“This is a small, family-owned operation,” explains Rafael Ramirez, Co-Owner and Head Cook at Café Alameda. The restaurant can be hard to spot next to the historic Teatro Alameda (Alameda Theater), rejuvenated San Pedro Creek Culture Park, and glistening Frost Tower. But among these new and revitalized amenities at the west end of Houston Street, Café Alameda serves as a reminder of the small town and familial roots of our city.
Rafael serves traditional Tex-Mex fare, based on the dishes of his family’s adoptive hometown, San Antonio. Originally from Celaya in Guanajuato, Mexico, Rafael’s family immigrated to the United States when he was around 12 years old. His mom, Alicia, and sister, Alejandra, started a restaurant in Poteet, Texas which they ran for several years. Though the opportunity was great, eventually they decided to move the business to the city they lived in, San Antonio.
“We seized the opportunity and we’ve been here ever since,” says Rafael, who started the Café Alameda with his mother and sister in 2011. Relocating downtown allowed them to serve a unique clientele made up of downtown dwellers, medical industry staff, office workers, and even students at the Henry Ford Academy within the Alameda Theatre. Rafael says the students have a routine of picking up bean and cheese tacos and a coffee or soda before class.
The Taco Salad at Café Alameda. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
When Rafael attended St. Philip’s College for a degree in Culinary Arts, he often ran into graduates of Henry Ford Academy, a reminder of the community he has built up around the restaurant. Once completing his education, he had many opportunities to work in the restaurant industry. But to Rafael, the business he and his family had created was too important to leave behind.
“San Antonio is my home,” he explains. “Whenever I leave town, after two or three days I miss it.” This dedication to his roots can be seen at the front counter of Café Alameda. A picture of the cathedral in Celaya hangs on the wall, a beautiful visual that recalls the Ramirez’s roots in Guanajuato. Their adoptive hometown has become just as important as Celaya.
The Mexican Plate at Café Alameda. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Over the years, Rafael has recovered memorabilia from the Alameda Theater. Included were pictures from shows featuring artists from Mexico and Latin America. Some of the most famous Latin artists of the time made stops at the historic theatre. Now, their history is preserved in a small family business operating just next door.
Memorabilia at Café Alameda. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Alicia, Rafael’s mom, has also been collecting photographs from local enthusiasts that showcase historic Houston Street. One of the most surprising is a picture of President Kennedy’s motorcade in San Antonio just days before he was assassinated in Dallas in November of 1963. Her collection showcases the many stages of Houston Street over the years from its retail golden age to its public celebrations and modern buildings.
And now? Rafael is grateful for the success that the restaurant has seen. He hopes to serve the downtown community for years to come. He’s excited about all the additions and improvements coming to the area. All the same, it’s nice to have Café Alameda in the heart of an ever-changing downtown to bring us back to our roots with a breakfast taco or Carne Guisada.
The Ramirez family is one of many whose story is happening along the Houston Street Corridor. To learn more about Activate Houston Street, visit our website here.
Café Alameda is located at 342 W Houston Street and is open from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Breakfast is served from opening to 11:00 a.m.