SAN ANTONIO – For more than 60 years, the historic Malt House served locals and tourists on San Antonio’s west side.
Since 1949, customers visited to the restaurant for its inexpensive meals that included the famous combo of burger and fries, with a choice of assorted flavor malts to wash down.
Politicians, such as former Texas Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez and former mayors Henry Cisneros and Julian Castro, also valued the restaurant as a prime spot to meet and have lunch with nearby residents.
But the once popular meet-up spot will now only serve as a trigger for memories and hopes of reopening its doors will no longer be on the table.
District 1 city councilman Roberto Trevino confirmed Thursday that the iconic restaurant has been officially sold to developer Kaufman Killen and plans for a 7-Eleven store to be built in place of the Malt House is still awaiting approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Trevino and District 4 city councilman Rey Saldana said they are working with the Westside Preservation Alliance on ways to help preserve the Malt House and will hear what the community would like to see on the corner property of the heavy trafficked South Zarzamora and Buena Vista intersection.
Trevino said he understands the community’s concerns and can sympathize with past customers who shared their lifelong memories of going to the drive-or-dine restaurant in a recent HDRC conference to vote on demolition of the Malt House.
In 2013, the city labeled the restaurant as historic, giving the title due to its “value as a visible reminder of the cultural heritage of the community” and “its association as a longstanding eating establishment on the city’s west side for over 50 years.”
Customers who went to the Malt House not only looked forward to the good eats, but also to be greeted by a beloved waitress who worked at the hidden gem for 50 years.
Gloria Rincondo retired from the restaurant in late 2014, and recalls moving to San Antonio in 1964. Jobless, she said she walked walked up and down Zarzamora Street, looking for a place to work.
When she stopped at a restaurant at 115 S. Zarzamora Street for a job inquiry, Rincondo’s search came to end and the task of looking for a job became a thing of the past.
“I get to the Malt House, and this lady Rosa Ramirez tells me, ‘Have you ever been a carhop?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t know what a carhop is but I can learn,’” Rincondo said. “So she said come back tomorrow and then they gave me a tray and (told me to) put four beer bottles on it and walk.”
Rincondo started out as a carhop waitress, but eventually worked her way up to manager.
But customers also considered Rincondo much more than just a manager. For many, she was the face of the restaurant.
“There was this man that once that told me, ‘I’m going to tell you something, but don’t think I’m flirting, and I’m going to tell you in front of my wife. I love it here, I love the food, I love the service, I love the atmosphere, but every time I think of the Malt House, your face comes to my mind,’” Rincondo said.
With eight siblings and a 2-year-old son at home, Rincondo and her family lived in poverty most of her life and commends the restaurant for helping overcome the hardship.
“I was the first one to buy a house,” she said. “My family started living with me. I helped them get on their feet, and then they moved on to their lives. The Malt House helped me help my family so we could all start getting homes.”
When the Malt House was rumored to be closing its doors permanently earlier this year, Rincondo said she was heartbroken by the news and upset she will no longer see her second home sitting on the corner property she walked to every day for work.
“It could be rebuilt, it could be something good again and if someone who loved it and knew how to run it, it would be good again,” Rincondo said.
Trevino said there is no set date for demolition and there are many steps still in between before anything happens to the Malt House.
Developer Kaufman Killen has not returned calls regarding the closing sale of the Malt House.