CASA CARTEL
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History

Casa Cartel’s personal history

 
 

Historical Journey

Abraham Kennedy was born on a ranch in Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1929.  As one of 8 children living in a poor, rural area, he came to the US with nothing more than what he could carry over his head when he crossed the Rio Grande at age 15 by himself.   He met his wife in Harlingen, Texas and they pulled out a map and decided to move to Austin because “It was a star on the map so ‘It must be good luck’”.  Working tirelessly to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant, he got his lucky break while waiting tables at a restaurant called Matamoros (current site of the Hilton Hotel).  Two widowed regular customers inherited a small house on South Congress Avenue and agreed to rent it to him, so he could open a restaurant.  The house, which sat about 100 feet off of South Congress was hard to find, so he painted it bright pink, because that’s what was on clearance after a paint order was mixed by mistake.  The restaurant was named El Gallo and became the most famous spot to eat on the now-famous South Congress Avenue.

“...they pulled out a map and decided to move to Austin because “It was a star on the map so ‘It must be good luck’”.”

Abraham Kennedy built Austin’s most awe-inspiring villa over a two year period from 1975-76.  Originally built to house his family and two full-time maids, the property eventually housed a priest and the house infamously played host to the most fabulous parties of the 70s and 80s, many of which included the prominent local and state politicians of the era.   The Texas Senate wrote Senate Proclamation #728 in April 2000 to express their condolences to the family of Abraham Kennedy who was considered the embodiment of the American dream and an Austin institution.  The Kennedy family are, and were, well-known for their community involvement.  Abraham’s wife, Maria, helped found Austin Community College and the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce.    The home is still the largest home in all of East Austin and the largest available to guests downtown.   El Gallo was open for 60 years on South Congress before closing in 2017.

“...the family of Abraham Kennedy... was considered the embodiment of the American dream and an Austin institution.”

The property was tirelessly remodeled over a 20 month period in 2017-18 by Jantzen Matzdorff (of The Learning Channel’s “Flip That House” – investor, woodworker, welder, and designer) in collaboration with McCray & Co. (whose body of work includes local favorites Odd Duck, RamenTatsu-ya, Picnik, NadaMoo!, Kemuri Tatsu-ya, and many others).   Exploratory trips to Interior Mexico provided clarity on how to best preserve the most ostentatious and authentic features.  Antiques were sourced from Mexico, custom pieces were fabricated on both sides of the border and eventually a 53 foot semi truck moved the majority of the furniture from Monterrey, Mexico to the property on April 10, 2018.  A team of over 10 people moved the dining table into the house; an astounding single piece of wood measuring 13 1/2’ long x 5 1/2’ wide and 4” thick made from the hardwood, Parota.  

“Exploratory trips to Interior Mexico provided clarity on how to best preserve the most ostentatious and authentic features.”

Months of searching for the best mural artist in the world led to Curiot Tlalpazotl creating the moving 20 foot tall mural that greets all who enter the property.   The mural combines Mayan mythology with modern spiritual outlooks. 

Today's guests are invited into this personal residence to gather around this magnificent dining table, and the other spaces which are intended to astound and connect us.  The space is highly-curated and serves to celebrate with you.  The courtyard serves as a central “heart” to the home with a pool, which is connected to indoor and outdoor intimate spaces for small and large groups alike.   The property is completely private and allows guests to feel a world away, right in downtown Austin.