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The Saddest Austin Restaurant Closures of 2020

Local food writers reminisce about the biggest restaurant shutters of the year

Dishes from Magnolia Cafe
Dishes from Magnolia Cafe
Magnolia Cafe/Facebook

As is the tradition as we near the end of 2020, Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past culinary year in Austin. Given the insanity of this year, Eater has adapted the standard survey into one the reflects the new realities of takeout, restaurant shutters, and a shaky industry. All answers will be revealed before the year ends — cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Question number four:

What was 2020’s saddest closure?

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard. How can we survive weekend mornings without gingerbread pancakes?

But the greatest loss is Luby’s Cafeteria, which transcended socioeconomic, racial, and class divides, and brought Texans together in one communal line. It was a remnant of simpler (and many would say better) times.

Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
It’s hard to focus on one when the whole industry has been decimated. It was tough to see Holy Roller and the Brewer’s Table close, knowing how much Callie Speer and Jake Maddux put into their places. Looking forward to their next acts.

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
Daruma Ramen and Fabi + Rosi — I just went into Fabi + Rosi a couple of weeks ago, and was chatting with the staff about how long the restaurant has been open in Austin. You can still get Daruma Ramen at Kome, but I loved the tiny space at Daruma that just added to the dining experience.

Katie Friel, editor, CultureMap Austin
Fabi + Rosi was always such a gem. The food was delicious and I loved that it was tucked away and felt like a true neighborhood restaurant.

And Daruma Ramen. I adored sitting in that teeny, tiny restaurant before a show on Red River or open-mics at Esther’s Follies. It was so intimate and, even though you were on Sixth Street, it felt like a different world.

Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
Veggie Heaven! I used to go to Veggie Heaven on Guadalupe during my college days and the place is nostalgic for me. Plus, they had great Chinese vegan food.

Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, The Infatuation
Dart Bowl was the one that hit me the hardest. I used to bowl there every Sunday for about four years, and I somehow never got any better. They also had great Tex-Mex food and cheap drinks (maybe that explains my lack of bowling progress). But more than anything, their closure is kind of representative of a lot of what Austin has lost during this time. Maybe it’s nostalgia-driven or maybe it’s the ghost-of-enchiladas-past talking, but Dart Bowl is a spot I’m really going to miss.

Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
All of them. Growing up, my dad and I would go to Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard when my mom was out of town so I could have pancakes for dinner (my dad, a huge cheapskate, was also thrilled we could eat for $20 with tip). So that one hurt.

I also have fond memories with my parents at Fabi + Rosi, Threadgill’s, and wine dinners at Cafe Josie; my friend had her first date and wedding reception at North by Northwest; I spent a memorable night playing video games with carne asada fries at Troublemaker; I got accidentally drunk off three Old Fashioneds at the Townsend; what will downtown even be without Easy Tiger on Sixth Street; and I will miss the Brewer’s Table’s unique vision with regard to elevating beer and sustainability. It’s been a year of loss, and I (blindly) hope the worst is over.

Sarah Engstrand, contributing writer, Eater Austin
It’s Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard for me. It was one of the first places I went to in Austin, and when it closed in April I realized that it would be just one of many more to come.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
It’s been a goddamn rough year. Here’s what I’ll miss:

-My actual last in-person, post-gym meal at Holy Roller. I hope the grilled cheese with avocado sandwiches live on somewhere else.
-Concerts and easy drinks at Red River venue Barracuda.
-Using the Fareground (because of Dai Due Taqueria), the downtown location of Easy Tiger, and the Townsend as go-to meeting spots for friends visiting the city, plus quick-and-easy meals during South by Southwest.
-Reading a book while eating and drinking at the bar of Second Bar and asking the bartenders random questions.

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