‘While You Were Sleeping’: Local restaurant caters to taco-loving crowds 24/7

Las Palapas at Highway 281, Loop 1604 among half dozen locations open all night

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The grill has been going almost non-stop, and by all appearances, the drive-thru line also is a hot spot.

Yet, at just after midnight, Las Palapas restaurant is just getting warmed up.

The big overnight rush at the Highway 281 and Loop 1604 location still is about two hours away.

“After 2:00, 2:30 when local bars get out, they'll stop in,” said Jesus Gomez, the on-duty manager.

After two years on the overnight shift, Gomez knows the routine well.

Gomez makes sure his staff is ready to handle the late-night demand for tacos.

“Anywhere from 100 to 150 tacos. On the weekends, I would say a bit more,” he said, watching over staff in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, out in the dining room, Oscar Estevis is taking a rare break.

The long-time and loyal employee often works long hours, waiting tables.

Some of his overnight shifts include working 12 hours at a time, from 5:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

“I’ve done it for many years. But for me, it’s already normal. But, like I say, ‘I’m upside down,’” Estevis said. “My dinner is around 7 in the morning. My breakfast is around 3 in the afternoon.”

Still, Estevis doesn’t mind the unusual schedule if it means he can be there for customers, especially those who also keep odd hours.

“I do very well on this shift. Very well. But everyone knows me and they’re very generous,” he said.

With the hours they work, workers said it sometimes can be tough to tell what time of day it is.

Many overnight customers, though, seem to have one particular daytime in mind — breakfast time.

“We do get some dinner plates but it’s breakfast tacos. And water. To re-hydrate,.” Estevis said, laughing.

The food helps to fuel the recovery of some people and helps others to keep going at an hour when many are still dreaming about tacos.

About the Authors

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.

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