Monday, April 16, 2007

Adios, Las Manitas!

photo from

The scenery in these parts--the DFW "Metroplex", as it were--was getting pretty bland, so what better way to spend three days than to pile myself, my wife and our two kids into the SUV and hit the road to. . . Austin. It'd been a few years since I'd visited the so-called Center of the Music Universe, and I'd have to say that things are getting worse. More of what used to make Austin such a great place to visit is getting torn down, and in its place more of the same old shit that makes any other place in the United States "Generica." The bloom is off the Yellow Rose. Austin is like any medium-to-almost large American city anymore. There's traffic jams and a high-tech corridor, and construction, construction, construction. Is it possible to build too many convention centers/high-rise hotels? I wonder.

Each visit to Texas' Music city finds a shining new Marriott or Hilton standing in the place of what was a great (but probably low-rent) restaurant or music venue. And if it isn't the convention and tourism industry (yes, I realize the irony of me, an out of towner, complaining about it), it's the whores of government. I suppose I'm aware of the influence of lobbyists, but I never realized there's so much money in this scam that they can construct their own glass and chrome office buildings in edification of themselves. What the hell do I care, though, anyway? I'm going down there as SUV-Daddy, hauling two boys (ages 6 and 2.5) around, not to see the music but to create some great family memories. So, there will be no Stubbs, no Jovitas, no Continental Club this trip. But. . . there will be Las Manitas!

M and I first started eating here on each Austin visit before E (the six year old) was even born. I can't say we made a conscious decision to go there based on anything we knew about the area--just that it was handy and looked to be fairly authentic Mexican food. And it was, for unless you've had a plate of migas or chilaquiles rojos on a Sunday morning after staying out too late the night before, I don't think you've experienced Austin. This time around, Las Manitas was jammed--crawling with the usual tatooed and braided musicians, but this time with a huge gaggle of credential-wearing music critics and self-labeled "music industry executives" in town for the massive SouthbySouthwest spoogefest (guess I should've looked at the calendar!). So, there was a wait, but not excessive, as we took refuge next door in Tesoro, a gift and curio shop that features Mexican and Central American folk art. Need a "Day of the Dead" t-shirt? Old Mexican movie posters? How about a Luche Libre mask? Here's the place. Eventually, we were seated in Las Manitas' back patio, negotiating our way through the front of the restaurant, running the gauntlet between tables and booths, threading our way through the crazy-busy steamy kitchen and into the picnic-table lined patio in the rear. We didn't realize it at the time, but this is likely our last such repast at Las Manitas--seems that the place is threatened by still more development (as if the area needs it) in the form of a mega Marriott hotel. Go ahead and sign the petition to stop it, but I doubt it'll do much good.

Ah well, as railroad photographer Mike Schafer would say, "Everything Turns To Shit" (or, ETTS). Hopefully, Austin will still have Zilker Park, the Congress avenue bats, Roller Derby!, and Hippy Hollow (thought I'm much too shy to go near the place!) for a long time to come.

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