Longtime San Antonio locals will know each place on this list by heart, for these are some of San Antonio’s oldest and most beloved restaurants. Perhaps you grew up going with mom and dad or had memorable dates at one of these places, or you went before prom or enjoyed your wedding rehearsal dinner, or celebrated birthdays and anniversaries with loved ones. If you haven’t been back in a while, you’ll be delighted to find that all these long-loved culinary institutions are still in business, opening their arms and kitchen doors to the next generation.
Iconic spots, these eateries are integral to our city’s special collective culinary story and are sure to take you back in time.
1. Schilo’s Delicatessen claims to be the oldest restaurant in San Antonio. Perhaps. It began as a bar in Beeville in 1914 until, in 1917, Fritz and Laura Schila moved it to San Antonio. However, it wasn’t until 1942 that it came to its current downtown address on East Commerce Street near the River Walk. It surely seems like the oldest restaurant in town, for folks can still order the same German fare Schio’s served 100 years ago. Save room for their famous New York-style cheesecake and classic root beer.
2. La Fonda on Main – Open since 1932, La Fonda claims to be the oldest Mexican Restaurant in town. (Casa Rio claims that, too). We love it for its enchanting, authentic San Antonio style, set in a historic white hacienda with a cool, shaded patio. Featuring delectable Tex-Mex cuisine, La Fonda first began offering a Mariachi dinner show in 1968.
3. Paesano’s – The first Paesanos opened on McCullough Avenue in February 1969 after Joe Cosniac came to sell Belgian waffles at the World Expo, HemisFair 1968, where he met another young man named Nick Pacelli. The new friends decided to open an Italian restaurant in a former barbershop, and it quickly became a beloved San Antonio institution famous for its buttery Shrimp Paesano dish. One newspaper columnist wrote, “1,000 people on a Saturday night can’t all be wrong”: The place was always that busy. In the early 1990s, the restaurant moved to Lincoln Heights, and over the years, other locations were added, offering slightly different menus. Consistency is key, and Paesano’s offers that. And no matter what urban myth you’ve heard about how his wife sold Joe’s shrimp paesano recipe after a divorce (poppycock!), no one makes shrimp paesano quite like Paesano’s. This has been our family’s favorite for three generations.
4. The Broadway 50 50 was opened in 1935 by the Montanio Family as an ice cream parlor and speakeasy. Now known for its fabulous cheeseburgers and Philly cheesesteak, it’s been owned and operated by P.J. Gottsacker and his wife Nicole for more than a decade.
5. Jim’s Coffee House – The 24-hour diner features great hamburgers, the best shoestring onion rings you’ll ever eat, buttermilk pancakes, eggs, and more, just as it has since G. ‘Jim’ Hasslocher and his wife, Veva, opened the first Jim’s in 1963.
6. Mi Tierra Café and Bakery (Panadería) has been a San Antonio institution at Market Square since 1941 when Pedro and Cruz Cortez opened a three-table cafe. Now, 82 years later, it’s a world-famous landmark that’s remained in the family. Known for Christmas lights and family altars, strolling musicians, and sizzling enchilada plates, it’s consistently a treat and always feels like a fiesta. In case you haven’t heard, I’m sad to say Mi Tierra is no longer open 24 hours a day, though it does stay open fairly late. Too bad: it was always a place to count on for a middle-of-the-night enchilada fix. Still, it’s a place locals and tourists both adore.
7. Cappy’s Restaurant is a long-loved Alamo Heights institution, a restaurant, and bar where many locals went for happy hour or on dates and met their spouses there in the 70s and 80s. Casual and consistent, it’s still quite popular.
8. Josephine Street, an iconic Texas Roadhouse that stands now in the shadow of Pearl, first opened in the old Fincke’s Meat Market building (circa 1906) in 1979, thanks to owners Pat Molak and Mary Jane Nalley. Molak is a beloved local probably best-known for some of he and Nalley’s other popular properties: Gruene Hall and The Gristmill in the historic hamlet of Gruene adjacent to New Braunfels. Remember the big oak tree in the center of Josephine Street that grows up through a hole in the ceiling? It’s still there. Look for the old neon signs that glow in the windows offering Steaks and Whiskey.
Noteworthy others: Chris Madrid’s Hamburgers, The Guenther House, The Esquire Tavern, Niki’s Tokyo Inn, and The Barn Door—to name but a few.