Not all that long ago

mattspc.jpgThis post card shows Matt’s El Rancho before it crossed the river, when it was still on First Street (now Cesar Chavez). Austin photographer (and copyright-holder) Jerry Dorf, took pictures for a lot of Austin restaurants and motels that were printed in this exact format, of three images divided in exactly this way. Published by the Dexter Company, this post card identifies the image as depicting “Matt’s El Rancho Restaurants, Inc. ‘King of Mexican Foods’ Austin Texas; World renowned for its authentic and original Mexican Foods. A favorite stopping place for all Texas Travelers. Featuring Mexican Sea Food – Mexican Style Steaks. Always Good. Matt Martinez, Your Host. Seating Capacity: 365. Dining Room Service & Food To Go.” That’s Matt himself with the fancy tie. The addresses are 303 and 311 East First Street. The ice-making machines were large and very, very noisy. In those days, Matt’s attracted customers driving big American cars. That’s still true.

4 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    I suppose the hoped-for emotional response is wistfulness for Old Austin, but, frankly, any downtown which had a suburban place like that in it wasn’t worth being wistful about. The fewer places with parking lots the better.

  2. Rantor (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    There is no reason to ascribe a non-existent “hoped-for emotional response.” I’m interested in the commercial work of Jerry Dorf, who had his studio on Twelfth Street. The parking visible in the post card is about all the parking there was on site. (See the house that was at the core in the background; east of Congress still had many, many private houses, including boarding houses, that have since become parking lots, as did west of Congress, but many of those have become offices after the demolition of adjoining houses and paving of the yards at the back and sides for the required parking.) There was plenty of parking on the street for those who dined after church on Sundays. Anybody heading that way after work or at noon-time mostly walked. There is a tremendous amount of parking at the current Matt’s, but that, of course, was required by the City. The Matt’s of the post card was one of the few downtown restaurants of the day, apart from Green Pastures (which isn’t really downtown), that had any on-site parking at all. Think of Scholz’s, Jaime’s, Mike’s, the Pit on Fifth, anything on or near the Avenue (e.g., the Maverick Steakhouse) or on or near the Drag. Carmen’s on the East Side had lots of parking but I think that it, too, was required to provide all that when it updated its premises.

  3. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

    Jeez, M1EK. Give it a rest already. Not everything has a hidden anti-development agenda.

    The focus of the post was clearly on the postcard. I knew Matt’s had been downtown, but couldn’t visualize it. The postcard is an interesting note of history and I’m guessing most people took it that way.

  4. Ruralist (unregistered) on January 28th, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

    I suppose anyone rootless enough to have not lived in one city for at least 25 years could mistake simple reminiscence as some sort of subversive wistfulness. Even so, it’s quite an accomplishment.

    Austin was a lot smaller back when MER was on 1st (granted, that was more than 25 years ago, but not much more). In fact, Austin was tiny back then. If you weren’t here, it’ll be hard to imagine what it was like.

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