Mi Tierra in San Antonio
Always an Adventure, at Mi Terra!
Some may think it's a tourist trap, but I find it to be a guaranteed good time at Mi Tierra in San Antonio! Every time we have visited this festive restaurant, exploding with music, color and flavors we have a good time.
Over 10 Years Ago
I brought family to Mi Tierra's in 2000 and my mom was fairly giddy to meet a celebrity. She didn't know who he was, but she noticed him wandering the crowded dining rooms followed by cameras and autograph seekers. My mom was thrilled to pose for a photo.
In 2002, we returned with more family and absorbed more of the curious Mi Tierra vibe.
We were amused to find a colorful flute player in the bar, not far from a very large portrait of President Clinton... jogging. ???
Mom's Mystery Man?
On our return visit, we teased Mom about seeing her mystery man again. I brought the photo we had taken in 2000, so we could finally inquire about the popular stranger.
I can't remember his name but we learned he was a well-known Telemundo TV star. After Mom gathered a group of waiters to study the photograph with her, she was just as happy to pose with her 4 new friends as she had been with her TV star.
Last Weekend's Celebration
Last Saturday my husband and I joined our son and his girlfriend's family on a trip to San Antonio. This was their first visit to Texas, so we thought dinner at Mi Tierra would give them quite a festive taste of one of the many cultures that make up this state. We hadn't done our homework or we would have known there was a weekend celebration going on in the Market area for Mexican Independence Day. Outside the restaurant there were food vendors and musical stages, families with lawn chairs and lots of dancing! Inside Mi Tierra, it was business as usual. The restaurant never closes and the decorations never come down!
We didn't eat in this room, but I had to snap a photo of the fluttering silver décor, dripping from the ceiling and yes, those are Christmas trees surrounding the room.
Since they are open 24 hours here, I sure hope they give some of these lights a rest in the wee hours. I kind of like this photo because it captures a bit of the family atmosphere...a little laughing, smiling and a couple of siblings holding hands...or more likely...tugging playfully at each other.
You have to love a restaurant with a mural that makes the room seem twice as crowded as it is. (only a portion is showing in photo) Our wonderful waiter Delmar pointed out many of the famous faces on the wall, including Pete Cortez, the very man who opened the 3- table restaurant with his wife back in 1941.
In this photo I love the way the people seated at the table blend into the wall. Did they feel like they were being watched?
I've enjoyed the music of mariachis in many Mexican restaurants, but I've never enjoyed multiple groups of musicians at once. While our group of 3 performed, another group strummed and crooned across the room and yet another played in a nearby room.
The performers are not employed by the restaurant, so they're quite upfront about being paid. When we requested Maleguena, the man in the sun glasses let us know that would be a $6.00 song. The song requires pretty strong vocal chords to hold the long notes and they ended up earning much more than $6.00 from our table! Bravo!!
I was so busy enjoying the atmosphere, I hardly expected to be delighted by my food. You hardly expect good cuisine from a 24-hour restaurant that serves up to 500 people. But my Poblano Dinner was incredibly good. The pepper was stuffed with spicy beef and just the right amount of cheese. The enchilada, rice, beans and guacamole may look like one big blob of color in my photo, but the flavors and textures were delicious and distinct. Ole' for my meal!
No one had room for dessert. We left feeling pretty stuffed...that's part of the Mi Tierra experience. Stuffed from margaritas and chips and salsa and the meal. Even my brain felt stuffed from all the sights and sounds. There's no way you can absorb it all in one visit.
Next time, I'll have to ask more about the shrine behind our table. Delmar did confirm that the portrait was Selena, the famous singer who died too young. And I needed no help identifying the Virgin Mary. But I'm going to ask about the framed portraits on display. Are they members of the Cruz family, who still own the restaurant today? Or family members who have died. How could I have dined so close to this curious shrine with twinkly lights and a tiny skeleton and not have the full story!
Shame on me. Next time...
Comfort Café in Smithville, TX
On the Road Again...
Last Sunday, Don and I found ourselves once again on Highway 71 heading from Austin to Houston. We allowed ourselves the luxury of leaving the highway and driving a few extra minutes into the town of Smithville. You never know what you'll find in Smithville. There are a surprising number of lovely Victorian home and sometimes a movie star. A few well-known movies have been filmed here. We've never seen Brad Pitt or Sandra Bullock, but we have seen film crews at work in the past.
But at 1:00 on Sunday, we weren't really about exploring, we just wanted some food. The town was quiet, so we were happy to find cars parked at this cute little yellow building on First Street across from the Railroad Park.
If we had read the signs before entering, we might not have been so surprised about our little café. On the signs and banners were words like "Where Miracles Happen" and "Pay What You Can".
Yes. The little café felt very comfy when we entered.
We were greeted warmly by a tall man with a number of tattoos. We headed towards one of the tables near the yellow wall, but he steered us towards the mirrored side of the room. "The air conditioner isn't working so well. You'll be more comfortable under the fan."
The Right Side of the Cafe
I borrowed this photo from an article in Co-op Magazine that oddly enough came in the mail the day after we dined here. This photo shows Rosie Lopez who opened the café with her partner a few years ago.
Rosie was there (dressed exactly like this photo) the day we dined. But there were so many folks meeting and greeting and dining, I couldn't tell who was a customer and who worked there. When we opened our menus we began to understand a little more.
More Than Food
Inside the menu we found some delicious food options, along with some information about www.SerenityStar.org, the recovery program that is supported by Comfort Café.
We learned that we would not be given a bill for our meal, but we were free to pay whatever we could afford. And if we had no money we were welcome to work in the kitchen for an hour. This was more than a place to eat. It was place to raise money to help people with addictions. It was a place to offer jobs and training for those who had recovered. It was a place to gather...It was not a place I expected to see in a small Texas town.
My egg salad with cilantro on rosemary bread with cream of spinach soup, was the ultimate comfort food.
I feasted and absorbed the atmosphere. There was a curious mix of older couples in church clothes and earthier folks in tie dye and work boots. There was a lot of socializing at the tables closer to the kitchen. A few children amused me as they got restless while parents lingered. One little boy began crawling on the floor, making his way underneath every table along the mirrored wall. "Well hello!" I greeted him when he bumped my leg. He looked up like a little puppy before moving on to the next table. I warned our neighbors about what was coming their way. "Just so he doesn't bite," Said the man at the next table.
I couldn't quite figure this place out. Was I dining at a church supper or a soup kitchen? This could have been a friend's house or maybe I was visiting a commune in the 1970's. When our waiter with his tattooed legs said something about putting on some music, I was curious. I could have pictured our waiter as a musician performing at Austin City Limits, but the music he chose surprised me. I was suddenly sipping my soup, listening to hymns wafting from the speakers. I guess the framed print of an angel over the fireplace and the mural reminding us that Miracles Happen, should have given me a hint.
Hymns and Bluebonnets
It's true, I'm not used to listening to hymns in cafes or being asked to pay a donation for my meal. But there is only so much pondering I do on my dining adventures. There's a time to sit back and enjoy what I've discovered, no matter how unusual the flavor or how quirky the atmosphere. Once I stopped trying to figure it all out, I sat back and grinned towards Don because I recognized a hymn I happen to adore. I didn't learn this hymn in church, but I associate it with a movie that Don and I are very fond of. Trip to Bountiful is about a dear elderly woman yearning to return to her home in a small Texas town. The film opens with a scene of a young mother and her son running through a field of bluebonnets, while this hymn is sung in the background...beautifully.
We had to step outside the café to find the restrooms and what a surprise to find this wonderful outdoor patio. There was a fountain trickling and little boys on trikes and scooters.
And as we walked towards the exit we passed this mural with the words of St. Francis.
What a curious lunch stop. We were just looking for food last Sunday, but we ended up with quite a dining memory.
Blue Bell Creameries
This is why a lot people come to the small town of Brenham. They give tours at the ice cream factory.
But last week Don and I needed lunch as we headed through Brenham. So we headed for the airport. Most small town airports might have vending machines for hungry pilots, but we had heard the tiny Brenham Airport had an actual restaurant.
There were no signs to guide tourists to the airport. We almost missed this old road that took us up to the entrance.
The building was surprisingly new. It reminded me more of a train station than an airport.
Watching the Planes
There were a few parked planes nearby and there was a screened in porch off the café, if you wanted to sit outside in hopes of seeing a plane come or go.
In the Diner
But we ate inside where there were about 7 girls in poodle skirts delivering plates to diners seated at retro tables and booths. I don't think there were any pilots eating. It was Sunday and most of the crowd looked like they had strolled in after church.
Planes and Poodle Skirts
There was plenty to look at as I wandered around the café. There was a nice bit of Budweiser neon and some interesting etching on the window glass.
There was even a gift shop selling poodle skirts. A strange combination of airplane theme and poodle skirts... hmmm? There were also a lot of little signs here and there. Reminders to keep kids under control since it is an airport. Signs telling us the water coolers were for the servers only and signs to keep kids from using the juke box.
We ordered typical diner food. Don had a burger and I went for grilled cheese. Lauren, our very pleasant server was pushing for the chicken fried chicken sandwich, but I wasn't that hungry.
My expression (top) makes one think there was a bug crawling towards my plate. I'm not sure what that expression was for...but the main reason for the 2 grilled cheese photos was to show the busy poodle girls behind me. And to maybe show how well my shirt color coordinated with my meal!
More Poodle Girls
Like I said, the poodle skirt gets a lot of attention at Southern Flyer. The picture on the left shows a framed photograph of 15 Poodle Girls posing with a plane.
My shot wasn't quite as dramatic, but Lauren was a good sport and posed for me with a juke box. I'm not sure how big Brenham high school is, but I imagine a high percentage of the girls who graduate, have all had jobs at Southern Flyer at one time or another.
A Plane Takes Off!
As we headed out we saw a few folks lingering in hopes of seeing a plane take off. I chatted with the gentleman in the suspenders and he admitted it was his first visit. (We'd seen him dining alone) He acted like he wasn't leaving until he saw some plane action. Sure enough a small plane finally began to rumble like a motor boat. Like a toy, it sort of sputtered down the runway and lifted into the sky.
Don and I laughed as we got in the car. Our airport dining adventure left us a little baffled for some reason. The playful '50's theme kind of clashed with the serious airport rules. It was sure worth the visit, but I might have to revisit and see how it feels on another day.
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.