In mid-May, a new cafe, bar, and patio debuted on East Riverside Drive, bringing the ease of old-school Austin to East Riverside. On Saturday, July 17, Ani’s Day & Night will make its full debut, anchoring a historic 1930s Victorian home with a sprawling outdoor space that sets the stage for two new food trucks, good coffee, cocktails, and a dynamic setting for community events.
The building at 7107 East Riverside Dr. was the longtime family home of the Fernandez family; the current owner Freddy L. Fernandez grew up at the address during the late 1970s with his parents Hector and Aniceta Rivera and his six siblings. While the family left the property in 1999, Freddy was able to buy it back in 2001 as a gift for his mother, who suggested he transform it into a business, which became the original Fast Freddy’s Hair Salon. Although that hair salon location closed in 2019 (others remain open), Freddy continues to own the property. Soon after, Rachael Garbowski and Zach Herigodt — two food industry veterans — approached Fernandez with their idea to lease the space and honor the Fernandez family’s legacy through Ani’s.
Designed by Room Is Blue’s Kathleen Rubin with the branding from Mexico City-based company Saucehaus, Ani’s channels a playful mix of classic and contemporary styles with dog-friendly details such as leash hooks on tables. Many of the original furniture and fixtures maintained by the Fernandez family are still in place, from a red velvet couch to the hallway chandelier. Eventually, a portrait of the family matriarch, Aniceta Limon Fernandez Rivera (after whom the cafe is named), by artist Sam Sanford will be hung on a wall.
The interior houses a cafe and bar run by Garbowski and Herigodt. Beans come from local roastery Greater Goods for a coffee menu with drip and espresso drinks, plus a matcha latte, cold brew, and optional nut milks. There are also a variety of hot teas and iced teas. Local bakeries Texas French Bread and vegan spot Zucchini Kill are providing pastries.
On the boozier end, the cocktail menu, developed by general manager Caitlyn Moorhead, is simple, from the vodka- and Ancho Reyes- based Just a Little Chili to the Violet Agreement with gin, benedictine, and crème de violette. The two frozen concoctions are an Aperol-based one and a tequila-based drink with grapefruit, jalapeno, and lime. There’s beer and natural wine as well.
Ani’s outdoor area is huge and vibrant, full of bright green-toned, shaded picnic tables with string lights. The space is also home to two regular food trucks, both of which are new to the city: Mexican truck Las Alegres Comadres and Caribbean truck Nyam Sunshine Cuisine.
Las Alegres Comadres (Spanish for “the happy friends”) co-owners are friends Pamela Ramirez and Lupe Ramirez (no relation), who moved to Austin from Mexico City 13 and 17 years ago respectively. The two always cooked on their own for friends and neighbors and then decided to open their own truck.
The menu focuses on Mexican fare from various states and regions of the country, such as pambazo sandwiches, tlacoyos, quesadillas, and tacos — including breakfast ones. There will be weekly specials, which have included cochinita pibil. The truck opened as of mid-June.
Nyam Sunshine Cuisine co-owner Chris Burrell is from Jamaica and cooked in restaurants in Miami, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Dallas, and San Antonio. He moved to Austin 15 years ago and had spent the past four years as the general manager of restaurant group the Century Club (Fresa’s and Launderette), before leaving.
Burrell is opening the truck with his wife, co-owner Yadira Burrell, who is from Honduras. (“Nyam” is Jamaican for “to eat.”) The menu focuses on Caribbean-Latin dishes ranging from jerk chicken to a quinoa bowl mixed with mango, sweet potatoes, and avocado to shrimp marinated with guajillo coconut milk to crispy sweet corn fritters. The truck will open on Saturday, July 17.
Rounding out Ani’s — albeit temporarily — is Puerto Rican fusion pop-up Plantain Bar, with its next event taking place on Monday, July 19. There are plans to continue to host a pop-up every Monday until a permanent food truck is selected.
Ani’s co-owner Garbowski has a long history of work within the service industry from states as far-flung as Maine. She’s also worked locally in various roles for nonprofits, including as the corporate relations manager for the local museum Contemporary Austin and the director of Development for nonprofits Big Medium and Texas Land Conservancy. Herigodt, who is from Roanoke, Texas, worked in construction and business management for the past 10 years in Austin, founding vegetable garden design and installation service YardFarm and landscape construction company Palomino Landscape, through which he has worked on various restaurants such as Sour Duck and One Taco.
Rounding out the team are general manager Caitlyn Moorhead, a longtime employee who worked her way through the ranks at NYC pub and gin bar the Winslow from 2013 up until the pandemic hit; 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 weekend concerts. The walls will feature pieces from local artists, as well as a rotating outdoor mural and exhibitions. The duo also wants community groups, nonprofits, and other similar organizations to utilize the area as their meeting locations.
“We see this as a true community-driven space where we can support those looking for space for meet-ups, meetings, and celebrations of all kinds,” says Garbowski. In September, the Hope Outdoor Gallery will pay artists to paint Ani’s parking lot fence while people are encouraged to watch and purchase their art and drink specials benefitting the nonprofit.
While the cafe has been open since the spring, operating under limited service and hours, its grand opening party takes place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18. On deck will be specials 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 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Las Alegres Comadres is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Nyam is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and brunch hours on Sunday.