Dining Adventure at The Barn
We had a memorable visit to this North San Antonio eatery, last January.
The parking lot looked pretty empty when we arrived, just before the doors opened for lunch. The red and white complex looked just as quiet and rambling in the old black and white photo, that I found later.
Earlier, I studied this watercolor image in our old Ford Motor Cookbook.
I knew the chances were slim, that we'd see any cows peeking out windows when we arrived. But it never hurts to hope.
I spied no cows, when I wandered around the building before entering.
The barn-red color and the decorative pieces of farm equipment, fit with the old images. But it was hard to recognize the original building. Where was that upper floor?
Around back, I could spot a higher roof. Was that part of the original Barn Door Restaurant, that Mr. Tassos opened in 1953?
And the little door and windows around the side... could that have been the original tavern from the 1920's? I'm not sure, but now that door is an entrance to a Speakeasy!
Lots to See
We stepped inside at 11:30 and the staff was geared up and ready for a busy Friday lunch.
I wouldn't have minded a wait, since there was an awful lot of stuff to look at. But, the hostess was eager to guide us and we were hungry. We followed her past the meat market.
We passed by an illuminated case of fresh pies!
We headed down a cement walkway, covered in horseshoe prints. It was clear that we were "first-timers" the way I studied our surroundings as we walked.
There seemed to be numerous dining rooms. We were seated in the original room, where Mr. Tassos first began offering no-frills, down-home Texas cooking... with a spotlight on beef.
Don and I were right at home sitting on captain's chairs. We sit on them at home.
Across the room, there was one very curious table that I should have asked about. The carved legs looked like little men, struggling to hold up the weight of a huge, table feast!
Windows and Walls
There was a lot to look at, next to our table. There were framed news articles and photos and a couple of windows that didn't look outside.
I was curious and had to investigate. I discovered "The Window Room" and "The Egg Room", which was named for the egg cartons, that were once attached to the ceiling. Sound proofing, I believe.
This old photo of the main dining room looks a little different. They no longer have fancy red chair covers. They also don't using "hams" hanging for decoration.
The grill is still in the same place, along the wall.
We were just seated a moment, when our server Ally appeared with waters and menus.
Right away, I recognized the watercolor art on the menu. Our cookbook from 1963, had the same image, along with two recipes.
We couldn't have asked for a better server, to help us enjoy a cookbook adventure. Before I pulled out the book I asked if they had Garlic Dressing. She answered with enthusiasm. "Yes! We serve the original garlic dressing with our house salad!" I pulled the book from my bag and pointed to the recipe. I asked if the old recipe looked the same as the one they use now.
She studied the page and said it was. Then her expression changed. "What is this!" I laughed and told how we used the old Ford Cookbook, like a crazy treasure map, while traveling. "We hunt down the restaurants that have managed to survive the test of time." Ally loved that idea.
Garlic Dressing and Grilled Chicken
Ally was young, but she clearly enjoyed the history of the restaurant. She seemed totally delighted that we were taking interest. I was pretty giddy when my salad was served. I poured the tasty Garlic Dressing from a syrup container!
I ordered chicken, grilled across the room. My nicely browned chicken, was juicy and flavorful. Green beans, mashed taters and a big old dinner roll. I was happy!
Meeting the Owner
Just as we finished our meal, a visitor arrived. Randy Stokes graciously introduced himself, then laughed, "I've got to see that book!"
He squatted beside the table and studied the recipe. As he flipped through pages, he asked us where we'd found the book. We asked him about his 8 years of ownership. The 3rd owner since 1953! It was nice to hear his thoughts on finding the right balance... rescuing the old and renovating, just enough! He had an appreciation and understanding for the faithful regular customers, who don't always want change. That's a tricky thing to please old and new customers, but he seems to be doing it very well!
The dining room had filled up by the time we finished. I took another look at some of the photographs on our way out.
After studying these photos of the well-loved Grill Master, I met the late Sonny Cochran's nephew, "Junior". We stood and talked a bit about his late uncle. Junior admired his uncle and seemed pleased that I was taking time to learn about him.
I couldn't stop studying all the old photos!
He was extra excited about this bird's eye photo, that showed the old restaurant, before housing grew up around it.
So Many Rooms
Don and I wandered through all the different rooms. This place must be pretty fun in the evening!
We found the same print from the cookbook and menu, framed on the wall.
More Book Sharing
They also shared a genuine appreciation for the restaurant's history. Since Don and I seek out older, family owned restaurants, we know this kind of staff is sort of unusual. There was such a positive energy in this staff!
Just when we were almost out the door, we were stopped once again by someone who wanted to see the book. I believe this super nice guy, was another of Sonny's nephews. (didn't catch name) He and Don talked forever.
While they chatted I ran in the bathroom, where I noticed an announcement on the wall. The restaurant would be closed for a staff party soon. A party? What restaurants close down to offer a night of fun, for the staff... when they could be making money?
A restaurant, with an owner and staff, that work together like family! We left feeling like we'd been to a family reunion. How nice to be welcomed by so many, during our little lunch outing!
It's been over 7 months and I hope they're doing well during this pandemic. I so hope to get back and enjoy and evening at the Red Barn!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.