On the outskirts of San Marcos — in the quaint, beautiful town of Martindale — a relative newcomer has made its way onto the culinary scene and is turning heads.
Lori Holzapfel and Audrey Aguilar have teamed up to open a fantastic bistro-type eatery known as Shades Café & Coffee. Thanks to one of our readers suggestions, we made our way down Highway 80 just east of San Marcos and found the café.
Entering the establishment, diners are greeted with antiques and curios that take you back to a simpler time. The restaurant duo leased the front of the building to a mutual friend Bebie Cole, formerly of The Lockhart Shoppes on Main.
“Bebie was looking for a new space,” Holzapfel said. “We always say God dropped her right in our lap. We were happy to welcome Once Upon a Tyme to our location. Bebie’s taste, varied collection of antiques and gifts, and her staff, Debbie, Lupe, and Keith are assets to us. She is our ‘Cracker Barrel of Martindale.’”
Shades’ menu is short and simple and what they prepare is to perfection. On our visit I had the Rosemary chicken sandwich. The chicken was both tender and juicy served with a mustard aioli, roasted peppers, arugula, red onions, and pecorino Romano cheese. Oh, did I mention it was served on a made from scratch focaccia bread? On the side was homemade potato chips — and not the kind that are thick, greasy, and almost chewy. These were perfectly cooked and seasoned perfectly. On a scale of 1-10 this meal was off the scale.
Shades’ rosemary chicken sandwich — a juicy, chicken breast served with a mustard aioli, roasted peppers, arugula, red onions, and pecorino Romano cheese on homemade focaccia bread. Daily Record photos by Nick Castillo & Lance Winter
My dining partner opted for the Shades Hash from the breakfast portion of the menu. It came with two eggs, braised beef, potatoes, sautéed local greens, herbed butter, and salsa Verde.
“We opened on Feb. 1, with a chef, Audrey, me and two others. Five weeks later COVID hit hard,” Holzapfel said. “We began reducing staff until it was only Audrey and me, taking orders, cooking, then taking orders outside and cleaning up. We finally closed … temporarily.”
Holzapfel said they reopened with a new chef, as their previous chef had moved on and in came Carlos Cruz.
He is a self-taught, organized, determined, and exceptionally talented gentleman, with a background in Italian, German, Mexican and American cuisine,” she added. “He has a flair for creating dishes with wonderful, full flavor. Everything is created from scratch, including our fresh breads.”
Holzapfel said with the help of their family, they plowed ground to begin a community garden. A space where they could grow things for their own use, as well as offer locals a place to garden.
“Our most active gardener is our neighbor Don. We feel we are not only in the restaurant business, but in the people business,” she said. “We are grateful to continue relationships while forming new ones from Hays and Caldwell Counties and the people who travel Hwy. 80.”
The two restaurant entrepreneurs have worked together for more than 10 years, previously in a buffet setting. As partners say they have always cared about their customers and the atmosphere they create.
“Our vision was an inviting and comfortable atmosphere with quality food and coffee, partnering with local businesses,” Holzapfel said. “In addition, we care about our impact on the environment. We refuse to utilize Styrofoam, using only recyclable to-go products, all our cardboard, cans, and plastic are handled at Green Guy Recycling.”
If you go:
Shades Café and Coffee
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with availability for private events after hours.
17050 San Marcos Hwy, Martindale, TX 78655