Arkie's Grill, open since 1948 on Austin's lower east side, has fallen on hard times.
I've always been of the opinion that the little diner is about 5 or 600 miles too far west.
It's really more of a southern restaurant what with all the butter beans, fried chicken and biscuits and gravy on the menu. That is until you order sweet tea and are handed a few packets of sugar to go with your tumbler.
If that don't knock you out of your Deep South reverie nothing will.
If a meal started and ended with ambience and service then Arkie's would be one of the top restaurants in town. Sitting at the homey, little lunch counter with a bunch of old timers, all of whom the waitresses know by name and watching some blue plate specials make their way through the service window is a fine lunchtime experience.
But then the hamburger platter comes and everything starts to careen downhill. The factory formed, four ounce patty is low grade, previously frozen and not delicious. The frozen fries have been dunked in hot oil and temped up but that's about all that can be said. Two little packets of corn syrup laden, bottom of the barrel, mustard and mayo packets come with the platter.
Arkie's food makes me appreciate how good other restaurants are. The simple things that can make a hamburger special are all missing here. Fresh ground beef, a good quality bun, condiments that enhance the food, all the things that many burger joints around town take pride in are missing from Arkie's repertoire.
The service is very good.
I'm honey lambed and sugar pied by a waitress so sweet I feel like I might get a toothache before I pay my check.
A phalanx of country gals are whipping amongst the tables making sure everybody's needs are being met. Would that the kitchen was half as industrious.
Walking out the door and into Austin's industrial warehouse neighborhood I'm struck by how underserved this area is. With all the hard work going on hereabouts, a diner with a well executed menu could be a gold mine for the right restaurant team.
Faye "Arkie" Sawyer, who died in 1998 would not be pleased with the current stewardship of the restaurant that bears his name.
4827 E Cesar Chavez St
Hours of Operation
6:30 am - 3:00 pm