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Shady Grove Restaurant on Barton Springs Road closes permanently after 28 years in Austin, per Austin360



By Michael Corcoran, Long-time Austin Music Entertainment, Writer


AUSTIN UNPLUGGED.
Rusty Zagst started as a busboy at Shady Grove, soon after it opened 28 years ago, and worked his way up to managing partner. But today he had the heartbreaking task of telling his staff that the beloved restaurant, known for green chile cheeseburgers and free Thursday night concerts, was closing for good. Effective immediately.

COVID could stand for “Closing Our Very Iconic Diners,” and this one really hurts. I don’t think there’s been a better combination of food and live music than at 1624 Barton Springs Road. Because of its sponsorship by KGSR (now called Austin City Limits Radio) the open-air “Unplugged At the Grove” concert series attracted major talent, including Ted Hawkins, Marcia Ball, Dixie Chicks, Ryan Bingham, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr., Alejandro Escovedo, the Gourds, Carolyn Wonderland and Bob Schneider for almost three decades. All for free, in a beautiful setting made to look as if built by FDR’s Civilian Conservatory Corps in the ‘30s. (The architectural model was Garner State Park).
Jimmy LaFave initiated the series in 1992, months after Shady Grove opened, and after he passed away from cancer in 2017, the stage was named in his honor. There are no plans to continue “Unplugged” at another location, which could be the greatest loss.
To an older generation of Austin music fans, “Unplugged at the Grove” was a great way to experience live music without battling Sixth Street or high-priced concerts. There were seats up front for the diehards and a lawn for blankets and a place for kids to play. Many fans never missed a Thursday, from April through September, under the 100-year-old pecan tree that gave this Grove its Shade.
The longer this thing goes on, the harder it’s going to be to get our Austin back.


The plug has ben pulled on an Austin institution after almost 30 years. Shady Grove, the pastoral comfort food restaurant that was home to the longest-running free live music series in Austin, has announced it will close permanently, effective immediately.
Shady Grove may not have been the most critically acclaimed restaurant or the city’s premiere music venue, but it was much more than the sum of its parts. With its family-friendly vibe, unfussy Southwestern comfort food and long-running Unplugged at the Grove music series, the restaurant at 1624 Barton Springs Road was a uniquely Austin treasure that felt like the city’s unofficial backyard.
Chuy’s founders Mike Young and John Zapp opened Shady Grove, with its recognizable lariat signage, in 1992, and the next year the restaurant started its music series set beneath a 100-year-old pecan tree, attracting some of the biggest names in Americana music. The series ran every Thursday from April through September, and featured acts like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham, Jimmie Vaughan, Marcia Ball, Rhett Miller, Bob Schneider, Sarah Jarosz and dozens more. The combination of big names and small intimate outdoor space made Unplugged at the Grove a concert series unlike any other in town.
“We created magic there on a regular basis,” series music programmer Marsha Milam said.
Unplugged at the Grove kicked off around the time that Rusty Zagst joined the restaurant as a busboy in 1993. Twenty-seven years later Zagst, a near-daily fixture at the restaurant, serves as Shady Grover’s managing partner. In addition to the tunes, the restaurant’s patio and lawn also attracted crowds over the years for family-friendly programming that included movie screenings.
Shady Grove, along with every restaurant in Austin, closed its dining room on March 17 following dual orders by the city and county, and started takeout and delivery the following day. They continued with that model in recent weeks following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s proclamation that restaurants could reopen to 25 percent capacity. It appears that the economic effects of the coronavirus was the final straw for the modest restaurant that sits on property appraised at approximately $5 million by the Travis County Appraisal District.
The original building at the property first operated in 1954 as Dairyland, a hamburger stand that served ice creams and custards. It became a restaurant called The Barton House in 1955 and operated the City Recreation Department in the late 50s and later as Westwood Cleaners in the 1980s. Opened in 1992, the building that houses Shady Grove was modeled after the Texas Sate Parks buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The land at 1624 Barton Springs Road has been in the Neelley family for at least 50 years, according to the Travis County Appraisal District. There was no immediate word on the future of the space.
This is a developing story and will be updated.



















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