Although this old Texaco is mostly a restaurant, it feels like a quiet, studious tavern. There is a bar at the front — small and comfortable and bathed in orange light from a neon Pearl (and smaller Pacifico) sign, giving it a slightly other-worldy feel. I like a bar that takes you out of the normal ebb and flow of life, a place that, while embodying San Antonio, also exemplifies it. This is one of those places on the edges of “oh nine,” the airport, and 410. It boasts colorful walls and slight caricatures of people like Frida Kahlo and Willie Nelson while still bearing that old garage/ice house feel. The clientele bears this out. A family of four, clean and quiet, is replaced by a group of young tattooed guys, talking and laughing. I like these kinds of demographic crossroads, so prevalent in San Antonio.
I had a previous experience here sitting outside (tonight it’s too cold and windy) listening to a friend who plays in a band set up in front of the corner of the property — corrugated steel spaced out as a backdrop with 410 barely visible around the panels. A thin red neon tube runs around the top, giving the impression, even in the evening, of an outdoor bar at the beach. The traffic was just far enough away on the Loop to sound like the methodical crashing of waves. The breeze was calm and refreshing. It is a festive atmosphere, even tonight inside, and a controlled, relaxed one: a sort of measurement of euphoric escapism. And $5 for a large happy-hour margarita (4-7 p.m., Monday-Friday) lengthens it.
As I sit under the lights, adorned with engine parts, which shine down perfectly on the table tops encased in plastic, holding (mostly) travel postcards and photos of old cars (though this particular table also displays an old Far Side comic), I am reflective. The Pacifico ($3, after happy hour), along with various other Mexican beers, is served in the bottle accompanied by a little glass, dressed with a good thick line of kosher salt on a quarter of the rim and a big wedge of lime. Each beer requires the drinker to fill the glass up about three times. There is something reassuring about pouring and drinking it. The bleed of lime into the beer over and over again suggests a parceling out of beery bliss, at once imminently finished and constantly refilled.