Earl Abel’s, San Antonio, TX – 09 AUG 2011

When Rob heard I was gong to Fort Sam Houston, he started insisting that I check out a restaurant named Earl Abel’s. Rob had gone to college in San Antonio and remembered the old local land mark as having good home style cooking. He talked about it so many times, I had the name memorized. As part of my class introductions, I ask students to tell me a little known fact, about their home town. My first student was from the area, so I asked him if he knew of Earl Abel’s…and of coursed he did. They are no longer located on Hildebrand and Broadway, as Rob remembered, the restaurant was sold, the old building demolished, and the property sold. The new owners rebuilt in a strip mall on Austin Highway.
They have a complete history of the placed printed on the menus. The condensed version is: Earl Abel was a organist for silent films…having once shared top billing with Rudy Vallee, Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby, the advent of “talkies” required he find a new means of support. In 1933 he opened his first restaurant in a small house on Main Street. Being in the mist of the Great Depression he had to use his entertainer skills to draw people in. Being before the days of mass air conditioning, he moved the restaurant outside calling it “The Garden of Eatin ” Then he offered a joke for every 5¢ beer that was sold…pretty soon his jokes and stories attracted as many customers as the ‘great food’. When “Adventures In Good Eating” by Duncan Hines featured Earl Abel’s, everything took off…he expanded to six location (including one in California) with the Broadway/Hildebrand location being built in 1940. The labor shortage during WWII caused all but the one location to close.
My meal was so big, I forgot I wanted to try the fried pickles...I did take a piece of German chocolate cake to go (it took me three days to finish it).
The new owners have kept the essence of Earl alive…good comfort food, reasonable prices, and a sense of humor.
The place looks empty because it was only 4:00 PM.
There were several humorous signs (they look like they were from the 30's) saying things such as: "Its tough to pay $1.25 for a stake but 50¢ Steaks are Tougher." or "It was a Brave Man who ate the First Oyster."
I have no idea what the sign on the left means (above).
There was a large mural above the booths (see panels below):
Looks like The Colonel made it here, too!
I order chicken fried steak…it was the best I’ve EVER had! It had big crunchy corn flakes covering, fresh mashed potatoes, green beans that came from the farm (not a can or freezer). I asked for the gravy on the side, and it was also good.
Looks like they once had car hops.
They even have a website: http://www.earlabelssa.com/
If I’m ever in the area again, I’ll return to Earl Abel’s…Rob, you were right, I loved the place.