HOW IT ALL BEGAN...

We moved from Denton to Austin in 1978 at the tail end of Austin's golden age when rent was cheap, traffic was light, and the Capitol was still the tallest building downtown. Kenny had the promise of a loan from his dad, Joni had plans to attend UT, and Austin was on the move, testing its entrepreneurial wings as hippies joined the workforce.

Into this scene Kenny brought his dream of a restaurant, inspired two years earlier by a Santa Barbara breakfast joint where he learned to flip eggs and omelettes. Housed in a tourist-tacky block close to the beach, "Omelettes, Etc" was a place that served wholesome and healthy food cooked to order and made fresh daily. Could this work in Texas, land of fried food and barbeque? You'd need a certain crowd willing to try new things. He thought of too-small Denton. It was a ghost town in the summer. How about Austin, a college town writ large that was evolving into a cultural oasis, an alternative universe in a straight-laced state?

Kenny made frequent trips to Austin in the fall of '77 and driving down Burnet Road one day, he spied a "for rent" sign outside a funky mid-century diner near 49th St. Peering in the windows he saw tables and chairs, dishes, equipment, and more. I could do this, he thought, and immediately called the landlord. Two months later, The Omelettry opened its doors, it was January 20, 1978.

With no money to advertise, the restaurant opened slow but steady. The first crew mirrored Austin's cultural mix of small-town refugees, current and former students, hipsters and hippies, and an experienced line cook or two. And musicians, always lots of musicians. The fledgling Cosmic Goose Juggling Farm was on hand to teach us how to juggle as the customers waited for food, but we soon became too busy as breakfast grew more social, expanding beyond the home into lazy mornings spent with family and friends.

There's something primal about the serving and eating of breakfast: the routine of it, the comfort of pancakes and hot coffee. Breakfast stirs up memories, associations, thoughts of friends and family gathered at the table. It reminds us of home. And almost without knowing it, we became a kind of home, a warm familiar place where few things ever changed and breakfast was like you remembered. "Want your usual today?", a waitress would call out to the early-morning regulars who came in as the door opened.

And so The Omelettry thrived along with Austin, and within that first year, Kenny was already looking for a second location. He soon found it on Lake Austin Blvd.: a hamburger joint frequented by Austin High students and the college crowd from Married Student Housing across the street. Knowing he'd need help running it, Kenny approached a slightly older married couple who worked for us about managing the new location. After a bit of talk, the idea of being business partners came up. They had great ideas but little cash, and it seemed a risky bet. But we took them on, and Omelettry West was born. A year or two later, the couple divorced and she went on to establish Kerbey Lane Cafe. Seven years after, Kenny sold his interest to the ex-husband and Omelettry West was transformed into Magnolia Cafe. So if you've ever wondered about the similarities between these three, there's the back-story.

In the meantime, Kenny and Joni got married and started a family. Jesse was born in 1982, and four years later they had a daughter, Sierra. From that point on The Omelettry was a family affair as Joni often brought Jesse to work and deposited him in a playpen in the office as she tended to her duties. By the time Sierra was born, Joni was an at-home mom, eventually deciding to return to school and start a career in education.

Years passed with many omelettes eaten and even more pancakes, as The Omelettry garnered praise and customers drawn to its buttermilk and gingerbread pancakes and tasty homemade food. Our menu slowly expanded as Kenny added Tex-Mex recipes he adapted from the restaurant he worked for in Denton, as well as dishes developed by employees and cooks. As a back-to-the-land hippy in his late teens, Kenny went organic way before it became trendy and learned to cook while still a vegetarian. Our menu reflects his insistence on serving real food with natural ingredients rather than pre-packaged food products. Everything is cooked to order and everything stays on the menu. Kenny learned long ago that high standards are easier to maintain when you keep things simple and consistent. Many a customer who's been absent awhile has thanked him for keeping things exactly the same.

So we remain an old-fashioned place that's often equated with the old Austin. As father and son take The Omelettry into the 21st century, they're keeping it a family affair as Kenny manages the kitchen and Jesse runs the front. And they're keeping it real or weird, if you will, as part of the Austin we remember. Our little city is still here, you just have to know where to look for it.



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  • Mo. 7:00am - 5:00pm
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  • We. 7:00am - 5:00pm
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  • Su. 7:00am - 5:00pm