Students return from summer break to find new eateries

Chase Karacostas

In the midst of rain from Hurricane Harvey, thousands of students returned to campus to find that several new businesses opened on the Drag over the summer.

Poke Bowl and Look Poke, eateries specializing in raw seafood salads, opened in July and August, respectively. American Halal restaurant Halal Guys opened July 15 shortly after Don Japanese Kitchen, a small restaurant next to Love Goat. Specialty popsicle shop Steel City Pops is set to open within the next few weeks at the corner of Guadalupe and 30th Street. McDonald’s and Taco Cabana on Martin Luther King Boulevard both shut down between late June and early July.

Lucky Lab Coffee, named after the owner’s love of Labradors, also relocated from its outdoor trailer inside of Space 24 Twenty to an indoor unit just a few feet away.

“We have a whole bunch of labs, you can see their pictures in the bathrooms,” said Courtney Hutton, Lucky Lab Coffee owner. “So, it’s inspired by our pups … It just all went from there as we tried to build something that involved coffee and dogs that connects people.”

The cafe spent a little over a year operating out of the stand before Urban Outfitters, which owns Space Twenty-Four Twenty, offered to let them take over a unit on the backside of the building.

New York-based chain Halal Guys opened just two blocks away from the locally-known chain Halal Bros. Despite close proximity to its competitor, Adil Maknojia, Halal Guys’ general manager, said the chain’s history of being one of the first Halal eateries in New York City will give them a leg up.

“That gives us a little bit of leverage,” Maknojia said. “So, we’ll do everything we can to tap into the market and make sure that people who come in to our restaurant leave happy.”

Bilal Haider, radio-television-film sophomore, said he is excited to come back to Austin to find new places to visit on the Drag, like Halal Guys.

“Halal Guys is just great, period, and since it’s within walking distance, that’s not bad,” Haider said. “It’s cool that I don’t have to go all the way to downtown to get good Austin food.”

Victoria Blom, a health and society sophomore, said she was disappointed McDonald’s and Taco Cabana closed. Both were open 24 hours a day.

“I’m sad that they closed down McDonald’s because it’s cheap,” Blom said. “I hope all these other (new) restaurants are cheap too.”

Alabama-based Steel City Pops, which is still under construction, has already started hiring and is set to open approximately within the next two weeks, according to general manager Brooks Veazey.

This location is the first brick and mortar Steel City Pops in the Austin area. The company also has a food stand at Barton Springs that closes during the winter, but their new, permanent location will be open year-round.

Additionally, for multiple months, the unit between the Wells Fargo branch and Einstein Bros. Bagels near Guadalupe and 24th Streets has been empty with a “Dunkin’ Donuts Coming Soon” sign. The company has not responded to requests for an exact opening date.