I like the Kirby Lane Cafe. It’s become an institution in Austin since it opened back in 1980. I wasn’t in Austin then. My first encounter with Kirby Lane occurred in the early 2000s. My date, who later became my husband, took me to the original Kirby Lane Cafe on (can you guess) Kirby Lane in downtown Austin.
The restaurant, like several other restaurants and retails stores nearby, had once been somebody’s home. My first impression was “comfy.” Saturday night, and we had to wait, although not too long. I’m sure it was warm out, because we hung around near the front door not wanting to get too far away from the air conditioning. There were only a few other groups waiting for seats: Maybe one or two couples about our age and a group of college students.
When we got our table, I remember being impressed at the menu. Both of us are vegetarians, and there were pages of items to select from. What a dinner! I hadn’t lived near Austin for long and being at any restaurant that had more than one vegetarian option was thrilling.
While waiting for our food, I remember how hard it was to pay attention to my date. (Good thing he paid attention to me.) There was so much to see. Signs, pictures, and objects of all kinds. Each told its own story of the restaurant, the people who visited, and Austin.
Since that night, we’ve dined at three of their other locations. As happens when restaurants grow, they must economize their menus to fit with the times and their clientele. We don’t visit Kirby Lane Cafe often anymore. They still have a few vegetarian items, but not as many as they used to. Nevertheless, they will always hold a special place for me when I think of Austin. They are part of Austin, one thing that makes it a special place.