Little Red Barn, San Antonio, Texas

A couple of years ago we visited the outstanding Barn Door Steakhouse in San Antonio. Today we’ll step into the Little Red Barn, which is a casual, western-style steakhouse with good food at reasonable prices.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The Little Red Barn was opened in 1963 in an old meat market by Ralph and Lili Hernandez. It was casual, with picnic tables for seating and the menus and cattle brands painted on the walls (as it still is today). Ralph was butcher and cook and Lili was the waitress and cashier. The place grew from a small restaurant with 8 picnic tables over the years into a large restaurant that can seat 800 customers, making it the largest steakhouse in Texas! And to boot, it’s still owned by the Hernandez family.

 

photo by littleredbarnsteakhouse.com

photo by littleredbarnsteakhouse.com

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

At the door you are greeted by a hostess in a western plaid shirt, jeans, and cowboy hat, who takes you to your table, where a chilled salad has mysteriously already been placed for your eating enjoyment. A choice of dressings (all made from scratch, daily, and available to take home) is offered. I opted for the Green Goddess.

 

 

The servers are dressed in cowgirl outfits that vary a bit, all in black and white, some in black with white fringe. All wear a cowboy hat and a neckerchief. This is the only restaurant left that still does this, that I know of. The Steak Corral in Whittier still did when I visited about 15 years ago but it looks like the servers are just wearing jeans and blue shirts these days.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

delicious rolls - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

delicious rolls – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

The server brings you a menu board with a large variety of steaks and seafood. All dinners come with salad, a house made roll, and choice of potato or green beans. The steaks are cut daily by in-house butchers, the beef is ground daily, and the sides, dressings, and desserts are made from scratch.

 

 

T-bone steak

T-bone steak

 

I ordered the T-Bone Steak with a baked potato. The steaks come on distinctive metal platters.

 

 

 

 

Be sure and look around the restaurant at the humorous artworks painted on the walls. One of the dining rooms was closed while we were there but they kindly turned on the lights so we could see the walls, covered with wonderful cartoons like this:

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

If you had to choose between the many steakhouses in San Antonio, you have two types: the fine dining steakhouses like Bohanans (review coming soon) and Little Rhein and the casual steakhouses like Barn Door and Little Red Barn. Between these casual steakhouses you could choose by proximity: Barn Door is near the airport, and Little Red Barn is close to downtown. Either one is a good choice, but if you want something fun and quick, Little Red Barn is my pick (though the steaks are a cut above at the Barn Door).

 

Little Red Barn
1836 S Hackberry St, San Antonio, TX 78210
(210) 532-4235
Open Mon-Thu 11:00am – 8:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:00am – 9:30pm, Sun 12:00pm – 8:00pm

 

Mi Tierra Cafe, San Antonio, Texas

Currently I’m reading Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher. It debunks a lot of misconceptions and myths about what is ‘authentic’ Mexican food by showing the changes in Mexican cuisine through history and its regional variation. Le Continental feels that the word ‘authentic’ is overused, often misused, and almost always given too much importance when it comes to cuisine. Basically, I think you’re better off completely ignoring the word and just eating what you like, not what people say you should like. An ‘authentic’ Rembrandt is one thing, an ‘authentic’ taco is quite another (and, in fact, meaningless).

 

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Although there were a few Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles and San Antonio in the 19th century, the spread of Mexican restaurants in America dates back to the turn of the century when Otis M. Farnsworth opened the Original Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio. It was a fancy place, where men had to wear jackets, and waiters in white jackets served enchiladas, chile rellenos, tamales, chili, rice, and beans on individual fine china plates, not as ‘combination plates’. Soon, copycat “Original’ Mexican restaurants were popping up in Texas. Mexican food in what is now Texas has slowly evolved its own style since it was part of Spain in the 18th century. Early dishes in this area include chili con carne, popular since the mid-19th century, grilled beef steak (carne asada and barbacoa), and wheat flour tortillas, to name a few items. More recently, Tex-Mex has added the puffy taco (a filled deep-fried masa shell, c.1940s), nachos (1940s), and fajitas (1960s).

 

felix-mexican-restaurant

 

Felix Tijerina was born near Monterrey, Mexico, and moved to Houston as an adult to work at the Original Mexican Restaurant there. In 1929 he opened his own place, the Mexican Inn, and eventually he operated a chain of Felix Mexican Restaurants in Texas, that served Americanized Mexican food such as “spaghetti con chile”, tacos, and cheese enchiladas.

 

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In 1930 Consuelo Castillo de Bonzo, Mexico-born but raised in California, opened Casa La Golondrina on Olvera Street in Los Angeles, promoting it as a “Mexican restaurant” (El Cholo in Los Angeles dates back to 1927, but it offered “Spanish food” in those days). By the 1940s the restaurant was serving ‘combination plates’ of dishes from Castilla’s mother’s original recipes. It’s still open, by the way, and still operated by the de Bonzo family.

 

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Back east, Juvencio Maldonado, from the Yucatán, and his wife Paz, from Mérida, opened a restaurant called Xóchitl (flower) in 1938 on West 46th Street in New York City. Tortillas were made fresh, and exotic dishes such as mole, chilaquiles, and cactus salad were served, as well as hard shell tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas. He patented the first mechanical taco fryer in 1950 so his chefs didn’t have to fry every shell by hand (beating Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, by a few years, who developed his own fryer because he didn’t know about Maldonado’s) and he even sold the pre-made shells to consumers.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Back in San Antonio, Pete and Cruz Cortez opened a small café in the Mercado (the historic market square) in 1941. Today it is still owned by the Cortez family, and it’s now a huge place, with a bar, bakery, and restaurant, which is open 24-hours a day.

 

statue near entrance - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

statue near entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Upon entering the restaurant there is the panaderia, open since 1957, with a long display case of baked goods for sale. On the right is the entrance to the Mariachi Bar, which was built from oak in 1989. Strolling musicians are a constant presence at Mi Tierra, adding to the festivity. It is customary to pay $5 to a musician after each song performed.

 

panaderia - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

panaderia – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Beyond the panaderia are multiple dining rooms, all brightly lit and decorated colorfully.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The menu is large, with all the typical Mexican entrees, Tex-Mex favorites, breakfast served 24-hours/day, and specialties such as chile rellenos, beef ribs, carnitas, cabrito (goat), the El Rancho Special (simmered beef or pork in sauce), steaks, and chicken mole. A great appetizer is the queso flameado, melted jack cheese topped with housemade sausage.

 

mural room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

mural room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Make sure you look in the mural banquet room. The walls are covered with a mural of Latino leaders and celebrities called “The American Dream”, there’s a shrine to Selena, and a portrait of President Clinton jogging while wearing a Mi Tierra t-shirt!

 

 

 

 

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

 

Mi Tierra Cafe
800 Dolorosa #204, San Antonio, TX 78207
210-255-3955
Open daily 24-hours

 

The Barn Door, San Antonio, Texas

There is one restaurant I visited on my trip to San Antonio last May that I have not posted about yet, and it’s a great Western-style steakhouse: The Barn Door.

 

BarnDoor11

 

Conveniently located near San Antonio International Airport, it was way out in the middle of nowhere when it first opened in 1953 (though details are scant online).

BarnDoor9

 

When you enter you see a wall of framed photos and memorabilia next to the host stand. The host takes you to your table past the display cases of steaks and desserts, such as the homemade pies and cakes (which are all available to take home).

BarnDoor4

BarnDoor5

 

As you follow your host you begin to realize that this restaurant is huge! There are several dining and banquet rooms, all with great western decor. I was seated in the dining room where the grill is located that had red-checked tablecloths and the most dense variety of decoration.

BarnDoor2

 

Another more refined dining room that was next to the room I was seated in:

BarnDoor1

 

The menu is large, consisting mainly of steaks, which are wet aged “for weeks” and grilled over a combination of mesquite and charcoal, seafood from the Gulf, and other charbroiled items that are enticing, such as rack of lamb, chicken (a specialty of the house), and local quail. Dinners are very reasonably priced considering that all dinners come with salad, potato, and delicious house made rolls, served hot.

BarnDoor3

 

The grill master in action:

BarnDoor8

 

I went with the medium filet (8 oz.) since I had to have an early dinner before my evening flight home, so I wasn’t very hungry yet. It was very tender and flavorful from the wet aging (sometimes filets have a lack of flavor due to less marbling but this one was not like that; perhaps the bacon it was wrapped in also helped).

8 oz. filet with toast and home fries. Shiner black lager to drink.

8 oz. filet with toast and cottage fries. Shiner black lager to drink.

 

As you can see my steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. A bargain at $22.50 including sides!

BarnDoor7

 

The next time you fly to San Antonio (or on a layover) The Barn Door is a must on arrival at the airport or just before leaving. It’s only about 5-10 minutes from the airport terminal. The steaks are great for the price and you can’t beat the old Western decor!

 

The Barn Door
8400 N New Braunfels Ave, San Antonio, TX 78209
(210) 824-0116
Open for Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2pm; Dinner: Tue-Th 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 5-10:30pm, Sunday: 11-8pm; closed Monday

Schilo’s Delicatessen, San Antonio, Texas

Opened at its original location in San Antonio in 1917 by German immigrant ‘Papa’ Fritz Schilo, Schilo’s Delicatessen has been serving customers hearty German & deli food at its present location since 1942.

image by Schilos.com

The main dining room looks like it dates back farther than 1942 (perhaps it was another restaurant before Schilo’s?) with its pressed tin ceiling, wooden booths on one side, a deli counter on the opposite side, wooden tables and chairs on beautiful tile floors, and many windows to let in plenty of natural light during lunchtime.

Schilos2

They are famous for their homemade root beer, split pea soup, potato pancakes, and the Reuben sandwich on dark rye. I tried all the above, but I could have just had a large bowl of soup and a root beer and left satisfied. Their split pea soup is one of the best I’ve ever had. But the Reuben was a bit of a disappointment as the bread got a bit soggy from the sauerkraut.

Schilos1

During your visit make sure you look in the side dining room, which is filled with taxidermy, old postcards, and photographs.

image by © Darren Travels 2013

Schilo’s Delicatessen
424 E. Commerce St., San Antonio, TX 78205
Phone: (210) 223-6692
Open Mon-Sat 7:00am – 8:30pm, closed Sunday

Grey Moss Inn, San Antonio, Texas

Recently I visited my pal Jeff, who is a bartender at the bar in the historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio, which is the oldest bar in Texas – since 1859! I was charmed by the San Antonio’s Riverwalk, architecture, and history. And one of my favorite places we went was the historic Grey Moss Inn, serving diners since 1929.

GreyMossInn1

Located in the outskirts of San Antonio in an area called the Grey Woods, the Grey Moss Inn consists of the original stone restaurant from 1929 and several later additions, also built from stone, surrounding a central stone and brick patio with many tables for outdoor dining, all sitting under majestic old Oak trees. It’s a very peaceful and lovely spot, with deer roaming the woods behind the restaurant.

GreyMossInn2

Starting in the 1920’s, Grey Woods became a popular place for summer homes of wealthy San Antonians for its scenic beauty and its climate, which is a few degrees cooler than in the city. Mary Howell founded the Inn in 1929, serving her specialty, squash casserole from her garden, which is still served to this day.

GreyMossInn3

We opted to sit inside in the oldest part of the restaurant. The decor is homey and traditional yet classy with linens and stemmed glassware, with massive blobs from colored wax drip candles on each table.

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The menu is extensive, but house specialties are aged, choice steaks cooked over a mesquite grill converted from a stone well, that are basted with a secret “witches brew” before cooking. Other specialties include free-range chicken and Texas quail. They make their own salad dressings and pies.

the mesquite grill

the mesquite grill

 

Dinners come with olive twists (house made bread stuffed with sliced olives), a delicious squash casserole (called squash au gratin on the menu, yet it wasn’t cheesy), and a creamy twice-baked potato.

olive twists

olive twists

squash casserole

squash casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My bone-in ribeye steak was tender and flavorful and cooked just right (rare to med. rare).

rib-eye steak and twice baked potato

rib-eye steak and twice baked potato

 

The service was very friendly and attentive. It was a pleasure chatting with our knowledgeable waiter about the restaurant’s history, menu options, and wine selections by the glass. They have an extensive award-winning wine list of other 500 selections and a full bar.

The next time you’re in San Antonio it is well worth the drive out to Scenic Loop Road for dinner at the charming and historic Grey Moss Inn.

Grey Moss Inn
19010 Scenic Loop Rd, Helotes, TX 78023
Phone: (210) 695-8301
Open daily 5pm-10pm
Reservations are recommended but not required.