1. The Old Spaghetti Warehouse
Goodbye Spaghetti Warehouse, Hello Capital Grille: an upscale chain restaurant that will probably taste like old cardboard and have the all of the originality of an Olive Garden.
2. Leslie Cochran
Leslie was a conundrum. He wore heels and a leopard thong, but I don’t think anyone would have called him feminine; he was homeless, but he wasn’t; and he was a loner, and yet everyone I know has at least one photo with his leg wrapped around them. Whatever he was or was not, he was a true fixture in Austin, and he will be missed.
3. The O.G. Backyard
I grew up going to shows at the Backyard. I saw my first String Cheese show there. I saw Widespread Panic. G Love and the Special Sauce. Despite what this list might suggest, no, this venue didn’t shut its doors due to rampant drug use. It moved because, apparently, Austin needed more shopping.
4. Shirtless Matthew McConaughey Playing The Bongos
Austin has lost a lot over the past decade or two, but nothing, nothing will replace the occasional shirtless Matthew McConaughey siting—especially during that bongo phase.
6. B$#**, Pease! This Ain’t No Disc Golf Course
The shutting down of the Pease Park Disc Golf Course was a sad day for many a stoner—I mean disc golfer. Potato, potahto, really. These days there is a “replacement” course at Roy G. Guerrero, but locals know it’s not the same.
7. Pink Flamingos All Year Long
Austin locals know that Austin was one of the only cities in the U.S. with a wild flock of pink flamingos, just off of Bee Caves and 360. They lived there year-round, braving the cold months and the heat, making us all smile as we drove by. Of course they were made out of plastic, but hey, I like to believe they loved us just as much as we loved them.
8. Any Band Up Close At ACL
Back in Austin City Limits’ heyday, you could actually see the band you wanted to see, without having to watch them in a giant jumbotron-like screen from the back of the crowd. Actually, back of the crowd? There is no back of the crowd these days. It just keeps going.
9. Les Amis Restaurant On The Drag
This favorite Austin hangout was there during the riots, during the beginnings of the disco days, the punk scene; and it played a role throughout. When it closed its doors 27 years after opening, people were pissed. Really, there’s even a documentary about it.
10. Wanfu Too!
I remember going to Wanfu Too many a late night! They had the best sweet and sour chicken and sake bombs! By best, I mean the chicken was mostly digestible and they didn’t card minors for booze! Oh how I miss Wanfu Too! Exclamation point!
11. Before There Was Reggae Fest That Cost You $25
There was Marley Fest, which cost you a few canned goods.
12. Pandamonium!!! AHHH!!!
When a friend of mine reminded me of Pandamonium—the magical, gigantic human-sized hamster-like playpen for kids/ball-pit heaven—this was my reaction, just as it was every time my parents said I could go there for a birthday party.
13. The Long Lost Las Manitas
Las Manitas was a staple of Congress Ave. for 26 years. It wasn’t the best food in the world, but it was a classic local diner; an institution where construction workers, local celebs, and regulars got together under one roof—or if you walked through the kitchen, out on the patio.
14. La Zona Rosa: Spanish For Quintessential Austin
Okay, that’s a lie. La Zona Rosa is obviously Spanish for The Pink Zone, and Quintessential Austin is quintaesencia Austin. Te echamos de menos, La Zona Rosa.
15. Bring Back The Alamo South Lamar!
Yeah, we know they’re remodeling the whole shopping center, and actually will bring back the S. Lamar location, but have you seen the pictures of the new one? It looks like a theater from “The Jetsons”. How are people expected to look for parking for 20 minutes on a Saturday night and eventually just give up and park in the neighborhood, if they make a new parking lot? That was half the adventure.
16. Without the Alamo, There is of Course, No Highball
I miss the days of Quoting Along to “The Big Lebowski” and then, well, continuing to quote along while bowling at the High Ball. Now it’s gone. The Dude does not abide.
17. 101X Fest, Dude!
Awww snap. I remember being a kid and going to 101X Fest with my board and just trying to look cool in front of my brother’s friends. I was about nine. It didn’t work.
18. Aqua Fest: Speedboats On Town Lake. Wait What?
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Aqua Fest was a weird little festival held back in the day when, for some reason, they allowed speedboats onto Town Lake to race, pull skiers, and parade around, polluting the water. There were bands, food, carnival rides, all at Auditrium Shores on Town Lake. What do you mean, “what is Town Lake?!”
19. Town Lake: Yeah, We Don’t Call It That Anymore
I once wrote about Austin referring to Lady Bird Lake as Town Lake and got a backlash of responses: “It’s called LADY BIRD LAKE!” Yeah, I know it is, but before you moved here from L.A., it was called Town Lake.
20. Tower Records On The Drag
Tower Records may not have necessarily been local, but it certainly had local flair, and it was sad day in 2004 when it closed its doors off of 24th and Guadalupe.
21. Highland Mall Was Once More Than A Giant Cesspit
If you’re relatively new to Austin, it might be hard to imagine that Highland Mall was ever anything more than the somewhat dilapidated, outdated, and mostly closed down hall of despair that it has become, and that there was ever a time before Barton Springs Mall. It’s true.
22. What Happened To Holiday House, Anyway?
If you grew up in Tarrytown, you undoubtedly grew up eating burgers at Holiday House. I know I did. Sadly, the business closed in recent years, along with every other business in the center that had anything to do with animal products, because when Ms. Vegan McVegan inherited the center, she made sure to remove anything that may harm animals—which pretty much has to include burgers. Sad to see you go, Holiday House.
23. Back In My Day, Antone’s And Emo’s Were Downtown
I remember seeing some of my first concerts at both Antone’s and Emo’s when they were downtown—blues, jazz, rock, country, rap, and everything in between. These days they live over off East Riverside, where they can be bigger, louder, and yet, more vacant than ever.
24. Katz’s Never Kloses!
Well, in 2011, it did. It was a very sad day when these doors shut and that locally famous yellow Caddy drove away for the last time.
25. Dinosaurs Alive At The Austin Nature Center
Dinosaurs Alive at the Austin Nature Center was my life when I was a kid. I still have dreams about it. Does anyone else remember those little red light-up velociraptor gun toys? Anyone?
26. Carlos N’ Charlies: Like A Trip to Cancun Without All The Crime
Carlos N’ Charlies on Lake Travis was the perfect place to geta way when you wanted to feel like you were on Spring Break, without actually going very far. There was volleyball, wet T-shirt contests, music, tequila, the food was decent, plus you didn’t have to worry about not drinking the water!
27. School Tours At The Butterkrust Bakery Were Delicious
I remember touring the Butterkrust Bakery on field trips, which, let’s be honest, were not the most exciting of field trips, but there was always free, warm, gooey bread (this was back before carbs were considered evil).
28. Armadillo World Headquarters: The Legend Continues
The ‘Dillo was the music venue and place to hang out in Austin from 1970 to 1980. It was the reason KLRU created Austin City Limits; it’s why there is now an Armadillo Christmas Bazaar; and it’s where greats like Frank Zappa, Willie Nelson, and those other cosmic cowboys strummed their guitars. It’s been closed for decades now, but its legacy lives on.
29. Liberty Lunch: Kind Of Like the ‘Dillo, Just A Whole Lot Grosser
Liberty Lunch was the diviest of dives. There were urinals in the women’s restroom, so much wall graffiti that you couldn’t see the paint anymore, and when I asked my mom about the place, she said she thought that the floors might have been dirt floors; on second thought, perhaps they were just that dirty. Still, this place played host to thousands of local and national bands, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Neville Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, and even Run DMC, just to name a few.
30. So You Can’t Climb On The Army Tanks And Missiles Anymore?
These days, the thing that may be more surprising about Camp Mabry is the fact that at one point you actually could enter its gates (no matter who you were) and take a jog while your little ones casually climbed all over the gigantic army tanks and huge weapons like they were monkey bars. Not so much post 9/11.