Don't call it a comeback

Shuttered South Congress eatery lives on as new Airport Boulevard bar

Shuttered South Congress eatery lives on as new Airport Boulevard bar

Snack Bar restaurant sign owners
Snack Bar owners Karl Gilkey and Bethany Andrée are getting back in the business. Snack Bar/Facebook

With the feverish pace of restaurant closures in summer 2018, Austin is long overdue for some good news. On June 28, that news finally came when Bethany Andrée told CultureMap that a version of her much-missed Snack Bar is coming back.

Andrée and husband, Karl Gilkey, originally opened the casual eatery in 2008 in the space adjacent to the Austin Motel. It quickly became popular for its globally inspired menu, comfort food brunches, and happy hour drinks. Facing bustling South Congress Avenue, it was also an essential stop for people watching.

One of the last mom-and-pop operations on the strip, the owners were forced to shut down on October 30, 2016, after investment firm Greenfield Partners purchased the space, the connected Austin Motel, and the adjacent retail spaces.

In a letter posted at the time, the couple said the new owners encouraged them to finish out the last two years of a non-renewable lease, but they decided to close both because of the “tumultuous at best” dining scene and because it gave them the opportunity to take care of their employees.

Almost two years later, the longtime Austinites are readying a new concept, Bobo’s Snack Bar at 3850 Airport Blvd., in the former Austin Auto Assistance space. The name is borrowed from an izakaya the couple encountered on their honeymoon in 1996, which was also the inspiration behind the name of their original restaurant.

Although there will be some similarities, Bobo’s will not be an exact copy of the former concept. The menu will again comprise international dishes, but the only menu item returning from Snack Bar will be Lisa’s Favorite Gluten Free Brownies. Andrée says the offerings will be “leaning heavily on the vegetarian side, with more items sourced from local chefs than made in-house.”

Bobo’s is intended to be a neighborhood watering hole. “Think bar first, snacks second,” says Andrée. The drink program will include a curated full bar, wine, and beer, plus nonalcoholic options like soda and coffee. The team aims to source all beverages from Texas.

As with Snack Bar, the owners are again doing most of the work themselves. The decor will be an extension of their house, mixing midcentury modern and contemporary touches, and the homey atmosphere will come complete with a small deck and a fenced “yard.”

Andrée says that she is aiming to open Bobo’s by the end of the year but cautions that they do not have investors that can help hurry up the work. They are currently toying with the idea of crowdfunding or becoming a community supported bar.

Delays or not, the couple is committed to bringing back the same homegrown feel as Snack Bar. Andrée says, “Karl and I are in this for the long haul.”