In a surprisingly fitting turn of events for a neighborhood deep in the battles of gentrification, historic blues club Victory Grill is going to become the home of chicken and waffle specialist The Rolling Rooster’s second restaurant. The 1104 East 11th Street restaurant in Central East Austin is aiming to open in October.
As a nod to Victory’s past, Rolling Rooster will offer a stage for blues and R&B musical performances. This location will also serve mixed drinks from two full bars and be open for late hours, as confirmed by owner Glenn Williams.
Williams started the Rolling Rooster as a food truck patrolling Pflugerville in 2015. The menu highlights chicken and waffles, as well as other soul food offerings like oxtail, mac and cheese, fried fish, and wings. The first restaurant opened in the Wells Branch neighborhood in 2017.
Founder Johnny Holmes opened Victory Grill in 1945 after World War II, hence the name. Austin was still segregated at the time, and Victory Grill was a place for African-Americans to hang out and watch live blues performances. It became a vital part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit”— the network of African-American juke joints that stretched across several states. Its stage has seen the likes of famous singers and performers like James Brown, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Chuck Berry.
The nightclub section of Victory closed in the 1970s, followed by the entire building in 1988 after a fire wrecked it. After a series of fundraising concerts (including from fellow nightclub owner Clifford Antone), Victory Grill was rebuilt in 1996 thanks to a final funding push from Eva Lindsey, who managed the venue until 2008, and R. V. Adams, a personal friend of Holmes. It was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998 and is recognized by the Texas Historical Commission. In 2011, Another Option Productions took over the Victory Grill for events and South by Southwest performances.
Williams grew up in Chicago, where he worked in his grandfather’s and then father’s restaurants.