The first time I was in Austin for SXSW, Robert English took me to Las Manitas, a small yet amazingly tasty Mexican restaurant on Congress Ave. According to his tradition, breakfast (or lunch) at Las Manitas is the FIRST thing he must do upon arriving in Austin (after checking into the hotel). The past four years, I've adopted this tradition as my own, making sure that I indulge in some black bean and avocado tacos immediately after dropping my shit off at the hotel and before I check in at the Levis' Fader post to help set up shop.
The hustle and bustle of this 25-year old establishment is a wonder to behold. Walking through the kitchen to the back deck seating area, one sees the energy and intensity required to keep a steady flow of patrons streaming in and out of the restaurant. Everything on the menu is fantastic and while the servers run around like chickens with their heads cut off due to the overwhelming amount of business, they somehow manage to maintain a good attitude and welcoming demeanor.
It's with a heavy heart that I tell you this... by the time SXSW 2007 is underway, Las Manitas as we know it will cease to exist. In February 2007, Las Manitas, along with a few other independently owned businesses on the same block will lose their lease as building owners look to score major cashola by striking a deal with a development company to erect a multi-story hotel on the site.
I'm not here to debate the pros and cons of economic progress at the expense of small business owners, so I'll just say this... goodbye Las Manitas. You'll be missed.
For the entire scoop, check out this article in the Austin Chronicle.