The Night Hawk, Austin 1949
Returning to Austin, Texas, in 1932 after a failed attempt to make it in the movies in Hollywood and unable to find a job because of the Great Depression, 29-year-old Harry Akin opened a burger joint. He called it the Night Hawk because he was a ‘night bird’ and he thought other people would want to eat late too. At the time, most restaurants closed immediately after dinner service.
His small restaurant in an abandoned fruit stand on the corner of Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive had only two booths and a counter with eight stools. Hamburgers cost 15c. The extended hours proved popular and free coffee was served from midnight to 6am.
The following year Akin bought a small café for $100 and opened Night Hawk 2 at 1907 Guadalupe Street. This second location became a hangout for generations of students at the University of Texas.
Photos from 1935 show Akin not only employed blacks and women but promoted them – something ‘not done’ at the time. He also served blacks during segregation. Later, Akin would spearhead the move to integrate restaurants in the city in the 1960s and was invited to the White House by President John F Kennedy because of his support of civil rights.
After being wounded in the Kennedy assassination, one of the first stops after being released from hospital for Governor John Connally, his arm in a sling, was a visit to the original Night Hawk. The entire restaurant stood up to honor him and the slain president.
Akin founded a successful frozen food business selling Top Chop’t steaks and hamburgers, lobbied the legislature to overturn the legal ban on liquor-by-the -drink, opening the way for cocktail service, and served as mayor of Austin from 1967 to 1969.
The number of Night Hawks operating in Texas grew to seven and some became full steakhouses – four in Austin, two in San Antonio and one in Houston. Akin died in 1976. The Frisco, a diner offshoot of the Night Hawk chain and named for the burger served at Night Hawks, opened in 1953.
In the 80s and 90s, the Night Hawks lost their luster and the Frisco closed in 2018.
This menu, which we believe is from the 1940s, had Akin’s motto:’ There’s nothing accidental about quality.’
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.