Best spots to grab a quick bite in San Marcos

Jo’s Cafe: A photo essay on the dining experience at Jo’s, as I follow customers Adriana Choueiry and Tamara Solomon as they enjoy a Saturday brunch.

Mochas and Javas: Keeping with the theme of best spots to grab a quick bite in San Marcos, this is Mochas and Javas located a mere minutes from campus. They serve a variety of pastries, salads, plates, sandwiches and a large range of coffee. Follow along as I speak to barista Shelby Hudson and customers Julia Seagroves and AJ Byers.

Blue Dahlia Bistro: This is an article on the dining experience at the Blue Dahlia, including its beginning stages in 2007 to the range of dishes the bistro serves.

Blue Dahlia Bistro at 107 E Hopkins St. in San Marcos, Texas on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

Blue Dahlia Bistro: the city’s culinary gem

As the residents of San Marcos finish a stressful week of school and work, they look forward to a weekend on the square of bar hopping, shopping and dining. Known for its blue hues and European-style dishes at 107 E Hopkins St., the city’s go-to brunch spot sits, ready to serve the vibrant community, where the laughter of locals intertwines with the spirited conversations of students.

This is the Blue Dahlia.

This local spot first opened its doors in East Austin in 2007 after Owner Amy Ramirez traveled across Europe and was inspired by the delicacy of the food in those countries. 

“I just wanted to bring back that simple, beautiful, healthy food that I would see around,” Ramirez said to Community Impact. “My friend and I just decided to try and open a restaurant, and it actually happened.”

Since then, the establishment opened its West Lake Hills location in 2012 and the San Marcos location in 2017, where it has continued to incorporate a European touch and prides itself on locally sourcing their ingredients. It serves a variety of tartines, open sandwiches, salads, soups and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, ranging from teas to cocktails. Although they maintain the same variety of items year-long, the ingredients change depending on one thing.

The seasons. 

“For example now, in winter, we make the Pumpkin Bisque and we start offering that in November and December,” said Back-Of-House Worker and Server Jackie Salazar. 

Amy’s husband and Blue Dahlia co-owner Sam Ramirez, adds a distinctive touch to the brunch spot’s culinary tapestry with his Mexican heritage. Infusing the menu with a rich array of flavors inspired by his roots, Sam brings an authentic taste.

From Mexico to East Hopkins Street. 

The Blue Dahlia has a range of Hispanic-inspired items from a savory Calabacita stew to mouthwatering tacos, each dish reflects a fusion of tradition and innovation, creating a dining experience that pays homage to Sam’s cultural background while embracing the diverse palates of the local community. 

“Whether it be from Texas, Austin or here in San Marcos, our owner tries to source those ingredients locally,” Salazar said. “[The ingredients] aren’t traveling a long way, so we’ll get our produce, fruits and vegetables while they’re still fresh, and that adds to the overall dining experience.” 

The Parisian breakfast sandwich is a staple on Blue Dahlia’s menu and a crowd favorite at the San Marcos location. Its simple yet flavorful ingredients, a baguette with ham, havarti and butter, were inspired by the Ramirez’s trip to Paris when they tried the dish at several cafes there.

The staff at the Blue Dahlia found that fostering a sense of collaboration between one another has translated into the welcoming environment the place has for every customer who walks through their glass doors. For example, Salazar began her job at the Blue Dahlia two years ago after frequenting the restaurant so much that she became a regular. Having been a stay-at-home mom before then, she was able to find an uplifting community through her job and that feeling has only prospered since. 

“I feel like the most rewarding part about working there is the people,” Salazar said. “I’ve made so many lifelong friends there.”

Part-Time Manager and Server Alec Brinneman, who also began working at Blue Dahlia two years ago, believes the hiring manager does a good job of bringing on people who add to that sense of teamwork and camaraderie. 

“Everyone’s happy to be at work and that reflects onto the service that we do,” Brinneman said. 

While the bistro has a variety of seating options ranging from indoor to outdoor, all its locations are known for the enchanting, tucked-away oasis adorned with flowers and shaded by ancient oaks– a tranquil setting for a secluded dining experience.

They call it the “secret garden.”

As Brinneman looks back on the various events that unfolded in the garden, he appreciates the warm and intimate atmosphere it created.

“A lot of people like to have parties [in the secret garden], whether it’s birthday parties or something else,” Brinneman said. “We’ve even had people propose in the garden before.”

The San Marcos Blue Dahlia’s operating hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Like the rest of the square on the weekend, the Blue Dahlia has a busy crowd during peak hours, which is usually Saturday and Sunday brunch and Friday dinner. The cozy bistro overflows with the vibrant energy of the customers, clinking cutlery and the delightful aroma of sizzling dishes as friends and families gather, turning the bustling space into a lively hub of communal joy. On those days, the restaurant has made up to $7,000 in sales, but that varies. Other times, they’ve made $2,000 and on slower days it can be even lower.

“The manager will come around and be like “oh we made $700 today,’ and we’d think ‘oh it was that slow,’” Salazar said. “So we determine how busy the place gets on those numbers.”

Nestled in the heart of San Marcos, the Blue Dahlia becomes more than a place on the square; it’s a culinary haven where stories unfold, laughter reverberates and the vibrant energy of the community converges. Whether it’s a leisurely brunch or a lively evening in the enchanting garden, the Blue Dahlia invites customers to savor not just the flavors but the rich tapestry of moments that make it a cherished part of the city.

Data: This is an accumulation of three different data elements, an infographic, regular map and story map, encapsulating the three spots I already discussed as well as bringing in some new ones.

This is information accumulated on the sales and number of transactions at Mochas and Javas, Jo’s Cafe and Blue Dahlia Bistro.

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