viva les amis, adored austin cafe

from marc savlov’s review for the austin chronicle for viva les amis, a documentary about one of the favorite hangouts from the 70s through my time in austin & the slow, painful death of the mom and pop shop & what these places–and the loss of them– mean for the feel of a city’s heart and personality:

“Les Amis, the best Parisian cafe never in Paris, is now a Starbucks. Neighbors Mad Dog and Beans, whose outrageously epicurian burgers obliterated Sunday morning hangovers with something approaching meaty genius, is also gone. Ditto Inner Sanctum, the first indie music store in Texas, and on and on. The Big Boys and the Hickoids will never play that adjacent parking lot, awash in Shiner Bock and Bastrop mushrooms, again.

So what. So what?! Those “Keep Austin Weird” bumper stickers you see everywhere these days? They’re talking about Les Amis, a bistro/coffee joint/hangout place that made West Campus worth the traffic and parking hassles from 1970 to 1997. At any given moment, you could wander up, grab a table (actually a phone-line-wire spool upended, topped by a red and white checkerboard tablecloth for Bohemian effect), and strike up a seriously meaningful conversation with a total stranger, who, more often than not, was a) a tenured UT philosophy professor, b) a drunken poet wondering where all the absinthe’s gone, c) a writer/ filmmaker/ playwright/artist/whatever who’d just as soon talk your ear off as cadge free smokes from the perfectly surly waitresses, or d) Rick Linklater shooting Slacker.”

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