Equal parts hospitality and house party, Native Hostel is a rejuvenating reprieve on the edge of Austin’s hectic city center.
By April Cumming, Photos by Charles Reagan
There’s something instantly loveable about a place that can entirely reinvent itself after it’s managed to remain out of sight and out of mind of the public for more than a century, subject only to the occasional fleeting, forgettable glance from I-35 access-road passersby. Native Hostel, the newest watering-hole hot spot to open on Austin’s Eastside, is one such place.
Before you get carried away with the connotations the word “hostel” can conjure (creaky beds, less-than-dreamy community bathrooms), hit the pause button. Native Hostel is in a league of its own. The name itself was chosen, says Programs and Events Manager Chris Scull, to reflect the Austin identity that every incoming visitor comes to envy, that of a local, someone who is as personable, resourceful and characteristically nontraditional as a native. If Native Hostel were a person, she would be one who takes pride in her roots but isn’t afraid to spruce things up a bit to meld with a more modern world.
The two-story limestone building, a property built in the late 1800s to serve as a railroader hotel—a place for people working on the railroad to stop and rest for the night—sits at the corner of East Fourth Street and the I-35 access road. To its north are signs of impending construction on the 10-acre Plaza Saltillo development. To its east lies an expansive metal yard and to its south sits a local church. The space, which grew with the addition of a one-story brick warehouse in the 1940s, more recently served as a locksmith’s office space.
Today, the multifunctional interior of the building is an artistic balance of opulent charm and modern industrial design, with exposed beams and raw brick and limestone walls. The stained concrete oors are topped with vibrant vintage rugs and sleek minimalistic furnishings, and an intricately crafted wooden bar is surrounded by plush red- and blue-velvet sofas accented by antique mirrors. The moody atmosphere of the space starts to resonate when you reference the design of other beloved modern-day Austin institutions like Eberly and Winflo Osteria, properties that were also under the direction of Icon Design + Build.
Take a tour of Native Hostel and you’ll start to re-evaluate your definition of a hostel. With plans on the horizon for a garden-style patio and large event venue, it doesn’t feel like this place is missing out on anything. Maybe, just maybe, after years of standing in isolation, that’s exactly the point.
Eat and Drink
Free Wi-Fi, natural light and cozy couches: If that’s not convincing reason enough to schedule some remote work hours or your next client meeting here, then let the coffee and pastry selection serve as added incentive. How about some ice-cold brew and cardamom French toast?
The bar areas—there are two—work like clockwork. When the hour lingers between 3 and 6 p.m., all happy-hour bets are on. After 6 p.m., when the sun starts to set, it’s time for girlfriend get-togethers and date nights flowing with cocktails (You can’t go wrong with the Mez-Can Martini, French I-35 or the Native Margarita.) and savory dishes, like waffle fry nachos topped with brisket, as well as a pickle-brined fried-chicken sandwich and duck-confit salad. Be sure to check Native Hostel’s website, nativehostels.com, for updates on event happenings, from yoga and mimosas on Saturday mornings to live Game of Thrones viewing parties on Sunday nights.
Bonus points: The bar and kitchen are both open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, an ideal situation for those seeking a comfortable late- night dining spot. Choose your visits wisely, though. Coming from someone who scoped out Native Hostel on a Friday night at 7 p.m. and the following Saturday night at 11 p.m., I highly recommend the former for those wanting a relaxed, able-to-still-hear atmosphere, and the latter for those who love crowds and don’t mind having to wade through a standing sea of cologne and high heels to wait 15 minutes for a drink order.
Sleep and Stay
The beauty of having a hostel in the same space as a restaurant, bar and music venue is that, when it’s 2 a.m., you actually don’t have to leave. Slip behind a set of soundproof doors and tuck yourself into one of Native Hostel’s 65 beds. Each bed is enclosed by dark-burgundy privacy curtains from West Elm and equipped with its own individual wall lamp and pair of wall plugs. Locked storage is conveniently provided under each bed, and clean showers, toilets and vanities with brass fixtures and black marble countertops are just a few steps away.
Each wing of the hostel has its own communal room. The focal piece is a long, wooden vintage table surrounded by built-in couches, encouraging both quiet work time and conversation among visitors. A pot of hot coffee and a plate of warm biscuits are sent in each morning from the kitchen.
For those looking to save a bit of money and cook their own meals, the communal kitchen in each wing will make you feel right at home with its sleek custom cabinets, dark-gray marble countertops and top-of-the-line appliances.
For private gatherings or larger parties, consider checking into a loft suite, with four single bunk beds and one king bed with one full bath, or the Romper Room, with eight single bunk beds and a California king bed with three full baths.
Whether you want to experience Native Hostel for one weekend or one week, rest assured you’ll be living in style and sleeping in comfort.