Hidden Gem

Southtown hidden gem hits the spot with cheap eats and craft beer

Southtown hidden gem hits the spot with cheap eats and craft beer

The Station Cafe
All sandwiches at The Station Cafe are under $6. Dave S./Yelp
Filling Station (at left), next to Station Cafe.
The Filling Station Tap Room serves craft beer out of an old gas station. Photo by Edmond Ortiz
Eclectic decor adorn the Station Cafe's interior.
Eclectic decor adorns the walls at Southtown's best-kept secret. Photo by Edmond Ortiz
The Station Cafe
Filling Station (at left), next to Station Cafe.
Eclectic decor adorn the Station Cafe's interior.

Tucked away off King William Street near Cesar Chavez Boulevard is a former gas station that clearly saw its glory days decades ago. Now, the site is home to a restaurant and craft beer bar housed in separate structures. Together, they make for a powerful, tasty combination, satisfying the appetites of Southtown residents and merchants, bicyclists, and maybe even some tourists.

The Station Cafe and The Filling Station Tap Room is the brainchild of Jon and Stacie Rowe, who actually began serving modest, home-style eats from the former 300-square-foot gas station in late 2006. But the original Filling Station became so popular, so fast, that the Rowes expanded into the building next door. Now, that 3,000-square-foot structure serves as The Station Cafe while the smaller space remains The Filling Station, a tap room complete with more than 20 craft beers on tap.

Let's go back to The Station Cafe. On the inside, there's plenty of room to move around. The tables are small in the main dining room and rather basic, seating four. There is a secondary party/meeting room of sorts for groups that want some privacy. But the decor that exists on the interior of The Station Cafe reflects the eclectic vibe of its surrounding neighborhood. The interior scene of the restaurant is not overwhelming and very welcoming and casual.

The Station Cafe is a self-order spot. At the counter you're immediately faced with a dilemma: so many menu items, including more than 20 hot sandwiches from which to choose. There's the habanero roast beef sandwich, which comes with melted provolone, garlic habanero aioli, lettuce, and tomato. The turkey chupacabra carries smoked turkey with sweet and spicy chupacabra serrano sauce, melted cheddar, lettuce, and tomato. Need something hotter, even during the San Antonio summer? Pele's Fire fits the bill — ghost pepper sauce, roast beef, provolone, lettuce, and tomato. Each sandwich comes on a homemade toasted roll. Perhaps the best part? Every sandwich is priced below $6 and is, well, filling.

The menu features just three cold sandwiches, but they are no less tantalizing: Italian, veggie, and tuna. In the mood for a pizza? You have more choices to make, starting on the size of homemade thin crust. The varieties range from cheese, pepperoni, and supreme to Southwestern and vegetarian. If you're not up for a whole pizza at The Station Cafe, you could go for a slice or two of up to six types — each priced under $3.

Soup is on special every day of the workweek for either $3 a cup or $4.50 a bowl. Monday is good for Southwest corn chowder. Thursday is perfect for butternut squash. Salads boast organic baby greens and are served with a yeast roll. Dessert options include a variety of pies, cakes, and giant cookies. To top it all off, a fun-loving staff makes everything from scratch.

When you order, take a number and sit wherever you like — inside the main restaurant or outside in the adjoining Filling Station's dog-friendly patio. While you could have your choice of tea, soda, or coffee in the restaurant, craft beer awaits at The Filling Station. The interior of The Filling Station is very small, but it's quite the sight, filled with fun signs, buttons, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia.

There are 24 taps, and all pints are priced under $6. March selections include three brews from Deschutes Brewery and two from Texas' Southern Star Brewing. There is also wine, and it's all served by a friendly bartender while music plays overhead.

While you could get your food to-go, it's clear to virtually any San Antonian or visitor that The Station Cafe and The Filling Station Tap Room is a relaxing place to gather with family or friends for home-style, intimate, budget-friendly dining.

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