Restaurant Matriarch Janie Martinez Dies at 90

Food at Matt's El Rancho was based on her family recipes

Janie Martinez, matriarch of one of Austin's best loved restaurant dynasties, passed away Saturday, June 1, at the age of 90. She had been in failing health for several months.

From left: Cecilia Muela, Gloria Reyna, clan matriarch Janie Martinez, Cathy Kreitz, and Estella Martinez.
by John Anderson
Janie and Matt Martinez founded El Rancho on Austin's Eastside in 1952, with her in the kitchen and the genial former Golden Gloves champ greeting guests in the front of the house. Basing their operation on her family recipes and his gift for hospitality, the couple built a restaurant that is one of Austin's most enduring success stories.

During its first thirty years on the Eastside, El Rancho expanded several times and developed such a devoted following that the food was likely to be found everywhere from Lyndon Johnson's White House to the DKR Memorial Stadium press box. Legislators, college students, and local families all flocked to dine there. An Eighties real estate boom in Downtown Austin inspired the move to the beautiful, hacienda-style building that has been home to the restaurant since 1986 (2613 S. Lamar)

Janie Martinez lived long enough to join her family in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the restaurant last summer. She was preceded in death by her husband, Matt Martinez, and her son, Matt Martinez, Jr., both of whom are in the Texas Restaurant Association Hall of Fame. She is survived by daughters Cecilia Muela, Gloria Reyna, Cathy Kreitz, and daughter-in-law Estella Martinez, as well as a large extended family, some of whom are also restaurateurs.

Funeral mass will be celebrated at San Jose Catholic Church (2435 Oak Crest) on Wednesday, June 5 at 10am. Memorial contributions can be made in her honor to the Sister Gertrude Levy Endowment of the Seton Fund or to San Jose Catholic Church.

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