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Old Restaurants in Austin

Like Tom T.Hall I believe cars,bikes,houses,people and restaurants get better with age.

What are some of your favorite time worn Austin restaurants?

Dirty Martin's Kum-Bak Place,opened 1926, used to be one of my favorite burger joints til they adopted usury as a business practice.$10.50 for Bacon Cheeseburger,Fries and Rootbeer.I still eat here but only when I feel like springing for a special lunch.

Arkie's Grill,opened in 1948 and opens Mon-Fri at the glorious hour of 5:30 am making it a great place to cap your evening or more commonly,a spot to start your day before a long hard slog through the workplace.I love their Fried Chicken and their homemade sausage patties for breafast.

Nau's Enfield Drug has been in it's current location since 1951.It's nice and old timey inside[buy a Big Chief notebook...huge penny candy selection]and some of the ladies who cook and serve you think of LBJ as a young'un.I'm not sure how many soda fountains there are in Austin but I know it's a short list.This is a good one.

Hofbrau Steakhouse opened in 1934.Yeah you can read a newspaper through their steaks but the flavor's right.However,they don't salt the beef in the kitchen, just break your portable sea salt mill out of your backpack and get down tableside.Their French Fried Potatoes are heaven.Crispy outers and mealy inners.These need to be mentioned in the Best French Frys thread somebody started.Don't leave without trying the Garlicky-GARLICKY salad.It's kind of plain but the garlic dressing will pummel you.Plus it's laden with oil.

I know there are plenty more of these old war horses around town.

What is your favorite?

What year did it open?

What do you eat when you go there?

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  1. Can't have this discussion without mentioning Scholz Garten. According to the history page on their website, it's been open since 1866.

    I went once for lunch and had a BBQ plate. It was ok. I would return to try other stuff as I love German food, I just haven't had the chance. Maybe I'll go back soon.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nypb

      I love their french fries - the cheeseburger is pretty good too. I believe on Thursday's in the fall they have the german oompah band, the Wurstband. It's nice to sit out in the biergarten and enjoy the music.

      The same people that have the Scholz's lease own Green Mesquite. So, if you like the BBQ at GM, you'll like it at Scholz's too.

    2. Just a minor point - Arkies is not open on Mondays. I know this the hard way as I often don't bring a lunch on Mondays and the only thing in walking distance is Arkies.

      They may be open on Saturday, though. So far I've found the food kinda so-so, but I'll try the fried chicken.

      -sw

      1 Reply
      1. re: sqwertz

        So I'm sitting here eating their fried chicken right now and I don't understand the attraction. The batter had nice form - crispy - but no flavor. And inside it's just regular chicken, slightly dry and hard at the breast No seasoning, marinade or brining whatsoever.

        And the side of gravy I got extra is like yellow cornstarch and water. No flavor in here either. Frankly, the gravy is downright atrocious. I'd rather be eating Soylent Green.

        I think I'm giving up on Arkies. Tomorrow I'll walk the other direction and try out Taqueria Jalasciences (sp?).

      2. Gotta be House Park BBQ, boys. When did it open....something like 1948? I get the beef brisket plate, and ask them if they can slice you some of the fatty brisket. They cook it low and slow, so you get nice smoke flavor and the fat is melted buttery goodness. Decent sides, too.

        1 Reply
        1. El Patio on Guadalupe has got to be my favorite of all the old time restaurants that are still in business. I don't know for sure when they opened - sometime in the 50's I think. You just can't beat their old time TexMex enchiladas!

          1. The most interesting thing about this topic is that there is not a single "fine dining" establishment on this board. I've only been in town since 1991, and I'm having a hard time thinking of places that have been there much longer. Jeffreys and Hudson's are close to that old, maybe a little older. I'm guessing that maybe the oldest would be Ruth's Chris (which has changed locations) or maybe the Driskill or the 4 seasons.
            Am I missing something. Anybody?

            5 Replies
              1. re: sighmesigh

                Shazam.

                I'd completely forgotten about El Patio when I started this post.I should not admit this but I've never eaten at this icon of Tex-Mex.It's conveniently located which for me is a huge turn off.I've eaten at all the Taco Carts that dot the roadside pastureland down Hwy 812 on the path to Red Rock.I've driven 969 from Austin to Bastrop on the trail of more street[county road?]food but I've never visited the legend.It opened in 1954 which certainly qualifies it as properly weathered.

                Jeffrey's opened in 1975 so it's still a young'un.This is where Raymond Tatum began his climb into stardom, it's narrative has been properly outlined elsewhere.

                Ahhhh Green Pastures.The legend has had her ups and downs since she swung open her doors in the late 1940's but her importance has never wavered.This is the closest thing Austin has to compare to iconic Deep South eateries like Bright Star in Bessemer Alabama or Commanders Palace in New Orleans.When Mary Koock died back in the mid 90's Austin lost one of her great treasure.

                Does anyone remember the lovely forest and pasture just south of the restaurant?Well hold onto that memory because it's being bulldozed for a lovely condo community.

                YES.

                More density,bigger taxbase.What were some of the other comments
                when the axe finally swung home on Las Manitas?

                This is one of my favorite subjects:Old restaurants.

                Like old taverns or old motorbikes the tales are endless,the lore fascinating[I miss the Mermaid bar on East 6th st].I know there are a bunch more out there that are slipping past us.

                Go eat somewhere old tonight

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  I've never been to GP. I totally forgot about it. Would the food be worth a visit. I understand that it is pretty high dollar.

                1. re: TroyTempest

                  Not very old, but old by today's standards. Chez Nous, which isn't really fine dining but very good bistro fare, has been open for 30 some-odd years. It was there when I was in law school 33 years ago, although it was fairly new then.

                2. How about Hill's Cafe - I know it closed for a while, but it's been open since 1941. Also, another landmark saved by Bob Cole - The Tavern - 1916!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: jjs21582

                    and they have air conditioning!
                    that always cracks me up

                    1. re: TroyTempest

                      When I was growing up we used to come to town for UT Football games. If we won, we would eat at Ruth's Chris, if we lost it was El Patio. My dad loves El Pats. It was his hang out when he lived here in the late 60's because they served beer late.

                      Does the Frisco still qualify? Top Notch certainly does, and they are still cranking out the goods. Cisco's probably qualifies age wise, but disqualify chow wise.

                      1. re: El General

                        I would argue that it qualifies...it's certainly been continuosly operating, if in a couple of different locations. I went this past weekend and loved it. maybe more for the feel than the food, but it's a charmer.

                        and this is way off-topic, but if you love these old places and ever find yourself in SF, run, don't walk to John's Grill.

                        1. re: TroyTempest

                          Obviously not old enough to remember when a business having air conditioning was somewhat rare.

                      2. I grew up eating at The Nighthawk, but it's long gone. Fond memories, though!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: dalaimama

                          That was gone before my time. How did it differ from the Frisco? I got a haricut last night at Bird's - when I walked out, I could smell the new Frisco. I was hungry, so it made me want to try it.

                          1. re: rudeboy

                            The Nighthawk was a steakhouse, although it was owned by the same folks as the Frisco. It was a favorite place for the local politicos to go for lunch. The Frisco has always been more of a diner. Back in the day the Nighthawk was the place to take your out-of-town guests for a "fancy" dinner.

                            1. re: txagcook

                              It was indeed a place for dinners that were an occasion. I ate many steak dinners at The Nighthawk in the 80's with my granny. She always ordered a 9 oz. rare Top Chop't (The Texan) with a baked potato and a plate of tomatoes with the house dressing on the side (think homemade thousand island with capers and anchovies). She only ate the tomatoes with a little dressing on them and the rare center out of the Top Chop't. She never touched the baked potato. She always had a piece of chess pie for dessert. She scraped the custard out of the crust.

                              H and I go to The Frisco on occasion since it's in our neighborhood. The Top Chop'ts are still the best grilled chopped you're likely to encounter. I've tried to reproduce the grind at home and I've come close, but it's not right still. I think I need to get more courage for asking for the extra beef fat for cheap at the meat markets.

                              1. re: agoodbite

                                Of course NH had a " high end" for the times, steakhouse at the SE intersection of 35 and 2222. Ate there a bunch.

                                One thing noteworthy of the NH was that he hired a black man to be a manager, something rare in those days. Also, noteworthy is that some of his waitresses worked for him 40 to 50 years and at least one is still working at the Frisco, the top notch blond.

                                The NH, around 1958 raised the price of its baked potatos from 50 to 75 cents and The Daily Texan had a lead editorial about what a hardship this was going to cause students.

                                Behind the Chi Omega house on Wichita St. was a 8 stool café called Austin Maid Café , run by an ex army cook. Very crusty guy, but good cheap basic food.

                                BTW, any Tower Drug fans still living besides me? I worked there as a pharmacist, made $2 an hour.

                        2. Here's a list of old establishments in Austin that the Chronicle put together in conjunction with a story they put out today about this very topic:

                          http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyroba...

                          Some of those kind of surprised me.

                          1. I used to love eating at Bert's Long Branch BBQ for lunch (I'm a downtown office caged person) but in the last year the hours changed so much that I was continually showing up when it was closed. I think they've finally set their hours again so I'll have to swing by.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Kaya_n_Austin

                              Long Branch BBQ is gone and is now J. Kelly's. They did a slight remodel and Bert's been training them on his recipes. They're now open for lunch and dinner. The BBQ is good, but I haven't had enough to compare to other places.

                              1. re: zebcook

                                The place on E. 11th was Ben's Long Branch. The place on MLK that burned down (and I think was even older) was Bert's BBQ.

                                FWIW, the Bert's on Far West is still open, and you can still get a Turbo T-Man there, but it's just not the same.

                                1. re: mkwng

                                  Rolling by La Reyna this morning they've strung up a banner touting 35 years of operation.It's one of my favorite Tex-Mex joints in town.A few words

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/441442

                                  Eaten at any old restaurants lately?

                                  1. re: mkwng

                                    The Bert's on MLK (19th when I was in college there) used to have a sign "Since 1970". I thought it was funny when I first saw it as a student in fall 1971. I guess everybody has to start somewhere.

                                    1. re: danny_w

                                      That's a funny story - how time flies, huh?

                                      I like Nau's Pharmacy on W Lynne.....for the atmosphere, mainly.

                                      1. re: danny_w

                                        And there was a sign nearby (in the alley perhaps?) that read IF YOU EAT AT BERT'S DON'T PARK HERE.

                                2. The Driscoll. Maybe it has gone through several iterations but it has always had a dining room or two. Years and years and years ago in the mid 60's my wife and I had lunch there. The lunch special came with tea but I ordered a beer and was not charged extra for it. That is the way things used to be in Austin.

                                  1. I don't know how long ago they started, but Rosie's Tamale House has been around a long long time. They are out on 71 just past 620. Go in and ask how the Willie's plate came to be. Interesting story.

                                    1. Just answered my own question. Rosie's opened in 1973.

                                      1. If you've been around Austin for a few years, you might well recall The Shanty, a fine bbq joint on Red River, Kirschner's Cafe on Burnet, Uncle Van's Pancake House, The Holiday House, Dale Baker's BBQ, Hank's Sunset Grill on the Drag, The Barn on Balcones, The Magic Time Machine, the Picadilly Cafeteria and Mi Casa. All are gone now. At one time or another, I enjoyed all of them. But I really miss the Shanty and Dale Baker's.

                                        1. Quality Seafood has been around since 1938 but I don't know how long they've been cooking to order.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ridgeback

                                            I've been going to the Bakehouse for at least 20 years now and it's quite a drive for me from north austin (land of bland) so that says alot.

                                            I'm addicted to their chicken dijon sandwich and onion strings. I don't go there for the atmosphere, I go for the awesome food. I hear their prime rib is tasty.

                                            Bakehouse
                                            5404 Manchaca Road
                                            Austin, Texas 78745

                                          2. We were just talking about how nice Chez Nous has always been, but that the parking downtown has hindered us going...

                                            -----
                                            Chez Nous
                                            510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: amysuehere

                                              Lat time i went there we parked by the brown bar and had some cocktails, and then took a cab to Chez Nous. Felt like being out of town. Cab ride was less than $10 with tip.

                                              -----
                                              Chez Nous
                                              510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

                                              1. re: amysuehere

                                                What we have been doing is park in the Highland X-Mall parking lot and take the metro. CN would be in easy walking distance. Of course, they have raised rates recently, but how many people buy a ticket anyway.

                                              2. Oldest memories are coming to Austin for UT football games with my parents in the 60s - mandatory that we ate at the original Matt's El Rancho, just east of the Crest Hotel on First. I still love the place, even in the new building.

                                                Moved back in the mid-eighties - Carmello's, Chinatown, and Paggi House were all open then. Does the Tavern count?

                                                -----
                                                Matt's El Rancho
                                                2613 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

                                                Paggi House
                                                200 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78704

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: 23451bum

                                                  Of course there is Hill's. Been through several iterations,but still there.

                                                  One of the first restaurant meals I had when I came to UT in 1957, (yes, I'm that old) was at the Tavern.

                                                  BTW, El Patio, now 60 is still here and I daresay, has not improved with age.

                                                2. I used to love Christy's on the lake. The jumbo shrimp were great. This was the place you had your parents take you when they visited you during your college years. The food was good, but a bit pedestrian. The times were different. All it took was a white table cloth and reasonably well prepared basics and you were "fine dining". Still, I've never had quite the same experience with a wedge of lettuce and dressing since. I still miss it.
                                                  I've had this question. There was a restaurant on Guadelupe at about 26th. It had infamous turquoise booths and really awful food. For some reason we all went there and got chicken fried stake. It was tough and flavorless and we all got nauseous afterwards, but we always went back after about a month passed. What was the name of this terrible place? TIA

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Cabbie12

                                                    You may be talking about Hank's. Your CFS was fried very early than AM or the day before. I and my dorm buddies spent many hours there eating and drinking 25 cent beer. Anyone got served, regardless of age.

                                                    CFS, hamburger steak for about 85cents. Most expensive thing on the menu was a sirloin for 1.10.

                                                    Do you remember Shirley, who was in love with Hank?

                                                    1. re: singlemalt

                                                      YES!
                                                      Hank's! Yes, that's it!
                                                      I don't know why no one could remember that name. Of course, there were a couple of other places with that name. I loved the one way out N. Lamar. Only seated about 12 people.
                                                      Anyway, the one on the Drag was truly horrid, yet everyone went back. Go figure. Thank you.

                                                      1. re: Cabbie12

                                                        It was cheap, convenient, and they would sell beer to anyone. Also had good juke box.

                                                        A couple of the waitresses, we found out, were extremely friendly.

                                                        1. re: singlemalt

                                                          All true, but the joint made us sick and the food sucked. No, I think they doped the beer with heroin, except why did the craving happen a month later? (Those insidious bastards!)

                                                  2. Just happened to go to Nau's a few days ago for breakfast. Same as always, and still pretty cheap. Need to go back for a shake in the afternoon.

                                                    I have NEVER been to Hofbrau, but each time I pass it, I say to myself "I should go there." The comment about the fries and the salad will get me in there soon. What's the best time to go in the late afternoon or evening?

                                                    Something about Dirty Martin's was off-putting for me about 6 years ago. Maybe I'm jut cheap, and maybe I'm turning into an old gramma that just gives a quarter a week for a child's allowance.

                                                    Fran's is still out on 290 and Cameron, I think. I always liked the CAB steak and eggs breakfast.

                                                    You might include Texas Chili Parlor and others that have been around for a while.

                                                    There was a burger place at 7th or 8th and Brazos for a long time.

                                                    The new owners of Top Notch managed to improve and bit and not screw up the place. Hat's off to them for that. I like the later hours. I get a cheddar cheeseburger with +Jalapenos,,+mustard, minus lettuce with extra tomatoes,

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                                      We went to Top Notch for the first time in our 9 or so years in Austin just last weekend and loved it. I got the double cheeseburger with L, T, O, M, tots, and unsweet tea and it was a fine meal. I was born in 69, that place in 71. Outstanding. Great vibe in there too from the staff to the other clients.

                                                      1. re: slowcoooked

                                                        One thing I like about Top Notch (besides the charcoal grill), is that you can get shredded cheddar instead of american yellow.

                                                        Just realized that the original post was years ago, but still a relevant topic.....after all, were talking old school.

                                                        Forgot about Amaya's. Still haven't been to their new location.

                                                      2. re: rudeboy

                                                        I used to love Nau's, but husband says they're not good and won't go with me.

                                                        Dirty Martin's went downhill when the health department said they couldn't squash their burgers on the grill anymore. Same thing happened to a place I used to love in El Paso (best green chile burger ever). Something about the squashing makes it taste better. Plus they use frozen patties now.

                                                        I have never been to Hofbrau either! It's been 20+ years here, too.

                                                        I used to love Top Notch. The owner got his recipe for the hickory burger (and the grilling technique) from a place called Charcoaler. When he died, he took the hickory recipe with him. It's close to the same, but I can tell the difference and it's kinda ruined it for me.

                                                        Unfortunately, Fran's on Congress was my "go to" burger and I just don't think the other locations live up to the ones on Congress. Gonna miss them. Dan's is just too greasy.

                                                        Anyone remember Good Eats on Barton Springs? They used to make the best chicken fried steak and sides.

                                                        Green Mesquite's improved with age. Love the chicken wings, okra, and schooners of Shiner out under the oak tree.

                                                        1. re: amysuehere

                                                          Good Eats! Yes! I was trying to remember the name on another thread. Absolutely the best 'ritas in Austin. Citrus press fastened to the bar, they would squeeze limes to order for 'ritas. No mix, a very comfortable barrel shaped glass. As you say, very good chow. Thanks for remembering!

                                                          1. re: amysuehere

                                                            I used to love Top Notch. The owner got his recipe for the hickory burger (and the grilling technique) from a place called Charcoaler. When he died, he took the hickory recipe with him. It's close to the same, but I can tell the difference and it's kinda ruined it for me.

                                                            I live about 15 minutes walking from the TN and it is one f my favorite hamburger places. The old lady who worked there for years, and unfortunately died of lung cancer, told me the original owner of TN had worked for the Holiday House chain, hence the similarity to the HH product. Of course, it achieved its crowning glory by being shown in the movie Dazed and Confused, (I hope that is the movie, but everyone knows that.) ( But maybe you didn't know that there is a house about a block behind me that belongs to now retired physic prof at UT, that was also used in D 'n C.

                                                            1. re: singlemalt

                                                              I guess the first paragraph should be in quotes. It freaked me out at first that u and ASH wrote the same thing.

                                                              1. re: rudeboy

                                                                I imagine AmySue was freaked out even more. My apologies. As you may have concluded, not to swift with modern technology, still stomp the floorboard for the dip switch.

                                                                1. re: singlemalt

                                                                  hehee...Get out of my head! Holler sometime and I'll meet you there for a burger.

                                                                  1. re: amysuehere

                                                                    Well shit - we should do Monday or Tuesday, before another year passes. How about Tuesday lunch or dinner? We could also do the ramen place, or split a burger 4 ways and then do ramen. After all, we are chowhounds, right?

                                                            2. re: amysuehere

                                                              Didn't Hoover Alexander (of Hoover's Cooking) manage Good Eats?

                                                          2. May have been mentioned already, but Threadgill's has been around a pretty good while. I guess the original location on N. Lamar is still there, as well as one just south of the river, near where the Armadillo used to be.

                                                            Cisco's is another long time restaurant.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Mike C. Miller

                                                              The original Threadgills used to offer a NINE, yes 9, vegetable platter, and they have good sides. I think it is just a 5 veggie platter now. And I preferred their center-cut cornbread of yesteryear to the corn muffins today.
                                                              Thankfully Cisco's hasn't sold out as real estate prices on the east side of 35 got goofy high. Great migas.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                cisco's not selling out wasn't for a lack of trying. he just wanted too much...for now.