Austin Landmarks on the Menu

El Gallo

2910 S. Congress, 444-6696
www.elgallorestaurant.com
Tuesday-Thursday, 8am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 8am-11pm; Sunday, 8am-9pm

Abraham Kennedy Jr. was from Linares, a town south of Monterrey known for its famous leche quemada. In the 1930s, his mother died, and he went to live with a local banker. But he was a restless youth, and by the time he was 16, he decided to move to America. Abraham came over legally, since his father was a U.S. citizen (which explains the name Kennedy). He and his wife, Maria, moved to Austin in 1948, and both worked in the restaurant business. Mr. Kennedy worked his way up to manage the famous restaurant El Matamoros, but he and Maria wanted to start their own restaurant. El Gallo opened on April 7, 1957, in an old pier-and-beam house at 2912 S. Congress. By 1968, El Gallo was successful enough that they had to build a new building, which is still their home today. Abraham decided to retire in the early 1980s and rented the restaurant out for a couple of years, but he got tired of retirement and took El Gallo back in 1985. It has been a family-run place ever since.

Abraham passed away, so Maria is the matriarch, still coming to work four or five days a week. And after 51 years, the restaurant is still popular with Austin diners. Abraham and Maria's daughter, Melody Kennedy, works in the restaurant and is excited when she gets a chance to talk to the regular customers. "Our diners come from all over the city," she tells me. "Some come every Sunday. I love it when we get third-generation customers who tell us about coming to El Gallo just like their mother and grandmother." I asked Melody the secret to El Gallo's long-term success. "We don't alter our recipes," she says. "Like the especiales de la casa. They are all my father's recipes, and we haven't changed a single one. We consider it a success when someone tells us they've been coming here for 20 years, and the food always tastes the same."

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