I adore Tex Mex cuisine. Growing up in Texas, it was a weekly (daily?) staple in our home. Breakfast tacos, ground beef chalupas, taco soup with all the fixings, and homemade flour tortillas were a few of my childhood favorites. This fusion fare, which came from the Tejano people of Texas, is, quite frankly, delicious. It’s no surprise that visiting popular Tex Mex restaurants like Mi Tierra in San Antonio is one of my favorite things to do.
But I also approach most restaurants with a heavy dose of skepticism. After all, Mi Tierra is located at Historic Market Square (a must-see destination for San Antonio visitors) and the large-scale restaurant markets itself to SA tourists who are looking for Tex Mex cuisine.
It’s also a really old restaurant. Not that an old restaurant = a tourist trap, but I’ve been to plenty of 100-year-old restaurants that rely on their age, not their quality, to draw in diners.
Plus, we all know that Tex Mex cuisine in tourist destinations can be a big “meh.”
I had been to Mi Tierra once before (about a decade ago with my sisters) but I desperately wanted to check it out again. Is Mi Tierra a tourist trap?
Mi Tierra Café y Panadería: The Story
Mi Tierra is really old. It started in 1941 as a 3-table cafe that was purchased for $150. Now it’s a multi-room Tex Mex restaurant near that seats about 500 people.
The beloved Cortez family has owned this restaurant from the very beginning. Even though the original owner, Pedro, died in 1984, Mi Tierra is still owned by Pedro and Cruz Cortez’s children and grandchildren.
Mi Tierra used to be a 24-hour restaurant. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that, but Mi Tierra is still open from 8 am - 10 or 11 pm. Breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner are all acceptable times to stop by Mi Tierra for a beverage and a meal.
Dining At Mi Tierra
Mi Tierra is just a little overwhelming to the senses. Walk in the doors from El Mercado and you’ll immediately be greeted by an altar with photos of the deceased. These are former employees at Mi Tierra, family members, and other beloved San Antonio residents. It’s a way for visitors to pay respects to those who have passed away before moving into the restaurant for a meal.
Then you’ll walk into the panaderia. You could definitely just stop by and grab some coffee and pastries for your morning, if you’re in a hurry. From conchas to scones to tres leches cake, everything I’ve tried at this bakery is absolutely delectable.
Nope. No tourist traps here. Don José, the master baker at Mi Tierra, has more than 50 years of baking experience. The menu is robust and you’ll probably want to try a bit of everything behind that pastry case.
Mi Tierra doesn’t take reservations, so if you decide to move past the bakery and into the restaurant, you’ll have to put your name on the list.
If you dine on a weekday, you’ll probably be seated immediately. (This restaurant seats 500 people, after all!)
And if there’s a wait, don’t worry: the list moves fast. Grab a margarita at the bar while you wait.
“The American Dream” Mural at Mi Tierra
This HUGE mural is one of the coolest things about Mi Tierra.
There are multiple dining rooms at Mi Tierra. The final room (furthest away from the bakery entrance) is home to “The American Dream” mural.
This is a floor-to-ceiling mural that spans multiple walls. It was originally created by Jorge Cortez to honor the success achieved by Don Pedro Cortez (the original owner) through his hard work and determination. Hence the name “The American Dream.”
But the mural has grown in scope and size. It spans multiple walls and it is seen as a way to honor Hispanic politicians, celebrities, and leaders. You’ll probably recognize many of the faces: Eva Longoria, Carlos Santana, and Henry B. Gonzalez are just a few of them.
The Food at Mi Tierra
This is where Mi Tierra sets itself apart from all those tourist trap restaurants on the Riverwalk.
Tex-Mex food is full of ground beef, cheese, and corn. It’s typically seasoned with cumin chili seasoning, and margaritas are always offered frozen or on the rocks.
All this to say: keep in mind that this is Tex Mex. It’s supposed to be casual and fun. This is not “fancy food.” A lot of it tastes the same.
That being said, Mi Tierra knows their niche and they perform really well.
The free chips that are placed on your table are fresh and crisp, all hot and shiny from the oil. They’re lightly salted and quite a step above the chips you’ll receive at a place like Cafe Rio on the Riverwalk.
All the corn and flour tortillas are made in-house. The tortillas are quite impressive at Mi Tierra! The hot tortillas I received with my meal were fresh, thick and fluffy, and softly dusted with flour. (Personal opinion: I think that you can tell a lot about a Tex-Mex restaurant by tasting a bite of the flour tortillas and a bite of the refried beans.)
The beef enchiladas that I ordered were delivered quickly and plated beautifully on a large blue ceramic plate. They were delicious! Not in the “that-was-the-most-memorable-meal-of-my-life” sort of way, but in the “I-love-Tex-Mex-cuisine” sort of way.
Oh, and be sure to get a margarita. They’re offered in two sizes: grande and jumbo, so you win either way.
Is Mi Tierra In San Antonio A Tourist Trap?
Mi Tierra isn’t a tourist trap. Not in the slightest. This food is MUCH better than what you’ll find on the Riverwalk, and the experience of dining in this beautiful, historic restaurant is an absolute blast.
Mi Tierra has made a point to honor and preserve the hispanic heritage in San Antonio, which is so important.
Sure, the servers are dressed up and that feels a little bit cheesy. But other than that, Mi Tierra is simply a larger-than-life historic Tex Mex restaurant in San Antonio that sells excellent pastries, makes their own tortillas, and offers a fun and memorable meal at all hours of the day.
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