I often ruminate on restaurants that have come and unfortunately gone in the 35 years I’ve lived in Austin. While I’ve only officially been talking and writing about restaurants since 1998 I’ve always been a foodie. So some of these go way back.
La Vista at the Hyatt.
Absolutely the best fajitas ever. Most nights the line was out the door.
The Granite Cafe
The BEST restaurant in Austin during it’s initial run at 29th and San Gabriel. Then, inexplicably, Reed Clemons changed the menu.
Wonderful northern Italian restaurant at 4th and Lavaca. At the time (2004) best wine list in the city. Sandra Bullock used to go down into the wine cellar and have a salad.
The Paggi House
Thomas Fleisner created a remarkable restaurant in a Civil War era carriage house. Robert E Lee is said to have spent the night.
Their Redfish was the best ever as was the Paggi salad. Ultimately two other owners took over until a condo unit prevailed.
This W 6th place was part of the Joe Elminger dynasty (Louie B’s) and was also actor Michael Doulas’s fav. I really miss this one.
Preceded Sardin Rouge at same location. Chef Robert Barker was outstanding but he and partner (the guy who brought PF Chang’s to Austin) opened at the beginning of the Summer (bad idea for a fine dining spot) and ran out of cash.
The European Bistro
Two Hungarian women crafted a marvelous Eastern European restaurant in, of all places Pflugerville, and that ultimately did the place in. Sorely missed by this half-Hungarian critic.
Brenda and Billie McGowan understood Cajun cuisine and the first Ms. B’s in a tiny spot at Mesa and Spicewood reflected that. Then they made the fatal mistake of trusting the city when they moved to E 11th St. A year later hemorrhaging from financial wounds brought on by unkept promises they were forced to close.
One of my all time favorite restaurants had a great run at the site of what is now Olamaie, and then chose to move to SoCo. Alas the financial pressure was too intense. Perlas now stands on the site.
The Spaghetti Warehouse
This spot was enjoyed by generations of young Austin families for its good and simple Italian food and low-key and fun atmosphere. Finally gave way to Landry’s high end concept, The Capital Grille.
John and Cathe Daly (later of Mi Corazon and Mirabelle) had this place on Congress smoking in the late 1980’s. Great brunches and an all around great Austin Vibe.
The Belgian Restaurant
Lovely little restaurant on Bee Caves road in Westlake. Food was high end with lots of nice flourishes. We were regulars. Finally succumbed to a fire as well as the dreaded Westlake restaurant curse.
Speaking of Westlake Chez Fred on Walsh Tarleton was one of many restaurants that failed at that location. Remember Interurban? But this one had a happy ending. After being left high and dry by her partners, Sharon Watkins persevered, paid off the debt and opened the fabulously successful Chez Zee at 2222 and Parkcrest.
Another Westlake casualty which offered up very tasty fare. Loved their gnocchi. Finally moved north but it was too late.
Hector’s Taco Flats
Man this place was a dive but it had that N Austin charm and great nachos and queso. Many UT professors, me included, would meet graduate classes there. You couldn’t have even dreamed this place up!
Dennis Tracey was one of the first Dellionaires to cash in and open an extravagant restaurant at the height of the first dot com bubble. He brought in Will Packwood (think of David Bull with a temper) and they were the first Austin restaurant to crack the $40 menu barrier. But alas the first-ever Dell layoffs in 2001 cast a parlor over the place and they eventually closed. Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill opened in the same space within a year.
Howard Kells married a Colombian woman and fell in love with the country’s cuisine. The result was a collaboration with Dona Emilia and her son on E 7th. Then on to larger digs on Caesar Chavez across from the Four Seasons. Even Eva Longiria got into the act adding a delightful pasta dish to the menu. But as good as the food was (even the simple Aroz con Pollo was stunning) the restaurant closed.
On the 17th floor of the Hyatt, this restaurant was loved by many. It was pricey but worth it. It succumbed to a corporate shakeup brought on it part by Hyatt’s incessant and needless meddling with La Vista. Still miss the Foothills.
Nick Kralj’s lavish dining club was the place to see and be seen in the 1980’s. The steaks were huge, the cognac aged, and presiding over it like King Arthur looking down on Camelot was the larger-than-life Kralj. I mean this guy was connected and from what I can tell, he still is. This place was one for the ages.
The Filling Station
This popular spot on Barton Springs did a great lunch and happy hour business. I loved their hot dogs and burgers. Terrific fries as well and always great music. Finally gave way to the wrecking ball and the land now hosts a bunch of food trucks.
The Holiday House.
This place was as iconic as any restaurant Austin had ever seen. It was big in every sense. Ralph Moreland knew how to please people and his chain had an amazingly long run.
Never known for its tidiness this breakfast joint on N Lamar nonetheless could produce some irresistible breakfast vittles. Now home to the more organic Counter Cafe.
This was one of Austin’s favorite seafood places. Sitting on (then Town Lake) it was a must-visit kind of spot in the late 1970’s. Finally yielded to financial pressure from the Hyatt and a hotel was built on the spot.
Many fond memories of this spot. A core group of manic customers gave this place the longevity it enjoyed. I never personally got to try it but the stories…so many stories.
On the corner of S. Lamar and Barton Springs this great restaurant showcased the incomparable talents of Hoover Alexander. I still remember the amazing omelettes and blueberry bran muffins. Some alleged financial missteps apparently spelled the end of this place. One good outcome: Hoover’s Cooking on Manor emerged from the Good Eats closing.
Clearly, there are more to add to this list. And we’d like to hear from you. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll revisit this topic again.