New to San Antonio, I happened upon the Pig Stand by chance. Tucked away downtown amongst highways 35, 37 and 281, it's a part of my daily drive home. Its kitschy, run-down exterior screamed for my attention, leering at me with flickering neon signs and lunch-pail vibes.
For two months, I drove right by it, noting weekend car shows and parking lot swaps. I peered through foggy windows and commented on its greasy-spoon charm. One day, I finally gave in to my gut, took that left turn, and entered the magical world of Pig Stand #29.
The first Pig Stand opened to much fanfare in 1921. Located in Dallas, Kirby's Pig Stand was founded by the ever entrepreneurial Jessie G. Kirby. Deeming Americans too lazy to get out of their cars to eat, Kirby invented something that would become an American icon, the drive-in restaurant. His creation would go down in history as Pig Stand #1.
Almost a century later, the last Pig Stand, my Pig Stand, stands triumphantly rooted in San Antonio's rapidly changing downtown. Once just one of more than a hundred Pig Stand franchises, Mary Ann's Pig Stand, or Pig Stand #29, is a monument to American diner culture.
My dining partner and I were greeted by a sweet, down-home waitress who quickly showed us to a booth that, like all the others, featured its own mini-jukebox. Patsy Cline's "Crazy For Loving You" smoothly poured out of the speakers as I strolled by a series of chocolate cakes under glass and a row of worn-in stools at the counter. It all felt so right.
The decor is run down as all hell, with blacked-out neon letters in its retro sign, scratched up black and white tiles in its genuine checkerboard floor, and gaudy, dusty pig figurines tucked into every cranny.
We went ahead and asked the waitress for recommendations. She rattled off timeless favorites such as chicken fried steak, fish and chips, and the famous pig sandwich. Salivating at the thought of everything, we gave in to the pig sandwich as well as the bacon cheeseburger combo, french fries, onion rings (a Pig Stand invention), fried okra, a strawberry malt, and a black cow.
To be completely honest with you, everything was exceptional. This is a diner. A classic, all-American homestyle diner. You don't come here for fois gras and roasted duck. You come here for crispy, drool-worthy french fries, smoky, flavorful sandwiches, and a shitty cup of coffee.
Everything tastes just how you would like it to and the portions are heaping and greasy.
The chipped corners and red wrinkled bar stools are proud battle wounds for this lone ranger of a restaurant. Having survived decades upon decades of financial struggles, competition from faux diner chains (there's an IHOP just down the street), and various owners, this local gem has survived on pure customer loyalty and tradition. There must be something to that.
Mary Ann's Pig Stand
Best Bets The famous pig sandwich, a real chocolate malt, and the crispiest french fries you'll ever taste.
Hours 7am-11pm, Sun-Thur; 7am-2am, Fri-Sat