Drive-Thru Done Right

 
An enchilada combo plate from the Malt House (Photo by Laura MacKenzie)

The Malt House serves up Mexican & Southern on the cheap

What would you expect from a place called the Malt House? If your answer is a thick, syrupy malt topped with whipped cream and a cherry, think again. The Malt House serves homestyle dishes simply made - meaning that the malts in question are actually just cups of soft-serve frozen yogurt - doused with a healthy topping of Hershey's if you order chocolate. Apart from this unusual deviation - after all, the beverage is the institution's namesake! - the Malt House doesn't stray from the traditional definitions of the dishes on its menu.

Pull into the parking lot on Zarzamora and Commerce, and turn on your lights if you'd like to eat in your car. But since it's a bitter cold February, you would do better to go inside and cozy up to a plate of enchiladas. The atmosphere is friendly and chaotic - filled with families during dinner, coworkers and cops during lunch, and party-goers late at night. And the food - if not sophisticated or exotic, is just right for a cold San Antonio day. The prices are downright

 
Sliced limes rest atop a basket of tortilla chips at the Malt House (Photo by Laura MacKenzie)

archaic - $2.64 for a cheeseburger and french fries plate, and an amazing $1.60 for a "Bar-B-Q Bun" that rivals the Pig Stand in terms of sweet sauce-laden meat smothered with diced onions and thick, corrugated pickle slices. The fried chicken is a bit dry, but a healthy dose of brown gravy will cure that. It's meant for the golden, buttery mashed potatoes that it graces, but the gravy is too tasty to be held to just one purpose - dunk your Texas toast and your roll in there as well.

While the food tempts, it's the history of the place that is the main draw: It's been a San Antonio institution since 1949. Couples have courted under its corrugated steel carports for decades. With a tray of homestyle food attached to the driver's side à la Fred Flintstone, and beer brought out to your car, it's hard to imagine a better spot for drive-thru romance. •

The Malt House

115 S. Zarzamora
433-8441
Hours: 7am-11pm Sun-Thu, 7am-midnight Fri & Sat
Price range: $3-8
Major credit cards
Handicapped accessible
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