Diner expands hours, holds on to '70s style
The Omelettry offers Austin a taste of '70s American breakfast and Tex-Mex fare. Owner Kenny Carpenter describes it as "a plain old hippie diner that serves good food."
During the '70s, Carpenter tried his hand at construction, organic farming and eventually became a cook for an omelet shop in Santa Barbara, Calif. A friend suggested Austin as a good place to open a restaurant, so Carpenter moved here with his soon-to-be-wife, Joni, and The Omelettry opened its doors Jan. 20, 1978. Since then, not much about the diner has changed, he said, but the recent addition of more restaurants to the area is attracting more customers at night.
In response, The Omelettry expanded its hours to 7 a.m.– 10 p.m. in September and is adding more Tex-Mex staples for dinner: fajitas, pulled-pork tacos, and combination plates.
Carpenter's son and manager, Jesse, emphasized that the atmosphere is that of a quintessential diner. Servers greet regular customers by name, it's cash-only, and the food is familiar and made to order.
"One thing that makes us popular is that we haven't changed amidst everything that's going on around us. Other than adding on some extra seating, we've stayed pretty much the same," Kenny said.
Out of 11 omelet designs, the top seller is Popeye's Favorite ($9.75), made with spinach, bacon, sauteed onions and cheese. Huevos rancheros ($7.15), combination plates, French toast ($4.75), fruit, oatmeal ($2.65) and 22 non-breakfast sandwiches ($3.95–$7.85), entrees ($3.45–$8.95) and soups ($2.10 for a cup, $3.75 for a bowl) round out the menu.
Gingerbread pancakes ($3.95 for two) are a customer favorite, and the Eggonomical ($4.95) is what Jesse calls a "standard breakfast": two eggs and a choice between pancakes in buttermilk, whole-wheat or gingerbread, and toast with home fries, fruit or cottage cheese.
Over the years, The Omelettry has stayed focused on providing a family-friendly atmosphere.
"I joke we're a nursery in the mornings on Saturday and Sundays," Jesse said. "People know they can bring their kids here."
Children are given action figures, dinosaur toys and miniature trucks to play with at the table.
"I grew up in a playpen in the office," he said.
As a teenager, Jesse worked the counter as a summer job, and today, he brings his own 10-month-old son to the diner often to spend time with his grandparents and meet the clientele.
"We'll see if he wants to go into the restaurant business," Jesse said.
The Omeletry, 4811 Burnet Road, Mon.-Sun. — 7 a.m.-10 p.m.