Silo on Seventh Finally in the Home Stretch

Burgers and beers coming to historic old tortilla factory

When restaurateur David Rightmer began work on his first Austin project in 2012, he had no way of knowing how long it was ultimately going to take. Now that Silo on Seventh (1300 E. Seventh) is finally nearing completion, it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to jinx himself by projecting an actual opening date. (Our best guess: early September)

Silo on Seventh (Photo by John Anderson)
Rightmer’s description of the past eighteen months reads like the Murphy’s Law of restaurant development: permitting delays, contractor problems, personal health issues. For a while there, it must have felt as though turning East Austin’s historic Tony’s Tortilla factory into a sleek new eatery would be his life’s work. However, work really picked up speed this summer and the restaurant is finally almost ready. With the able assistance of engineer Scott Wuest of the Wuest Group and architect Marcello Campos of Estudio Azul, Rightmer is bringing life back to a long boarded-up piece of Austin history. “We decided to add on to the existing building and re-use as much of the found material as we could, things like wood and concrete, moving the old silo up front for the sign,” Rightmer explains.

The old corn silo makes a great sign (Photo by John Anderson)

The building Rightmer chose is a prime restaurant location: on the crest of a hill overlooking Downtown, strategically located between the hot hipster playgrounds along East Sixth and East 11th Streets. The two story edifice lent itself to the addition of an upstairs patio with a breathtaking view of the city and the property includes a parking lot, a premium in any neighborhood these days. The old building also holds a significant place in Austin’s culinary history. Built in 1922, the remaining stone structure for years was home to the retail store and offices of one of Austin’s earliest tortilla factories, Tony’s Tortilla.

Tony Villasana outside the factory in 1948 (courtesy Vasquez-Valera family)

The business belonged to Antonio Villasana, who came to Austin as a child in 1912 when his family fled the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. He grew up to found an Austin restaurant dynasty. Villasana began his family’s contribution to Austin’s culinary culture in the 20’s with a small restaurant called Tony’s Café near what is now Austin City Hall. Later, his Tony’s Tortilla became one of Austin’s first tortilla factories. Tony’s daughter, Carmen Vasquez, went on to operate the legendary Tamale House at the corner of Congress Avenue and W. First St.(now Cesar Chavez). Carmen’s son Robert Vasquez carries on the tradition with Tamale House #3 (5003 Airport), while her daughter Diane Vasquez-Valera created Mexico Tipico, which closed in 2000. Most recently, Tony’s great-grandchildren are welcoming Tex-Mex loving Austinites to the new Tamale House East (1707 E. Sixth)in the old Mexico Tipico location.

The actual tortilla factory burned some years ago, but even though all that remains of Tony’s is the retail building and the old corn silo, it’s great to see an important piece of Austin’s culinary history getting a new lease on life. Surely there’s some good culinary karma still alive in that spot. According to Rightmer, Silo on Seventh will offer “adventurous burgers” and a full bar with plenty of Texas craft brews on tap and an all-Texas liquor well. Raise a glass to Tony Villasana while you’re there.

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Restaurant news, David Rightmer, Silo on Seventh, Tony's Tortillas, Scott Wuest, Wuest Group, Marcello Campos, Estudio Azul, Carmen Vasquez, Tamale House, Robert Vasquez, Diane Vasquez-Valera, Mexico Tipico, Tamale House East

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