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Exclusive: McGuire Moorman Lambert buys Ski Shores Cafe, will open Lou's on Barton Springs

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Ski Shores Cafe, which opened in 1954 on Lake Austin, is now operated by MML Hospitality.

One of Austin’s most prolific hospitality groups is taking stewardship of one of the city’s oldest restaurant brands. 

McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality has acquired Ski Shores Cafe, the Lake Austin restaurant originally opened by the Fowler family in 1954 and operated for about the past decade by Rick Engel.

The company behind restaurants such as Perla’s and Lamberts intends to freshen up the Lake Austin location while staying true to its lake lodge roots and will convert the Barton Springs Road location, which Engel opened last year, into a second location of Lou’s, a casual counter-service concept MML opened on East Cesar Chavez Street in 2019. 

MML founding partner Larry McGuire says patrons shouldn’t expect many changes at the original location, with the restaurant, which McGuire hopes will have more of an all-day neighborhood appeal, serving traditional dishes like hamburgers and fried catfish, along with dishes like salads, enchiladas and fried oysters. 

McGuire, who started going out to Ski Shores as a kid in the 1980s and has shared a boat with friends for about a decade, thinks some Austinites may not realize the importance lake culture has historically played in the city, and admits he has long eyed Ski Shores for his company’s growing portfolio. 

“Ski Shores has always been about good, old-fashioned boating culture, seeing boats pull up and getting off barefoot and that whole vibe,” McGuire said. “Growing up here, the lake is such a big part of it, and I don’t think some people necessarily associate it with Austin. It was definitely more of a ski bum/lake rat type town when I was growing up.”

The Austin High graduate also has memories of dining at Pizza Nizza on Barton Springs Road in his youth. That former restaurant will soon be home to Lou’s, which MML sees as a family-friendly Americana roadside restaurant serving burgers, chicken tenders, Soft Serv and pitchers of beer. 

More:Austin's legendary Dry Creek Cafe & Boat Dock is closing after 65 years

McGuire says the group had a little trepidation about taking on a location on Barton Springs Road, which was at one time considered Austin’s restaurant row but has since gone through a series of changes and challenges, but the opportunity to help reshape the area was too enticing. 

“It should be a great family hang,” McGuire said of the restaurant that sits on the road leading into Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool. “So we got excited about trying to help revitalize it over there and breathe some new life into that stretch.”

MML closed both Ski Shores Cafe locations this week and will renovate them over the winter, with plans to reopen Ski Shores on Lake Austin and Lou’s on Barton Springs Road around March.