Austin diner closed for now after fire causes $400,000 in damage

6:36 p.m Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 Local

The Central Austin restaurant EZ’s Brick Oven and Grill will be closed for now after a Wednesday night kitchen fire caused an estimated $400,000 in damage, employees and firefighters said.

Managers at EZ’s, a restaurant that has been on North Lamar Boulevard since 1994, said they had an insurance meeting Thursday to discuss when EZ’s might reopen.

Firefighters responded to the fire about 10:50 p.m. Investigators ruled that the fire was accidental, fire officials said. It started in the kitchen after a piece of equipment was dropped on a gas line.

Employees noticed the fire just before EZ’s was about to close, General Manager Aaron Kolitz said.

“We were caught off guard,” Kolitz said. “It was a slow-moving fire, so we were able to get everyone out safely.”

Fire extinguishers don’t work on gas fires, so employees couldn’t extinguish it, Kolitz said.

The fire, and firefighters’ efforts to extinguish it, caused the ceiling to cave in above the kitchen. The dining area, however, wasn’t badly damaged, Kolitz said.

EZ’s opened in San Antonio in 1989 and expanded to Austin in 1994. Several diner scenes in the TV show “Friday Night Lights” were filmed at the Austin location of the retro counter-serve restaurant.

On Thursday about 11 a.m., when EZ’s typically opens, hungry Austinites approached the diner only to walk away once they realized what had happened. A few peered through the windows to survey the damage.

John Scott, a would-be patron who had made plans to meet someone for lunch at EZ’s, was sitting in his car in the restaurant’s parking lot trying to find another place to eat on his phone after he found out about the fire.

EZ’s is “a great, easy meeting place,” Scott said. “There’s a ton of parking, good food. No matter who you’re meeting, there’s always something for them.”

Walter Hoenig and his daughter Rebecca agreed. They go there about once a week.

“It’s a classic burger joint,” Rebecca Hoenig said.

Walter Hoenig said he first ate there years ago before EZ’s acquired the location, when the restaurant was called 2J’s.

“It’s kind of nostalgic for me,” he said.

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