The Cafes, Honky-Tonks, Markets, and Barber Shops of West San Antonio


A thumbnail of San Antonio Tex-Mex cuisine: chilaquiles, puffy tacos, fajitas, and steak ranchera.

The West Side of San Antonio, Texas is the heartland of the city’s Tejano population, a barrio whose Spanish traditions go back to the Alamo and way beyond. Nevertheless, denizens of this colorful and richly cultural neighborhood prefer to be called simply Mexicans, and their cuisine includes, not only contemporary dishes from Mexico, but the Tex-Mex cooking created by immigrants who, like new Italian-Americans, arrived to find that certain foods they depended on were missing, and others (lots of beef, white flour, and scary cheese among them), were available cheaply and in abundance. Here are some photos I took in the San Antonio barrio not long ago.

Barbacoa (steamed goat) is a weekend special.

Pepe’s Barbacoa: Real estate makes for strange bedfellows.

Restaurant names often refer to places in northern Mexico.

Ditto with La Joya Durango (“The Jewel of Durango”).

Puffy tacos–made with deep-fried flour tortillas–are a mainstay of San Antonio Tex-Mex.

Play pool, dance, or drop in for a cerveza or two at Melody’s.


Restaurants specializing in seafood abound in West San Antonio.

El Barrio runs on fresh cheap flour tortillas.

At this colorful spot, pigs are transformed into tamales.

Since 1948, Veteran’s Barber Shop.

The combination plate is the standard entree of Tex-Mex, in this case incorporating enchiladas, rice, refried beans, a guac tostada, a hard-shell taco, and a flash flood of chile con queso.

For dessert: a ginger pig, though it doesn’t look a hell of a lot like a pig.