The folks at Bud Jones restaurant have been feeding South-siders for 50 years. Longtime San Antonians still remember the “Yo, Bud!” commercials blaring from late-night TV. I would say that if you haven’t visited since 1958 you’d find not much has changed. The same family still owns and runs the place. Most of the menu items from day one are still served. Even some of the original staff remains.
The decor is mixed up: nautical decorations in one room, farm implements on the wall in another. I guess if you had to pick a theme it would be “brown.” Big leatherette booths command the room and the music as well —each booth in the main dining room has its own tableside jukebox. Large parties are easily accommodated; one visit found a group of 40 in a serpentine table arrangement. That’s the key to a successful family restaurant: making parties comfortable, from two to 100, which the servers do with ease. Even with 40 people at the next table, our food found us quickly.
As a “family” place, Bud Jones has something for everyone. The menu is huge, offering more than 30 different items. Two things they are known for are fried fish and chicken-fried steak. Unlike the many chain family restaurants dotting Military Drive, the kitchen staff at Bud Jones hand batters their fried food. No machined blocks of food product that go from the freezer to the fry-o-lator are served here. The crust on the fish is crunchy, not greasy at all, and doesn’t overpower what’s inside. The fish itself is a little bland, but the middle of the road pleases the masses.
In comparison, the chicken-fried steak pulls into the passing lane. It’s billing, “the largest country fried steak in town,” is a claim not to be made lightly in these parts. If there’s a bigger one, I don’t want to know. The CFS at Bud Jones couldn’t be finished on a dare. Not that you won’t want to try, as Bud’s master fryers have produced a piece of fried beef that can stand up to any other. The meat is just the right thickness, keeping a little juice, and the coating is crisp, flaky, and holds up the quart of peppery cream gravy poured on top.
Another point of pride at Bud Jones is the Rockport Shrimp. The regular butterflied shrimp are somewhat dry and rubbery, but the Rockport Shrimp are fried whole with a coating of extra crunchy Japanese panko bread crumbs, and come out tasty and tender. If fried food doesn’t interest you, there are items from the grill (liver and onions!), broiled fish, enchiladas, and salads. Most entrees come with soup or a crisp iceberg salad and a choice of potato.
A drawback to “family dining” is the lack of beer or wine, though Bud Jones does pour a mean glass of sweet tea. If you can’t have a beer to settle your nerves, send the kids out to the lobby to master Pac-Man or fight the claw machine. The peewees are more than adequately catered to. The reasonably priced children’s menu hits the all-stars of the tiny-tot set: chicken tenders, fried fish, spaghetti, and the like.
The appeal of Bud Jones to locals is obvious. Provide efficient service, reasonable prices, and good food that everyone can identify with, and our town will come knocking at your door. Freddy Fender on the jukebox doesn’t hurt either. •