When I drove by this afternoon, there was a line out the door at Players. At some point later tonight, they will serve their last burger, blend the last shake, and turn out the lights on 30 years as a fixture of the UT community. For me, I had one last bacon cheeseburger combo a few days ago. Change and Austin are synonymous these days, but sometimes a place goes and you feel it more personally. Players
is was one of those places for me; as was the recent demolished original Ginger Man building on 4th St.
The very first meal I ate after arriving at UT was at Conan’s (on the site of the current Kerby Lane) and I’ll remember that forever. My first visit to Players is not similarly etched in memory, but it was a touchstone for me through out my time as a UT student. The burgers are fine, but it was never really about the food. It was….comfortable. A feeling not to be underrated when you are trying to find your place among 50,000 fellow students.
By and large, I’ve enjoyed watching Austin grow into what it is today. Old makes way for new. Throngs of people who were never patrons of a place suddenly become long lost friends when word comes of the next closure. The common refrain goes something like: “Well, I never really ATE at _________ (Las Manitas, Paggi House, etc), but it was a tradition!” While I appreciate nostalgia, the rich mixture of culture and diversity continuing to flourish in Austin requires a certain amount of perpetual motion.
As Austin continues to evolve, we’ll find new things to love. The restaurant scene today is unrecognizable (in the best of ways) compared to a few years ago. Paul Qui could have hung a shingle anywhere and he decided to stay in Austin. We are better for having him. But as we turn into a full fledged Big City – here’s hoping we can hang on to a few of those comfortable places.