On May 7, 1970, Les Amis Cafe opened at 24th street and Nueces – one block from the
University of Texas. The café, started by Michael Beaudette and Ralph
McElroy, began as an asphalt parking lot with some chairs and tables “to watch
the girls go by.” Newman Stribling began work as the building janitor and
quickly became manager of Les Amis Café in 1970.
Of the thousands of customers that frequented the restaurant, it’s rumored that
Dennis Hopper visited the café, and that Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson ran
off with two of the waitresses for a night. During the Vietnam war, rioters
took refuge at the café and tear gas drifted onto the patio, leaving Newman
with numerous walked checks. Customers included local musicians like Rocky
Erickson, and during the 1980’s, members of the bands The Big Boys, the Butthole
Surfers and Bad Mother Goose were often hanging out at Les Amis.
Les Amis witnessed the birth of the movie, Slacker, and three scenes were shot
at the tables of Les Amis. Richard Linklater, director of Slacker, and Lee
Daniel, cinematographer of Slacker, completed the film while living next to
door to Les Amis. Organizations such as The Austin Film Society had meetings at
the cafe in its early days.
During the 1990’s, a booming economy and steep rent increases caused Newman to
struggle to keep the café financially stable. Les Amis Café closed in July of
1997. In 1998, Starbucks opened on the grounds of what once was Les Amis Cafe.
Les Amis Cafe 1988