July 14, 2021 1215 PM
PRESIDIO — Last week, one of Presidio’s most popular restaurants, The Bean Cafe, served its first new plate after changing locations from 201 W. O’Reilly Street to 505 O’Reilly Street.
Across the street from Presidio City Hall, the newly furnished and decorated 3,300 ft. locale is an upgrade from the homespun 1,800 ft. original, which the owner, Hector Armendariz, described as a “hole in the wall.” The Bean’s food and joyful spirit, however, remain the same as its inception.
“We still consider serving our customers with a smile and our open arms,” he told The Presidio International last Friday. “Good food, good service, good atmosphere.”
Hector and his wife Sonia moved to Presidio 22 years ago. Prior to that, they’d been living in Alpine, where Hector worked for Big Bend Telephone. When his employer asked him to relocate to Presidio, he and his wife were just newlyweds, and his oldest daughter, Angela, was only a year old.
The family first opened the restaurant on June 1, 2014, when the now bustling restaurant had only 10 tables to serve. They started “from zero,” he said, calling friends and telling them about their breakfast, lunch and steak meals. Eventually, word began to spread out as more customers began coming through their doors for rancheros, fish and fajitas.
“That building was a little dilapidated, a little low,” he said. “People would come in like, ‘Well, we like your food, we like your service, but it’s always full.’”
With increased demand also came increased responsibilities. The restaurant has always been Hector’s second job. After being at Big Bend Telephone for 17 years, he began working for Homeland Security. More staff was hired after Hector realized he wouldn’t always be able to attend to clients and cooking became too much for Sonia to handle alone.
The restaurant went from a family affair between Hector, Sonia and Angela, to three dishwashers, five waitresses and five cooks. His two youngest daughters also began washing dishes when they turned 14. Now, he’s getting ready to send his second daughter, Alejandra, to college. Neither of them, he says, wants to take over the restaurant. Angela, who is 21, studied criminal justice at the El Paso Community College, while Alejandra, 18, is going into marketing. The couple’s youngest daughter, Adriana, is 14 but also has different plans for her future.
“They’re all like, ‘No! You’ve worked us to death. We can’t go back,’” he laughs. “But eventually, they’ll grow up, and they’ll get it. It’ll click, how life [is]. Right now, they’re just teenagers.”
Either way, Hector says, The Bean Cafe has always been a family operation — in large part due to his wife’s cooking, which he says is the “number one reason” people keep coming back to the eatery.
In Mexican culture, “There’s something very important called ‘sazón.’ Sazón is — you get that flavor. You get that from your grandma, from your past, from your great-grandma,” he explained. “I’ll create something. She tastes it and she goes, ‘No,’ and I’m like, ‘It needs something.’ She’ll come and do her thing — I tell her, her ‘voodoo’ things — and boom, it’s done.”
Relationships with regulars are important to the family. As Hector says, smiles and hugs “go a long way” for a community that he says has always responded well to his restaurant and its constant improvement.
“We’re only just trying to get out of the pandemic, but here I could go to a table and hug someone,” said Hector. “I have a compadre. Awesome man. You know, he comes in, and — big, ole bear hug. And that just makes my day.”
Future plans for the new locale also include a bar; Hector is currently working on obtaining a liquor license.
“The community here responds good,” he said. “We’re growing — slow, but we’re growing.”