Huevos rancheros with a side of beer

Annette Olivarez, granddaughter of the restaurant's namesake, MK Davis, shows off a basket of Crispy Dogs, which go down well with a schooner of Shiner. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Dining like a progressive in the land of cotton

One recent morning, we woke at the crack of dawn, rubbed our eyes, washed our ears and - acting on an anonymous tip - set out for Mi Tierra Café & Bakery in search of Democrats. (Truth be told, we slept through our alarms and went a wee bit later than might be prudent for those hoping to catch a work-a-day Democrat at breakfast.)

Arriving at Mi Tierra at 8 a.m., we were greeted by a long, gleaming pastry counter - I was sorely tempted by the flower-shaped galletas with jam centers - and Ernesto who, with the serene demeanor of a butler, led us patiently past the sweets and into the main dining hall. The patrons were mostly elderly couples, except for a large table of business-casual men bellied-up to waning breakfast platters and laughing loudly.

The unsuspecting Ernesto seated us within earshot. We weren't shameless enough to eavesdrop, really, but we could hope the odd word might waft in our direction.

In the meantime, we perused the menu, a savory selection of classics: chorizo Mexicano con huevo, chilaquiles famosos, menudo, and the like. They do have pancakes, but what little remained on our suspected Democrats' plates resembled beans more than syrup.

I ordered huevos rancheros, which came with two eggs, breakfast potatoes that were only just better than regulation, some superbly lardy refried beans, and the longest strip of bacon I've ever seen. Curiously, the latter was stretched across the plate, with one ring of onion balanced on top of it. The whole thing was delicious in a flour tortilla with ample amounts of the salsa molcajete (which must be ordered separately for an extra 75 cents). DC ordered the machacado omelette, a scramble of shredded beef jerky, grilled jalepeños, and tomatoes. She declared the beef tasty, but lamented the watery eggs, which thinned out the overall flavor.

Next time, we might skip the huevos and build our own continental with the fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee - which is strong and good - and pan fino empanada. Or not eat at all. The densely packed décor at Mi Tierra is almost sustenance in itself. Our putative subjects were seated under a shimmering sky of gently swaying silver papel picados. What better way for a Democrat to start the day? Even from the sidelines we could see that to sit there was to look up and have that pie-in-the-sky pageant feeling that anything is possible. If that wasn't proof enough, we did overhear this snippet of conversation:

Mi Tierra
CafÉ & Bakery

218 Produce Row
24 hours
Price Range: $5-15
Major credit cards
Handicapped Accessible

MK Davis
Restaurant & Bar

1302 N. Flores
Price Range: $4.25-11.95
Major credit cards
Handicapped Accessible
"There's no playground in the design."

"How can the city get away with that?"

"No green space, no playground - at an elementary school!"

Later that same day ...

Our appetites whetted by our close encounter with the species, we repaired for happy hour to MK Davis Dinner Lounge on South Flores, where the Midwestern KC-Hall elegant décor and giant schooners of beer bespeak a blue-collar clientele. Plus, we'd heard from embedded sources that MK Davis' long wooden bar is often roost to left-leaning politicians and their campaign machines.

Arriving at MK Davis just as a crush of families and co-workers began to press in the door, we were seated in a cramped booth with an unimpeded view of the wood ballisters, flocked red-and-dinge wallpaper, and plastic-cast coats of arm that keep the place suitably dark for wheeling, dealing, and dishing.

I settled into the monogrammed wood bench and ordered a Dos Equuis, the most exotic brew on the menu. DC felt compelled to try the house "wine cooler." Served in the junior schooner and rimmed in scarlet salt, it tastes like a watered-down berry margarita. Just the drink, as it turned out, for our medical-intern friends, who arrived in time to polish off the last Crispy Dog. Hotdogs stuffed with cheese, wrapped in a corn tortilla and deep-fried, Crispy Dogs are a pharmaceutical company's wet dream: If regular contact with these doesn't cause high blood pressure, I don't know what does.

Being from the school of scientific evidence, our companions weren't content to sniff the ether for the presence of Democratic politicos, but cornered our waitress instead. She averred that lefties did indeed dine there. Was she herself a Democrat? "You bet I am, hon," she said moving back through the crowded room armed with a platter of schooners. •

By Susan Pagani and Elaine Wolff

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