JOSEPHINE STREET CAFE is a classic Texas roadhouse in an era where there are no more roads, just freeways. In fact, the freeway—Highway 281—roars over the patio, but that doesn’t seem to deter the loyal patrons of this popular neighborhood hangout. Nor did the recent collision of a truck with the ‘Steak’ part of the front window slow things down either— “We were open within 46 hours,” says the manager proudly. And, rest assured, everything will be put back just exactly the way it was: “Our customers don’t want us to change a thing.”
Josephine Street has many elements that are not subject to change—the aforementioned steaks, for one thing. Probably the best bargain in town, they are grilled the old-fashioned way because owner Pat Molak was a great admirer of the old Hofbrau restaurant in Austin which was legendary for its juicy grilled steaks. Another of Molak’s tributes to the Hofbrau is his wilted lettuce salad (see recipe)—with iceberg lettuce and olives, it seems the natural accompaniment to a good piece of meat.
Although not much has changed on the menu since the cafe opened in 1979 in the former location of the Fincke Meat Market, some “health-conscious” offerings are now available. Grilled chicken and fresh seafood are a nice alternative. And of course, the desserts are really good for you too: pecan praline pie with a dreamy praline custard can be extremely uplifting, as can the hot Tollhouse cookie pie mounded with ice cream. But especially uplifting is the ambience here—the huge, and dead, tree that occupies a major portion of the main dining room suggests that the original owners were more interested in conservation than in running roughshod over the area”s flora. It’s an eccentricity you don”t see much these days, but then you don”t often dine at a place where the waitresses know most of their customers by name and feel free to sit down and chat with them before moving on to the next table.
Josephine Street Cafe, 400 E. Josephine, San Antonio
Monday through Thursday 11-10, Friday and Saturday 11-11. Closed Sunday.
Try Josephine’s Wilted Salad Recipe at home.