With the Tricentennial, the 50th anniversary of Hemisfair, and the impending return of Fiesta, San Antonio has been in the spotlight lately. A big part of the reason for the resurgence is the food scene, which has been great long before the national media noticed it.
In that vein, we are revisiting the city’s oldest restaurants, which are well worth the short drive to Alamo City. Though they have seen poodle skirts and parachute pants, these eateries still remain relevant (and delicious) today.
The Broadway 5050
Although founded in 1941, this Alamo Heights mainstay has the ‘90s on its mind, with many current menu items (the Royal with Cheese burger, the Honey Bunny salad) referencing classic film Pulp Fiction. Whatever the inspiration, it’s still a welcome throwback with affordable New York strips, solid sandwiches, and absolutely brilliant cheesy “totchos.”
From the hearty meatloaf served on Wednesdays to the perfectly crispy chicken-fried steak served every day, Earl Abel’s always does comfort food right. Then again, it's had 85 years to figure out the formula. Launched by a former silent film organist during the Great Depression, the iconic restaurant still has a commitment to serving quality meals at a great price — and to making customers' days just a little bit brighter.
The Grey Moss Inn
San Antonio has seen a lot of dining trends come and go, but a juicy steak and a good glass of red never go out of style. Whether you sit under the shelter of Texas Oaks or sup by the flicker of candlelight indoors, you can be assured of a true fine dining experience. That’s the way Mary Howell — the original 1929 owner now said to haunt the grounds — would have wanted it.
Hung Fong Chinese Restaurant
Long before curious chefs started working fermented black beans and Szechuan pepper into their arsenals, Hung Fong introduced San Antonio to traditional Chinese cuisine. Since 1939, things haven’t changed much at the oldest Chinese restaurant in the state. You can still get New World classics like crab rangoon and sesame chicken, and the family-style dinners remain one of the best bargains in town.
La Fonda on Main
This Tex-Mex institution has had a storied history since it opened as a to-go shop in 1930. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson have eaten there, as have Golden Age Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Veronica Lake. But throughout that time, the restaurant never forgot its main mission to serve San Antonio families. In 1997, the ownership changed and a few interior Mexican dishes were added to the menu, but it still has the generous spirit of the original.
San Antonio’s Pig Stand
Once part of a nationwide chain that boasted more than 130 locations, the San Antonio location is the last of its kind. The menu here is about the same as it always was. Wake up with diner classic plates like sausage or bacon with eggs, hash browns, and toast or a biscuit. Then come back for dinner specials like chopped steak with grilled onions or rib eye with shrimp.
The oldest operating restaurant in Alamo City, Schilo’s started as a saloon. When Prohibition began, it added root beer to the kegs — and a great menu to feed all the newly forced teetotalers. Booze is back these days, but it still serves superlative German food like wurst and schnitzel, along with killer sandwiches, salads, and Southern entrees.