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City Guide 2014

Historic Olmos Bar and Diner’s New Prescription for Fun

Photo: Orlando Cantu, License: N/A

Orlando Cantu

Photo: , License: N/A

A couple of years ago, Carlos Padilla was ready to give up on the Olmos Bharmacy. Owning a bar is an uphill climb, Padilla complained to a bar patron one Friday night. He was thinking about selling.

Later, the patron’s wife showed up and joined him at the bar. The couple talked for a while and left, then started coming regularly on Friday nights. Padilla thought nothing of it until the man told him that on the first night he came in, he and wife had been on the verge of divorce. They had both been walking alone and somehow ended up at the Olmos Bharmacy, where they patched things up and decided to move forward.

“He told me, ‘Now instead of arguing on Friday nights, we come here,’” Padilla said.

That’s when Padilla, 30, knew he had something special and he wasn’t struggling in a vacuum.

“I realized that this is a neighborhood effort, it’s not just me,” Padilla said. “I really appreciate the patrons, from the rich people in Olmos Park to the college students; it’s an eclectic community and they all support this place.”

As a former front man for a Latin pop band, live music has been part of Padilla’s prescription since 2010, when he bought the historic pharmacy on the corner of Hildebrand and McCullough and soda counter turned bar and restaurant. He has built a consistent following with jazz on Mondays, open mic on Tuesdays, songwriters on Wednesdays, Celtic nights on Thursdays and blues on Fridays.

The weekends see bigger bands such as the West Side Horns rocking the house, always visible through the curved glass windows and pink neon to those driving by the Olmos park corner.

In 2014, Padilla wants to take things in a new direction by playing up the past.

Come March, he’s changing the name to the Olmos Pharmacy Diner & Pub, a signal to folks that this place serves food from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Padilla bought a vintage 1950s soda machine to bring a nostalgic feel to the counter seating area and is renovating the interior with booths, chairs and tables.

Awnings will go up outside emblazoned with the new name.

“The whole Bharmacy terminology just confuses people. Is it a bar? Do they serve food?” Padilla said. “Our strong suit is our night crowd, but we want to build up our breakfast and lunch crowd by giving it more of a diner feel.”

The menu won’t change much, and neither will the live music at night. Padilla is happy with his hamburgers-and-pancakes fare (both come out of the kitchen smartly branded with an “Rx”), and the famous Guinness shake isn’t going anywhere. But he will add 10 beers on tap with a focus on San Antonio-area brewers such as Branchline and Alamo.

Invigorated by the changes, Padilla is also happy to have a new partner in Rod Campbell, a guitar player who hosted Irish Celtic nights at the bar for the past five years.

“He’s a great asset and a role model,” Padilla said. “We work well together.”

A religious man, Padilla has begun settling into the notion that God has called him to this little corner of Olmos Park.

“I’m not the kind of person who can do a nine-to-five job. I don’t know how I fit into that world. I get put in a place and fall in love with it and try to make it something special.”

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