Changing Burnet Road
Growth is the norm in Austin. It can be tricky to keep track of where the next hot neighborhood will pop up. But, you simply have to follow the food.
Who’s coming in — and who’s on the way out — of the restaurant scene is an important barometer for changes in Austin; it’s happened across South and East Austin, and now it’s creeping a bit further north. Burnet Road is the next Austin area on tap for massive growth, and one just has to follow the recent restaurant openings (and closure announcements) to get a taste of what’s to come.
"The poor building’s just going to get bulldozed. I was only 23-years-old when I opened, raising my family here … It’s been as much a community center as it’s been a restaurant," says Omelettry owner Kenny Carpenter.
While there are restaurant openings aplenty, the most buzzworthy news from the north Austin neighborhood as of late is the impending closure of The Omelettry, which will be forced to move from its home of 36 years when it expires in June 2015. The family-owned restaurant is expected to find a new home, but its departure depicts how this stretch of road from 45th Street to Anderson Lane will continue to look much different in coming months and years.
A recent addition to the Burnet scene is Lucy’s Fried Chicken, which opened its sister location to the South Congress flagship in September 2013. Stinson’s Bistro is the latest graduate from coffee trailer to brick-and-mortar, opening its Burnet storefront earlier this week. It will very quickly being joined by more and more eateries looking to tap into an iconic Austin neighborhood. Popular food truck The Peached Tortilla will open its first brick-and-mortar store on Burnet Road in the fall of 2014. Others slated for 2014 openings include Noble Sandwich Co., Tiny Pies and Sap’s Fine Thai.
For incoming restaurateurs, the Burnet area offers something that’s getting hard to come by these days — a location that’s close enough to central Austin without sky-high prices. Eric Silverstein, founder of The Peached Tortilla, says, “We chose our new spot because it was within the radius of Central Austin, which is starting to become redefined.”
Silverstein also lives nearby, giving him a a first-hand look at the coming changes. After listing off where new high-rise condos and apartment complexes will be located, he notes, “traditionally the area has skewed towards a higher demographic, but the new high-rises might start attracting a younger crowd.”
Burnet Road also offers the prospect of tapping into a market of foodies hungry options closer to home. Chef James Holmes, owner of Lucy’s Fried Chicken and Olivia, knew that he had following on the north side of town soon after opening the original Lucy’s.
“We started getting customers from up north who kept telling us that we needed to move up there,” says Holmes. “I’ll admit, I spent most of my time on the south side, but I cruised around, and Burnet reminded me of what old Lamar, South First and South Congress used to be like … I dove into the area and I just fell in love with the neighborhood.”
While the excitement for new food options along Burnet Road continues to increase, some longtime businesses are feeling the squeeze of development. One doesn’t have to look any further than the news surrounding The Omelettry and its search for a new home.
Kenny Carpenter, who opened up the eatery in 1978 and now runs it with his son Jesse, is dismayed by having to leave after 36 years — and by the spate of changes along Burnet Road. Carpenter has seen the increase of “cookie-cutter high-rises” within the last five years around town, but says, “I was not expecting that here on Burnet, although it’s not surprising now.”
“I remember when 183 was the edge of town,” recalls Carpenter, “and now I feel that Austin is over-selling itself, and becoming more like Dallas or Houston.”
While it's clear that The Omelettry will find a new home (rumors flying that it may be somewhere along Airport Boulevard), for Carpenter, it’s the building itself that will be the hardest to part with. “The poor building’s just going to get bulldozed. I was only 23-years-old when I opened, raising my family here … It’s been as much a community center as it’s been a restaurant.”
Like the other trendy streets of Austin, Burnet Road is welcoming plenty of new faces as it says goodbye to longtime neighbors at the same time; it remains to be seen which will have a lasting impact on Burnet Road's future landscape.