atole: mi tierra cafe y panaderia

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

a special cup

 It was 4:30 in the morning when we pulled into San Antonio.  We'd been on the road for 3 hours, already.  We were hungry, but we're almost never hungry for a chain restaurant, and this being a birthday breakfast, not any ordinary pancake house was appropriate. There was only one place for us.  The place for the hungry, choosy nocturnal.  Mi Tierra Cafe and Panaderia.  Because Mi Tierra never closes.

There are two indications that we have finally grown up.  1.  We are actually
stopping, instead of avoiding, exact location at which downtown policeman are
camped, and 2. We were up early, instead of up late, at the same time.

Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia is the heart of Market Square, and has been since 1941.  Pete and Cruz Cortez opened the 3-table establishment in downtown San Antonio as a place for early-rising farmers and mercado workers to catch a hearty breakfast, and now serves that breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner, 24 hours a day.  It continues to be a culinary custom for tourists and Texans, alike, eager for the lively, and yes, garish hospitality, as well as a taste for tacos, tortillas, tasty sweets, colossal margaritas, and more.

Although clearly in that period of prepping for a busy day ahead, we were greeted warmly, and received the same courteous, professional, and timely service one hopes to experience anytime of the day.  One large table of law enforcement, and our small booth were the only one's occupied, but we were not forgotten in the predawn bustle.

I arrived with a craving for comfort which I thought only one thing would provide. The corn masa beveredge, Atole.  I had been thinking of it since we'd left home.  You know how you get your head set on that one thing, to the exclusion of all else?  I was to discover, unfortunately, that atole was not on the menu.   Disappointed, but coffee still sounded good, so I settled, and continued down the menu.  Imagine my surprise when the waiter returned with a warm cup of atole!  Seems as though I had a little angel in the kitchen who's grandmother made atole for him, and that morning, he made it for me.  I'm not sure if it was the drink itself, or the gesture which made me so happy to wrap my hands around the warm cup.


Mexican Atole

A warm almost porridge-like drink made thick with masa. The chocolate version is Champurrado, other versions are flavored with fruits or nuts. This version is sweetened with piloncillo (Mexican unrefined brown sugar), cinnamon (canela), and vanilla bean.
Yield: 5-6 Servings
1/2 cup fresh masa (corn dough) or 1/2 cup masa flour (masa harina) mixed with a 1/4 cup hot water to blend
5 cups water (maggie's note: or milk, for a richer drink.)
3 - 4 tablespoons piloncillo, chopped or 1/4 cup brown sugar plus 2 teaspoons molasses
1 stick cinnamon (canela)
1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise) (maggie's note: alternatively, 1-2t vanilla extract)
Optional, about 1 cup fresh strawberries or pineapple chunks
Place the water and the masa into the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium sized saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the pan and add the cinnamon stick. Stir the mixture until it begins to thicken. Add the piloncillo or (or sugar, molasses combination) and continue to stir vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat.
At this point you could add pureed fruit such as strawberries or pineapple. Remove the cinnamon stick. If desired, stir the fruit into the mixture and return it to the stove and heat over medium heat until the mixture is warmed. Remove the vanilla bean and serve hot, in mugs.
courtesy of

For the full Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia review,

The special attention did not end there.  Our waiter made sure we had chips for the salsa de molcajete ordered, although they are not customarily served at breakfast.  Our drinks were refilled frequently, and we were checked on at thoughtful intervals.  Our breakfasts arrived with each detail attended to; corn tortillas for me, flour for the birthday boy, overeasy for him, sunnyside up for me.

We ordered  two full breakfasts, Campesino de Barbacoa, and the Mi Tierra Special Breakfast with Carne De Puerco en Chile Cascabel.  The eggs were cooked to perfection, and the tortillas were handmade, and fantastic.  More standard than outstanding were the sides, refried beans were a bit dry and lacking distinctive flavor, and potatoes were underseasoned.  The barbacoa was preferred to the carne de puerco by both of us, although both were tender and moist.  The chips were the thicker, larger tostaditas customary as one travels further south and were the perfect vehicle for a milder than expected, yet excellent, salsa de molcajete. 

The good-natured, garish, and gregarious decor is admittedly, a bit jarring at 5am.  Of course neon is a bit jarring at 5am.  'Welcome to Mi Tierra' is a bit jarring at 5am.  The walk to the door, the rattling of dishes,  the loud whirrrr of a vacuum cleaner...well, you get the picture.  I must disclose that I am not a morning person. It was helpful being tucked in a cool booth, out of the harsh glare. Thankfully, no mariachi performs at that time, although they can be found there when most sane people dine.  

Mi Tierra did not disappoint.  While I won't say that Mi Tierra is the best Mexican food in town, it is quite tasty, and I can assure you a good value (Under $20 for the two of us), excellent service, an over-the-top celebratory atmosphere that promises to impress the out-of-towners, a full belly and a happy plate.  When we take those enjoyable little day trips to the visit the Missions and stroll the Riverwalk, we, and any guests we have in tow, can likely be found, for at least one meal, or a bakery treat, or an early evening margarita and chips, at the heart of the Market,  Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia.

Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia

218 Produce Row
San Antonio, TX 78207-4554
(210) 225-1262

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  1. I don't think you could experience San Antonio without this historical establishment . I can never leave without a big box of all those gorgeous candied fruits. Great post!

  2. Thank you! I'm going to have to try some of those next time we're down there. Thinking of spending my near-Christmas birthday on the Riverwalk this year. So pretty with all the lights.


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