A Slice of Texas History At Blue Bonnet Cafe

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Have you ever heard of the Blue Bonnet Cafe? If you’ve ever been around Marble Falls sometime in the last 86 years, you certainly might have. “It’s an icon here,” Marble Falls mayor John Packer said, “you tell people you’re from Marble falls and they tell you, ‘Oh yeah I’ve been to the Blue Bonnet!”

A Slice of Texas History At Blue Bonnet Cafe

Photo: Texas Co-Op Power

Established in 1929, the Blue Bonnet Cafe is one of the oldest running restaurants in Texas. Specializing in southern ‘comfort food’, the menu offers classics like chicken fried steak (the owner’s favorite) and burgers along with weekly specials, delicious breakfasts, and huge variety of pies. “It’s a true Texas cafe,” John Kemper, owner of Blue Bonnet Cafe, said. “It’s all about good food at a reasonable price, and great service.”

The Blue Bonnet Cafe has 70 employees, serves over 400,000 people and sells more than 40,000 pies every year. On weekends, the line of folks waiting for a seat spills out of the building and into the parking lot. So how did the spot get to be so famous?

A Slice of Texas History At Blue Bonnet Cafe
Photo: wayoutwestaustin.com

“It’s been here 86 years and so people have been talking about it for 86 years,” Kemper said matter-of-factly. “What’s interesting is a lot of times a man will come in and he might be 25 or 30 and he says, ‘I used to come in here with my grandfather – he’d bring me up here and we’d go fishing.’ It’s not uncommon to see three or four generations of a family eating at here at one time.”

The Blue Bonnet Cafe is an unobtrusive, pale-blue building situated along the east side of US Highway 281. The original restaurant was on Main Street, but the owners moved it in 1946 to take advantage of the increased traffic generated by the new highway. The current owner bought the cafe in 1981 after the former owner asked him to. Having had breakfast there almost every morning as a client, he now runs the restaurant with the help of his wife, daughter, and son-in-law.

Kemper will proudly tell you that the Blue Bonnet Cafe is a family-run business, and that extends not only to his blood family but also to his employees. In an interview with Texas Foodways in 2012, Kemper said that the average tenure for his employees is about 9 years (an anomaly in the food & beverage industry) and that some have been working for over 30 years.

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