Change is inevitable. But with change comes a bit of trepidation. Simon Madera, owner of La Holly, knows this feeling well. He took over Kellee’s Place last summer, yet kept the longstanding Tejano bar open as he worked on his project because he wanted the original building to stay intact. The outcome of Madera’s efforts is a modern cantina that respects east Austin’s history and aims to retain the neighborhood’s core essence.
Thank you to La Holly for inviting me to its media preview event. All opinions are my own.
It’s a Family Affair
Last year, Madera saw the opportunity to open an establishment in a historically Mexican-American neighborhood of east Austin. He spends a lot of time in Mexico City and his first restaurant, Taco Flats on Burnet, reflects that.
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At Taco Flats, Madera works with a team–including his mother–that’s passionate about food and drink. This same group has become the work-family behind La Holly. Owner/operating partners include Chris Nowles, Michael Vasko, and Patrick O’Donnell.
With its new cantina concept, La Holly preserves a neighborhood bar feel, while offering an updated menu influenced by flavors enjoyed in Mexico.
The partners continue to work full-time at Taco Flats, while also running the new bar. The cantina concept was already in development when they saw a lone agave plant outside, which inspired them to craft an agave-focused cocktail menu. A respectful nod to the neighborhood’s roots.
Cocktail Time at La Holly
The La Holly team is passionate about the integrity of their products. The cantina makes its own syrups and the frozen drinks aren’t made from a mix. The frozen spicy margarita and frozen hibiscus mezcal margarita are both on tap, made in-house, and perfect for sunny days and sultry nights.
Familiar spirits, such as tequila and mezcal, are served at La Holly, along with sotol, raicilla, and bacanora. But locals need not worry. Their neighborhood watering hole has not been replaced.
Madera says the menu was created from the team’s personal drink preferences. Customers, however, should order whatever they like, either on or off the menu. From vodka and soda to an ice cold canned beer, La Holly will serve whatever you enjoy most.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
Condo construction and new buildings line the blocks surrounding La Holly’s corner lot at East Sixth Street and Pedernales. St. Roch’s, another neighborhood bar, sits across the street.
Despite the changes in the area, the team behind La Holly is committed to retaining the neighborhood vibe. “Cantina Holly [La Holly] pays tribute to the neighborhood it’s located in,” said Madera. “We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to take over a bar with that kind of history and significance. La Holly is a place for locals and out-of-towners to gather and enjoy cocktails and beer.”
La Holly large outdoor space helps preserve the vibe. Picnic tables and chairs encourage patrons to relax under twinkling lights, while Taco Flats and Dee Dee food trucks provide a variety of yummy food options.
Regulars from the days of Kellee’s Place continue to stop in, as well as new residents from nearby condos. Thus, La Holly enjoys a mix of patrons reflective of the neighborhood’s evolution.
While the old Austin may be gone, businesses such as La Holly help ensure our city’s beloved essence won’t be lost. With a focus on quality and service from a friendly staff, La Holly reminds me of what I love most about Austin: laid-back space to enjoy great people, food, and drinks.
2500 E. 6th St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite agave-based drink?