One of Old Austin’s dining institutions will serve its last plate of enchiladas this weekend, as El Gallo (2910 S. Congress Ave.) will close its doors permanently on Sunday at 9 p.m. The restaurant located across from St. Edwards University was opened by Abraham and Maria Kennedy in 1957 and is run by their son, Abel, today.
Management cites increase in property taxes, bills and the cost of doing business as reasons for the shutter. General manager Sandra Madrid, who has worked for the restaurant off and on since she was a teenager, says the restaurant’s property taxes have rocketed from $25,000 to $145,000 over the years. (Tax records indicate the property tax bill for 2910 S. Congress Ave. jumped from $16,337.26 in 2015 to $28,877.58 in 2016.) The Kennedys have responded with only one price hike in the last fives years, raising prices less than 50 cents per dish.
“We love our guests. Our guests are our family, and we don’t want to make our guests pay $18, and they wouldn’t, for a plate of three enchiladas,” Madrid said. “We’ve fought the good fight.”
Madrid says she still expects Manuel “Cowboy” Donley to play his regularly scheduled Tuesday night gig tonight, and expects the longtime mariachi band to make the rounds this weekend. The property where El Gallo sits is owned by the Kennedy family, and Madrid says, despite regular offers, there are no current plans to sell the land or business. Co-founder Maria Kennedy died in May 2015, leaving the couple’s son, Abel, in charge of the family business.