The lunch options on Houston Street will get a significant boost on Friday with The Spot of Houston, a kind of midday food truck festival on the empty lot on Houston and Jefferson streets.
The participants are Lada Ladies (enchiladas), Bebere Ethiopian, Garbanzo (Mediterranean), Twisted Traditions (German, American, Asian and Italian), Ay Papi (Puerto Rican), Panifico Bake Shop and Estate Coffee. The gathering begins at 10 a.m.
Also, a mobile women's clothing store called Hola Beaches Airstream will sell its wares.
The event by Centro San Antonio is an attempt to activate a segment of Houston Street that's usually dormant. The activation is the second this summer, and stems from a public engagement process held by the International Downtown Association late last year in which stakeholders and residents brainstormed on how to breathe more life into Houston Street.
Many decades ago — and I mean like in the 1940s and '50s — Houston Street was home to San Antonio's largest retail stores. But in recent years, it has sputtered along despite attempts to revive it with public improvement projects, such as Tri-Party of the late '80s and '90s.
"Centro has always recognized Houston Street as one of our most storied and historical streets," said Liz Burt, Centro's director of placemaking and programming. "At one point it was compared to Fifth Avenue in New York. It has some great architectural bones, but it's had some ebbs and flows."
In the past 10 years, the pattern has been: retailer or restauranteur opens optimistically, then closes. Opens optimistically, then closes. Houston Street is somewhat active on weekdays, but not so much on nights and weekends. It has yet to really get into a rhythm.
There are signs of promise. On the corner of Houston and Jefferson streets alone, a pizza joint called Playland is scheduled to open in the Maverick apartment building in mid-July, and the historic Burns building is currently being remodeled into offices with restaurant space on the ground floor. Both of those buildings are owned by developer David Adelman.
The Alamo interpretive plan, which is currently going through a heated public process, recommends closing Houston Street from Broadway/Losoya Street to Third, and opening it up as an extension of the plaza. A few weeks ago, Revolucion Coffee + Juice opened at 300 E. Houston St. in a spot that has seen Moshe's Golden Falafel and Big Apple Bagels open and close in recent years. La Panaderia at 301 E. Houston St. opened a year ago and seems to be going strong. But that spot has been home to French, Italian and sushi in the last 10 years.
We'll explore Houston Street's future more in the coming months. For now, we wanted to let you know about the food trucks. This is an event that Centro will hold one more time this summer, July 27, and then consider bringing it back in the fall for perhaps the mornings or for happy hour, Burt said.
Also, the first 25 people who arrive on a SWell Cycle receive a free paleta from Steel City Pops.
Unfortunately, that offer doesn't apply to Bird scooter riders.
Featured photo by Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio