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Owl Bar and Grill, San Antonio, NM

From Socorro, take I-25 south about ten miles to the San Antonio exit. Proceed east to the flashing yellow light at the intersection with State Route 1; the Owl is on your left. For those of you who do not care for bar crowds, please rest assured that this is primarily an eating place, not a drinking place, and it is very popular with families.

In my opinion, the Owl serves the best burger in the universe, and they have been doing so for many decades. Rowena and Adolfo Baca, the owners, are a couple of the nicest and best-known people in the county. How many other places do you find a county commissioner busing tables in her own restaurant?

Service is excellent. Rather than carving the restaurant into territories for each server, your primary server is whoever gets to you first, and everybody helps everybody out. Another thing that impresses me is the low turnover in their staff. I've known almost all the servers for years and years.

If you are uncertain about what to order, start with the green chili cheeseburger with grilled onions. The meat hangs out of the bun on all sides. If you're severely hungry, try the Hamburger Steak, which is two burgers' worth of meat on a plate with fries, toast and salad. Get it with cheese and grilled onions if you like. Or try the patty melt with green chile. They also make a pretty decent T-bone if you want to splurge.

If you're averse to American feedlot beef (as I have been since I read Richard Rhodes's book Deadly Feasts), the Owl also does a very nice breaded chicken breast sandwich. All the above-listed amenities such as green chile, grilled onions, and cheese work well with this sandwich too.

The quality of their fries and onion rings have been pretty variable over the years, but I think they're fairly decent lately. Absolutely the best pinto beans around. Their green chile is seldom very hot (although lately it's been fairly zingy), but it consistently has the best flavor.

Save room for the pecan pie a la mode, which competes with the desserts at Martha's Black Dog for the Dietician's Hall of Shame.

The Hilton Bar

As you walk into the front door of the Owl, the beautiful hardwood bar on your right has a long history. It was part of the original Hilton Hotel: Conrad Hilton was born here in San Antonio, NM.

Today I heard from Rowena Baca, the owner, how that bar came to be where it is today. After the original hotel burned, some CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) workers made an offer to the man who owned the bar then. They would move the bar from the hotel to the Owl if he would pay them in beer and burgers. A deal was struck, and the men walked the bar to the Owl. It took them two days. [2002-12-17]

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See also: Shipman's favorite Socorro (NM) restaurants
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2002/12/27 23:51:59