Zilker Café plays a significant role as an ancillary recreational amenity for the comfort and enjoyment of visitors to Zilker Park. The provision of food and beverage services promotes extended use of the many recreational opportunities at the park including swimming, hiking, picnicking and canoeing. The concession also has historic ties to the community, holding a cherished place in the memory of generations of park visitors. The value of the concession transcends that of a purveyor of food and beverage to include a role as an ambassador to the approximately one million visitors annually to Barton Springs.

For information regarding the conditional use permitting process for selling wine and beer from Zilker Cafe, please visit the Conditional Use Permitting webpage for more information.


The concession building at Zilker Park, known as Zilker Café, was built in 1959 to 1960 and is a contributing structure to the Zilker National Register Historic District. The mid-century design of the concession building was intended to complement the current Barton Springs Bathhouse. The architect of the building was Paul Roesle, who is noted for his earlier work in Texas. The building originally had a flat roof as reflected in the 1960 construction drawings (see image #1), but later, a mansard roof was added to the building, likely to conceal mechanical equipment installed at that time.

In January 2016, an inspection by Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services determined that the building posed many challenges ranging from severely deteriorated structural conditions, multiple violations of current codes and regulations, outdated utility infrastructure and a lack of accessibility. In addition, hazardous materials reports indicated that both asbestos and lead were found in the building and abatement would be required.  

In the spring of 2017, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) evaluated the rehabilitation and adaptation of the Zilker Café, and the process for issuing a new RFP to solicit a food vendor. Given the funding, permitting and operational constraints along with the historic significance of the building, PARD decided to move forward with the rehabilitation of the historic structure that will include roof replacement, lead and asbestos abatement, and the necessary infrastructure improvements for code compliance. The selected vendor will have the option to construct interior improvements that will serve their business and operational model.

Project Description

The project consists of a complete rehabilitation of the building which began with demolition of everything except for the slab and masonry façade. Electrical, mechanical and plumbing improvements include new service connections and new systems to meet current codes. The new roof and restored facades received approval from the Historic Landmark Commission.

Project Timeline

Building and site construction was completed in spring 2021 and is awaiting final building and fire inspections.


The funding for this project was made possible through Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funding to support projects and initiatives that meet allowable uses as defined under Chapter 351 of the Texas Tax Code. HOT revenue is an essential tool for the promotion of tourism and supports the growth of the tourism, convention and hotel industry. PARD is an important partner in this effort as public parks, museums and cultural centers are among the top tourist attractions in the City.

Project Contacts

  • George Maldonado, Project Manager, email, 512-974-9525
  • Christina Bies, Project Coordinator, email, 512-974-9490

Community Engagement

As part of its review process, the Parks and Recreation Department solicited feedback on future operations at the Zilker Café. An online survey was available in January & February of 2015 to help assess the Café’s future operations. Information gathered was used to frame an interactive, community discussion on SpeakUpAustin.org that was used to inform the Department’s final Request For Proposals (RFP) process.

Review 2015 survey results (PDF)

Related: Zilker Park Bathhouse Feasibility Study 2016 (PDF)

Boards and Commissions Meetings

  • Historic Landmark Commission: August 27, 2018
  • Parks and Recreation Board Meeting: August 28, 2018