For a while, Austin was a quiet capital, better known as a college town with the University of Texas founded in 1883 and St. Edward's University in 1885. The city was founded with around 500 residents, half of whom fled the city when the government recessed or school was not in session. But once the capital boomed, it boomed! The secret was out - Austin was cool.
In the early 1900s the city's population was around 22,000 residents versus a 656,000 population as of 2000. Nowadays, statistics state that over 100 people move to Austin each and every day. And that trend does not seem to be slowing down or changing any time soon.
But what about those that were here before the boom? The oldies-but-goodies. The "founders" if you will. Well, I’m lucky enough to have married into an “old” Austin family. Most, if not all, of my husband’s family and friends went to the same elementary school together, rooted for one of the only high schools in the city (go Maroons!), and matriculated to the University of Texas, or "UT". For years they’d go to the same Austin stalwarts, not just to eat, but also to gather, see other friends and family, and dine on what was (and for some joints still is) quintessential classic Austin grub.
When you refer to "the old Austin" many places and nostalgic thoughts can pop into one's mind. Over the years whenever we've visited a classic Austin restaurant I’ve always listened, knowing that someone at the table had a unique personal memory or story to be told. Below are some of the stories, quotes and places where you're likely to stumble upon old, classic Austin and Austinites:
“For years people have come in on Sundays and stayed for several hours eating and drinking. You’d see big families that essentially made the restaurant into their own personal dining room, just like home. Matt would greet you upon entering, as he did at the original location on Caesar Chavez. It’s perfect.” - a nostalgic 65-year-old Austinite
"You kids would run around and play while we would sit and eat. It was a mess, but it was like home, we knew everyone at every table so someone was always watching out for one another's kids." - a mom speaking to her 35-year-old son
"To order it right, you always say 'gimme a large bob'" - on the famous Bob Armstrong dip
2613 South Lamar Blvd
Sunday-Thursday* 11am - 10pm
Friday and Saturday 11am - 11pm
*Closed on Tuesdays
“It’s been there since I was in high school, the old Austin High, the one on 11th and Rio Grande, so the little barbeque place has been there forever.
It’s not your “all you can eat”, “how do you like your brisket” kind of a place. They sell sandwiches, which taste like my childhood because I had one nearly every day during high school. Hell, I remember one day in particular when we were taking the short walk back to campus and people were crying in the streets and every student was talking about the President being shot. That was the day JFK was assassinated. That’s how old this place is.
Again, it’s not your stand-in-line for perfection barbeque but if you want a classic chopped sandwich, this is where you go.” - an old Austinite that skips the line at Franklin's and eats at House Park BBQ for all of the memories it instills
900 West 12th Street
Monday - Friday 11am - 2:30pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday
“Before the Salt Lick was “THE SALT LICK,”(the venerable, if you haven’t been here you haven’t experienced the true way barbeque was meant to be served, weekend retreat) it was a family run business with little else than a barbeque pit. We came upon the restaurant, if you could call it that - it was a small wooden structure off the highway and were invited to take a seat. Basically, there was a screened in porch and a few chairs and tables set out front for dinners. My buddy and I saddled up and were given heaping helpings of fire smoked perfection.
It wasn’t a totally unique occurrence for local folks in small towns to sell barbeque or other meals from their very own homes, but the food was never this good and my thoughts on barbeque were never the same.” - a 60-something UT grad, Texas born and bred, and Austin proud. He takes "Hook 'em horns" to another level, be mindful if you ever find him on game day.
18300 FM 1826 in Driftwood
11am - 10pm, All day every day
“It wasn’t my first experience, because I was told I had been going there since I was 2 years old, but it was my most memorable. Back then there were more buildings and fewer parking lots next to Cisco’s. The area had a land of the time-forgot attitude of older post-war two-story buildings (before that was certainly cool or unique). I was probably 9 years old and upon entering I knew that I was somewhere special.
The smell alone is so unique, so characteristic of everything that is classic and good. It’s almost like experiencing your first UT game and watching the team come out of the tunnel to the Longhorn band. It’s the closest food can come to making me have that kind of a flood of emotion -the biscuits, the tortillas, those unique eggs (what were those again, I need to remember Migas I recall saying to myself).
As with half the patrons of Cisco’s that day, after our lunch we took the short drive to the UT baseball stadium to take in a game. It was a very good day for a 9 year old.” - a 35-year-old Austinite recollecting to his wife as they bring their almost 2-year-old for his first Cisco's experience
"You order the migas. And eat the biscuits. That's it." - an old Austinite, to the point
1511 East 6th Street
7am - 2:30pm, Daily
“Yes it is a working pharmacy, no it does not look like a CVS. Go to the back and sit at a stool. Be patient. Order a burger and malt. It will make your day. The end." - a father telling his son
1115 West Lynn Street
Monday - Friday 7:30am - 4:15pm
Saturday 8am - 4:15pm
Sunday 10:30m - 3:30pm
* Photographs of Matt's El Rancho taken from Lost Austin by John Slate *