Restaurant Review: Sixty Years of Celebrations
Matt's El Rancho is keeping it all in the family – and you're invited to join
Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 18, 2012
Sun.-Mon., 11am-10pm; Wed.-Thu., 11am-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-11pm
Matt's El Rancho2613 S. Lamar, 462-9333
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, 11am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-11pm
Cathy Martinez Kreitz represents the second generation of her family to oversee operations at Matt's El Rancho. She was truly born into the business. "I wasn't actually born at the original restaurant, but my parents did stop by there on the way home from Seton to show me to Lupe [Redkey, one of the original waitresses] and the rest of the staff," she says fondly. Her parents, Matt and Janie Martinez, are the legendary local restaurateurs who founded a company based on Tex-Mex food and family hospitality that became one of Austin's longtime business success stories. Matt's celebrates its 60th anniversary this July. In preparation for that milestone, the staff and family board that run the restaurant have asked loyal customers to share photos and mementos of family milestones commemorated there. They're assembling a customer appreciation video slide show featuring 60 years of family celebrations – marriage proposals, confirmation and graduation parties, rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions, birthdays and wedding anniversaries – to present during the anniversary festivities this summer. "It is so rewarding to be part of people's special occasions. We'll have mariachis playing all day, and food and drink specials – maybe even a photo booth – but the slide show will be the big thing," says Kreitz.
It makes perfect sense that the commemoration of 60 years of restaurant success would be built around family occasions. The Martinez siblings grew up around the family business and members of both the second and third generations are actively involved in Matt's here in Austin, as well as eateries in Dallas founded by the late Matt Martinez, Jr. (Both father and son are members of the Texas Restaurant Association Hall of Fame, with Matt III surely to follow.) A family board (made up of 90-year-old matriarch Janie Martinez; daughters Gloria Reyna, Cecelia Muela, and Cathy Kreitz; and daughter-in-law Estella Martinez) runs the company with the able assistance of managers, cooks, and servers – some of whom have been with the restaurant for generations themselves. The clientele at Matt's is another study in multigenerational devotion. Sit on the sidelines at the graceful South Austin hacienda some Sunday night and this is what you'll witness: multiple generations of families enjoying Tex-Mex food together at their regular table in the solicitous care of their regular server, visiting among tables of people doing the exact same thing. With hospitality like that as an attraction, it's easy to imagine Matt's El Rancho being successful for generations to come.