Students say farewell to popular off-campus eateries

Wesley Story

From the old days of Mellow Mushroom and Texadelphia to the recent days of McDonald’s and Taco Cabana, many UT students are used to seeing their beloved off-campus eateries close and new restaurants open in their place.

Within the last three weeks, both the Taco Cabana and the McDonald’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard closed. During the last school year, at least three different West Campus restaurants closed or changed locations, including Kismet Cafe and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.

This loss, however, brings about new businesses daring to take a chance on the Drag. Don Japanese Kitchen’s popularity among students as a food truck led to it establishing its first brick-and-mortar location in the spring. Some other food businesses that have opened in the area include The Pizza Press, Taco Bell Cantina and In-N-Out Burger.

The cycle of restaurants moving or closing down is often a result of Austin’s rising rent prices, which have significantly increased in the past few years, according to reports from the Austin American-Statesman. Just in the last three months, the rent per square foot of commercial property has increased over 10 percent.

The average rent per square foot for retail property in Austin is $21.05 per square foot as of June 2017, but rent on the Drag can reach up to $40 per square foot, according to Austin Tenant Advisors. 

In addition to the high rent prices, other factors might affect the success of businesses on the Drag. For one thing, there is little to no parking, and because the business depends mostly on students, summers and holidays can be slow. These complications may make it difficult for businesses to offset the high rent prices. 

“Guad is a very popular place, and it’s right by campus,” biochemistry junior Michael Akanji said. “Paying rent tends to get more expensive the closer you are to campus because it gives businesses more opportunities to attract customers.” 

Akanji said out of all the restaurants, he was most upset when Fuzzy’s closed. 

“I used to go there every week my freshman year,” Akanji said. “It was like a punch in the gut when I found out.” 

One post on the UT LONGmemes for HORNSy Teens page, a Facebook page dedicated to UT memes, sums up some students’ sentiments about the changes on the Drag. The post includes a video that shows images of off-campus restaurants that have closed and in the background while “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan plays. The post’s caption reads “to the dearly departed.”

The video, posted in jest, has received over 1,500 reacts and more than 175 comments.

“This hit me hard,” public relations senior Alexa Gonzaga said in the comments section of the post. “Gone too soon #neverforget.”

Some of the restaurants featured in the video include Mellow Mushroom, Noodles & Company, Kismet Cafe, Big Bite and Texadelphia. This list, however, does not cover all of the locations that have closed, as a few students pointed out in the comments.

“A lot of these are before my time, so I apologize if I missed some,” the original poster, Waggener Hall, commented. “This video is dedicated to ALL of our fallen eateries.”

Some of the other closed locations include Fuzzy’s, the Taco Bell in the Union and Daito. 

While some students may joke about the loss of their favorite dining locations, others have strong feelings about the changes. 

Nina Hernandez, government and rhetoric and writing senior, said she remembers the days of Noodles & Company and Mellow Mushroom. 

“The new locations don’t balance out the old locations as far as I’m concerned,” Hernandez said. “I fear mostly chains will end up filling the Drag because they will be the only places that can actually afford the rent.” 

Students are now participating in a poll on the LONGmemes page to vote on the “saddest closure.” With over 40 options to choose from, the list includes the closed restaurants as well as “Charlie Strong” and the “revolving doors in the PCL.”