Officially called The Frisco Shop, this diner is the last survivor of a chain of 7 restaurants that included an original restaurant on the corner of Congress and Riverside, a diner on Guadalupe across from the UT campus, and steakhouses in North Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.
Founder Harry Akin opened his first restaurant, originally called The Night Hawk, in 1932 during the Great Depression. It boasted two booths and a counter with eight seats. Hamburgers cost 15 cents.
The name Night Hawk stemmed from the restaurant's late hours, which was uncommon at the time. That original restaurant expanded over the years and served as an important meeting place for business leaders and politicians of the day.
Somewhere in there Akin began raising his own beef for his burgers and steaks and later established his Night Hawk Frozen Foods company.
Harry Akin also served as Mayor of Austin and was at the forefront of racial integration in Austin in the early 1960s. In 2001, The Austin Chronicle's Virginia Wood wrote a terrific piece on Harry Akin, detailing the history of his restaurants and his importance to Austin.
Akin died in 1976.
In 2008, the restaurant moved to its current location which is just north of its former location where a new Walgreen's now resides. It had been at its original location since 1953.
But the old charm remains. It's like Denny's or IHOP but without the chain conformity (plus the food's better).
The food here is impressive for a diner (the signature burger is The Frisco Burger, and the pies are a traditional must), but what keeps people coming back is the genuinely friendly staff, both the front of the house as well as the back. Clearly this is a family - a number of the employees have been here for decades.
A further part of the charm and friendliness is that you don't need to "Please Wait to be Seated." You're free take a menu (not that the regulars need one) and sit at the counter or a booth of your choosing.
What remains of The Night Hawk chain is wonderfully endearing because it's a faithful rendering of what Austin was, not what Austin is. So whether you're planning a trip to Austin, Texas, or whether you're already here, this is definitely a meal worth having.
For old times' sake.
6801 Burnet RD
Austin, Texas 78757
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