Five nights before the grand opening, the parking lot was jammed. The next night was the same. “I call those our guinea pig runs,” joked David Chiu, owner of San Marcos’ new Tres Hermanas Restaurant and Cantina, located in Plaza del Sol, 2550 Hunter Road.
The guinea pigs were friends he had invited to try the place out. This gave the restaurant’s cooking and waiting staff two evenings of experience, before the public opening at 8 A. M. on Wednesday, August 13.
Plaza del Sol, home of the new restaurant, is a small shopping complex, situated on a slight rise on the west side of Hunter Road, as the street winds its way south of the city. The conjoined group of shops, mostly restaurants, is still in construction. But the place already conveys a simple, Spanish elegance that centers on the columned entrance to Tres Hermanas.
Just outside the restaurant’s doors is a small garden with plants, a pool, a falls and a fountain. A few statues populate the garden: storks balanced on one leg atop turtles’ backs, a gator, a colorful peasant and a child and globe atop the fountain. The scene conveys both an appreciation of nature and an invitation to a unique dining experience.
Chiu explained, “I want this to be a place where people with a moderate income can come in and enjoy the comfortable, open ambiance.”
Within a balconied, stair-cased, marbled and muraled setting, guests will be served Mexican dishes, steaks and seafood. A Mariachi band will perform each Saturday evening.
Even the most objective analysis reveals that Tres Hermanas is a work of love. The color schemes and paintings that highlight the interior are Chiu’s ideas. The over-all design is the result of his work alongside architect, Mike Wells. The very name of the covered cantina bar reflects Chiu’s ability to laugh at himself. It’s called Papa Zapatos, Spanish for Papa “Shoe”, the mispronounced version of his last name that he has heard since he immigrated to America.
But the investment of Chiu’s heart is best demonstrated in the name he has given the restaurant, Tres Hermanas, “three sisters”. The sisters are his daughter’s, Yvonne, Brittany and Tiffany. “The name implies they are to stay together after I and Sharon [his wife], are gone,” says Chiu.
Chiu is not new to the San Marcos restaurant scene. In 1970, he opened the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant on South Guadalupe. He remained its owner until 1995. He states that quality was the norm for that business, as he desires it for his latest project.
The Hong Kong Restaurant has been an established landmark among businesses in the I-35 Corridor. George Strait made it a favorite stopping place when he was part of the San Marcos community. Actors Warren Oates, Slim Pickens and the players of the FBI TV series were among Hong Kong’s patrons.
Shall Chiu succeed in making Tres Hermanas another San Marcos attraction? In answer, he notes that the “guinea pig runs” brought great reviews from many. He states with pleasure, “Everybody that walks in-their first expression is ‘Wow!'”
As a sidebar, we note that Chiu is himself a community icon. This recent project is only part of a very active public life. He has chaired numerous organizations, including the Education Foundation of San Marcos’ schools, the Chamber of Commerce Board, and the Friends of the Fine Arts at Texas State University.
He has served as Vice Chairperson of the Hispanic Chamber, the only Asian delegate to the Texas Association of the Mexican-American Chamber, a member of the Advisory Board of the Alamo Asian American Chamber, a member of the Convention Visiting Bureaus of Austin and San Marcos and a member of the Executive Board of Envision Central Texas.
He was on the Selection Committee that recommended Denise M. Trauth, the current president of Texas State University.
Journalists have celebrated, especially, two other of Chiu’s achievements: He was the first Asian-American mayor in Texas and the first first-generation Asian immigrant mayor in the nation.
Now he hopes to add another entrepreneurial success to his legacy; and he expresses hope for much more. He states, “San Marcos has all the attributes to be, not just attractive in its natural beauty; but it also could and should be a very vibrant community, economically.”
By BOB GARRINGER
The lettering on the tower lights up the entrance to Tres Hermanas Restaurant and Cantina.
Clockwise above are pictured: (1) A Mariachi band performing at a pre-grand opening event (2) Owner David Chiu at work in the kitchen (3) The tower at Tres Hermanas’ entrance (4) A view of some of the food (5) The three sisters: Tiffany, Yvonne, and Brittany ChiuEmail | Print