Jacala Mexican Restaurant demolition paused to salvage mementos spared by fire

Photos, menus now treasured finds amid the mountain of debris

Decades of memories are recovered in the rubble of an iconic Mexican restaurant destroyed by fire.

SAN ANTONIO – Demolition of the iconic Jacala Mexican Restaurant was paused Friday while crews searched through the building gutted by Thursday’s massive fire.

Among the treasured finds were a few menus with a photo of Rudy and Del Quinones, who founded the restaurant in 1949.

Their daughters, Cynthia Lambert and Lucille Hooker, gently held the menus that were soaked and stained with soot and mud.

Hooker said her parents would be saying, “We’re very proud how long you kept it. We’re proud of what you did. We’re proud of what it became in the community.”

Also spared were several photos, including one of Governor Greg Abbott and his family, as well as a group photo of the owners and others at a table enjoying margaritas after a busy Mother’s Day at the restaurant.

“The memories are unbelievable that are here,” Hooker said.

For instance, Lambert said she remembered a young woman who as it turned out, had come for her last meal before she planned to kill herself.

After she heard people at a nearby table talking about the goodness of life, when the woman was done, Lambert said she left a note saying, “I was going to go home and commit suicide. And after hearing these people talk, I changed my mind.”

Hooker said someone had called Friday wanting to reserve a table for 50, only to be told the restaurant had burned down.

She said the woman was “heartbroken, heartbroken, just heartbroken.”

Lambert said the day of the fire remains a blur, but she’ll always remember the outpouring of love and support from customers and even other restaurants.

La Fogata called the day of the fire offering jobs for Jacala’s 40 employees.

Hooker said it wanted “to hire everybody 100% at 100% of their pay.”

As a board member of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, Hooker said, “They’ve all called me, reached out, said if there’s no room there, we will take them on.”

Lambert said it’s further proof of what Jacala meant to the community.

“Our hearts are broken, but you all have come together and you all have embraced us,” she said.

They said the restaurant was insured, but it’s too early to say if the restaurant will re-open.

Lambert said, “We have to kind of dust ourselves off and see where we’re going.”

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.