In mid-May, a new cafe, bar, and patio debuted on East Riverside Drive, bringing the old-school ease of Austin to East Riverside. On Saturday July 17, Ani’s Day & Night will debut, anchoring a historic 1930s Victorian home with expansive outdoor space that sets the stage for two new food trucks, great coffee, cocktails, and a vibrant setting for community events. .
The building at 7107 East Riverside Dr. was the longtime family home of the Fernandez family; current owner Freddy L. Fernandez grew up at the address in the late 1970s with his parents Hector and Aniceta Fernandez and his six siblings. While the family left the property in 1999, Freddy was able to buy it back in 2001 as a gift to his mother, who suggested he turn it into a business, which became the first Fast Freddy barber shop. Although this hair salon closed in 2019 (others remain open), Freddy still owns the property. Soon after, Rachael Garbowski and Zach Herigodt – two food industry veterans – approached Fernandez with their idea of renting the space and honoring the Fernandez family legacy through Ani’s.
Designed by Kathleen Rubin of Room Is Blue with Mexico-based company Saucehaus brand, Ani’s channels a playful mix of classic and contemporary styles with dog-friendly details like leash hooks on tables. Many of the original furnishings and accessories maintained by the Fernandez family are still in place, from the red velvet sofa to the chandelier in the hallway. Eventually, a portrait of the family’s matriarch, Aniceta Fernandez (after whom the cafe is named), by artist Sam Sanford will hang on the wall.
Inside there is a cafe and bar run by Garbowski and Herigodt. The beans come from local roast Greater Goods for a coffee menu with drip and espresso drinks, plus optional matcha latte, cold brew, and nut milks. There are also a variety of hot and iced teas. Local bakeries Texas French Bread and vegan spot Zucchini Kill offer pastries.
On the alcohol side, the cocktail menu, developed by General Manager Caitlyn Moorhead, is simple, from Just a Little Chili with vodka and Ancho Reyes to the Rum on Violet Agreement with gin, Benedictine and crème de violette. The two frozen concoctions are an Aperol spritz and a tequila drink with grapefruit, jalapeño, and lime. There is also beer and natural wine.
Ani’s outdoor space is huge and vibrant, full of shaded picnic tables in bright green tones with string lights. The space is also home to two regular food trucks, both new to the city: the Mexican truck Las Alegres Comadres and the Caribbean truck Nyam Sunshine Cuisine.
The co-owners of Las Alegres Comadres (Spanish for “happy friends”) are friends Ramela Ramirez and Lupe Ramirez (unrelated), who moved to Austin from Mexico City 13 and 17 years ago, respectively. The two have always cooked on their own for friends and neighbors, then decided to open their own truck.
The menu focuses on Mexican dishes from various states and regions of the country, such as pambazo sandwiches, tlacoyos, quesadillas, and tacos, including those for breakfast. There will be weekly specials, which have included cochinita pibil. The truck opened in mid-June.
Nyam Sunshine Cuisine co-owner Chris Burrell is originally from Jamaica and has cooked at restaurants in Miami, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Dallas and San Antonio. He moved to Austin 15 years ago and had spent the last four years as general manager of the Century Club restaurant group (Fresa’s and Launderette), before leaving.
Burrell opens the truck with his wife, Honduran part-owner Yadira Burrell. (“Nyam” means “to eat” in Jamaican). The menu focuses on Caribbean-Latin fare ranging from jerk chicken to a bowl of quinoa mixed with mango, sweet potatoes and avocado to prawns marinated with guajillo coconut milk to crispy sweet corn fritters. The truck will open on Saturday July 17th.
Rounding out Ani’s – albeit temporarily – is the Puerto Rican fusion pop-up plantain bar, whose next event will take place on Monday, July 19. It is planned to continue to organize a pop-up every Monday until a permanent food truck is selected.
Ani co-owner Garbowski has a long history of working in the service industry in states as far away as Maine. She has also worked locally in a variety of roles for nonprofits, including serving as a corporate relations manager for the local Contemporary Austin museum and development director for the nonprofits Big Medium and the Texas Land Conservancy. Herigodt, originally from Roanoke, TX, has worked in construction and business management for the past 10 years in Austin, founding vegetable garden design and installation department YardFarm and landscape construction company Palomino Landscape, through which he worked in various restaurants such as Sour Duck and Taco.
The team is complemented by General Manager Caitlyn Moorhead, a longtime employee who rose through the ranks at New York’s pub and gin bar the Winslow from 2013 until the pandemic; and head of music and community events Juan Alfredo Rios, a local musician.
Garbowski and Zach Herigodt want Ani’s to serve as a community space for the neighborhood, artists and musicians. There will be a weekly DJ and concerts on the weekends. The walls will feature works by local artists, as well as a rotating exterior mural and exhibits. The duo also want community groups, nonprofits and other similar organizations to use the area as a meeting place.
“We see this as a real community space where we can support those who are looking for a space for get-togethers, meetings and celebrations of all kinds,” Garbowski explains. In September, the Hope Outdoor Gallery will pay artists to paint Ani’s parking lot fence while people are encouraged to view and purchase their special art and drink offers to benefit the association.
While the cafe has been open since spring, with limited service and hours, its grand opening party takes place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday July 17 and Sunday July 18. On the bridge there will be promotions from local businesses such as Lalo Tequila, Austin Winery and others, as well as live music (including Rios’s own band).
Ani’s regular hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Las Alegres Comadres is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Nyam is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and brunches on Sunday.