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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24, 2012

Though perhaps best known for its contributions to Tex-Mex cuisine, San Antonio is also home to a number of historic eateries working in other culinary traditions. One of the most long-standing of these is Earl Abel’s, a diner specializing in comfort food from fried chicken to pancakes.

According to the Earl Abel’s website, silent film organist Earl Abel opened his diner during the 1930s when the combination of the Great Depression and the displacement of silent film by “talkies” left him jobless. Although Earl Abel struggled to stay afloat for some years, the inclusion of his restaurant in Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating: Good Eating Places Along the Highways of America gave an extra boost to business and helped Earl Abel’s to become a San Antonio institution for generations.[1] Earl Abel’s continued to hold a place in Duncan Hines’ guide, with the 1940 (7th ed.) entry reading thus:

Earl Abel’s Steak House. 1910 Main Ave. Open all year. Dining within a modernistic setting or outside in attractive garden. I can truthfully say that I cannot remember having better steak anywhere, and how Mr. Abel is able to serve the steak he does on 75c dinner I do not know—nor probably should I care. Other things to note are his Special Salad, black-bottom pie, fried onions, and two different varieties of fried chicken dinner. Open 12 noon to 10 P.M. L., 45c to $1. Air-conditioned. [2]

At one point, Earl Abel had opened several additional locations. However, all but the Broadway location were closed during WWII. The Broadway location itself closed in 2006 after Earl Abel’s son sold the property. However, the restaurant soon re-opened under new ownership on the Austin Highway, where it continues to serve many of the old favorites.

On this Christmas Eve, we hearken back to Earl Abel’s heyday with a riff on The Night Before Christmas, written by Joyce Duncan, an Earl Abel’s waitress in 1956:


[1] “A Family Tradition since 1933.” Earl Abel’s Restaurant. Accessed 12 December, 2012.

[2] Hines, Duncan. Adventures in Good Eating: Good Eating Places Along the Highways of America (Bowling Green, KY: Adventures in Good Eating, Inc., 1940): 259.

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