End of an Era: Austin’s Las Manitas: “Closed.”
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When I arrived at work today (the Tuesday after Labor Day), the first words out of editor Evan Smith’s mouth were, “Las Manitas is closed. They’ve hauling the furniture and fixtures out the back and there’s a big sign on the front door that says, Closed Forever.” Forget the Republican Convention. Forget Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy. Some things are just more important. The beloved, controversial, unpredictable Austin Mexican restaurant that for 27 years has been a virtual boarding house for downtown workers, movers, and shakers closed its doors after Sunday brunch on August 31. Its loyal customers–count me one–had expected that there would be, oh, at least a month, or even several months, before it moved out of its old location into new digs nearby. But the shaky detente between the purchaser of the property (White Lodging Services Corp., parent company of Marriott hotels) and Las Manitas’s proprietors, Cynthia and Lidia Perez, came unglued at the end of last week for reasons that are–I’m just going to say they’re fuzzy, in order to avoid stepping in a bear trap. In any case, Las Manitas is now outta there. The place is a sad sight. The tables and chairs are gone, so are the booths, but the artwork is still there. Employees were moving the kitchen work tables out when I went down to see what was happening around 11 a.m. Fortunately the gas and electricity and water was still on and some of the ladies were cooking refried beans and quesadillas on the stove, apparently for their own lunch. Ultimately, the plan is for Las Manitas to move down the block into the building that is presently La Pena gallery. The Perez sisters own the new place, but renovation hasn’t really begun. Also, given that the floor was entirely ripped out, right down to the bare earth, and that water from a faulty pipe or main was oozing all over the place, things didn’t look so good. Cynthia jokes that she’s going to be selling tacos under a tree soon. Nobody expects it to come to that, but for now the home of the Paco’s Taco is, well, homeless.