Why Whip In Rules

Sorry, Travis Heights: your secret's out

Dipak Topiwala
Dipak Topiwala (Photo By John Anderson)

Since 1986, the Topiwala family's Whip In (1950 S. I-35) has been a closely held secret treasured by the local Travis Heights neighborhood. During the past 20 years, the Topiwala family has steadily transformed the place from a simple convenience store into so much more.

"My Dad bought this place as a convenience store," Dipak Topiwala says. "When he got it, it was gas in the front, beer and soft drinks inside, and porn behind the counter. We figured out the gas wasn't doing any good, so my dad replaced it with the best beer he could find. That went over like a tidal wave."

Choosing good beer over gas has been a blessing. People in the area started to gravitate toward the special selection (now up to 760 brands), and a whole new clientele developed. When the Topiwalas saw their beer sales going up, they decided the neighborhood might be interested in wine, as well.

Dipak started buying wines that interested him. Instead of relying on the commonplace, multimillion case wines, he decided to go searching for more obscure wines. He reasoned that if customers were interested in out-of-the-ordinary beers, they'd be interested in unusual wines. For example, he now has what is probably the largest collection of torrontés (a wonderful aromatic wine from Argentina) in the city. Dipak also carries about 50 zinfandels, including some real off-the-wall brands.

They're not forgetting their roots. "We always try to keep easy drinking wines at between $4.99 and $5.99 a bottle," Dipak says. "They are great wines for everyday drinking; not complex, but just good wines for the end of a day sipping." They are also bringing in a number of other wines, more than a thousand altogether. While that doesn't come close to Grape Vine Market or Central Market, Whip In's inventory is picked for value.

Two examples: The LaVis line from Italy features unoaked, unfined, and unfiltered wine using grapes you don't hear about every day (a little lagrein perhaps, or how about Müller Thurgau?), both $12.99.

Since adding wine, Whip In has become a big supporter of local mom-and-pop food organizations. They carry Live Oak beer in kegs, Empanadas la Boca, White Mountain Foods, and several more. They also carry a large selection of vegetarian dishes, organic meat and produce, exotic sauces, and, coming soon, they'll offer beer and wine by the glass along with light vegetarian Indian food.

Most important is the South Austin vibe. The place feels both sophisticated and weird, luxurious and economical. The secret is out. Whip In is definitely worth a visit.

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