Monday, January 17, 2005

San Antonio Sojourn

My pal David and I took a nice drive down to San Antonio this weekend. The origin of this trip was a postcard we found at an antique mall several months back for a bar called "Hipp's Bubble Room." We wanted to go, but L.D. Hipp's Bubble Room closed in 1980. A restaurant run by L.D.'s son Dick called "Little Hipp's Gimmedraw Parlour" also closed in 2002. Just when we thought we were born too late, we found out some of Little Hipp's employees had opened a burger place north of town called "Timbo's." So off we went.

Located on U.S. 281 in Spring Branch, Timbo's serves decent bar burgers at a fair price along with "Shypoke Eggs," Little Hipp's specialty dish consisting of round nacho chips with melted white and yellow cheese on top to make them look like fried eggs. They were kind of bland, but putting beans or salsa on top would've spoiled the clever egg effect.

We drove on into San Antonio, admiring several commercial structures in the north central part of town like the Jim's Coffee Shop on Hildebrand that retain elements of the Sixties space age school of design now referred to as "Googie." You don't see as much of that in Austin because we're too new and culturally driven by a desire to be "cool." Driving out Austin Highway past the run-down motor courts and old neon signs would be like driving back into 1960 if not for the slow, inevitable creep of Super Wal-Marts and the like.

Parking the car in a pay lot downtown (Saturdays aren't meter holidays in S.A.), we sauntered by the Alamo and eavesdropped on a twangy description of the glorious battle for Texas freedom. Jan Hooks' portrayal of an Alamo tour guide in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" immediately came to mind, but we decided to leave before one of us said something obnoxious. We wound up at the Menger Hotel Bar next door, downing expensive but potent gin and tonics in slurry homage to Teddy Roosevelt, who recruited some of his Rough Riders in that very bar.

After dismissing the almost-always bad idea of eating on the Riverwalk because the one decent place I knew of (Boudro's) was jam-packed, we drove back up Broadway to Earl Abel's, an ultra-modern coffee shop built in 1940 that retains its curves, wood paneling and red carpets. You can still order baked hen, pickled beets and Canadian cheese soup there. I opted for the house specialty fried chicken, which was satisfying if not extraordinary. The apple pie wasn't bad, either. Of course, it's not like you go to someplace like Earl Abel's strictly for the food. I'm happy just to go there and soak up the atmosphere.

All in all, a most delightful day trip.


Anonymous said...

You neglected to mention that Minger's Bar (and the gin) brought out all sorts of delightful tales of close encounters of the gay kind from our respective youths. Yeah! No wonder the waitress made herself scarce..


Greg said...

David, I thought I'd already exceeded the gay quota of this post by revealing you and me like to hang around in antique malls, but what the hell?

Anonymous said...

I ate cottage cheese with a pineapple ring at Earl Abel's.

Have you ever gone to Cool Crest mini golf? That place is ancient and dreamy.

I'm not anonymous, I'm Kim, but too lazy to sign up for an account.

Anonymous said...

i love the menger, despite its new york prices. the atmosphere is just unbeatable. my all-time favorite restaurant in san antonio, though, remains Taco Taco. those are the best damn tortillas in the world.


Greg said...

I agree, Melanie. I've been going to the Menger since I was a little kid. My mom went there with her parents, too. Sometimes they have specials on their Web site, but they're usually run-of-house and I can't imagine not staying in the old section.

Kim, I think I know the mini-golf place you're talking about, but I've never been there. I feel another road trip coming on!

Prentiss Riddle said...

Is it true that you can be arrested for saying something irreverent inside the Alamo itself? They certainly do their best to make you think so.

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Anonymous said...

My husband and I used to eat at Hipp's Bubble Room when we were newlyweds in 1964/65 and he was at Ft. Sam Houston. They had a wonderful--and HOT--"hotburger steak". Onions, jalapenos and cheese stuffed between two raw hamburger patties, then cooked. Yum. Beer (Pearl or Lone Star) was $0.25 a huge glass. The walls were decorated with aluminum foil and the old-fashioned Christmas lights resembling a candle that bubbled when they got hot. It was a popular servicemen's hangout. Thanks for bringing back memories and sorry you missed it!

Anonymous said...

try putting mustard and louisiana hot sauce on your shypokes. It may sound gross but it gives them quite a kick-my boyfriend and i are addicted.