A brief history of Austin businesses from the past

We asked readers to share the closed Austin businesses they miss the most, so for the sake of nostalgia, we’re sharing their stories to keep the memory alive.

A neon sign of a bowling ball and two bowling pins lit up at night. Underneath, a sign reads "Dart Bowl. Dart — Bowl — Cafe."

The business — and Highland Lanes — was co-owned by John Donovan, whose grandparents opened Dart Bowl.

Photo by Matthew Rutledge via OpenVerse

Just because Austinites have been complaining about the city changing for more than a century doesn’t mean we can’t be nostalgic from time to time.

We asked our readers to tell us which now-closed Austin businesses you miss the most. In remembrance of Austin’s past, we wanted to tell you a bit about some of them.

A billboard of Armadillo World Headquarters behind a stoplight, in front of "The Skating Palace" on a clear day.

Austinites can see memorabilia of Armadillo World Headquarters — along with many other now-closed Austin businesses — at Sign Bar, 9909 FM 969, Bldg. 3.

Photo by Steve Hopson via OpenVerse

Armadillo World Headquarters | 1970-1981
This short-lived, well-loved venue is having a bit of a resurgence with Austin FC’s new kit, but the venue made cultural waves long before the MLS team came to town. The music hall featured shows of all genres, famously hosting acts including Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Nelson for crowds of ~1,500 people. When its lease expired, the venue closed down to make room for the One Texas Center, and the city of Austin dedicated a plaque in its place to memorialize the venue in 2006.

Dart Bowl | 1958-2020
For 62 years, Dart Bowl was one of Austin’s premier entertainment centers, known for its 32 bowling lanes, enchiladas, and cameo in Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood.” Although Dart Bowl closed during the pandemic, you can still visit the Donovan family’s other pin palaces: Highland Lanes and Westgate Lanes.

The empty patio at Shady Grove, with a sign that reads "BEER" and a mural that reads "Visit friendly Shady Grove."

Shady Grove’s Barton Springs Road backyard still remains empty.

Photo via KVUE

Shady Grove | 1992-2020
Just east of the original Chuy’s, this largely outdoor Tex-Mex restaurant was built around the quirky spirit of Austin. Shady Grove was a cozy place to sit down at a picnic table and chow down on a burger, enjoy live music as part of the Unplugged at the Grove series, and people watch along Barton Springs Road. The restaurant closed as a result of the pandemic and still remains empty.

Which businesses would you like to hear about next? Let us know.

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