic food and drinks, Gabby and Arturo have a runaway success on their hands. Gabby is in charge of the drink program, while Arturo heads up the kitchen. This setup is similar to the roles the two held at Tres Amigos restaurant for years, before launching their own eatery.
Gabriela’s is truly a family venture. The Bucios’ mother, affectionately known as Nena, makes the ridiculously delicious horchata and rich mole sauce daily. And their brothers help manage the restaurant.
The Scene at Gabriela’s
DJs spinning music, colorful murals on the walls, and neon signs round out the list of reasons to go to Gabriela’s, along with killer happy hour deals, drool-worthy brunches, and enviable patio views.
The murals stand out, with a Latinx theme and LGBTQ-friendly message. Upstairs, find “Mi Media Naranja,” which literally translated means “my half of the orange,” but in a cultural context more or less translates to “my soulmate.”
On the front patio, local artist Edith Valle (@ediththetacoqueen) and Gabriela came up with the idea for “Amor es Amor”–“Love is Love.” Gabriela is appreciative that the LGBTQ community in Austin has embraced her restaurant and wanted a mural celebrating inclusiveness.
I’ve visited Gabriela’s often lately, and the authenticity always impresses. “Authenticity” is an overused word nowadays, but let me give an example. Gabby’s Margarita with housemade tamarind syrup reminds Gabriela of her childhood.
Gabby, as I call her, described running across the street to her grandmother’s house, yard full of tamarind trees, and hearing the tamarinds hitting the sidewalk as they fell from the trees. And that’s the feeling she wanted to recreate with her signature drink. Makes me want one right now!
All the drinks impress, making Gabriela’s Downtown the perfect happy hour spot. Try a margarita flight or choose from several margaritas, with both tequila and mezcal options. Try the irresistible Nena’s horchata, either with or without rum.
Beer drinkers, don’t dismay! Try the cervezas preparadas, a tray of Modelo Especial or Tecate beers with a chamoy-chile salt rim, plus Japanese peanuts and aguachiles shrimp on top. Wow! These well-dressed beers are every bit as fun to consume as they are to look at.
Same story with Gabriela’s micheladas. One of these micheladas alone is worth the trip. According to legend (or at least to Gabby), they work wonders for hangovers. These micheladas come in large plastic cups, piled high with either aguachiles or fruta (mango, jícama, cucumbers), and the Japanese peanuts.
What to Eat at Gabriela’s
When pressed to divulge one of her favorite dishes, Gabby steered me to the enmoladas de pollo, chicken mole enchiladas. Her mother crafts the mole, which makes the dish even more special. I loved every bite and felt transported back to Mexico.
Another popular dish, whether for lunch, dinner, or brunch, is the choriqueso. This starter is a melty, gooey version of queso flameado with chorizo, plus rojo and verde salsas. There is also a veggie version. Both options are served with homemade tortillas. Go ahead, do the dramatic cheese pull!
You do have to buy chips and salsa here, but the chips are thick and seasoned well, and the salsa sampler comes with four sauces. I also love the tacos. Try the calabacitas for a nice, vegetarian twist.
If you have the day off and a designated driver, hit up happy hour at Gabriela’s. From 2:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, you’ll find a selection of $5 cocktails and $5 appetizers. The view of the Austin skyline and Texas State Capitol is divine.
Gabriela’s also hosts a lively brunch on the weekends, usually with a DJ in back–and sometimes one on the front patio, too. The restaurant invited Austin Food Blogger Alliance out in November to try the experience.
My brunch favorites were the tender, juicy carnitas platter and the tipsy French toast with just a hint of rum, drizzled with positively sinful sweetened condensed milk and cajeta (similar to caramel). My friend from San Antonio also swears by the machacado eggs.
If you’re a mimosa person, then try the piña mimosa. Made with freshly squeezed pineapple agua fresca, it will make you question drinking a mimosa with orange juice ever again.
If you don’t want a boozy brunch, then get the agua fresca itself. You can also order superb coffee at Gabriela’s.
Remember you’ll likely have a DJ during brunch, so don’t bring your noise-sensitive friends or expect to have a heart-to-heart chat. Expect a wait for brunch and on weekend nights, though you can grab a drink from the bar while you’re waiting.
Gabby and Arturo aren’t sitting on their laurels. They’re moving forward with new ventures already, including the adorably named Taquero Mucho, a play on “Taqueria” and “Te Quiero Mucho.”
The bachelorette scene coming to Gabriela’s inspired this cute taqueria. Gabby describes it as appealing to everyone, but especially “girl-friendly” for the bachelorettes. The walls are covered in “Millennial Pink;” there’s a wall of photogenic paper flowers, and even some rose-colored disco balls (I saw a sneak peek on Instagram).
They are down to the last details, Gabby assured me, waiting on neon signs and the final thumbs-up from the city of Austin. If all goes well, then Taquero Mucho will be opening soon downtown.
For those of you into Latin music and nightlife, be sure to check out the family’s recently opened, high energy dance club, Mala Vida.
Gabby and Arturo have thrown themselves into this business. It shows. The reward for their hard work and dedication are full tables, and their customers’ loyalty.
When I asked Gabby what she was most proud of, she shared, “I’m a Latina, a woman. I want to inspire other people, whether my age group, Latinx, or women, to do what we did. We love to do what we do for the culture, and people have accepted us well. We’re grateful, and I love being able to have that voice here, in downtown Austin.”
900 E. 7th St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite item on the Gabriela’s Downtown menu?