I first heard Bombasta, San Antonio’s Barrio Big Band, at this year’s PACfest, Palo Alto College’s annual official Fiesta event. I was stopped in my tracks…but not for long. I got my cumbia groove on and danced my way through the college’s courtyard while harvesting the recycle bins set up next to each trash can. My shift went by in a flash, and I became an instant fangirl of the band.
During the music and radio segment of COMM 1307: Intro to Mass Communication, a course that provides an overview of all mass media, I played the above video for my students to show them how local musicians are able to showcase their talent across the globe, thanks to the Internet. One of my students asked if I’d been to the cafe featured in the video. I hadn’t, but I made a mental note to give it a try.
While doing research on another eatery, Blue Moon Mexican Restaurant, the friend I went with tweeted that she’d been introduced to a new South Side breakfast place. A friend of hers, a chef, tweeted back and asked if it was Mendez Cafe. I tweeted that it wasn’t, but that I’d like to visit Mendez since it is featured in the @Bombasta video. Robert Livar, the lead singer of Bombasta, tweeted and invited me to go whenever I’d like. You’ve gotta love social media.
I met Robert on Thursday, Dec. 5., at 8:30 a.m., and Mendez Cafe was packed. When the parking lot looks like a used car lot, you know the food must be good. It was. I ordered huevos rancheros, and Robert ordered breakfast tacos. He said the tortillas are just like the ones his abuela (grandmother), now deceased, used to make.
Lupe and Dolores Mendez opened their cafe at 201 Bartholomew, near Port San Antonio (the former Kelly AFB), in 1986. For the past 27 years, they’ve kept the folks of the South Side, and those who venture over from other parts of town, well fed. I told the Mendezes that their huevos rancheros were the best I’d ever had, and Lupe gave Dolores all the credit.
“It’s all made from scratch,” Lupe said, while giving Dolores a hug.
A plate of huevos rancheros with beans costs $2.99. Add potatoes, and it’ll cost you $3.49. Add bacon to the potatoes, and it’s $4.69. Breakfast tacos range from $1.29 to $2.19 each. Coffee is $1.39. Is San Antonio great or what?
While Robert and I ate breakfast, he gave me the scoop on Bombasta. They’ve been together for 10 years, but Robert has been in bands since he was 15. The “De La Calle” video was shot over two days in three locations and while driving around town. Robert wanted to tell a story rather than just do a concert video, so he storyboarded the whole project.
“I wanted the storyline to reflect the San Antonio I know, ” he said.
The tricycle is his, but Robert borrowed the car with flames from a guy in Boerne. Mendez Cafe opened their doors for the shoot, and Azneth Dominguez let the band use the now-shuttered Saluté for the dance sequence at the end.
Classes he took at Texas State University prepared him to do what he does for the band: writing, booking, managing, creating visual art, editing videos, distributing press releases and staying on top of social media. All of this while having a day job, a wife and two kids. James Brown doesn’t have anything on Robert.
Mendez Cafe is open Wednesdays through Mondays (closed on Tuesdays) from 7:15 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Their phone number is (210) 923-6603.