by Susan Ellis
“Did you see the flyer? It’s Saturday, motherfucker.” That’s Kelly Johnson, general manager of Molly’s La Casita, cordially inviting a patron to the big event on Saturday, December 12th, celebrating Johnson’s 25 years at the restaurant.
Johnson says, “I have a long history with Molly’s.” She worked at the original location on Lamar — which was opened by Molly Gonzales — back in the ’70s. That 25 number marks the day she began waiting tables at the Midtown restaurant on December 14th, 1984.
She has waited tables, bartended, and cooked in the kitchen. She was promoted to manager in 1991 and general manager in 1996.
Even before she was manager, owner Robert Chapman trusted her bluntness and consulted her when he made menu changes. “Robert saved my life,” she says. “He’s my best friend.”
Johnson is particularly proud of her current staff. “The customer is not always right,” she says of her management style. “If we’re not in the wrong, I won’t take it.”
Happy hour at Molly’s is popular, especially so on “Margarita Mondays.” For that, Johnson takes no credit, saying, “Our drinks are really strong!”
For Saturday’s event, the happy hour will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Another draw is free helpings of Johnson’s famous bean dip.
According to Johnson, the bean dip’s roots were planted years ago when she was still waiting tables in the bar area. Customers would request bean dip, which wasn’t on the menu. She would respond, “Do you see any fucking bean dip?” After another inquiry, she made a move. “I went into the kitchen and threw some shit together. They loved it.”
In those 25 years, Johnson has seen a lot of things — many of them courtesy of being close to Ardent Recording Studio. She’s served members of REM, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. In fact, she waited on Vaughan the week before he was killed in a helicopter crash in 1990. “He was nice as hell,” she says.
As for the next 25? Johnson says she’s as happy as she’s ever been and has gotten into playing music again.
“I have promised Robert I will be here ’til I’m 55,” Johnson says. “I’m 51. We’ll see what happens.”
“Kelly Johnson’s 25th Anniversary Celebration at Molly’s La Casita,” Saturday, December 12th. Happy hour: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.