The General and I moved to Austin in the mid-1970s. At the time, Austin was a big country town with an easy view of the Texas Capitol from almost any direction. The landscape was filled with lots of green spaces. Trees with full foliage and great height were a welcomed contrast to the Mesquite trees of West Texas.
Lamar Blvd, the South-to-North corridor across Austin on the west side of town, was actually a relaxing ride. It had the perfect blending of green belt, open spaces and commercial structures. Of course, much has changed over the past 41 years. To begin with, try seeing the Texas Capitol from almost anywhere and you’ll find the view blocked by high-rise office buildings, hotels, and high-rise residential structures.
Did I mention I’d rather be beaten with a belt than have to drive across Austin on Lamar Blvd.? That is particularly true of the section from W. Oltorf Street on the south side to 38th Street on the north side? That part of Lamar Blvd could appropriately be renamed Gridlock Blvd. However, there would be opposition. We hug trees in Austin and we honor our historically significant past. Historical preservationist loyal to Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, the 2nd President of the Republic of Texas, would oppose a name change. However, Gridlock Blvd. is a better fit for the name of the street. If you plan to negotiate the route across Austin through the lunch hour, you’d be well served to pack a lunch. You’re going to need it. The street doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the traffic.
Around noon yesterday, I had some time to kill. I was driving from the Oak Hill side of Austin back to the north side. Because I have stupid written on my forehead, I took the Lamar Blvd (Gridlock) route. Having nothing but time on my hands and more traffic than the road could quickly accommodate, I opted to look at the view. Wow! The old has come down and the new has gone up. Lamar Blvd is covered with a combination of commercial and residential structures. The business part is on the ground level and the residential part is on the two upper floors. It is a progressive look.
Since I failed to pack a lunch, I recognized somewhere along Lamar and 38th Street that I was hungry. I did a quick Siri search to locate restaurants in the area. None sounded that good. Surely I could remember something. I did and I headed toward Guadalupe Street.
When the General and I first moved to Austin, we were introduced to a Mexican Food restaurant near the University of Texas that belonged to a relative of Treva’s boss. The owner of the restaurant was Lebanese. Consequently, from that time forward, we referred to it as the Lebanese Mexican Food restaurant. The General’s boss and his wife took us to the restaurant shortly after Treva started to work. We thought the food was great. Consequently, we frequented it often.
Did I mention there was absolutely no ambience associated with the restaurant? It was a crowded space and it was always filled with people. The owner was friendly, the wait staff was attentive and the food was good. What more did you need?
Heading South on Guadalupe, I was once again fascinated by change. The old has come down and the new has gone up. I drove and I drove and I determined the place I was looking for had been torn down. I think the name of it was El Patio, but it appeared lost to the past. As I approached the next intersection with the intent to turn left, I saw the restaurant. It looked as it always had. Nothing had changed including the fact that the parking lot was filled. I exited the parking lot and drove three blocks down a side street to find parking.
Entering the building, there is now an entry hall. That was different. Looking through the windows to the crowed tables filled with people enjoying lunch, it was 1975 all over again. Everything, I mean everything looked the same. I think the capacity of the restaurant is 78. At least, that is the number I remember was posted on the sign.
About halfway through lunch, I saw a familiar face. If memory served me correctly, her name is Rosanne. Both she and her brother David worked with their father at the restaurant during the time we were frequent flyers (I mean diners). For that matter, her mother also was the lady at the cash register. Is it possible that she could still work there? I looked around the restaurant and didn’t locate her brother.
When I went to pay my bill, I said, “It is so nice to see you again. It’s probably been 25 years since I’ve been in, but the food was excellent as was the service. I asked if her brother also still worked at the restaurant. She smiled and said, “I’m only here two days a week. David is here all the other time. He’s been running the business forever.”
As Rosanne was giving me my change, the lady behind me said: “I’m glad he asked that question. I was wondering the same thing. Over thirty years ago, my husband and I stopped for lunch. My newborn daughter and I had just been discharged from the hospital. We brought her here before we took her home. Your dad insisted that I allow him to hold her. He carried her around the restaurant while we were enjoying our lunch. That is such a vivid memory”.
I left the restaurant wondering, “What would it be like to complete one’s entire career and never leave the place of their original employment?” El Patio is a small restaurant. What would it be like day-in and day-out to show up for the same routine? As I contemplated that scenario, I thought about all the different office buildings I’ve worked in across the years. I’ve thought about the different jobs I’ve done. Would I have been content working in the same spot day after day, year after year? “Probably not” is my best answer.
Perhaps it would be very different if you were working in a family business? Better yet, if your sense of calling was hospitality and a packed diner day after day was an affirmation that you were at the top of the leader board in service delivery and good food, and then maybe that’s all you need. At any rate, David Joseph had big shoes to fill. Apparently, he’s effectively done so. It clearly is a case of “like father, like son”.
All My Best!