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Jul 31, 2008 06:07 AM

Tony's Southern Comfort - Closed

Kaput, finis, belly-up, broke, busted. And "FOR RENT".


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    Somewhere, tom in austin must be sensing this great disturbance. He loved Tony’s fried chicken.

    I don't know how much more bad news I can take this week. First El Regio and La Regiomontana are closed, and now I lose my only decent fried-chicken connection. I shudder to think what’s next. I've heard anecdotally from small-restaurant owners that, with higher food prices and fewer customers eating out, it almost doesn't pay to stay open anymore. Even well-known places like San Antonio’s El Mirador are feeling the pinch. When this is over, all that's going to be left in this town are crappy chain restaurants and pretentious, overpriced boîtes with well-researched corporate "scenes" that lure in the droves of hipsters.

    If you love great food but you've been eating out and chowhounding less because of high gas and commodities prices, when you do dine out, please try to patronize the independent shops that are barely getting by—even in the best of times.

    17 Replies
    1. re: MPH


      Life has no meaning.

      Man, couldn't they have warned me? I'm a regular for crying out loud. I would have been there once a week if I knew it was going away.

      Sad times in Austin. MPH's musings on the economy might be true. I guess I better start voting with my dollar.

      1. re: tom in austin

        Great points both of you. Time to make sure we are supporting those independent establishments that we care about the most.

      2. re: MPH

        MPH said "...when you do dine out, please try to patronize the independent shops that are barely getting by..."

        If they're barely getting by, haven't we already voted? I' d change thius to:

        "If you dine out, please try to patronize the shops with the best chow, to ensure they remain open through any tough times." Who cares if they're independent. We here at Chowhound only care if they're GOOD!

        1. re: Bababooey

          babbabooey says" Who cares if they're independent. We here at
          Chowhound only care if they're GOOD!".

          I disagree.I care deeply as to whether they are independent.

          My formula for eating out is complex.It has to be delicious or the potentiality for deliciousness must be present.I try as many new places as possible while consciously going to my old favorites.Gotta keep the flow.I eat at non-chain restaurants 99% of the time but I do lapse on my creed and roll into Popeyes a few times a year.

          We've lost Bens Longbranch,Maxine's Soul Kitchen,The Fish Net,Fish R Us,Tony's Southern Comfort and a few others I'm probably forgetting over the last year or so.

          I find this considerably more upsetting than the shuttering of Bennigans.

          I can't think of a single item at a corporate restaurant that I can't get a better version of from a local restaurateur.

          You're voting in a valuable way each time you walk up to a cash register in Austin.I'll cast my vote for the mom and pop joints.

          Now that Tony's is gone,might I recommend a visit to Nubian Queen Lola's,Reggies or Gene's New Orleans for alot of the specialties offered at Tony's?

          And if anyone gets word of Tony landing in a new spot please post so we can check him out.

          1. re: scrumptiouschef

            I seem to remember quite a few posts talking about how bad the food had gotten at Tony's. Regardless of being a chain or locally owned, if the food is bad any restaurant is going to go under.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              Scrumptious, your own post belies your disagreement with me. You are in search of the best grub. The fact that the best grub is often found at local, independent shops is why you go there - not necessarily because they are independent. If, for some reason, Bennigan's had the best burger you've ever had, would you forego that "best chow" an go to a local independent with alousy burger? I hope not. Good food is good food, regardless of the owner.

              Like beercoop said, if Ton'y's was as great as you thought, more pepole would have gone there and they'd still be in business.

              1. re: Bababooey

                I wouldn't assume that the popularity of a restaurant hinges exclusively on the quality of the food, nor does this determine whether a restaurant can weather difficult economic times. People are remarkably similar in their poor tastes, but far more varied in their more refined, narrow ones. Also, chains restaurants do provide some, ostensibly, signal about consistent quality (whether it be low or high), so particularly in tough times, people may be less willing to experiment or explore new places because of shrinking eating-out budgets.

                That being said, I wholly agree with your sentiments that there is no reason to patronize businesses just because they are "local", irrespective of price, quality, etc. If so, why would they have any reason to improve, adapt, or remain competitive, if they can coast on their "local" bona fides?

                1. re: jackietreehorn

                  Case in point: Magnolia and Kerbey Lane cafes, specializing in consistently shitty food and service since forever.

                  1. re: bookgrrl72

                    Oh good, I'm not the only one who refuses to ever go back to Kerbey Lane due to shitty service and "eh" food. Every time I see a rave for it in the Chronicle or whatever, I wonder what it is I'm missing about that place.

                    1. re: bookgrrl72

                      A-MEN, bookgrrl72...give me good chow, be it popeyes or parkside.

                      1. re: bookgrrl72

                        That's a little harsh, bookgrrl72.
                        We're getting a bit off topic, but If you are going to lump the 2 together, I think Magnolia is a notch above Kerby. The breakfasts I've had are usually pretty good. Some stuff is kind of middle of the road, but i haven't had anything terrible(not so KL), and I haven't ever had bad service at Magnolia.

                        1. re: bookgrrl72

                          As my wife calls it, "Shitty Lane".

                          Magnolia's barely passable but I'll never set foot in KL again.

                      2. re: Bababooey

                        I agree that you should go where there is good food, but if all else is equal then I advocate choosing the independent place. In tough economic times, I think chain restaurants are generally a little better prepared to weather the storms due to their business infrastructure and mass buying power. However, a bad couple of months for a mom and pop place can turn everything around.

                        I don't think Scrumptious, MPH, Tom in Austin, or myself are ever advocating eating food you find less than delicous. I am saying that if you like the food at Chain X and you equally like the food at Mom and Pop X, please give your money to the little guy.

                        1. re: Honey Bee

                          Perfectly put, Honey Bee. Reframing the discussion as "independent vs. delicious" is a false dichotomy. In context, I assumed it would be obvious that my post referred to the fact that our favorite mom-and-pop places need help during these tough economic times if they are to keep serving us their *delicious* food. Independent spots with bad grub are routinely written up as mediocre on this board.

                          To my mind, a more homogeneous restaurant scene is not in chowhounds’ best interests. In an interesting thread on the Not About Food board, a poster observed that with the tightness of credit markets today, the more restaurants that go under, the less likely it is that a bank will loan money to any new non-chain restaurants:


                          Tony's food may or may not have been getting worse right before they closed. I recall two or three reports to that effect, but I can’t speak to their accuracy, as I didn't observe firsthand any slippage in quality. However, I've always recommended Tony’s on this board because I thought they had the best fried chicken in town.

                          I also agree with what bookgrrl72 posted. A restaurant's financial success and popularity don't necessarily correlate with deliciousness. Off the top of my head, I can think of several “Austin restaurant legends” that deserve to have died off years ago.

                          I’m glad to hear, though, that Ben’s Longbranch may be close to re-opening. The remodeling had taken so long, I was beginning to think that I'd never see Ben’s doors re-open.

                      3. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Ben's Longbranch is making a comeback (though I don't know if the name is staying the same). Folks have been remodeling the place and BBQ will once again be served there. They were originally hoping to have is open last month, but didn't make it. I haven't been by in a week, so they might be open now. I'll give an update tomorrow.

                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                          "I find this considerably more upsetting than the shuttering of Bennigans."

                          OH MY GOD, DID BENNIGAN'S CLOSE? Whatever shall I do?

                          Just kidding!
                          Speaking from experience, the operating costs are so high and profit margins so slim in the restaurant business that even places that do a lot of business don't make money the way people might expect. It often doesn't take much of an increase in the cost of ingredients, rent, insurance, or other expenses to take you from profit to loss.

                      4. re: MPH

                        I loved Tony's. Never had a bad meal there, despite the up & down reviews of late. I'll miss their chicken & waffles. I'm definitely putting Gene's back in my once a week lunch out rotation. Gotta show some love for my eastside favorites. Keep 'em in business, too.

                        I make it a point to avoid chain restaurants when possible in favor of local ones, no matter if it's here at home or in other cities. There's nothing worse than going halfway across the country to visit family or friends and ending up at a Macaroni Grill.

                      5. The "FOR RENT" sign is gone and it looks like they're working on the insides.
                        That area is trying to become the new SoCo, at least as far as upscale housing is concerned - not many shops have made the scene yet.

                        1. A friend of mine sent me this list today of places that've closed in the last year or so.Looks like a bunch of Mom and Pops to me.Does anyone have any info on new projects from the chefs and/or owners of these restaurants?

                          Texas Star Diner on hwy 290

                          Tuscany on Riata Trace

                          Houlihans downtown

                          Mimosa on Barton Springs

                          Y Restaurant and Bar in Oak Hill

                          Dry Dock on Burnet

                          Nu Age in Tarrytown

                          Dan McKluskeys on 6th st

                          Noodleism on 5th st

                          Austin Cheesecake Kitchen Westlake

                          Redbud Bar and Grill Westlake

                          Brentwood Tavern Burnet Road

                          Tin Star Hancock Center

                          Reeds Jazz and Supper Club Gateway Center

                          Curras Grill [two out of 3 locations,Oltorf still open]

                          Salt Lick in Davenport Village

                          Jenny's Kitchen on hwy 183

                          Cibo downtown

                          Margarltas in Round Rock

                          Castle Hill on W 5th

                          Chuco's Tacos on 10th st

                          Wan fu on Oltorf

                          Mood and Food on 2222

                          Tien Hong on Burnet

                          Ninfa's on 183

                          Dandelion Cafe on E.11th

                          Capital City Brasserie on Colorado

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                            Add the Trudy's that stupidly moved from Brodie Oaks to the former Smokey Bones location in front of the Metropolitan theater. I think it lasted 2 months.

                            1. re: achtungpv

                              I certainly hope Trudy's South isn't closed. I just placed a to-go order with somebody who answered the phone "Trudy's" after dialing the number from their web site for the new south location.

                            2. re: scrumptiouschef

                              Add DOG ALMIGHTY to the list.

                              The restaurant stupidly moved from Burnet Road (in the Stonehouse Grill complex which also closed) down to The Drag and then that closed. The only one l;eft is in South Austin. A friend and I were going to Tony's today for his birthday and I called to make sure they were serving Fried Chicken like they do on most Sundays and I got the disconnected phone message. So sad. Tony's was AMAZING...though the interior did have a funeral parlor decor without the casket.


                              New York Times article about possible nationwide trend of Soul food restaurants shuttering.Been to Galloways lately?

                              1. I am only a casual observer to this board. Our daughter lives in Austin and we visited last Feb. and you all were very helpful. I was saddened by this post and the one about El Regio Pollo closing. Regio was sooo good an so cheap, and I'm not even a big chicken aficionado. My daughter's boyfriend is Afro-American and is a cousin to Tony. We spent a memorable evening there. Too many chains, too many chains. We'll be back in April for the Bob Marley Festival. Gotta get my taco and BBQ fix.