Blue Moon Café serves the best in Tex-Mex
For many San Antonians who live south of the corn tortilla curtain, the state of the city can be measured by the status of the South Side's landmarks. Some residents will remember when cows used to graze in pastures on Military Drive. Hemphill McCombs Ford sold new autos at a lot at Military and Commercial. People stayed up all night at Bob Jones' Restaurant on Roosevelt. Movie-goers heading to the Trail Drive-In theater could stop for hamburgers at the Spotted Horse Drive-Inn. Those were the days when chopped onions could be found inside and on top of every successful enchilada plate that was served in one of many "Mexican" restaurants that have graced the San Antonio skyline - and you didn't have to ask for them.
For decades, South Siders have driven along Flores Street, passing a culinary icon on their way to and from the daily commerce of the Alamo City. Diners savvy enough to stop in at the distinctive, azure-hued Blue Moon Café have experienced Tex-Mex and Mexican food dining at its best, especially since the late 1970s, when Guadalupe and Ruben García took over the distinctive diner in the "Beantown" neighborhood. Beantown was named after its most famous resident, Roy Bean, who, after a 10-year residency in San Antonio, moved to Langtry and became the Law West of the Pecos.
Alamo City natives who know good Tex-Mex and Mexican food when they taste it know about the Blue Moon. "If you want caldo, you'd better get here early, or it's gone," says Guadalupe. Ruben, her husband, is the cook. He has brewed the magical soup in the café's kitchen since they took the restaurant's helm.
Guadalupe hails from Elgin, the "Sausage Capital of Texas," and Ruben grew up in Freeport, down Houston way. Ruben took a dishwashing job when he was 14 years old at the China/Mex-themed Golden Star Café on West Commerce, and eventually "wokked" his way up to cook. He also worked as a breakast cook at the Lackland AFB exchange, and moonlighted as a trainer at a doughnut bakery. Guadalupe, who grew up as a farm girl, took advantage of a visit to her aunt's San Antonio home, and hired on as a waitress at the Golden Star.
Ruben and Guadalupe were married in 1959, first at the county courthouse, then later at San Alfonso Catholic church, after the couple returned to Elgin to tell her mother they were already married, even though they had dated for only two months.
"I'm glad he was a nice man," Guadalupe says, 45 years later.
Take a look at the back page of the restaurant menu, and you'll find an array of dishes that made the Mexican coast famous: camarones a la Mexicana, pescado Veracruzano, and so forth. They used to list morcillo, or blood sausage, on the menu, but took it off. "Young kids don't know what that is, but they eat a lot of bean and cheese tacos," says Guadalupe.
Daily specials could be anything from steak and potatoes to higado a la Mexicana (liver served with sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes, and spices), something the regulars truly appreciate.
The Garcías will keep the tradition of the Blue Moon Café on the South Side through the family they have raised. One grandson, Raymond Duran, currently serves an apprenticeship with his abuelo, and other family members help on weekdays and weekends, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. One son, Angel García, works as a chef at the Holiday Inn Select near the airport, and Ruben Duran, a payroll clerk for Holiday Inn, works at the Blue Moon on weekends.
Ruben and Guadalupe don't even rest on Sundays. They are regulars at San Martin de Porras on Castroville Road, where they serve as cooks for the congregation. Then, come Monday morning, it's caldo, camarones, and carne. Another week begins. •
By Michael Cary