Gati Ice Cream

1512 Holly Street, 78702
Elizabeth Baird Architecture & Design
Contemporary, Adaptive Reuse


A petite urban infill restaurant in the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood, Gati Ice Cream is a 1,500-square-foot concrete block addition to a convenience store that had been home to a hole-in-the-wall taco joint since 1985.


Tucked away just north of Lady Bird Lake and east of downtown, the East Cesar Chavez district is a traditional semi-urban residential neighborhood with small commercial spaces dotting the corners of the main intersections. Seeking to separate housing and commercial uses, 20th-century zoning laws largely eliminated this kind of development, which makes these remaining pockets of corner stores mixed with single-family homes a unique occurrence in Austin.

At the intersection of Holly and Comal sits Bread Basket, an unassuming convenience store from the 1960s that has been extended ad hoc over the years. Until recently, the concrete block extension to the east housed a takeaway taco enterprise. When the space became available, local chef Jan Santichat envisioned a new home for her successful ice cream business (an immigrant from Thailand, Santichat had been making coconut ice cream at her Bouldin neighborhood restaurant Thai Fresh since 2008).

Bringing the space up to code required an extensive renovation. Working with designer Elizabeth Baird, AIA, the utilitarian space was transformed into a refined, light-filled dessert shop that activates the parking lot with an inviting alfresco dining patio. The residential-style shingle roof overhangs were replaced with an articulated stucco cornice and traditional cable-braced flat awning. The result is a structure that clearly reads as a separate commercial space.

The interior is bright and airy, with muted tiles, rattan-and-paper light fixtures, and a skylight. Pastries and equipment are supported by a long, tiled green bar that wraps the ice cream display case. The understated, elegant design continues to the exterior, where the crisp white masonry is enlivened by a playful, geometric pattern of brightly-colored triangular tiles inspired by the ice cream’s bold colors and sense of whimsy. Bright bistro tables and a shaded deck allow patrons to enjoy their treats in a sophisticated setting that transforms a corner store parking lot into an urban eatery. – Sadi Brewton, AIA

Photo Credits:

Andrea Calo (1-10)