In about 1972 or '73, a hippie restaurant was opened on Rio Grande a few blocks from the Capitol. The main two founders were John Dickerson and Fred Parker, and they called it "The Bo Tree" (short for "the bodhi tree" from the Buddhist tradition. Other investors/hangers on included Kurt N., Chuck, John C., Bonnie John, Buster Byrum, Bonnie John, Diane Huerrmann (from San Fran), and me. Fortunately, Diane and Bonnie could actually cook, a detail that might have been initially overlooked. The rest of us took up other tasks - e.g. waiting/bussing tables, washing dishes, general cleaning, etc. It was a lot more work than we had bargained for, but we persevered. The food was actually fairly good - at least some dishes - e.g. chef salad, vegie burger platter, and we even began to attract non-hippie clients such as State Capitol employees - for a while at least. :) Here are a couple of recollections:
1. I was serving a group of women from the Capitol, and one ordered a chef salad. I was really trying to do my 'waitress best' in the hope of attracting new customers. However, as I served the chef salad, one of those giant Austin cockroaches crawled out from under a large leaf of romaine lettuce, which was met by shreiks of horror/indignation and a hasty exit. Now, let's be clear that we weren't slobs, and our cooks had a high standard for cleanliness. However, this was Austin, and many neighborhoods were infested with roaches. So no matter how hard we tried, a few slipped by us now and then - much to our chagrin. Loyal customers just shrugged off such news, but this definitely put a dent in the diversity of our clientele.
2. One beautiful, spring Sunday, the Bo Tree folks decided to bring some food to a music festival at a local park to make an extra dime or two and contribute to the festivities. Unfortunately, no one realized that some Bo Tree person had laced the vat of soup with some downers, which adversely affected a few hippies who were apparently quite fond of soup. While packing up to leave, we noticed they seemed to be asleep, and quite wisely loaded them up in our van and took them back to the Bo Tree where they eventually awoke and went home.
Thundercloud has been around a long time. I remember the original location on Lavaca but mostly, I went to the Riverside location... which is still there and still looks about the same. I always liked the bread and the hippie chicks behind the counter.
The main memory of Thundercloud for me was what I read in the Men's room there on Riverside one afternoon. My favorite joke of all time:
Why did the train stop in the woods?
To let the Lumberjack off.
Well, a quick search of this site shows a glaring omission: The Texas Chili Parlor.
One thing I like about TCP is that they still don't seem to have a working website and their Facebook page is more than five years out without a new post. That, my friends, is kickin' it old school in Austin, Texas.
The Chili Parlor has always been there, it seems, but in reality began in '76. At that time, it was next door to the Capitol Oyster Company and right around the corner from the original location of the Cedar Door. That stretch of Lavaca should be included in my High Karma Spots of Austin. There have been many hot spots around there.
For TCP itself, it was a response to the Chilympiad frenzy, which was a response to the Tolbert/Fowler World Chili Championship in Terlingua, which was responded to by Walker's Viva Terlingua as well as the chain Austin love's to hate, Chili's. As you can see, chili was a big deal in Texas in the 70's.
It is still there, menu is still basically the same, still holding that beacon of 70's pop culture.
The Lung family actually ran three restaurants as I recall... one of them a legit Chinese place. The others served the popular Austin fare of the times: steaks and Tex-Mex. The Tex-Mex place was incongruently named Lung's Cocina del Sur. It was on Anderson Ln. BUT not where current Jimmy Buffet fans think. The current inhabitant of the old Lung's place is called "Star of India"... still a restaurant, still Eastern.
The menu at Lung's "looked" to be your standard Tex-Mex fare but when it arrived at the table, you could tell the difference immediately. More sauce, different spices, and especially the chips and hot sauce. They coated their chips in a powder that made them taste a bit like Barbecue or smoked. Along with them, the salsa was the smallest bowl of salsa served in Austin, I think, and very thin and kind of weird itself. All of this is somewhat understandable as long as you consider that Lung's was 1) a way-north Austin place for the times and, 2) run by a Chinese family. It was in the same "white bread" center with Swenson's and Lock, Stock, and Barrel.
The claim to fame for Lung's was the night that Jimmy Buffet had one too many there and went home to pen the immortal party classic: Margaritaville. That song has never really spoken to Austin. However, Since it was penned by a young guitar picker who was sleeping on a borrowed couch in Austin during the 70's does redeem it in my mind.
I suppose that it is the power of Austin that certain names are considered to be such institutions that they have not only survived for many years, they even close, change owners and even business models, and then reopen but having the same name. Here are a few:
Poodle Dog Lounge
Deep Eddy Cabaret
I hear that Paggi House closed this month. That is sad given such a long run but Paggi House had lost its place in Austin Elegance some time ago. I remember when there were only three really elegant restaurants in or near town: Green Pastures, The Inn at Brushy Creek, and Paggi House. All were so expensive that my visits there were for very infrequent special occasions. Austin was certainly not the food destination that it is today.
You can barely see the Paggi House "preserved" in the new condopolis:
There will be some moaning about how the closing of Paggi House is yet another indication that old Austin is slipping away. In reality, that slip occurred the day that the Taco Cabana opened basically on the Paggi House property. That was the true beginning of the end.
I remember a place out in the Lake Travis area. It was near where the highway (I think 2222) dumped into the road that went around a big part of the lake. The best sliced and pulled pork sandwiches in the area. There were so many excellent BBQ places. Anyone else remember any of them!
Sure remember this place on 2222. Best Pizza I ever had, we used to go there and I remember it was the hottest damn pizza, but the best tastin too. Wonder if it is still there....
Hamburgers by Gourmet, in the building at 22nd and Guadalupe now owned by the Church of Scientology and also located on South Lamar, had wonderful cheap hamburgers but also spectacularly tasty breakfasts with a bottomless cup of coffee. Two eggs, toast, and hash browns. Their hash browns were made with leftover baked potatoes fried with a little onion, all crisp and delicious. I always wondered whether all the free refills on the coffee drove them out of business.
I remember the first McDonald's in Austin. Way back before Ronald McDonald, the Happy Meals, the Big Mac, etc. It was parked on the extreme southwestern edge of Capital Plaza, near the H.E.B. This was back in the days when McDonald's didn't have indoor dining. It was more like an old-fashioned hamburger stand where you walked up to the window and gave them your order. Then, if you didn't take the food home, or eat in your car, you could sit on the outdoor benches on either side of the restaurant. It was all a sort of white porcelain look with a golden arch on either side.