Harry Akin had already been running hamburger stands for 20 years when he opened the Frisco Shop in 1953.
The beloved 65-year-old restaurant, the last of Akin’s pioneering Night Hawk family of restaurants, will close for good on July 29.
It’s a sad day for fans of the restaurant’s famous “top chop’t steaks,” but you can still find a nostalgic taste of these iconic Austin restaurants through Night Hawk frozen meals, the Buda-based food manufacturer that has been a separate entity since 1989, when Charles Hill bought the retail side of the brand.
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Akin, who went on to become mayor and one of the first business owners to integrate his restaurants during the Civil Rights era, was also a pioneer in frozen foods. In the 1950s, Akin started selling frozen charbroiled steaks to local grocery stores, and the full frozen meals launched in 1964, just a few years after the first heat-and-eat dinners hit the market.
The meat-and-potatoes meals were originally made in a co-packing facility off Shelby Lane, near the motor mile along Interstate 35 in South Austin. In 1993, Charles Hill built a plant to expand in Buda next to the already established food co-packer Jardine’s, which has bottled salsas, dressings and other jarred foods since 1979.
Hill’s daughter, Leanne Logan, took over Night Hawk several years and now runs it with her husband, Scott. For a 2015 story about the local packaged food industry, I found out that the Night Hawk has branched out to sell nearly 20 different meals, many of which feature the famed Night Hawk charbroiled beef patty that was once the star of the restaurant. They have added a breakfast line in recent years, but instead of taking on entirely different cuisines, they’ve always stuck with their comfort food appeal, Leanne Logan says.
Of the 48 workers, a handful have been there for more than 30 years. “If there is turnover, it’s because they retire,” Scott Logan says, citing a woman who recently retired after 42 years with the company.