If you’re looking for a comfortable place to go, with good cooking and outstanding retro design where you’ll be treated like family, look no further than Austin’s own Sawyer and Co.
Every detail from the mid-century decor down to the cheesy grits will make you feel as though you’ve found your home away from home.
Sawyer and Co. sits in the space where the legendary Arkie’s Grill existed for over 65 years as an East Austin mainstay. When Arkie’s closed down in 2012, Stephen and Lauren Shallcross took over the space along with partner Mickie Spencer. After a couple years and much hard work from the trio, what resulted was a tribute to Faye “Arkie” Sawyer, original owner of Arkie’s, that could live on and serve Austin patrons for years to come.
You can see Mickie Spencer’s design genius in other locations around the city such as East Side Show Room and Hillside Farmacy. A few of my favorite touches in Sawyer and Co. include the starburst light fixtures she designed and created herself, a gigantic illuminated wall clock located at the back of the diner and the restored original Arkie’s booths that sit atop bright green Astroturf on the outdoor patio.
Stephen Shallcross was kind enough to have me in recently and share the history of Arkie’s and how Sawyer and Co. came to be. Everything from early James Brown to the croon of Sam Cooke played throughout the diner as we spoke.
I asked why he chose to fashion the diner after the spirit of Arkie’s Grill. “The first time I came to Arkie’s was the summer of 1990 when I was a freshman at UT…it was therapeutic and reminded me of home,” Shallcross told me. “Arkie was a total character. I had long hair back then and after I waited in line the first thing he tells me is, ‘That wait was long enough for you to get a haircut.’ He laughed and said he was kidding. It really stood out.”
As I was speaking with Stephen, he paused mid-conversation and excused himself. I watched him quickly get a specific coffee cup and saucer and set it in front of a man just as he was sitting down at the bar. “That’s Jacob,” Shallcross said to me, smiling. “He’s a regular.”
When Shallcross returned, we touched on the affordability of Sawyer’s menu and what he likes best about running the diner here in Austin. “If I had one overriding dream, it was to build something that people could come and eat at every other day…it’s what builds community,” Shallcross shared. “The people that come in, that’s what makes it worthwhile and makes it worth the pain and makes it fun. I’ve had tons of fun making friends and we’ve been really blessed with a lot of wonderful support from people that have become friends that we never knew.”
4827 E Cesar Chavez St
@mattchampionatx wants to know:
Did you ever visit Arkie’s Grill before it closed in 2012?