A toast to the good old days
Mysterious new '70s diner revives location of Austin's first Dairy Queen
A brand-new hospitality group is taking over the South Congress spot that was home to Austin's first Dairy Queen — and later Southside Flying Pizza — and turning it into a 1970s-inspired diner.
Toasty Badger Diner is the first of three new Austin-based projects coming out of Lobos Hospitality. The group’s website promises that the diner, which will open Friday, January 26, will provide “an inviting '70s ambiance” and “a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere, where the funky past meets the present moment.”
Menu items include traditional diner foods – pancakes, French toast, BLTs – and the diner will be open from 8 am to 3 pm daily, with eventual plans to extend hours for dinner service.
The menu will include pancakes, French toast, BLTs, and more.Photos courtesy of Lobos Hospitality
According to a press release, plans for the diner include not just a return to the ‘70s in terms of decor, but a return to the golden days before Austinites needed a reservation to eat anywhere in the city. The diner will be walk-in only, with the option for prospective guests to add themselves to a virtual waitlist.
The goal is to create a neighborhood spot with a sense of community, said COO Jason Ellefson in the release.
“A couple of us come from small towns where a sense of community was extremely important,” said Ellefson. “We all have fond memories of eating with our families in our hometown diners and wanted to recreate that experience for the Austin community.”
Old-fashioned diners and eateries have been on Austinites' minds recently. A few diners made Texas Monthly's best-of comfort foods list in October. Longtime favorite Opal Divine's sent a wave of disappointment and nostalgia through town upon its final closing in November. Although they're not diners, new spots like pub Victory Lap are taking major design inspiration from the era, while others are leaning into the same social dining concept.
The diner will be at 2206 S Congress Ave.Photos courtesy of Lobos Hospitality
The hospitality group does not appear to have any explicit Austin ties beyond a desire to start working here. Three leaders represent the group: CEO Grace Chow, COO Eric Kemp, and CCO Jason Ellefson. According to their LinkedIn profiles, the trio has overlapping experience in Las Vegas; Chow and Kemp worked at the SLS Las Vegas hotel, and Kemp and Ellefson both worked at Beer Park in the same city.
Each of Lobos Hospitality’s three new concepts has a different atmosphere and style. Also in the works is Manny’s, an upscale-casual restaurant downtown at Fifth and Lavaca, which promises a garden patio. Finally, there will be Powder Room, a speakeasy cocktail lounge.
The Lobos website doesn’t list a location for Powder Room, but applications for permits filed with the City of Austin in 2023 show that Manny’s and Powder Room will both be at the same location – 301 W. 5th St. Lobos hasn’t yet announced opening dates for Manny’s or Powder Room, but all three businesses are hiring.
Lobos Hospitality is unveiling the mystery piece by piece at loboshospitality.com and on social media.