Legendary cattle rancher Charlie Goodnight made his way to Texas when he was just nine years of age, and wasted no time in forging his reputation as one of the best cattlemen in the West. By thirteen he had hunted with the Caddo Indians beyond the frontier, launched into the cattle business at twenty, guided Texas Rangers at twenty-four, blazed cattle trails nearly two thousand miles long at forty, and at forty-five dominated twenty million acres of range country in the interest of order. At sixty he was recognized as possibly the greatest scientific breeder of range cattle in the west and by ninety he was considered to be an international authority on the range industry. (More on Charlie Goodnight can be found throughout the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.)
Of all his many innovations our favorite is an easy pick: the chuckwagon. The first restaurant known to cowboys on the cattle drive, it was from these wagons that the Charlie Goodnight tradition of fine steaks began. Looking for a more permanent place to call home, The Goodnight family built a 20-seat coffee shop and restaurant next to the Goodnight Motel (established 1941) on South Congress Avenue. It opened in 1947 under the name “Hill’s Cafe” in honor of partner Sam “Posey” Hill, and it started serving up the Texas fare that would soon become an Austin staple.
A visit to Hill’s Cafe has always been an investment in the true and cultured heritage of Austin. Until you have been to Hill’s Cafe you can neither legitimately consider yourself a true Austinite nor a true Texan.