An Austin Favorite: Kerbey Lane Cafe
Written by: Jodie Michalak
Photos Courtesy of: Kerbey Lane Cafe
Nestled inside a warm and quaint vintage home, Austin’s original Kerbey Lane Cafe is still booming with business, despite its six other locations. Since opening on May 5th, 1980, Kerbey Lane takes the cake for the most laid-back and consistently good breakfast restaurant, even when breakfast happens at 3 a.m.
The Beginning of Kerbey Lane Cafe
Before it became Austin’s favorite diner for late night nourishment, Kerbey Lane was nothing more than an old home that sat on the road by the same name, adjacent to 35th Street. When the owners opened the restaurant, they had one mission in mind: to serve food that was fresh, healthy, delicious, and affordable.
Today, their vision has carried on and expanded all the way north to the city of Round Rock, where Austin travelers and locals alike are busy ordering right off the menu. While locals have their favorite locations, most people agree that visiting the original Kerbey Lane house at least once is mandatory to get the feel and experience that made this diner famous.
Kerbey Lane Favorites
No matter the time of day, Kerbey Lane Cafe is always cooking up breakfast. Besides the popular staples like its in-house salad dressing, queso, and black beans and salsa, regular menu favorites include their creative varieties of fluffy pancakes. For those looking for the best pancake house in town, Kerbey Lane is sometimes called the “Domestic House of Pancakes,” and for good reason. Piled high, the stack flavors include house favorites and seasonal items like blueberry, cinnamon roll, gingerbread, and lemon poppy seed. These are just a few of the pancake offerings for those looking forward to a carb-friendly fix. For a fun souvenir, or to recreate the menu item at home, Kerbey Lane Cafe pancake mixes are available at local grocers throughout town.
While breakfast is served all day long, what would Kerbey Lane Cafe be without their own spin on Tex-Mex dishes? Touted as having the absolute best queso in town, the migas and enchiladas are served with fresh sides, pico de gallo, and a variety of international cheeses sure to please even the most discriminating palate. Just as customers are likely to discover their favorite dish from ordering all sorts of menu items, they are likely to find the location that feels like home by trying them all.
In addition to its seven convenient locations, the best part about Kerbey Lane Cafe is that they are truly adaptable to any diet and any lifestyle. Vegan and gluten-free menu options are available and equally as delicious as their meatier counterparts. While there is a large variety of food options, regulars all seem to come for the same thing: a good cup of coffee, a $2 mimosa, or the world-famous queso.
The People of Kerbey Lane Cafe
What makes this restaurant so unique and quite addictive is not just the menu, but the people as well. While it certainly holds its appeal among the college crowd, Kerbey began as a small neighborhood cafe that welcomed everybody, part of the original Austin culture. They keep it weird, make it differently, and remain casual all at the same time. The original Kerbey Lane Cafe offers a warm, inviting, and artistic environment for families of all sizes and types to enjoy affordable and fresh menu items. While Austin continues to grow and change, this cafe remains a constant and nostalgic reminder of simpler times in the Lone Star capital.
Kerbey Lane’s attitude toward people and community is best summed up with these few lines from their vision statement, “We are a company dedicated to delivering exceptional service to each other, to our guests, to our community. Everyone owns their individual role in a way that makes everyone feel that we are in this together.” They seem to feel a sort of symbiosis with the community, which is a great sort of business sense.
Kerbey hires employees that they believe will fit into their exciting and busy establishment. They celebrate their own unique individuality by selecting stand-out employees every month on their blog. Proud of their diverse and interesting team, it seems that it is not only food that the owners of the restaurant know how to prepare. They know how to cultivate relationships as well. Repeat customers often praise the service at any given location. Despite any long waits, once the food is served, it is always worth it.
Director of Marketing Amanda Kuda explained her love for Kerbey Lane Cafe. “I loved telling people where I worked and seeing their reaction – it’s usually something like, ‘Oh my gosh…your pancakes!’ or ‘I love your queso!’ Kerbey Lane has been around for over 35 years, so it makes sense that everyone has a special Kerbey memory or a menu item that gets their taste buds going.” She continued, “Through the years, we’ve prided ourselves on making tasty food at an affordable price all while sourcing as many ingredients locally as possible and having something on the menu for everyone. We have such a big menu; it’s hard to pick a ‘favorite.’ Of course, we have an amazing breakfast; you can never go wrong ordering a pancake with a cinnamon swirl!”
Kerbey Lane partners directly with local farmers to offer the freshest selections for each season. Diners look forward to the periodically changing menu that highlights their commitment to using local produce. In the fall, diners can look forward to the gingerbread pancakes, and one must never miss the tomato pie or fried green tomatoes. For customers coming from out of town, it is worth the trip and the scenery to travel to the state capital and check out Kerbey’s latest offerings. The creative and inspired chefs are always busy crafting the next best menu item using an eccentric spoon.
The Future of Kerbey Lane Cafe
A former manager knew the secret to Kerbey Lane’s success: their small company feel. According to him, “management really cares about us as employees. They are not just focused on the business end of things. They are connected with each and every employee.” The manager said that Kerbey Lane management has remained in tune with their workforce even through the expansion they have experienced. That is quite a large undertaking with a workforce of around 530 employees, and they are not done expanding. There are plans to open 20 stores in the next five years, with locations in Dallas and Houston in the works.
With mouth-watering pancakes and eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce, there is always room for an Austin favorite right around the corner, and that is a very good thing.