If you've driven down The Drag in the past month or so, it is impossible not to notice that the campus location of Kerbey Lane has been under construction. When I first saw the “Goodbye. For Now.” sign on the marquee I figured “goodbye” meant the cafe would be closed for an extended period time. Three months? Six months?
After a relatively quick renovation, one of Austin’s favorite 24-hour establishments is open for business again with a new look that is ready for critiquing by anyone who craves famous blueberry pancakes or Kerbey queso.
Of course, the same late night crowd of inebriated twenty-somethings and insomniacs floods the campus location. "The late shift is busier than before the remodel," says Jaimes.
I had that very craving last weekend after I noticed the large “Now Open" banner hanging outside the restaurant. A few hours later, a friend and I were seated at a booth near the brand new, granite-topped bar. “I don’t like it” were the first words out of my friend’s mouth as soon as the waitress was out of earshot.
The lime green trimmings, black leather bar stools and chrome accents are far from the dirty, student-infested, late night hangout that we remember from our formative years. The inside is painfully hip and shows no evidence that it lies just across the street from the University of Texas, much less in Austin at all (all pennants, magazine clippings and UT memorabilia are gone).
According to manager Jovani Jaimes, since the renovation, the weekend crowd has included more families than in the past. He attributes this to “the touch up that was needed” and customers giving generally positive reviews of the new look. Of course, the same late night crowd of inebriated twenty-somethings and insomniacs floods the campus location. “The late shift is busier than before the remodel," says Jaimes.
The best part of the renovation: Several walls were knocked out and tables were added to the extra space. The updated space does conceive a certain amount of nostalgia for the old, reassuring look of Kerbey Lane.
My most memorable experience at Kerbey Lane was my 22nd birthday, which happened to be the day that a masked gunman ran into the Perry-Casteñeda Library (PCL) firing an AK-47 before committing suicide on the sixth floor.
I was about to take an exam in the UT Communications building, located a hop and a skip from Kerbey, when the sirens began to groan and eighty percent of my class received a text from the UT police department. We were informed that we were in lockdown because a masked gunman was near the PCL.
To escape the commotion, I snuck out of a side door and walked to Kerbey Lane. Sitting at the bar eating blueberry pancakes and drinking a Fireman’s 4 (a surprisingly good pairing) and being the only customer in the restaurant made me feel considerably more at peace with the situation than I should have been.
The familiar waxy feel to the bar and the stick of my Vans to the grimy brown tile was a safer consciousness than sitting in a classroom with thirty other students listening to sirens and the high-pitched voice of a classmate throwing out hypothetical situations of our demise.
Most who have eaten at Kerbey Lane have a Kerbey Lane memory; it comes with the territory. So while my friend's response to the changes was “I don’t like it,” I took a simpler approach: “As long as the menu hasn’t changed, I suppose I can get used to it.”