Manuel Cowboy Donley serenades overflow crowd at El Gallo

Musicians Manuel Cowboy Donley and his daughter Sylvia Donley play their last gig at El Gallo in South Austin. NANCY FLORES/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Musicians Manuel Cowboy Donley and his daughter Sylvia Donley play their last gig at El Gallo in South Austin. NANCY FLORES/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

News of South Austin landmark El Gallo’s impending closure brought an overflow crowd on Tuesday evening that was so large the kitchen ran out of food shortly after 7:30 p.m. The full house enjoyed the last serenade by Tejano music legend Manuel “Cowboy” Donley and his daughter Sylvia, who have been fixtures at the South Austin eatery on Tuesday evenings for years.

The dining institution will close its doors on Sunday after 60 years. “I can’t believe it,” Donley, 89, said. “I guess everything has to come to an end.” Restaurant management has said the increase in property taxes has contributed to their decision to shut down.

Customers came from all around the Austin area to say goodbye to the beloved restaurant and to have one last plate of enchiladas and Kennedy nachos. Bruce Hutchison, 63, drove from Bastrop after he heard the closure news. “I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old,” he said. He even called his ex-wife, Suzanne to share the news. And the two decided they had to have one final El Gallo meal together. “We always came here to avoid the crowds, but not today.”

For Sylvia Donley, El Gallo has always felt like home. “I’ve loved playing here. When I heard the news my stomach started hurting. We’re losing a big piece of Hispanic history.”