Cisco’s Restaurant & Bakery for Sale after an Iconic 68 Years
Austin is buzzing with apprehension at the news that the Cisneros family is selling Cisco's Restaurant & Bakery at E. 6th Street and Comal. This legendary diner ranks with the Broken Spoke and Continental Club as one of Austin' s most iconic institutions, a standing which Preservation Austin acknowledged with a Preservation Merit Award for Stewardship in 2007. We wish the Cisneros family a happy and much-deserved retirement, and can only hope that a new buyer comes along who will honor their heritage and keep Cisco's doors open for years to come.
In the meantime, here's our own brief history of this East Austin landmark, part of our Viva Streets! installation in fall 2015:
1511 E. 6th street was constructed for the J. B. Pierce & Bro. butcher and meat market in 1914. James B. Pierce sold the business in the 1930s though he continued to live next door in a large, one-story frame home with a gracious columned porch (demolished). The Austin Packing Company was located here for a time, after which the building changed hands until purchased by Rudy Cisneros for his legendary diner, Cisco’s Restaurant & Bakery.
Dubbed the “Mayor of East Austin,” Cisneros became a leader in East Side politics as well as one of its most beloved restauranteurs. Politicians at all levels of government, from Austin mayors to President Lyndon B. Johnson, paid court here in search of the East Austin vote while gossiping and dealing over breakfast and lunch. Many were among the charismatic Cisneros’ close personal friends, including US Representative Jake Pickle. He hosted appreciation breakfasts honoring mayoral candidates, state legislators, and high-ranking officials from Bergstrom Air Force Base. Cisco’s walls are crammed with their portraits along with those of visitors ranging from Walter Cronkite to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Cisco’s Tex-Mex fare includes huevos rancheros (Cisneros claimed to be the man who “made them famous”) as well as migas and biscuits. Until the 1970s he sold Bloody Marys without a liquor license by charging for the tomato juice alone. Cisneros would greet customers at the door, seating the general public in the less-intimate front room and regulars in the diner’s storied back room. There he would lord over his Liars Club, a group of neighborhood characters who gathered around his Liars Round Table daily.
The diner was ground zero for many neighborhood political and civic efforts during the 1960s and 1970s. It was the home base for such groups as the Govalle Gardenia Club and East Austin Lions. Cisneros also held or hosted fundraisers for community causes. This included “Coffee Day” in 1964, in which all of Cisco’s coffee proceeds went to the Cantu Memorial Fund supporting the six children of decorated war veteran Fernando Cantu after he was tragically gunned down outside of an East Side liquor store.
Cisneros put the restaurant on the market in 1994 looking for a buyer who would maintain Cisco’s as-is, including its staff. When asked if his health contributed to that decision, he replied, “I take a shot of whiskey and a pill and it doesn't bother me at all." That buyer never materialized and Cisneros’ son Clovis assumed control of the restaurant after his father’s death in 1995. Here’s hoping that the family’s legacy remains intact for future generations to come. Migas, anyone?