The first time I met my former boss, I was an Associated Press reporter interviewing him for an article. The Frisco Shop was one of his favorite restaurants, and it was there that he asked me to meet him on the back patio.
Nearly a decade later, when I was working for him, we'd occasionally meet for a meal. Frisco's was part of the rotation.
I never asked Kinky Friedman why he loved Frisco's so much. I'd always assumed it was the food and ambience.
Frisco's was founded in 1953 by Harry Akin. The diner once boasted Austin's only "corn-fed" burger. According to Frisco's web site:
"A true entrepreneur in every sense, Akin developed innovations such as late night service, and even raised his own corn-fed beef to ensure the quality of food."
But there's more:
The founder of Frisco's "hired women and minorities before it was politically correct to do so. In the turbulent civil rights era, Akin was the first Austin restaurateur to integrate his restaurants."
It's only now that I see how much my former boss had in common with Akin. A politically incorrect progressive himself, Kinky participated in his fair share of marches during the civil rights era. He picketed a couple of segregated restaurants in Austin in an effort to integrate them -- including this one, I believe.
Frisco's was pushed several blocks north of its original location, sometime in 2009, to make way for a Walgreen's.
I don't know what my former boss would say about the new location. It's much more polished than the old one.
The 1950s-style pie case displays have been upgraded, and the waitresses no longer wear old-timey aprons. The rich wood booths and wood accents make the joint much cozier than the laminate table tops and plastic chairs of yore.
But the food ... the food is just as good. Perhaps it's gotten better. (My biscuits and sausage gravy didn't disappoint, and the coffee rivals some of the best I've had on our weekend brunch excursions.)
I can't help but hope Kinky is pleased with the new Frisco's. After all, he knows better than most that change can be a good thing.