Malt House demolition marks end of an era

SAN ANTONIO - The battle over a West Side restaurant finally ended Wednesday as demolition crews razed the old Malt House.

"It's so sad. Look at that! I mean... that's so sad," Mandi Vasquez said, as she watched what was left of the building being torn down.

"Crispy Dogs," she remembered. "You always had to have Crispy Dogs when you came here."

But the longtime restaurant at the busy corner of Zarzamora and Buena Vista was known to generations of San Antonians for more than just its Crispy Dogs, Chicken Fried Steak, burgers, fries and malts. It was also one of the places to hang out. For everything from going on a first date to giving politicians a piece of your mind. Inside or outside.

"You would always come out and park under their little shaded area there and get a car hop to come out to you and serve you and eat and... always really good food for a good price," Vasquez remembered.

"Where else are you gonna get a burger, fries and a drink for $3.99?"

The Malt House sign says it dates back to 1949, though other sources online say brothers D.J. and H.S. McEwen opened it at another location in 1946, and moved it to the building at 115 S. Zarzamora in 1955.

"It's sad because not only is the Malt House gone, Karam's is gone too," said Vasquez. "And those are... two restaurants around here that there's only certain foods that you can get from these restaurants. And you can't do that any more. They don't sell it anymore. So it's sad."

The building had been empty for more than a year and the owners say it had been unprofitable as a restaurant for several years before that.

The City of San Antonio officially declared it a historic landmark in 2013, but in 2016 the Historic Design and Review Commission took up the issue of what should happen to it. At the time, the owners said it may be a cultural landmark, but as a building, it was not architecturally significant. Despite protests, the commission eventually OK'd demolition.

It's unclear when we'll see new construction on the site. The last published plan was for a new convenience store to be built there, that would incorporate the Malt House sign.

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