After 45 years in business, La Fuente’s Cantina Y Comida in South Austin (6507 Circle Road) will close its doors this month. An employee at the restaurant said the date is uncertain, but that it could be anytime in December. I’ve sent an email to the restaurant asking for more details. La Fuente’s opened a second location in 2012, but it has since become a Hecho en Mexico.
This isn’t the first time La Fuente’s has faced closure. Following the passing of founder and matriarch Lula Lafuente in 2003, her children had a dispute about whether to keep the restaurant open in 2006. It remained open at that time, but it seems its time has finally come.
John Kelso wrote the following about the restaurant in 2006:
I am about nine levels of chapped and two or three kinds of ticked off.
It’s bad enough when one of your most-beloved old Austin haunts is about to close because of a new set of overpriced lofts.
But when you can’t blame the next Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or Marriott for your loss, it eats at you, because there’s nobody you can insult.
La Fuente’s, my favorite Tex-Mex place, hidden away in South Austin at 6507 Circle S Road, may be fixing to close in the next year or so. And I can’t even stick it to some lousy chain.
It’s a family matter. La Fuente’s is up for sale because Lula Lafuente, who founded the restaurant 35 years ago, died three years back and left the estate to her four children.
And now three of her children want to sell the place so they can get the money, said Ida Arredondo, a La Fuente’s owner and one of Lula’s daughters. Ida doesn’t want to close. She’d like to keep it going for another three to five years.
“But that’s not going to happen,” she said.
“I tried to talk ’em into keeping it, but they were not interested, ” Ida said. She said many of her customers are worked up, but there’s nothing she can do. “They hate it. They’re mad. They’re trying to think of ways to help me save it,” she said. “We can’t save it. We’re all getting old, and we need money. We’re all past 60. The oldest one is 70. I mean, wait for what?”
City officials are looking at a way of saving old beloved Austin institutions by designating them “iconic.” In this case, even that wouldn’t help.
“I talked to the lawyer, and he said he was looking at trying to sell it by the end of the year, which I don’t think will happen,” Ida said. “But if not, it’ll be sold by next year for sure.” So what will it become? “They can do whatever they want,” Ida said. “They can tear it down, or they can keep it as a restaurant.” She says as far as she knows no one has offered to buy it — yet.
Ida said if it’s kept as a restaurant, the new owner ought to keep the employees, who are iconic in their own way. Gabriel Martinez has been the cook for 29 years. Salvador Contreras, one of the waiters who’s been working there about 10 years, looks and sounds just like the waiter from Barcelona on the British comedy “Fawlty Towers.”
Somebody please step in and take this place over, OK? It has the best migas in town, if you ask me. The food is always the same. There’s never a line because the joint is hidden off the beaten path, about a block from William Cannon Drive and South Congress Avenue. There’s nothing pretentious. Upstairs is a big-screen TV room where you can watch sports. I call it the boxing room because photos of local boxers line the walls.
This joint is so old-fashioned that up until a few months ago, it even had a pay phone. At Christmas, the place is awash with decorations, along with scary-looking moving Mr. and Mrs. Claus dolls. The salsa has a kick. They don’t serve the wimpy stuff to please the newcomers to town.
Looks like La Fuente’s is about to be outta here. Somebody needs to do something. I just don’t know what.