The Austin History Center boasts a serious wealth of restaurant menus in their archives. In honor of Classics Week, every day will feature a tour of some of their most interesting holdings. Today, a look at three stunning menus from once-popular casual chains. Since Youngblood's is getting a revival, why not these three too?
The Pig Stand was a massive Texas-grown success story. The first restaurant opened on the Dallas roadside in 1921, according to the website for the last remaining pig in San Antonio. A roadside dining innovator, they pioneered curbside service, and later, drive thru. Here's a great summary from The History Channel's website:
When a customer pulled into the Pig Stand parking lot, teenaged boys in white shirts and black bow ties jogged over to his car, hopped up onto the running board-sometimes before the driver had even pulled into a parking space-and took his order. (This daredevilry won the servers a nickname: carhops.) Soon, the Pig Stand drive-ins replaced the carhops with attractive young girls on roller skates, but the basic formula was the same: good-looking young people, tasty food, speedy service and auto-based convenience.
...Many people say that California's Pig Stand No. 21 became the first drive through restaurant in the world in 1931, and food historians believe that Pig Stand cooks invented deep-fried onion rings, chicken-fried steak sandwiches and a regional specialty known as Texas Toast.
The Texas Observer also has a great deep dive on the restaurant chain. Here's their summary of the final shutter:
By 2005, only six remained statewide, with two in San Antonio and one each in Houston, Beaumont, Lytle, and Seguin. All were owned by Richard Hailey, the son of Royce Hailey, a former Pig Stand carhop who had risen through the ranks to own the chain.
The younger Hailey had recently opened the Seguin Pig Stand and bought another restaurant in San Antonio, and the expansion proved fatal.
By mid-2005, Hailey had filed both corporate and personal bankruptcy, with Texas Pig Stands listing $1.8 million in liabilities.
For Hailey, it was a bitter personal tragedy.
"It's been pretty much my whole life to this point. I've always felt the responsibility, and was honored to carry on the history and my father's legacy," he says.
The Night Hawk
The Night Hawk famously lives on in The Frisco, the last remaining vestige of the once-might chain founded by Harry Akin. The Chronicle's Virginia Wood wrote the definitive deep dive on the restaurant, which famously broke down racial barriers in what was then a still-segregated city. The well-run diners also trained a generation of Austin restauranteurs. Hoover Alexander of Hoover's Cooking recently spoke with Eater about what he learned there:
[Mr. Leon], he'd been with [Night Hawk] for forty-something years, and I speak of him very reverently. Very smart, just not very literate. He could read and write enough to read the Bible and recipes pretty much. He was an incredible chef. He was really in command of multitasking and I have memories of him making pie shells and stirring some gumbo and something else on the stove. He really took me under his wings. Over the years, I learned the kitchen, after busing tables, washing dishes: bartending, managing, a little book keeping, hosting, waiting tables.
Here's a video capturing a dinner out there in the 60's:
[Leslie's] Chicken Shack
Texas Monthly described this smaller chain, whose original location was in Waco, as Youngblood's "archrival." There's less information or remembrances of the Austin location online, but blogger Eateries, Dives, and Juke Joints rounds up photos of both Chicken Shack and Youngblood's. Their delightful menu alone begs for a revival.