Aug 18, 2023 - Food and Drink

Little Red Barn marks six decades of steak in San Antonio

Two women, wearing western-themed outfits, to the left and right of a man in a suit.

Ralph Hernandez with daughters Nancy Hernandez (left) and Sandra Hernandez. Photo: Courtesy of Marissita Garcia

What started as a small meat market on the Southeast Side evolved into a San Antonio tradition called the Little Red Barn that's celebrating 60 years soon.

Why it matters: Little Red Barn, a steakhouse, is a household name in San Antonio that has been the backdrop of memories for generations of families.

Flashback: Ralph and Lili Hernandez expanded the meat market into a restaurant during the week of Labor Day in 1963.

  • The dining room had eight tables at the time.

Context: Little Red Barn can now accommodate 800 people. It is now run by Marissa Garcia and Nancy Hernandez, the daughters of the founders.

Three rows of women wearing western-themed uniforms.
Little Red Barn waitstaff. Photo: Courtesy of Marissita Garcia

Yes, but: While the business has grown, the restaurant's red wall filled with ranch names, simple (but beloved) salad, gold foil-wrapped baked potatoes and Western-themed uniforms have stayed the same.

What they're saying: Marissita Garcia, granddaughter of Ralph Hernandez, tells Axios the survival of the restaurant is a testament to how tight-knit her family is.

  • She says her grandfather's 2011 death and the pandemic were times that required the family to adapt to keep the restaurant going.
  • "As long as we were together as a family, we could survive anything," she tells Axios.
A woman stands in a huddle of women, signing autographs.
Former U.S. Treasurer Katherine Ortega at Little Red Barn. Photo: Courtesy of Marissita Garcia

Marissita Garcia shared some fun trivia about the iconic restaurant and the family behind it.

  • She says her grandparents originally opened a French concept called the Golden Steer before the unaffiliated Las Vegas business came about, but it did not survive.
  • The family home was once on the property.
  • The Little Red Barn still has an in-house butcher shop run by Jesse Martinez, who has worked there for 50 years.
  • The gold foil-wrapped baked potatoes were her grandmother's idea.

As for the famous cattle brand-filled walls? Garcia says the logos are added by request about twice a year.

What's next: The restaurant will offer a $60 prix fixe dinner for two with one side, a salad, dessert and a non-alcoholic drink Sept. 2-3 to celebrate the milestone.

  • Entree options are an 18-ounce sirloin, 8-ounce ribeye or a steak and shrimp combo.

The bottom line: Garcia says her family enjoys seeing generations of families come back to Little Red Barn and anticipates many more San Antonio memories.

  • "It's really nice to hear people say 'My grandfather brought me here and so I like to come here and bring my children so they know Little Red Barn,'" she says.
A group of five people stand outside a red restaurant building.
The Little Red Barn family. Photo: Courtesy of Embark Marketing

We asked readers on X (formerly Twitter) to share their memories of Little Red Barn.

  • Reader Tiffany T. said she has memories of "puro celebrations" that combined the birthdays of multiple family members at once.
  • "Always one of my favorite places as a kid growing up, I thought the giant menus brought to your tableside by the ladies in the western get-ups was so neat," Steven D. posted.
  • "Every time family comes in from out of state, we go to Little Red Barn. Can't get all of us to go to church together, but damn it we're all up and ready to go to LRB," Geneva S. said.
  • Read more memories here.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of the name of the granddaughter of Ralph Hernandez. It is Marissita Garcia, not Marissa Garcia, her mother.


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