Ruby’s BBQ Set to Close

The beloved barbecue restaurant will shutter by the end of February

Ruby’s BBQ, an Austin institution of nearly 30 years, will shut its doors forever by the end of February. Famous for their brick pit, oak-smoked barbecue, the eclectic spot near UT campus has been serving up reasonably priced, legit brisket, ribs, and smoked chicken for longer than most current college kids have been alive.

Photo by John Anderson

The sides have always been remarkably unique, too, with an evolving assortment of tacos and salads, notoriously spicy beans, vegetarian jambalaya, and other items that show off their Cajun flair – an ode to their Blues roots. Partly due to a changing local food scene, and rising costs, owner Pat Mares has made the difficult decision to close her restaurant. There are still a few weeks left to stop by and get your fix – and pick up a few bottles of their delicious sauce – but Ruby’s BBQ will be sorely missed.

Ruby's BBQ owner Pat Mares (Photo by John Anderson)

Mares suggests revisiting their first official review from the Chronicle in 1989 to get a feel for Austin back in the early days of Ruby’s BBQ. Virginia Wood’s story offers a full history and quite a few photos. On both the personal and professional effects of the closing, and what the future may hold for the space, here is Mares in her own words:

“Over a year ago, I realized it was time to make some changes in my life. The decision was not easy. Ruby’s has been my life, my family, my world since 1988. Staff has been abreast of the current situation since last June, because I’ve had previous offers – which fell through. At this time, it looks like Ruby’s will close around February 20 (but it could be a couple days before or after that). We’re still hammering out the details and trying to figure out what makes sense.

"When Ruby’s opened in November of 1988, Austin and the community were much smaller, the Chronicle was a few blocks away on San Gabriel, Antone’s Blues Club was just behind us, musicians lived in the house that is now Spider House, and various infamous characters and businesses inhabited this neighborhood. It was a good time to experience Austin, and Susan Moffat’s review of Ruby’s in January 1989 captures the feel and scene of those years. … We’re now a “throwback” to another time and era, and there are new kids on the block.

"The Austin scene and market has changed significantly. With the saturation of the restaurant market, high property taxes, increasing meat/food prices, and shortage of labor, it’s become difficult to do business as a small operator. I’m very thankful to the Austin community for its amazing support for nearly 30 years, but I’m not 36 any longer and cannot keep working the long hours required in this business. With an aging and ailing family back in Nebraska, I need to be able to take time off, which has not been possible recently.

"Folks have asked about a cookbook, which I would entertain, and I have some prospective leads for the future. Immediately, however, I plan to visit family and take care of pressing projects at my house, kick back with friends, and in general attend to all the facets of my life that have been neglected the past couple of years!

"...although the sale is certain ... I do not want to discuss the prospective buyer's situation at this time. … I can say that the reincarnation will be a restaurant – not a tear down/development!

"Again, thank you, Austin!"

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