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Oct 12 2006

If Las Manitas Goes, I Go

annrichardsshadow.jpg
The author stuffs face at Las Manitas in 2004. Little did I know that I was being tailed by late former Texas governor Ann Richards. I swear, the way that woman dogged me …

If you ever visited someone in Austin, and this person wasn’t a moron, the first place she took you was Las Manitas, the Tex-Mex diner within armadillo-swingin’ distance of the capitol building. Everyone who either is or wants to be interesting eats there, from state legislators to spinster aunts to those sweaty white badge-wearin’ SXSW geeks.

So naturally, because the iconic restaurant is in every possible respect the physical and spiritual embodiment of the Austin zeitgeist, a generic corporate behemoth is going to tear it down in order to build a mega-Marriott triple hotel complex. We’ve already got a butt-ugly stinking Marriott, but the jerkbag white dudes in charge of destroying everything I love don’t care. Dig what this one had to say:

“Why should you hold up a several-hundred-million-dollar investment because of a small little restaurant?” J. Willard Marriott asked Thursday while visiting Austin. “The restaurant can relocate and should relocate.”

My fellow Texans — and anybody else who disdains to stand idly by while all that is good and pure in the world is crushed under the callous Italian loafer of capitalist pigbag honkydom — help save Las Manitas.

There may be better food in the world, but there is no better restaurant. Ann Richards was Texas, but Las Manitas is Austin.

[via Burnt Orange Report]

36 comments

  1. Sylvanite

    I’ve visited a friend in Austin several times, and he never took me there. Is he excused since he’s not a native Austinite? Or is this one of those “ignorance of the law is no excuse” kinds of things? I need to know so I can read him the riot-act if necessary.

  2. CafeSiren

    Crap! Twisty, I was in Austin 8 months before I discovered your blog, and ended up eating and nasty tourist restaurants on 6th st. And now, I may never get the chance to eat at Las Manitas.

    That the restaurant can relocate… so could the Cherokee. That don’t make it right.

  3. stekatz

    Gee, Twisty, that so stinks. I feel for you. On the surface, it would seem to some like a minor thing, but it means so much more. Little businesses like this keep the world from becoming one gigantic mall. I guess the only consolation is that at least you have some glimmer of hope in saving this place: folks in Austin would be more likely to put up a fight as opposed to folks in, say, Palm Springs or Las Vegas.

    In my hometown of San Jose, where I no longer live, I watched time after time as a childhood landmark got razed for something souless and unnecessary. They razed Linoleum Dick’s (everyone would say, “They’re making ‘em outta everything these days!”). Kiddie World (my childhood toystore) and A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books are long gone. The list goes on and on.

    I guess my version of “Las Manitas” would be Falafel Drive-In on West San Carlos. The day that place goes, San Jose will be dead to me.

    Maybe as a publicity ploy, you could lay a giant sacrificial taco at Las Manitas’ doorstep and hold a candlelight vigil in front of it.

    Bummer. Total bummer.

  4. L2

    Well, I’ve lived here 20 years and I’ve never eaten at Las Manitas. I’m sorry. I will remedy that situation just as soon as humanly possible, believe me.

    And when The Tavern was threatened, I said something similar. I believe it was “I swear to God, if they turn that thing into a Joe’s Crab Shack, I am outta here!”

  5. lastwiz

    Damn. Road trip from Dallas will occur shortly. I swear Ann Richards used to follow me around, too. I have seen her in Las Manitas twice and on Padre, in Corpus, Galveston, Fort Worth and shocklingly New York City. All in restaurants. Okay once in the DFW airport bathroom – but who wants to talk to strangers in airport bathrooms? In NY I had to say something to her. Her response was “Even sugar flys have to land on the vipers sometimes.” Hopefully Las Manitas can fight the scum sucking developers.

  6. speedbudget

    Twisty, even though I live in Delaware, which is slowly becoming corporate headquarters and McMansion capitol of the US, I did send an email to the mayor and city council of Austin. Don’t know if it will do any good, because Lord knows those kinds of campaigns don’t work here in Delaware. Here’s hoping your councilmembers aren’t on the developer payroll like ours are.

  7. norbizness

    Similar Austin disappointments:

    Waterloo Brewing Company, now a Fox and the Hound (originally slated to be a condo)

    Liberty Lunch, now a nearly empty, flat, boring, sandstone Computer Sciences Corporation building.

    Empty lot, now a twisted shell of an Intel building that would never be built.

    “He gazed up at the enormous hotel. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of terrific, street-level shopping lurked beneath. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Smart Growth!”

  8. grrr kitty

    I hate the homogenization of dang near every burg in this great land of ourn. Everything, as they say, has been refitted and beshitted. There is a hideous Marriott in my backyard too, as soulless and ugly as a military barracks. I miss the Percolator, a greasy spoon where I misspent many afternoons of my flaming youth, which never flamed all that much unless you got weak eyes.

  9. TP

    No matter how new and fresh they are, all Marriots smell the same. And they don’t smell like Tacos, either.

  10. Jenevieve

    “…small little restaurant”?

    He sounds really quite very mucho silly there.

  11. KTal

    As a contractor, I wonder often about what our landscape will look like in twenty more years. Planners and municipalities are swooned on a daily basis by the money changing hands, the power and the promises and disregard their obligation to guard the public interest and community welfare.

    I also started to read a few lines of a John Stupid (Stoffel) peice that hurrayed the return of DDT for use in third world countries.

    Nothing has changed. The old guard is coming back with a vengence and equipped now with claims of terrorism.

    Yes, it may seem off base about a resturant, but I really don’t believe it is. Those who hold the money for such ventures as described above have no regard for the public or communities they intend to rape for their own profit and their connectedness is well known.

    That this resturant finds itself facing off with such a behemoth with no support from the local muncipality (I assume), just shows once again where power is placed in this country. It ain’t with the people that’s for sure, unless the people do some real serious action in a serious way. I won’t hold my breath on that until some serious problems occur here.

    Remember now, you can be jailed for any acts that suggest treason or terrorism against the state and held indefinitely. (This is how I understand the last passing bill annihilating habeas corpus, correct me please if I am wrong).

  12. kathy a

    any restaurant in which both twisty and ann richards ate — and at the same time! — is obviously an institution worth preserving.

    i have a stupid question. if a city already has a marriot, why does it need 3 more? is austin in danger of being overrun by conventions, or what? mr. whozit can talk about his hundreds of millions, but he lacks a certain bit in the taste, tact, community outreach, and gastronomical departments.

  13. educe

    Those who hold the money for such ventures as described above have no regard for the public or communities they intend to rape for their own profit and their connectedness is well known.

    Your closing remarks on this comment, KTal, are especially significant since those who value money over life can rarely be stopped through non-combative ways.

  14. Ron Sullivan

    Twisty! That’s you??! In a PINK T-SHIRT?!!

    Wait, you must be anticipatorially holding the entire population of makeup-wearing cancer survivors up to ridicule! You’re exactly like a pornographer! O the shame. O the punctuation. O the deep-fried eels.

  15. Buttercup

    i’m sorry about the restaurant. we’ve had a fair amount of similar here in PA, too. hard to hold onto a place’s character when bigboxmegaeverything arrives.

    and I miss Ann. The world is a sadder place without her in it.

  16. Amanda Marcotte

    A Marriott? No need! There’s already a couple other hotels being built in the area.

    Good eye on the big hair. It’s a disappearing phenomenon, and when big hair is completely gone, I think I will miss it.

  17. thelmyc

    “Why should I be inconvenienced by the existence of other lesser beings?” is what that fuckwad meant to say …

  18. curiousgirl

    I have alterted the troops. We’reon it.

  19. Cass

    Never heard of the place. And I dearly hope that my sister-in-law doesn’t tune in for this post, as she’ll have her suspicions confirmed that I’m not only an uninteresting moron, but a very poor host and tourist guide.

  20. Cass

    O.K., now I know the place… right next to Tesoros, right? I bought a guava soda there one particularly hot day when walking down Congress. Its the kind of place that looks like an institution, but I wasn’t aware that it was, and am now properly shamed.

  21. goslingblogger

    Please please please remember that J.W. Marriott is (in addition to being a great big capitalist piggy) a faithful Mormon and thus a huge contributor to the LDS church, spiritual Graceland of the patriarchs. As if we needed more reason to blame. Now this. Thanks for the heads up.

  22. Betsy

    Keep Austin weird!

  23. cycles

    “If J. had any brains, he’d invite Las Manitas to put a restaurant in the Marriott lobby.”

    I can’t imagine a more repugnant idea. Last time I was there (a mere 10 years ago), we ate on picnic tables out back as Susana Almanza talked about environmental racism and PODER’s fight against petrol storage tanks that were making people sick on the east side. I just can’t imagine that happening in the antiseptic brass and marble lobby of a Marriott. Gah.

  24. robin

    Comments unrelated to this post:

    I really like the new banner, and so want to add my vote to the opinion pile, and I really loved Ron Sullivan’s “think a thong”.
    What better use of a really innane melody than a goofy tribute to thongs!

  25. Mar Iguana

    goslingblogger:

    “Please please please remember that J.W. Marriott is (in addition to being a great big capitalist piggy) a faithful Mormon and thus a huge contributor to the LDS church, spiritual Graceland of the patriarchs.”

    Aieee. This is the kind of stuff that gives me the Gilead jitters.

  26. StellaBlue

    Ate brunch there today. Tasty Migas Especiales Con Hondos. Took my mother, who was in town visiting, for her Last Meal.

    I should like to point out that there is already a dual Marriott Residence/Marriott Courtyard high-rise monstrosity a mere TWO BLOCKS northeast of this site.

    For shame.

  27. jc.

    Dear Twisty,
    I don´t know if it will help at all but as far as I´m concerned they can build the proposed Mariott on just about any or all restaurants in Stockholm, it would be no great loss.
    If they have any problems with the owners or government tell them to just say that John the Ayatollah of Gardening said it was o.k..
    Hoping this will take the pressure off your place.

  28. Twisty

    jc, I appreciate the sacrifice you’re willing to make, and I’ll pass your message along, but I fear it will do little good; The Marriott clearly doesn’t want to build a hotel so much as he desires to bum me out.

  29. Mandos

    Is Norway such a culinary wasteland? How disappointing. But then I found Madrid to be disappointing too.

  30. Mandos

    Norway, Sweden, what’s the diff? They all look like Cylons to me anyway.

  31. jc.

    Our main (native) gastronomic event is during winter solstice when we quaintly pull a large whale (greenpeace? vegitarian destroyers of proud nordic folkways) into the main square of old town and collectively (natural socialism!) eat it raw with folksy flint and plastic tools, YUM-YUM!.
    Fending off the ravening packs of timber wolves that roam our streets during the nine winter months only helps to whet the appetite (and helps to keep down the unwatched baby population).
    And, no Mandos, we are not Norway as we got no stinking fjörds, oil and it doesn`t always rain here.

  32. Cass

    We are very grateful for the offer, jc. It may be too late for this particular Marriott, but as global warming accelerates I’m sure Stockholm will gain as much tourism and convention business as Austin stands to lose.

  33. marigoldie

    Say it ain’t so. When I visit Austin I always plan my days around Las Manitas. I get the chilaquiles rojos–every day for however many days–with flour tortillas and black coffee (and the mugs are so wonderfully warm). I love the swivel chairs at the counter, the faded 1980s poster of James McMurtry, the steamy air, the fast-flying waitstaff and the swinging YES and NO doors. I’ll send that link to everyone I know.

    We in Nashville just lost our great old bowling alley to a big P.F. Starbucks deal that went sour–days after the wrecking ball.

  34. doulicia

    I ate at Las Manitas the one time I was in Austin (1996) and Ann Richards was there at that time, too! Maybe she was dogging Las Manitas, not you? Any coincidence that the plans to “relocate” it move forward only after her death?

  35. Cass

    I’ve given it some thought, and here finally are the conditions under which I’LL be going:

    1. The West Lynn Cafe goes. (check)

    2. My vote is gerrymandered out of all possible significance. (check)

    3. I get a transfer to the environs of Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a doubling of salary so I can afford to live there. (still pending)

  36. Phillip

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