Community favorite Kerbey Lane Cafe continues to thrive, looks ahead

Grace Hare, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the July 6, 2022 flipbook.

Nestled in a cozy neighborhood near UT’s campus, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe is an Austin gem bustling with college students, families on vacation and Austinites clamoring for the restaurant’s warm atmosphere and friendly service. 

“We are a place that makes people feel welcome,” University location manager Gabriel Chaligné said.  “It’s a place where our core values shine through. We care for the people, we care for the team and we care about the food.” 

David Ayer and Patricia Atkinson started the family-owned business in 1980, repurposing a cheerful yellow and cherry red house on Kerbey Lane into their new restaurant. At the time, Atkinson was pregnant with the couple’s first son, Mason Ayer, and the couple lived in the back of the restaurant when it first opened to the public. 

Despite previous experience in the restaurant industry, Atkinson said this venture of opening the original Kerbey Lane Cafe location was unlike anything she had done before,  as the couple had to juggle learning  how to open the business and starting their family. 

“Here’s Mason coming along, here’s this business (and) I’ve dropped out of school. … It was like, this has to work,” Atkinson said. “By golly, this is going to work. (I) had to put everything into it. There was no room for it to fail.” 

The original Kerbey Lane menu contained some of its now well-known classics, including Atkinson’s gingerbread and buttermilk pancakes. Other recipes have evolved from grilled scallops and glazed liver into more comfort-based dishes like mac and cheese. 

“As the organization grew, it really came to embrace the breakfast side of things more,” Kerbey Lane CEO Mason Ayer said. 

After working as an attorney in Houston, Mason said he continued his parents’ legacy and stepped into the family business in 2010. 

“I didn’t feel like I was doing anything that really helped anybody,” Mason said. “I felt like my job was to create the documentation to move money from one big company to another big company. It wasn’t a satisfying career.”

Growing up spending time with his parents at the cafe, Mason said his interest in helping to develop the family restaurant was deep-rooted. In the early 1990s, a young Mason could frequently be found working alongside his parents at the bright, bustling original location of Kerbey Lane Cafe. 

“I wanted to be as helpful as possible, so (my parents) put me to work with a paint scraper, where I would go underneath the table and scrape the gum off the bottom of the tables,” Mason said. “From a very early age, I was working in the restaurant.” 

  Looking ahead, Mason said he expects to move into the Houston and Dallas markets in the upcoming years. For the company’s growth to be successful, Mason said Kerbey Lane depends on its Austin locations because of the amount of UT students they attract, who help build their customer base when they move into new cities. 

“Once (students) graduate (and move) all over the state of Texas and the country, when we go to Dallas or  San Antonio, we have a built-in clientele who already know our brand.” Mason said. “They spent that time at Kerbey Lane, so that is extraordinarily important for our growth.”

’s warm atmosphere and friendly service.