Interview: Remembering The Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard

Posted by David Powers on

From its beginnings as Omelettry West in 1979, the Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard, aka Magnolia Cafe West, went on to become a legendary Austin eatery. Now that Magnolia Cafe West is closing, we wanted to pay tribute to its place in Austin history by interviewing Magnolia owner Kent Cole to learn more about this unique diner. 

Magnolia Cafe West: Main Sign

Own a piece of history! Shop for Magnolia Cafe West souvenirs online >>>

Although Magnolia Cafe West be missed, we're happy to report that the South Congress location next to Prima Dora will remain open.

According to the owners: "At Magnolia Cafe South, we've reconfigured our dining room to handle take-out only, and we've rearranged our outdoor patio seating to accommodate social distancing. We're designing both take-out and dine-in menus to offer some of our classic entrees, quesos and casseroles. We continue to monitor the covid-19 situation primarily for the safety of our staff. Take-out is coming! Start date to be determined."

Interview with Magnolia Cafe Owner Kent Cole

How did Louisiana's Camelia Grille inspire you when you were getting started?

Kent: "The Camellia Grill in New Orleans is famous for their professional and personable service staff. They have one long u-shaped counter where everyone sits and sees everyone else. We liked the idea of being an unpretentious place where everyone was comfortable, the food homemade and the service excellent."

(The Camelia Grille:

Magnolia Cafe West

Own a piece of history! Shop for Magnolia Cafe West souvenirs online >>>

What are your favorite Cafe Magnolia West menu items from over the years?

Kent: "Chicken Quesadillas. Prima Dora Omelette with a single buttermilk pancake. The Turkey Reuben."

What's the craziest thing that ever happened at Cafe Magnolia West?

Kent: "In 1983, for several months we had an 8 foot replica of the Statue of Liberty on the roof. It was a flat cut-out painting that looked distorted head-on because it was painted from a specific upward perspective. If customers stood on the correct designated paving stone and looked up, it looked like they were standing next to the Statue of Liberty. David Hefner was the artist, a good friend of ours. We still have some of the t-shirts that he printed and sold for the occasion."

Can you tell us about some of the most interesting visitors you've had at Cafe Magnolia West?

Kent: "First, there were famous customers. They included President Barack Obama, Ryan Gosling, Nomar Garciaparra, Mia Hamm, Karl Rove, and lots of local politicians, artists, college professors; lots of musicians. But some of the regular customers became lifelong friends -- they became interesting in a more meaningful way -- and we enjoyed talking with them all."

What did Cafe Magnolia West mean to you, and what are you most proud of?

Kent: "It was a mighty ship sailing round the world without ever moving."

How do you want Cafe Magnolia West to be remembered?

Kent: "We feel honored to be even a small part of so many people's fond memories. They came to us to celebrate, they came carrying friends to or from the airport, they came to find refuge in the middle of the night. But most often, they came for just an ordinary home-cooked meal with family and friends. We've been a part of a million tiny celebrations of life. We're proud of that."

Magnolia Cafe West - Garden

Own a piece of history! Shop for Magnolia Cafe West souvenirs online >>>


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