Garcia Tex-Mex restaurant in San Antonio turns 60 this year

I’m sitting across from David Mireles Jr. at Garcia on Fredericksburg Road, drinking a cup of coffee and nibbling at my green enchiladas. We’re at a laminate wood table under a Big Red wall clock. It’s a Thursday morning, around 9 am, he has a big watch and a checkered shirt with a string of pearls hidden underneath. He has a lot to say about the family Tex-Mex restaurant he’s frequented since the ’70s. Suddenly, Mireles pulls out her iPhone to reveal an extensive archive of Garcia. We review the highlight reel in its filmstrip.

First, he shows me a series of cute photos of his favorite Garcia’s waitresses from the pre-COVID-19 era.

“I used to come here and make them laugh and they make me laugh, you know, flirt with them,” he says happily. “I would sit there and we would talk at the counter.”

Then I watch a full Channel 5 news segment acknowledging the birthday of a previous Garcia. “I love this place so much that I kept it,” he says.

Then, the good things: a succession of gourmet photos in the septuagenarian style of nachos from Garcia, accompanied by an ice-cold glass of Big Red.

Along with their famous brisket tacos, baked jalapeño beans, and cheesy nachos are apparently one of the “best” items on the restaurant’s menu. It’s also a favorite of touring comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, according to owner John Garcia.

Mireles is a retired army colonel, born and raised in San Antonio, who like many left the city for 20 years only to return later. He recently celebrated his 74th birthday and has been eating huevos rancheros at Garcia’s since he was a student at St. Mary’s University. His friend, who became the Garcia family doctor, was the first to show him what was going on. Old friends still eat there sometimes together, and usually order the same thing they always have.

“Now I live on the other side of the airport, just inside 1604, but every once in a while I’m like ‘ohhh yeah, Garcia’s huevos rancheros!’ and I drive,” Mireles tells me, the rectangular dining room becoming more and more crowded.

Enchiladas verdes at Garcia with rice and beans.

Camille Sauers for MySA

Garcia’s History and Mexican Dishes

Julio and Yolanda Garcia first opened the 60-year-old restaurant across from its current location in November 1962. Julio Garcia built the current building eight years later in 1970.

Described to me as “a big guy with a mustache,” patriarch Garcia started his career as a vet assistant before opening a boutique with $500 and a handful of recipes passed down from his parents.

The menu consisted largely of Tex-Mex staples: carne guisada tacos, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, enchiladas. You know the market.

His wife Yolanda’s family was already in the restaurant business, so she was good at cooking and did most of the cooking in the early years. Eventually, she taught her four children how to cook, including her sons Andrew and John, who now run the restaurant.

A trio of brisket tacos on handmade flour tortillas with pico de gallo from Garcia's <a class=Mexican Food is a popular hit on the menu.”/>

A trio of brisket tacos on handmade flour tortillas with pico de gallo from Garcia’s Mexican Food is a popular hit on the menu.

Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo
Find Garcia at 842 Fredericksburg Rd.

Find Garcia at 842 Fredericksburg Rd.

Camille Sauers/MySA
John Garcia and longtime client, David Mirales

John Garcia and longtime client, David Mirales

Camille Sauers/MySA

beef brisket tacos at Garcia’s Mexican Food; the indoor dining room; John Garcia and longtime client, David Mireles. Personal.

Andrew and John Garcia, the second generation, took over the reins after their father suffered a stroke in 2002. A few years later, Andrew began to expand the barbecue program and perfect the acclaimed beef brisket tacos critically and commonly, among others.

“It’s amazing, it’s really cooked with love,” says John Garcia, describing his brother’s chest. “He really has a talent for cooking.”

The brisket in question has now achieved a certain mythical quality, and has been written all over the place since the Express-News at Texas Monthly Taco Trail. He seems to command respect.

Juicy, tender, succulent…buttery…these are all words a food critic would use to describe the brisket taco (served on a flour tortilla, by the way). I’m not much of a food critic, but after trying the brisket taco at Garcia’s, I’d say it’s pretty good, and I’m not even really a brisket girl!

Although he adores his brother Andrew’s brisket, Garcia admits it’s not his favorite dish on the menu.

“I grew up here, not on the brisket, but the carne guisada with cheese, it’s always been my favorite.”

Garcia's Mexican Food is a Tex-Mex restaurant on Fredericksburg Road that will turn 60 at the end of 2022.

Garcia’s Mexican Food is a Tex-Mex restaurant on Fredericksburg Road that will turn 60 at the end of 2022.

Mike Sutter / Staff

Garcia’s Mexican cuisine at 60

Today’s Garcias apparently retain many of the charms of yesteryear, Mireles tells me. There are striking framed paintings on the walls of shadowy roosters, cowboys, elegant ladies and mustachioed gentlemen. A gift from one of his father’s “compadres” in Mexico in the 1980s, says Garcia. There’s also kitschy stuff (which Julio Garcia was particularly fond of) like an Elvis clock mounted next to a plain wooden cross near the TV broadcasting the local news, not far from the counter with the chrome and vinyl stools.

Back when his father was still running the show, the city widened Fredericksburg Road, which led to a construction project hampering business. Currently, a similar project is underway on the Garcia section of Fredericksburg Road. Ironically they are now narrowing the street. It’s boring, said Garcia.

The cheese enchilada plate at Garcia's Mexican Food.

The cheese enchilada plate at Garcia’s Mexican Food.

Mike Sutter / Staff

After being closed for a year for food service during the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia’s has hired mostly new staff. Maria José, my waitress that morning, will be there for a year in September (she recommends the enchiladas verdes, which I also enjoyed, although I wonder why I ordered them at 9am).

For those wondering: Yes, Mireles has become friends with the new waitresses.

The neighborhood restaurant will celebrate its 60th anniversary in November, with a special meal featuring music and commemorative shirts. Save this date.

Find it: 842 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, TX 78201

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