Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gaby & Mo's

1809 Manor Road today

Gaby & Mo's

Location: 1809 Manor Road, Austin, Texas, USA

Founded: February 1999

Closed: December 15, 2001

Here's how the Austin Chronicle reviewed Gaby & Mo's back in November 1999, just a few months after she opened for business. (Hint: You have to wade through a lot of verbage before it's confirmed that this is a lesbian place):

Agoraphobes need not apply. The feeling in this newly-resurrected cafe is all about wide open spaces, thanks to its plentiful picture windows and big streetside deck area. On any given night, you can find the outdoor seating area packed with contented patrons -- girl groups drinking beer and French Place locals flipping through the local news -- soaking up the consistently friendly atmosphere.

Inside, the room is all brightly mellow celadon walls and paint-stenciled linoleum floors. Tables scattered around the upper area give unobstructed sight lines for protracted sessions of people watching and an "up-close and personal" view of the cafe's stage, which hosts a range of poetry readings, open mikes, and assorted live performances. (Check the front window posters for current schedule.) A few steps down, the sunken lounge area is the more reflective area and home to the joint's huge yellow La-Z-Boy, a relaxing bonus seat worth jockeying for.
Since its recent opening, the cafe has garnered good buzz for its simple menu of home-cooked bakery items, which includes sandwiches on freshly baked house breads and substantial rotating lunch specials. They've also got a full lineup of hedonistic desserts and deep selection of beers. Name your indulgence; they've got you covered.
And on a subcultural note, Gaby & Mo's also won a well-deserved nod as "Best Chance at a new Chances" in 1999's Best of Austin competition. As a friend recently put it: "It's basically a girl's bar (pause) but it's very straight-friendly." All the ladies in the house say WOOOOOOO ...

Gaby & Mo's seems to have had a split personality: the earnest plain Jane coffeehouse daytime self described above--and a glamourpuss out-on-the-prowl nighttime self. Clubplanet eluded to the latter:

Gaby & Mo's - Let’s call it what it is. Gaby & Mo's, at 1809 Manor Rd, is a good place to pull. The crowd is good looking and the ambiance is sexy, so if you can’t meet someone here, well, keep drinking and try again. Liquid courage always helps. Look, we’re not guaranteeing anything, but at Gaby & Mo's you should have plenty of options.

This is the same venue?

Happy Gaby & Mo's patrons (2000)
Some interesting and random events connected to Gaby & Mo's over her relatively short lifespan:

A "Yoko Ono Birthday Hoot" (!) was held here in 1999 and 2000.

In March 2000, a Grrl by Grrl Fest was held at Gaby & Mo's, which featured 13 musical acts. The event came back for an encore in March 2001.

On August 3, 2000, Gaby & Mo's hosted the Austin Poetry Slam Team Send-Off Party--the purpose of which was to raise funds to send the team to the National Poetry Slam in Providence, Rhode Island.

In February 2001, a "Happy Hummus Party" was held here, which included live music.

We know that Gaby and Mo's was still open in March 2001, as they got a great restaurant review from the Austin Chronicle:

Their weekday Blue Plate specials are just slightly more substantial -- veggie burgers, tomatoey vegetarian lasagna, or herby fusilli with pesto, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese all come with a salad and freshly baked roll. In fact, just about everything here is so adept that you can't help but question, who are these Gaby and Mo, and where did they learn their trade? As it happens, Gaby and Mo are fictional characters invented by owners Patti Carvajal and Jill Miller. The two women have brought their considerable restaurant experience (Patti managed Kerbey Lane for a number of years) to bear in this undertaking, and it shows.

She even got a mention in the New York Times that same month and year.

But by the end of 2001, she had finally thrown in the towel:

Finally, I just got confirmation that Gaby & Mo's will be closing its doors for good come December 15. "We've been struggling from the get-go," says co-owner Patty Carbajel, "and we thought when the students came back things would get better, but they didn't." Carbajel plans on trying to get new investors and hopefully open another venue in the next year or so.

To this day, you hear laments from people who are still grieving the loss of Gaby and Mo's. This 2009 lament from spitfiregrrrl is typical:

I desperately miss Gaby & Mo’s in Austin (an out of business Lesbian coffee shop) and the few others I know of have gone out of business as well.

Today, the space is occupied by Chile's Cafe Y Cantina.

Photo: Gaby and Mo patrons

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