East MLK – Austin, TX

One of the tightest-knit and most historic neighborhood communities in Austin, East MLK stretches east from Interstate 35 on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard past U.S. Route 183, a staple of the city's storied landscape. East MLK is known for its relatively low-income residential and industrial landscape, sprinkled with densely populated community streets and business centers. Residents enjoy community features such as parks and the beginning of the fade from Austin's urban sprawl to its flat eastern border. With a diverse selection of landscapes and residential areas, East MLK is home to a wide array of businesses, from shipping companies to small salons and fast food restaurants. Around four miles east of bustling downtown Austin, the historic neighborhood is home to many low income families as well as up-and-coming young professionals.

Schools in East MLK

School data provided by GreatSchools

Restaurants & Nightlife

At first glance, quick selections like Pizza Hut, Texas favorite Whataburger, Jack In The Box and Popeye's appear to be the only real food options available in East MLK. If you can fight back your hunger long enough to find some more overlooked eateries, however, the neighborhood holds some incredible options. Authentic Mexican options like Contigo, with its cheap tacos and diverse selection of breakfast platters, provide affordable food perfect for breakfast. Ed's BBQ offers popular menu items like the brisket and sausage combination sandwich, as well as brisket, mutton, and pork roast by the pound. It's open late on Fridays and Saturdays, so you don't have to visit a faraway food truck to get some true local flavor after a night out. The nightlife selections for East MLK residents or visitors are plentiful as well. Take the Skylark Lounge on Airport Boulevard, where billiards, blues music, and patio seating help "Keep Austin Weird" on the east side. The Sahara Lounge, a quirky dive bar, provides plenty of night time entertainment as well.

History & Culture

East MLK's strong sense of community has grown from a greater history of income disparity and racial segregation in Austin. Despite this history, residents of the East MLK area have worked to ensure their neighborhood remains the beautiful, vibrant cultural heart of the east side. The famed "You're My Better Half" mural and others like it brighten neighborhood structures, while the George Washington Carver Museum and venues such as the Salvage Vanguard Theater maintain the neighborhood's arts scene. Parades and festivals for Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday serve as opportunities to celebrate the area's rich cultural history.


Transportation in and around East MLK is primarily easy for its residents. However, as the area is more spread out than its downtown neighbors, it does suffer from some accessibility issues. Austin's Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority services the entire East MLK area through buses and limited mobility transports, but certain stops further east in the neighborhood are more spread out. Taxis are available most hours by phone or app, as both 183 and Airport Boulevard feed directly to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport a few miles southeast. Cabs and rideshare services like Uber are limited somewhat in the low-income area. Residents have easy access to highways and other major roads, such as 183, Airport Boulevard and I-35, and public parking is free and plentiful. Cycling is possible in the area, but bikers must take care. There are few bike lanes for several major roads, and sidewalks can be spotty in the more industrial areas. Some of the trails in parks and public areas like the East Boggy Greenbelt provide for scenic routes during the lush summer months.


Because of low transportation fares and relatively inexpensive housing, families and individuals living in the east Austin area benefit from a much cheaper cost of living than the bulk of their neighbors to the west. Cap Metro buses provide relatively cheap fares: $1 for a single ride or $2 for a day pass, perfect for cheap trips downtown. Gas is cheap too, with the local average approximately 7 percent lower than the national average. Renters pay around $650 for a one-bedroom residence, $100-$400 cheaper than those in Austin's more central neighborhoods. But one doesn't need to live on Sixth Street to experience Austin nightlife, and for the inhabitants of East MLK, $1-$3 beers and cheap food make "staying in" that much more attractive.


In part due to the more spread-out design of the area, and in part due to the low incomes of many of the neighborhood's families, high-end shopping areas are scarce in East MLK. However, family-owned boutiques and specialty stores are abundant. The Room, an organic salon that uses essential oils and ammonia-free products for its services, is one of many destinations for personal care, health and beauty. Though there are no farmers markets right in the neighborhood, multiple markets exist just to the west and north of East MLK. Grocery stores such as Lone Star Family Market and Arlan's Market, primarily sprinkled along Airport Boulevard, offer a diverse selection.


East MLK covers a broad area, and many different parks draw visitors from in and out of the area. The large Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park offers 293 acres of trails, creeks and wooded areas, perfect for romantic walks or family days out. Springdale Park and Ortega School Parks are two of the many public parks that provide a more typical urban park experience. Playgrounds, fields and pavilions are perfect for the many children in the area, and many of the parks also have specific pet-friendly areas. Neighborhood events, such as celebrations for Juneteenth or other school or community events, help keep the parks lively. Trails and exercise stations can be found in many of the larger parks. And golf courses such as the Harvey Pennick Golf Campus and the Morris Williams Golf Course will help keep you active.
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