Iconic NM Restaurants: Owl Bar & Cafe

Updated: 04/09/2014 7:54 PM | Created: 04/09/2014 7:27 PM
By: Jorge Torres, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It may not look like much, but a small bar in southern Socorro County has brought in thousands upon thousands of visitors since the end of World War 2.

The owner has seen her small business explode into a world famous restaurant.

Welcome to the Owl Bar in San Antonio. It's been in Rowena Baca's family since the Great Depression.

Before it started feeding hungry mouths, the Owl Bar was initially a grocery store that Rowena's grandfather started until a top secret project changed the world and the Owl forever.

"The guys that detonated the first atomic bomb were working out of the north end of White Sands. They wanted something hot and cold, like cold beer after they came from the desert when they were working there all day long. That's how the bar got started," Baca said.

Frank Chavez, Rowena's father, took over the restaurant in '45. He and his wife Dee were night owls, hence the name.

Rowena has her own idea as to why it's called the Owl, and it goes back to a childhood memory of the night life when the walls of the restaurant weren't covered with pictures and patches, but with slot machines.

"I remember there was some kind of a grapevine that all the people that had slots would call each other up when the inspectors were coming and daddy would go and cover them up with tarps. When the inspector came in, he'd give them a bottle of whiskey and he'd sign a paper, and that was it. That was the inspection," Rowena said.

Those days are long gone now, but customers still fork over the cash, but now it's for the great food, especially the Owl Burger, which is made with only the best.

What's the secret to the delicious taste? The simple answer is that everything's fresh, according to Baca.

"They're not used to fresh stuff. Everything's frozen in all the other places. That's the only thing i can figure out," Rowena said.

It's that fresh taste that has people coming back for more, and it's Rowena's pleasure to keep feeding them.

"I come and stay here 12 to 13 hours every day and when I get home I miss it. I'm looking out the window to see who's there and if there's somebody there I know, then I come running back," Rowena said with a smile on her face.

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