Austin Grill actually got its start in Austin Texas, which is right and proper. In the summer of 1984, Rob Wilder (future founder of Austin Grills) traveled to Austin to join college classmate (and future Austin Grill honcho) Scott Shaw who, as it happened, was starting up an ice cream company with Amy Miller. Note: Amy's Mexican Vanilla and Hot Fudge is served up daily at The Grills -- the only place it can be found outside of Texas!
Now, Austin is the kind of town where people have fun together, enjoy eating great food, appreciate good music, and don't take life any more seriously than necessary to make next month’s rent. Before long Austin and Rob had sorta adopted each other.
However, as proof that love is stronger than salsa, Rob chased his girlfriend, (now his wife!) Robin, to Washington, DC and nine months later the Austin Grill was born! After several months of hammer swinging, the original Grill crew had transformed an old Chinese Restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue into a funky Tex-Mex joint. On June 24, 1988, "The Grill" served its first taco.
The critics took note. Washington Post's Phyllis Richman listed Austin Grill as one of her "favorites". We made it into Washingtonian Magazine's "50 Best Restaurants" and onto Washingtonian's "50 Best Bargain Restaurants". Not to mention Hispanic Magazine's Best Restaurants USA. Not bad riding and roping, huh?
By 1990, the first Austin Grill had fairly bust its seams. So, it spawned a bigger sibling, South Austin Grill, just a coin's throw across the Potomac in Old Town Alexandria, VA. In 1993, we teamed with Roberto Alvarez to create Jaleo, our popular "Spanish cousin" which marries classic Spanish Tapas with our style of exuberant service. In 1995 we opened a third Grill in West Springfield, VA and another in Bethesda, MD in 1996! In 1998, we were busy, opening a Grill in the Lansburgh in downtown DC, and one in Baltimore, MD at the Can Company in Canton. But it doesn't stop there! In 1999 we opened our seventh store in Central Square in Cambridge, MA - WHEW! We've been busy as popcorn on a skillet!
Each restaurant is uniquely decorated with stencils, sculptures, murals, and Texas style doodads created by our artists in residence Leigh Henry and Kris Viemeister.
In our first twelve years, the Austin Grills have fed a couple Presidents, one Secretary of State, one Attorney General, the Governor of Texas, the Mayor of Austin, a small herd of Texas Congressmen, a bunch of Senators, musicians from REM, Red Hot Chile Peppers, 10,000 Maniacs, James Taylor, and a guy named Jimmie Dale Gilmore. In 1996 Rob spoke at the Smithsonian with Rick Bayless of Chicago's Frontera Grill in a program on Mexican food (they let us cater it too). In 1998, Rob was named restauranteur of the year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.
And that’s just the first twelve years. We can't wait to see what the next twelve years will bring through our doors !!