First Look: Irene's Brings Southern Hospitality to West Sixth Street

By Veronica Meewes  |  June 1, 2016
Credit: Irene's

ELM Restaurant Group, which has opened successful restaurants from east to west on Sixth Street (24 Diner, Italic, Easy Tiger and the now-shuttered Arro) launched a new concept on Memorial Day. Irene's will bring classic American dishes and drinks just off West Sixth Street. 

Photo by Veronica Meewes

Irene's is named after the grandmother of partner Chad Gluckson, who describes her as a "drinking, smoking, gambling woman with an immense heart and a keen understanding of true hospitality." The signature Goodnight Irene cocktail pays homage to her drink of choice: double vodka, a splash of lemon and cranberry "for color," served up in a chilled martini glass. All signature cocktails are offered for only $7, and a short but well-curated wine list features glasses for just $6 each, plus plenty of draft and canned beer offerings starting at $4. 

Photo courtesy of Irene's

But it's not just about the drinks: Irene's will open a counter window at 7 AM for pastries, coffee and breakfast toasts with options both savory (like the bacon, egg and cheddar pictured above) and sweet (like mascarpone topped with pickled peaches, blackberries and basil). At 11 AM, the restaurant will open and begin serving the rest of the menu, which chef Andrew Curren says is a combination of childhood classics and dishes from his past. 

Photo courtesy of Irene's

He says the loose-meat "Made Wright" burgers were a frequent Saturday lunch that his mom made, and the strawberry cake was what he had every year on his birthday. "The chicken sandwich is a rendition of a torta I ate when living in Oaxaca," Curren says. "Red beans and rice on Monday is how they do it in Louisiana, a place where I have spent a lot of time and (where) my grandmother lived when I was growing up."

Photo courtesy of Irene's

Great lunch options include a classic meatball sub on Semolina, a Philly cheesesteak on an Italian roll and grilled cheese on toast (all served on Easy Tiger bread, of course) plus soups and salads. Each day will feature a different blue-plate special like King Ranch chicken, shepherd's pie and pot roast. And a signature "steak and whiskey" option is available each day after 5 PM: a 1-lb. bone-in NY strip served with bourbon mushrooms and onions, Irene's steak sauce and a shot of whiskey will run you just $29. 

Photo courtesy of Irene's

Designer Veronica Koltuniak of VeroKolt aimed to create a warm, welcoming environment in the space, which originally housed a Jaguar repair shop. She used salvaged airplane panels as a way to create repetition and aesthetic interest on the long wall facing the main bar, only to find out that Irene’s husband was in the aviation business. The spacious back area of the restaurant looks out onto the banks of Shoal Creek. Eden Garden Design helped separate the space into several cozy areas for socializing, including a loungey side yard with seating plus an atrium with hanging ferns hooked up to a rope pulley system.

Nods to the past can be seen throughout the space, from the hot pink neon sign to an upright piano inviting passersby to plunk out a tune on the keys. "Irene always had a piano in her living room, and you never knew who might play," remembers Gluckson. "We would always close it down with the standard 'Goodnight Irene.'"

With quality food prepared by one of Austin's most respected chefs and a menu that's offered until 2 AM, Irene's is a necessary addition to West Sixth Street. It looks like Austin is just as happy to welcome her to the neighborhood as she is to serve us.

506 West Ave.; 512-298-0853; open 7 AM–2 AM daily