San Antonio’s ‘favorite rural restaurant’ – Wolfe’s Inn – has changed hands, no menu in its seven decades

What was the name of a restaurant that was located on or near the corner of Wurzbach and Fredericksburg roads? He was set back in a wooded area there.

It could have been the family business that the heroine of a Hallmark Christmas movie comes home to save — a beloved rustic restaurant whose wood-burning stoves produce hearty cuisine, served family-style over long tables in a dining room with flagstone floors and an open fireplace. Weather permitting, diners could choose from smaller tables with charming, mismatched chairs on a patio shaded by oak trees hung with multicolored lanterns, a romantic atmosphere enhanced by a wishing well, and a rock-lined water feature. .

But it was a real place for nearly 70 years: Wolfe’s Inn at 9000 (later 8620) Fredericksburg, a family business for a succession of owners, who added or subtracted some of the features from the composite description above.

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Retired Express-News editor Karen Haram remembers it as a popular restaurant in the late 1970s, marked by a thick stone wall and an arched entrance that led into the restaurant. “I remember having a drink in the cozy bar and then eating dishes such as steaks, seafood and chicken in the dining room,” Haram said. “Like Crystal Baking Company, it was a great choice when you wanted a good atmosphere and good food but a less formal dinner than La Louisiane or Chez Ardid.”

The long-lived restaurant opened in 1915 as WW Wolfe’s Inn Café – then the name on the future famous arched ‘sign of the wolf’, with its depiction of the animal – in the converted Worthy West house Wolfe and his wife, Estelle. Well outside the San Antonio city limits, their property was at the Fredericksburg end of what is still known as Hamilton Wolfe Road – not named after a South Texas Medical Center dignitary but of two “places of residence” and the families who lived there. The Wolfes were at Nine Mile Hill (covered here August 3, 2003), a traditional stopping point between San Antonio and Fredericksburg that was previously a 19th-century stagecoach supply depot and hotel, according to research by Linda Cooper Persyn , past president of the Leon Valley Historical Society and the late Barbara Poss Fryer.

Worthy Wolfe was a former railroad worker from Missouri-Kansas-Texas (“Katy”) who ran a restaurant in Parsons, Kan., before moving to San Antonio. The Wolfes, who had six children, built a new home across the street on what in 1985 became the original site of Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano, then at 8539 Fredericksburg Road.

From the start, Wolfe’s Inn was a dinner destination only, reachable after a “nice short drive” from San Antonio proper. Over the years, the miles outside the city limits gradually shrank from 10 to 1 and were eventually no longer relevant as the growth of the medical center (discussed here October 30) brought the city into l old country. The inn’s slogan “San Antonio’s favorite rural restaurant” was discontinued in the 1960s.

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The menu was sustainably simple. As with most early 20th century local restaurants that weren’t limited to short orders, entrees were steak and fried chicken (later with the occasional fish or shrimp), with biscuits and gravy. cream, fried potatoes (later mashed) and fresh vegetables. , with homemade pies and cobblers.

Dinner prices, which included all of the above, rose slowly over the first quarter century or so, from 50 cents to $1 or $1.50, with the T-bone steak claiming the highest price. At a time when you could get a cheese or egg salad sandwich for 15 cents, a night out at Wolfe’s Inn could be a splurge, a special night Monday through Saturday when the restaurant opened at 5 p.m. and closed at 10 p.m. or a leisurely Sunday lunch from noon to 5 p.m.

For several months between 1934 and 1935, the restaurant was temporarily relocated to 230 Fredericksburg, formerly Mack’s Log Cabin, specializing in – guess what? Yes, chicken and steak! — in another rustic setting, this one a five-minute drive from downtown. While waiting for road construction to be completed, Wolfe’s Inn moved from Nine Mile Hill to Five Points and shifted its dinner-to-lunch focus, catering to downtown workers with a “merchants lunch” at 35 cents but staying open until midnight to serve chicken for 50-75 cents.

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As owner and operator, Wolfe “personally directed the entire operation of his famous tavern, selected and (purchased) every item of merchandise served at his house, and personally supervised (d) its storage, preparation and service “. says an infomercial published in the San Antonio Express, November 11, 1935.

The Wolfes were not afraid of hard work. From the early 1920s, until subsequent owners, Wolfe’s Inn offered holiday dinners, “the turkey with all the trimmings”, opening at noon on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, as well as service regular dinner on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Wolfe died of a heart attack at age 57 in 1940. The next owner was Anton S. “Tony” Greive, former manager of the Vermont Café, 1422 W. Commerce St., “presenting American dishes with special emphasis on steak and chicken dinners,” from 1926 to 1945. Along with his wife, Pauline, Greive remodeled Wolfe’s Inn in 1946 to add private party rooms with their own fireplaces, newly “beautified” grounds, high chairs, and children’s plates to appeal to families, according to the San Antonio Light, February 11, 1946.

The Greives followed Wolfe’s Inn recipes for success – “pan-fried chicken, cooked-to-order steaks, hot melt-in-your-mouth cookies (and) country-style gravy” – and imprinted the family slogan “A Nice Place for Nice People” on the menu and matchbooks.

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When Greive left in 1950 to open his first self-created restaurant (state-of-the-art exterior with indoor fireplaces), Antone’s at 6838 San Pedro Ave., in conjunction with Shearer Hills developer HJ Shearer, his successor at Wolfe’s Inn was Jimmie (also spelled Jimmy) Harris, former manager of Pirates’ Cave nightclub, 107½ E. Houston St., “Where everyone is having a good time.” With his wife – still referred to as “Mrs. Jimmie Harris” – commanding the kitchen, Harris promoted the inn’s “incomparable chicken and steak dinners” but also added cornbread (probably more effective at prepare only cookies) and introduced telephone ordering for take-out food. Around the middle of the decade, Mrs. Harris began appearing solo in advertising and kept the steaks and chicken until 1968.

The restaurant went dark for about a decade, but returned in 1979 as an updated steakhouse, thanks to Danny Tassos and others involved with the Barn Door (covered here December 12, 2020). “My brother, along with David Straus and a few other investors bought the property in the mid-1970s,” Billy Tassos said, “and reopened it as a steakhouse, keeping the original name.” As Tassos recalls, “the business was not open for very long. Joe (Cosniac) and Nick (Pacelli) of Paesano’s (restaurant) eventually took it over but they closed it shortly after, around 1984.”

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By the late 1980s, the Wolfe’s 1909 home and longtime restaurant building had already been demolished, except for part of the rock fence and an iron gate that has since disappeared. The property was sold to Stop-N-Go Markets, said Clarence Simpson, the company’s then western U.S. real estate director, with plans to build a full-size “market” with displays of expanded petrol…and a market with a mix of the usual (proximity) and fresh produce.”

Although the Wolfe’s Inn building had already disappeared, Simpson anticipated “a storm of local protests” and worked with Stop-N-Go’s Houston headquarters, as well as a group advocating to save one of the remaining oak trees. standing” between the property line and the Fredericksburg Road right-of-way. With the help of an arborist “who pruned the large old neglected tree and landscaped around it” on the side of the new store, the tree was saved with the cooperation of the Texas Department of Transportation.

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The Stop-N-Go construction manager then redesigned the landscaping around the corner to accommodate the remains of the stone fence. Drawing on a brief history from an old Wolfe’s Inn menu found on the property, Simpson wrote the text of a plaque as follows: “Nine Mile Hill/Before Automobile Day, Boerne Road, Fredericksburg and the Hill Country ran through this place. and was known as ‘Nine Mile Hill’ and was the first stopping place for horses and buggies./In 1915 Mr and Mrs WW Wolfe converted their home at this location into a restaurant known as ‘ Wolfe’s Inn’, which was a landmark for many years thereafter. The remaining rock fence has been preserved, and this plaque and landscaping is dedicated to the memory of those early travelers who found rest and food here by National Convenience Stores/Stop-N-Go Markets. ‘The tradition continues…’”

The Southwell Co., a longtime maker of historical markers, cast the plaque, which was installed on the remaining portion of the rock fence at Wolfe’s Inn in Wurzbach and Fredericksburg. “I feel good every time I drive past that intersection,” Simpson said, “and see my plaque still there.”

Some of this information was also found in my first column on this subject, which appeared in the San Antonio Express-News Sunday Magazine section, June 21, 1992. Thanks to Alton Robinson for asking about “the restaurant at the corner of Fredericksburg Road and another street whose name I forget” and to Beth Standiford, librarian of the San Antonio Conservation Society, for providing this and other articles on Wolfe’s Inn.

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