by Andrew Chalk
At a recent restaurant media event in San Antonio I wondered: when does a restaurant transition from just a restaurant to become an institution. You know the difference. An institution you have to visit when you are in town. A restaurant…is just a restaurant. Dallas closest approximations to an institution may be Sonny Bryan’s (at the original location), and the Mansion on Turtle Creek (talk about two ends of the spectrum).
In San Antonio, one unequivocal institution is La Fogata Mexican Cuisine. It began 35 years ago with a converted ice cream stand with seven tables but has expanded to a catacomb of interconnected buildings and patios that spans (including parking) three city blocks. It has a seating capacity of 450 and serves around 6,000 diners each week. Such daunting numbers might make you expect a faceless machine, but nothing could be further from the truth. Owned by the same family, Dwight and Marilyn Lieb, since 1997 and divided up into small cozy areas, La Fogata makes you feel like you are dining somewhere very approachable. Continue reading