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Storied San Antonio diner bids farewell to sole standalone location
Though the Covid-19 pandemic may seem like a distant memory to most San Antonians, its lingering effects are still wreaking havoc on the local restaurant industry. Now, one of the area’s longest-running diners is shuttering its sole standalone location.
Earl Abel’s managing partner and operator Danny Badiola announced in a statement that the 1639 Broadway outpost of the restaurant would close on August 21. In addition to the nagging shockwaves of the health crises, Badiola said staffing difficulties and inflation made current operations untenable.
This isn’t the first time the restaurant has dealt with labor shortages. Founded in 1933 by the restaurant’s namesake, Earl Abel’s was once a thriving local chain before World War II. Faced with a lack of workforce during the conflict, Abel consolidated operations to Broadway and Hildebrand Avenue.
The locale became a San Antonio institution popular with Alamo Heights socialites, the business community, and even stray politicians. In 1986, 70-year-old Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez made headlines for socking a man who dared call him a communist at the chicken joint.
The golden age ended in 2006 after Earl’s son, Jerry, sold the property to make room for a high-rise condo. The restaurant reopened shortly after on Austin Highway, though the distinct Populuxe architecture had been replaced by a strip mall façade.
Earl Abel’s latest run began in 2019 when new ownership group Blue Label 88 moved the storied eatery back to Broadway in its current location near the Pearl. Throughout the changes, the brand stayed true to its original mission of serving homestyle food at affordable prices.
According to Badiola’s statement, a new chapter for the restaurant may still be written later. The owners are looking for new partnership arrangements and sites in the Broadway-Alamo Heights area.
Until then, locals can get a taste of the glory days by visiting Earl Abel’s two kiosk locations at the Alamodome and the Boeing Center at Tech Port.