(Part of the Austin Rocks series of posts by a local about things to do and see in Austin, Texas)
Even if you’re past the age where you are out partying and get the munchies at 2 a.m. in Austin, Texas, it is good to know that there are at least two excellent places to eat at that hour, or ANY hour …. Kerbey Lane Cafe or Magnolia Cafe, in multiple locations around town (two of the Kerbey locations are 24 hours only Thurs-Sun.)
One of the first things I look for when I travel is a restaurant or cafe that serves great breakfasts, especially if it is independent, locally owned, with fresh, well-prepared food (like, for example, Billy’s Downtown Diner in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, or the Russell Street Deli near Detroit’s Eastern Market.) It’s surprisingly hard to find such eateries, and they’re always mobbed unless you get there early.
I’ve been to local diners that had atmosphere, but their idea of healthy was a scoop of cottage cheese and some canned pear slices from their “light” menu. There’s a certain charm to having a meal from 1963, I guess.
In Austin, the Magnolia has two locations – near downtown on South Congress, and a bit further west near Zilker Park – and Kerbey Lane is more spread out across the metro area with seven locations, including their brand-new one north of Austin in Round Rock, where I live.
I cannot tell you the bliss of knowing that there’s a KLC (as Kerbey is often called) near my home, with good food all the time, and no need to batter my weary self, car, or family through horrendous Austin traffic to get to it.
Both restaurants are committed to fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, with wide variety on the menus plus a quirky sense of humor.
Why is Magnolia open 24 hours?
“Story has it that the restaurant started staying open later and later each day until Kent or one of the managers or someone finally lost the keys, and that was that.”
The waitstaff at both places tend to the slightly funky, baseball-cap-worn-backward type (although friendly and highly efficient) but Kerbey notes that its South Lamar Boulevard location is “the most tattooed.”
I’ve liked everything I’ve ever ordered at either Magnolia or KLC.
Omelettes are a big deal at Magnolia since they started as an omelette place in 1979, but I’m partial to the Garden Breakfast Taco, or any of their quesadillas, or the Garden Enchiladas (“Steamed spinach, roasted red bell pepper and onions with jack cheese in corn tortillas. Topped with lemon sourcream sauce, verde, and chopped pecans.”)
Kerbey Lane is justly famous for its queso and pancake selection – gingerbread pancakes are a stalwart, but they also have rotating pancake specials plus you can add a cinnamon swirl topping to any pancake, which my 15-year-old son declares is “awesome.” Their migas are great – “eggs scrambled with pico de gallo, tortilla chips and cheddarjack. Served with black beans, rice and choice of sauce. Tortillas available upon request.” – and others rave about their famous Eggs Francisco – “English muffin layered with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, avocado and queso.”
Most recently at KLC I had the Pompeii Burger with prosciutto and pesto from their spring/summer “Tomato” menu. The meat was perfectly-prepared and delicious, and I loved the soft, tasty fresh-baked burger bun. Get the sweet potato fries to go with it. The Caprese Panini was good, too, and I may have to chance a heart attack some day and try the Chicken Fried Chicken Green Chile Mac & Cheese.
Both places are very accommodating about food allergies, vegetarian/vegan, and gluten-free options.
On your next trip to Austin, fuel up with queso and pancakes; you’ll be eating like a local.
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