TOUR TEXAS: "PIGGIN’ OUT" IN SAN ANTONIO
It had been three years since my last visit to the San Antonio landmark. No, not the Alamo. The original Pig Stand Restaurant founded in 1921.
Once a nationwide drive-in chain, today it’s only the original eatery on Broadway in the shadow of I-35 that has survived with a full menu of oh-so-good comfort food and old-style service.
A short drive from the touristy destinations along the Riverwalk, the Pig Stand is a flashback to a time when the waitresses called everyone sweetie, signature recipes remained unchanged from year to year, and repeat customers were your best marketing partners.
Smartly dressed in black slacks and shoes, a starched white blouse and long black apron, Cheryl took my order. “Welcome to the Pig Stand,” she said with a slight drawl, taking my drink order . . . the ice tea is really nice. Really.
Before looking at the menu I asked what one item the Pig Stand was best known for. Without hesitation she said, “Oh sweetie, that’s the pig sandwich . . . “. She had me at “sweetie”.
While waiting for my dinner I took in the surroundings. The booths were tufted red and gold sparkle vinyl, with diner-style tables of cream colored tops and a well-worn aluminum strip around the lip. The busy counter offered a similar color scheme with individual swivel stools for diners going solo or wanting a quick in-and-out service.
A tribute to the early years, each booth had its own mini-juke box loaded with hundreds of tunes from Techno-Cumbia and ZZ Top, to George Strait and the Angels . . . “My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble…” It was a serious blend of music for the diverse mix of customers who frequent the restaurant.
On the walls, shelves, counter tops, booth backs, bars and hanging from the tiled ceiling were examples of all things PIG. Ceramic pigs, metal pigs, glass pigs, piggy banks, flying pigs, stuffed pigs, pig pitchers and salt and pepper shakers, a pink pig mailbox, pig sculptures, pig neons, pig pictures, pig paintings and Miss Piggy herself . . . awesome!
It was a wondrous moment when Cheryl sat my meal in front of me. The pig sandwich was a stack of pork tenderloin smoked on-site with a light spicy relish and homemade barbecue sauce to rival the best I’ve ever tasted. Double dipped fries and a lone onion ring complemented the Cole slaw made fresh throughout the day from a secret recipe that my waitress wouldn’t share. Dinner was a serious treat with a 90-year legacy.
As I ate I watched customers come and go, each being greeted by Mary Ann Hill, longtime owner of the Pig Stand who worked her way up from waitress to “top sow”. Her smile was infectious and her welcome was genuine to all who walked in.
Cheryl came back to check on me. “How ‘bout some dessert sweetie?” she asked. “We have the best peach cobbler in Texas . . . I wouldn’t lie to you.” Again, she had me at sweetie.
The big bowl of homemade peach cobbler with Bluebell vanilla was without a doubt impressive. Sweet, crusty and with a hint of cinnamon . . . combined with a cup of fresh decaf and this was a blog worthy experience.
On my way out of San Antonio the next morning I stopped by the Pig Stand for a quick breakfast of egg and chorizo sausage tacos and coffee. Oh, it made the four hour drive home to Houston much more enjoyable.
Thank you Mary Ann . . . I will be back.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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