Editor’s Note: This post been updated. Because of some rather sloppy reporting on my part, I omitted too many taquerias and Tex-Mex restaurants that remain in business. Turns out, if you really count them, there are still plenty of taco options in our downtown. The original headline for this article, “Downtown’s taquerias are dying, and that’s a very bad thing,” now comes off as duplicitous. No doubt, Tommy’s, a San Antonio institution, and Bees are huge losses. However, it’s not as if we’ve reached DEFCON 2 when it comes to tacos, or anything. The original headline comes off as clickbait-y, and that’s the opposite of what the Heron’s supposed to be about. I apologize. The headline’s been changed. For the record, here are the restaurants that were missing from the original version of this article: Bill Miller, Blanco Café, Café Alameda, El Nogal, La Jalisco, Mexican Manhattan/Judy’s Food to Go, Pete’s Tako House, Poblanos on Main. I feel like I have egg on my face (with cheese).
Maybe it’s the natural order of things, but downtown San Antonio has lost two taquerias in recent months.
In recent weeks, Bees and Sisy’s on North Flores Street closed its doors. And in recent months, the venerable Tommy’s Restaurant, also on North Flores, a block south of Bees, closed, as well.
Before it moved to the 100 block of North Flores, next to the dormant Reyes Bar & Sons, Bees and Sisy’s used to operate out of a hole-in-the-wall — low ceiling and all — tucked in an old 1930s building on West Commerce Street. It was a satellite for its flagship location in Castle Hills, but now that one appears to be closed, too.
Tommy’s is a San Antonio staple, home to Big Red and barbacoa, and has a handful of other locations — including its flagship on Nogalitos Street — that are going strong. Earlier this year, it opened another location up Interstate 10 at DeZavala Road. No doubt they’re doing fine overall, but for some reason, the downtown location, which sees plenty of foot traffic being next to the Bexar County Courthouse and justice center, City Hall, and San Antonio’s other government buildings, just didn’t work out.
As interview request with the family who owns Tommy’s was not returned.
Back when I was a young coffee-fetcher at the Express-News, me and the folks in the features department used to talk all the time about downtown’s lack of indigenous establishments. Where are the conjunto or country clubs? Or dive bars? (The circa-1938 Roosevelt Buffet, whose origin story involves President Franklin D. Roosevelt putting down tamal after tamal‚ thank goodness is still around.) Back then — 10 or 15 years ago — the conversation was about how touristy restaurants, nightclubs and shops dominated downtown. They pretty much still do. But now newer, more contemporary establishments are popping up to serve downtown’s newer, more contemporary residents, and that is a very good thing.
But we need a balance.
Thankfully, you can still get a solid bean and cheese taco from such places as Blanco Cafe; Café Alameda; the two Oasis Cafes, the ones on Main and McCullough avenues; Lula’s Mexican Cafe in the Milam Building; the venerable Mexican Manhattan and its satellite Judy’s Food to Go; La Jalisco and Poblanos on Main adjacent to the courthouse, El Nogal and Pete’s Tako House in the River North area; and, of course, Mi Tierra and the Cortez family’s other restaurants. Heck, if you want to include Bill Miller in there, I’m good with that. Others are trying, such as Rosella at the Rand, which advertises “authentic tacos” and Revolucion on East Houston Street, whose breakfast tacos — as Austin-y as they are — are actually really, really good.
San Antonio is Taco City. Hopefully, our downtown continues to reflect that.
Editor’s Note: I run a side blog called The Tacoist, which is currently on hiatus as I work on the Heron. This is why I have photos of Bees and Sisy’s. You can read my review of the place here.