Kerbey Lane Cafe, long outfitted with a colorful mural and Longhorn memorabilia, has been a beloved resident of the Drag for more than a decade—so its extensive renovation this summer caused a bit of a stir.
Now open, the new Kerbey, designed by architect Richard Weiss, is sleeker and more modern than its predecessor. The restaurant has traded classic for chic with new retro-futuristic dividers and striking blue and lime green decor.
Karli Isiyel, Kerbey Lane’s marketing coordinator, says the restaurant was overdue for an update. The franchise acquired the lease for the Drag location in 2001, but its wood paneling on the walls inside was still indicative of the ’80s.
So far, Isiyel says, customers’ responses to the changes have been mostly positive. “There are always a few people who are upset when we update our restaurants, but I think that overall it’s gone well,” Isiyel says. “People are really happy about it.”
UT grad student Nick Zufelt says he dines at Kerbey Lane about every other month, but now finds the restaurant “much less homey.”
“I kind of like the old look better,” Zufelt says. “The new one is fine. It’s sort of chic and happening, but it doesn’t feel like Kerbey Lane.”
For others, like customer and local psychologist Daphny Ainslie, the renovations are a welcome sight. “I did not have a problem with the old look, but now that it has the new look, I feel like I may have had have a problem with the old look,” Ainslie says. “This is so much more open.”
Jaimie Krause, PhD ’12, says she almost didn’t recognize the place. “It’s fresh; it’s modern,” Krause says. “I think it’s nice. It’s definitely light and airy.”
To get used to the new space, Isiyel says the staff did a soft opening before the restaurant’s official reopening, and all food was free that day.
Isiyel says no other changes are planned at the establishment (although some of the UT memorabilia may return), and the menu is still the same.
But are the renovations a departure from the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe that the Kerbey on the Drag wore so well?
“You can be weird and contemporary,” Ainslie says, “and I think this accomplishes that.”
Check out this slideshow showcasing the new Kerbey Lane, then tell us what you think in the poll below! (Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.)
Photos by Zen Ren