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Restaurant Details

When Jerry Torres and his wife Edina opened a small mom-and-pop Mexican joint called the Taco Hut on South Presa Street in 1969, they didn't know there was another restaurant by the same name on nearby Goliad Street. When Jerry discovered the duplication, they searched for a new title. "We wanted something that meant people could feel relaxed, somewhere you would feel at home," recalls the 70-year-old patriarch of the immense Torres clan. Eventually, they decided on Taco Haven. ;Ask 77-year-old Pauline Patnode, who has been eating as many as three meals a day at Taco Haven for 30 years, and she'll call it both a heaven for the food and a haven for the company. Patnode, who runs ABC Tailor Shop just a few doors north of the restaurant, like many who live and work downtown and on the near South Side, probably lost a few pounds the weeks Taco Haven closed this spring for remodeling. "It was horrible," she exclaims. "Sometimes they would bring me some tacos from one of the other stores, but it was just horrible that I couldn't go there." From the packs of artists recovering from First Friday weekend debauchery with Sunday migas to Brackenridge kids skipping class to CPS guys making the rounds, Southtown was a neighborhood in withdrawal. It was also worried. There is a strange and fierce loyalty among San Antonians for a chosen spot for carne asada, and Taco Haven is a place where loyalty runs deep. How dare they change? Will they get fancy? Will the prices go up? Rest assured that these days Patnode is back in her favorite booth before 8 a.m. and, by most accounts, all is well in TACO COUNTRY (as the giant mural still proclaims on the side of the building). - Jenny Browne

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