A large pizza sat in front of Kate and Iker Urquiola, so fresh out of the oven that Iker had to use his fingers to separate the stretchy strands of cheese when he served up a slice. Sitting at one of the ABGB’s long, picnic-style tables on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, they looked like any other couple out for lunch. They laughed over drinks. They fawned over their infant niece.
If you didn’t know better, you’d have no idea the couple met at the ABGB.
And got engaged there.
Oh, and got married there, too.
The ABGB has been a family-friendly gathering spot for folks in South Austin since 2013. The menu lists award-winning brews and tasty grub. Like any good Austin watering hole, there’s often live music at night. The place might always mean more to Kate and Iker, though, than to the average person walking through the heavy glass-and-metal doors.
"It’s our special place," Kate, 28, says.
Listen to Kate tell the story in her own words on the "I Love You So Much" podcast:
The couple first matched on Bumble in 2015. It was Kate’s "first foray into the frontier of modern dating," as she puts it. She had never tried a dating app and didn’t know what to expect.
She matched with Iker, 33, pretty early on.
"He was way more attractive than the people I thought were typically in my field, I guess," Kate says with a laugh.
"My initial impression was that she had a sense of humor, due to some silly pictures," Iker says. "Couldn’t have been more true."
They clicked and started messaging every day. The chemistry was flirty, natural.
"I was waiting for him to ask me to dinner immediately, and to have this almost movie-esque date," Kate says.
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About a week later, Iker asked Kate to join him at a concert with some friends. She said yes but later got nervous that his friends would try to size her up. Kate flaked (her word), telling Iker she felt sick. (Later, she would find out that it was a charity concert that Iker had organized himself, and that his friends were the band playing.)
Things fizzled out. They both casually dated other people but would text every now and then. About six months later, Iker saw something that reminded him of an inside joke they shared. He texted Kate and said that his offer to hang out was still good.
At the time, one of Kate’s coworkers wanted to set her up with a guy she knew. Kate hadn’t been on a first date in a while and wanted practice, so she thought going out with the cute guy she matched with on Bumble would be good.
Iker, who lived at Oltorf Street and Parker Lane at the time, picked ABGB for their first date. Kate had passed by it before but had never been. It was an approachable first date location, she says: "Casual, not stuffy. Not fork-and-knifing it."
Kate immediately thought that Iker was just as handsome in person. And he brought his miniature schnauzer on the date, which was a bonus. They got to talking. Iker "very quickly and politely" called Kate out for flaking.
"But I liked it," she says with a smile.
The chemistry translated from their text messages. They talked for four or five hours.
"I don’t think we ever actually ended up going back in to order pizza," Kate says. "We had a round of drinks and never went back to order more."
They closed ABGB down on a Monday night. Kate never met the guy her coworker tried to set her up with.
"I do remember leaving that date and wanting to see her as soon as I could again," Iker says.
Kate and Iker got serious. ABGB became their place — anniversaries, birthdays, new jobs, you name it. They moved in together, and about two years into the relationship, marriage seemed like the next step.
"We had talked about it mutually before. I was just waiting for him to ask me," Kate says.
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The pair traveled extensively that year, and each time Kate hoped a ring would appear. It was excruciating, she says, waiting for "the fun, antiquated, romantic part." They had a trip to Mexico on the books. Kate was going to give Iker until the end of the year, and then "be a mature woman and ask, ‘What are we doing here? Are we moving forward or not?’"
The pair kept a joint calendar. One week, she noticed a rare empty spot on the calendar, when neither of them had plans.
"It was my idea to hold that off as a date night," she says. "He very casually said, ‘I’ll pick the place.’"
Iker was doing more than picking a place. He was planning a proposal.
He thought about doing it close to Lady Bird Lake, where they had their first kiss, but couldn’t come up with a reason to take her there without spoiling the surprise. He decided the ABGB was equally special, and not so obvious.
Iker asked Kate’s parents for their blessing and to see when their families could come to Austin for a surprise. He waited for the engagement ring to come in.
"We had everything in place, and then a work trip sprung up on her calendar for the weekend I had picked," he says. Iker reached out to Kate’s boss, explained his plan and asked if there was any way they could postpone her business trip. Kate’s boss was supportive and made it happen without tipping her off.
When the couple got to ABGB, Iker opened the door for Kate. She thought he might be taking her ax-throwing (she’d been dropping hints), so she wore a dress that wasn’t constricting. She was excited, she told him as they walked in — she could eat all the pizza she wanted.
Kate turned around and saw members of both their families arranged in an arc.
"They’re all watching," she recalls. "My first thought was that it was my birthday, and I just forgot that it was my birthday."
Kate turned and looked for Iker, who was "perfectly on one knee," she says, right at the ABGB’s front door.
They stayed for pizza, of course.
It was Kate’s idea to get married at the ABGB a year later, she says, to "complete the trifecta." Iker is originally from Mexico, and the couple planned a destination wedding in Sayulita. Getting legally married in Mexico would require a blood test, and Kate wasn’t too thrilled about that, "because needles." They decided it would be simpler to get legally hitched in Austin before they got on the plane. So, they reached out to the ABGB.
Millie Clark, events and production manager at the ABGB, remembered the couple, because she worked with Iker on the engagement, too. Clark was immediately game for the quirky marriage: "My first thought was, ‘Oh, hell yes."
"If you want bells and whistles, we’re probably not the place for you," she says of the ABGB. "If you want beer and pizza, we’re the place for you."
Clark gave them an area in the lower beer garden, away from people. The date was set for Oct. 12, 2019: a couple of days before Kate and Iker left for Mexico, and also the day of the Texas-OU game. The officiant, retired Judge Jan Breland, pulled up wearing a Longhorns shirt under her robe. The ceremony happened right when ABGB opened, so there weren’t too many strangers around — just Kate and Iker’s siblings, who all live in Austin, and the couple’s dogs.
"We said our vows, exchanged rings, and then we all had pizza together and some Champagne," Kate says. "It was perfect — and then we had a 1,000 wedding errands to run afterward."
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If you’re sitting near the couple at ABGB anytime soon, you might see Kate lean on Iker’s arm, or how quick she is to laugh when they talk. Iker says Kate is supportive, thoughtful, loving, caring, fun and selfless. Kate says Iker supports her fully, that he’s intentional and always there to share in the experience, whether it’s good or bad.
They’ve set down roots in Austin. Iker’s been here on and off for 15 years and now works in customer success for a security software company. Kate’s lived in Austin since 2009 and — twist — got a job in analytics at Bumble more than a year after her first date with Iker. They’re lifers, she says.
"This is home forever for us," Kate says.
And ABGB, too, will always be their "place."
"We do live in North Austin now, so it’s not down the street as it was for so long," Kate says. "We make it less often. … It’s still our birthday, it’s still our anniversary, it’s still our job promotion."
"It always brings a smile to my face when I think about ABGB," Iker says. "I get excited whenever there are plans to go there."
And their usual order? A Day Trip pale ale for Kate and a Rocket 100 pilsner or Hell Yes helles for Iker. Don’t forget the Calabrese pizza, either.