“Que Sera, Sera,” the Spanish phrase popularized from the famed Doris Day song (which translates to “What will be, will be”), is painted in blue cursive outside Barrio Barista Coffeehouse. The message sets the relaxed, familial tone of the popular coffeehouse revitalizing the Westside. Established by entrepreneur Gilbert De Hoyos, Sr. the original Barrio Barista Coffeehouse building structure has been through many iterations and two De Hoyos generations. In 1968, José De Hoyos, Gilbert’s father, bought the building and turned it into De Hoyos Meat Market. The market ran until 1983, then it “became an ice house, a bar, and a bar” says De Hoyos. During this time, working in contract manufacturing in Mexico City, Gilbert was asked to be a part of a pharmaceutical marketing association which provided FDA and quality control training. In hindsight, this experience helped inform the successful execution of an idea he had in 2012 to create Barrio Barista Coffeehouse. After spending nearly two years preparing the building and business plan, doors opened on February 14, 2014.
Today, Barrio Barista Coffeehouse has become a legitimate happening spot not just for nearby St. Mary’s University students, but for the community at large who congregate for fresh coffee, culture and conversation. I ran into two Latina academics, Dr. Adrianna M. Santos, assistant professor of English at TX A&M University and Dr. Nicole A. Lopez while waiting to talk to Gilbert Sr. and Gilbert Jr. about the coffeehouse. We spoke at length about finding a venue to share Dr. Lopez’s profiles of the mariachi community (her father is a member) and the needed intersection of meditation and the working class.
Certainly a popular venue for graduation parties, weddings, baby showers and other special events, the space seats 70 to 80 comfortably, not counting the outdoor patio area that was added in 2015 with the support of Westside Development Corporation, which provided a matching grant and assisted with blueprints, building permits and related fees. There are a variety of seating styles – bar stools, where you can see your coffee be made while chatting with the barista, standard chairs situated at large tables for big groups, comfortable sofas framing coffee tables with reading materials (including La Prensa Texas) and booths, each equipped with a smart television, (reminiscent of the now old-fashioned “tabletop jukebox machines” that allowed diners to play music at individual booths). Guests also have access to free WIFI, chess and checker boards and weekly open-mic poetry readings every Wednesday night, 7-10PM, which is soon to be accompanied by live brass music (“Jazz and a cup of Joe”).
Coffee beans are purchased from the oldest roasting company in San Antonio, “What’s Brewing,” and roasted fresh on a weekly basis, a must-have for true coffee aficionados who know that the first seven days is the best time to brew and drink fresh roasted coffee. In addition to cappuccinos, macchiato, lattes, espressos, and other standard coffee fare, there are also popular beverages like coconut water, orange, beet and green fresh-squeezed juices, fruit smoothies, Mexican hot chocolate and teas. Barrio Barista Coffeehouse is also notably, “home of the Barbacoa Cheese Sandwich” (a Gilbert Jr. creation of Texas toast with barbacoa, avocado and cheese, voted the “Best Cheese Sandwich in Texas” by Yelp reviewers as profiled by Buzzfeed – https://bzfd.it/2fFsaT4) and “Horchata coffee,” the latter which I tried and loved. There are also of course, accompanying pastries and a great menu of edibles made in a full kitchen. There’s breakfast fare – tacos, croissants, blueberry flapjacks, (which I vow to return for), sweet potato hash, veggie omelets and pecan raisin oatmeal. Lunch fare includes vegan and regular burgers, barbacoa, bean and cheese and even vegan tacos filled with a variety of grilled vegetables. Weekday specials are also available offering traditional fare such as meatloaf, pot roast and chicken salad sandwiches. To-go orders (coffee is $1), gift cards and student discounts are also available.
Gilbert Sr. and his family have decorated the interior and exterior with fencing material and other pieces kept from a brief stint working in the demolition industry, adding to the genuine authenticity of the spot. Inside, a light projector sends rays of transforming, colorful lights to the ceiling while jazz music plays in the background, keeping the mood light and fun. There are unique items like a slot machine (called “BEAT IT”), paintings for sale from local artists (Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator” is one and others with messages like, “Love your colores,” and “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”). There is a framed photo of Jose De Hoyos with the HEB founder, acknowledging the roots of the coffeehouse, a black and white poster of Marilyn Monroe lifting weights on a bench in a bra top and jeans. There’s also a mix of unique items encased in glass by the entrance including a quote from 1920s actress Mae West that reads, “When I’m good, I’m really good, and when I’m bad, I’m better”. Vintage typewriters and coffee machines from all eras line sections of walls. Social media presence, graphics (such as a computerized coffee cup in black with a red and white background made to resemble the United Farm Workers flag) and espresso art design are the stead of Gilbert Jr., who left his career in banking to work full time at Barrio Barista Coffeehouse.
Witnessing the success of Barrio Barista Coffeehouse, Gilbert Sr. was asked why he didn’t create the coffeehouse in gentrified South Town. He told me that it was “always his intention to open it in the Westside in order to create a place for the community to go to that would help enrich and revitalize the community. My purpose in life is to serve others and to be my brother’s keeper. Everyone should have purpose in life and mine is business and in ministry,” De Hoyos tells me. This is otherwise known as “BAM” (business and ministry), which is not affiliated to organized religion and only promotes helping your neighbors. As such, he is a “advocate of the coffee community association, which exists on national and local levels. I see this generosity of spirit in action at the Westside Development Corporation “Westside Business Alliance” initiative kick-off meeting, when I caught Gilbert Sr. offering to guide a young entrepreneur interested in opening a coffeehouse like his that would serve as a genuine place for the community to gather. In fact, he urges “anyone looking to start a coffee business to contact him,” for guidance and comradery. In the future, Gilbert Sr. would like to expand Barrio Barista Coffeehouse to sell cold press juices, herbal remedies and provide franchise opportunities to the community he serves.
Business Hours: CLOSED MON-TUE; Open Wed-Sun 8AM-3PM. Kitchen closes at 2pm. https://www.barriobarista.coffee/ 3735 Culebra Rd., San Antonio, Texas 78228; 210-519-5403
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