San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
Email Email | Print Print --

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.”


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 Chiu

Email Email | Print Print


18 thoughts on “Unique San Marcos restaurant to open

  1. Now, we are really excited. Driving past the construction each day, we wondered and hoped the new restaurants would be good. Knowing that this is a Chiu venture is a most excellent sign! Thanks for bring another quality facet to San Marcos, David and Sharon. We’ll be checking out the food soon!
    Beth and AJ Wolpman

  2. I am so happy and excited about David’s success! He has made every one around him happy! What a wondeful achievement! Congratulations David!

  3. The food is ridiculously expensive. If the quality was better I would not have minded but the it’s not that great. I’d still rather go to Garcias. sorry.
    Please lower your prices. Example: one chicken taco was 4.99!!!!!!

  4. I live right by the restaurant and have been Two times. The first time was good,the second time they brought us out stale chips. I had to ask the waiter to please bring fresh chips out,and he said he would. Like he new they were old and just sitting out.
    The Chiu’s have been visible both times and they have approached other tables but never ours.I wonder why when my money spend just like everyone elses? We are very approachable and friendly.
    Why approach every table around ours and not bother saying hi? This happened both times to us.I agree with the post above,Garcia’s is cheaper and friendlier and I know the chip will be fresh!

  5. I wouldn’t support him and his venture(s). If it is anyting like when he was mayor, you know just had a vacant apt. for residency but live out of town. No I think not. Sorry but my money is well spent for good home cooking or at the small well established eaterys.

  6. The service was bad and my order was wrong. I can forgive all that since it’s a new restaurant with new staff and gowing pains. But $4.99 for a taco? I can get 2 or 3 tacos for that price elsewhere. I honestly did not like anything I tried except for the beer. I will not return to Tres Hermanas. There are too many other reasonably priced Mexican restaurants that serve better food in town.

  7. In reading the above comments, it sounds like these customers were more unhappy with city politics, than food. I have a to go menu I am looking at, and the 1 taco was al a carte – which tends to run more expensive than the tacos platters. Most business minded people would know and understand that.
    The food was enjoyable and I will return many times with my family and friends.

  8. One of the best mexican food restaurants in San Marcos. Friendly service and great food, what else could you ask for. Even though their prices are a little high I don’t mind paying a little extra to get my money’s worth. I go there frequently and I work at a hotel where I recommend numerous guests to Tres Hermanas restaurant.

  9. I got a to go order and the staff was more concerned about seating customers coming in after me than placing my order. I had to wait over 15 minutes before they placed my order. Of course my order was wrong (after confirming it when it was placed), but I did not want to wait any longer. The beef fajitas were okay, but they were cold and somewhat dry (almost like they were cooked earlier in the day). The atmosphere is nice, but the quality of the food does not match the prices that are charged.

  10. contrary to all of these remarks I find Tres Hermanas to have exceptional service- just like Mr. Chiu’s other previous business- Hong Kong restaurant. The food was in HUGE portions & tasted great, which go hand in hand with the prices. (btw- Tres Hermanas is still cheaper than mamacitas). Everything in the restaurant is well elaborated including the location & decoration. I encourage everyone to give an informed opinion as opposed to following some of the previous amiss comments of people who obviously harbour personal grudges in politics.

  11. Are some people in San Marcos really this cheap to complain about $4.99 chicken tacos? This is probably the nicest restaurant in San Marcos & not some street vendor. Mamacitas is $5.25 for one soft chicken taco. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat at mamacitas. Its just now I don’t have to be embarrassed to take my relatives out to eat anymore now that tres hermanas is finally opened.

    & yes I will admit the service is a little scattered, but what would you expect of a brand new mom & pop restaurant? Support local business. Its not some big corporation where everything is established from the get go.

    & I agree with Strodtman- Gils is good!

  12. Tres Hermanas is AMAZING!!! Local Businesses are GREAT!!

    Loved the fajitas & coconut mojitos!! I ordered a specialized drink that wasn’t on the menu, they made it with a smile, and it was fabulous. I really enjoyed my meal and the service was great! Good atmosphere! I EVEN got a special visit from Mr. Chiu at my table! I was very impressed with the architecture on the inside, as well as the fountain by the outside entrance. Good food, good company, and I will definitely be back soon!

    The food, service, and atmosphere were all great! Thanks for opening a classy restaurant in San Marcos!!

  14. I had the carne guisada and it was delicious. A couple extra touches included two halves of a crispy tortilla dipped is queso and stuck into the beans as sort of an edible garnish. The quacamole was good, cold and served in a little tortilla bowl. The meat was tender, perfectly seasoned and not fatty. Price was completely fair. I’ll go back.

  15. We’ve been to Tres two times. The first time was okay. The second time the chips were stale. We told the waiter and he brought us a new basket but they were still stale. We will try again in a couple months.

  16. I’ve been several times and each time has been nothing short of exceptional. The portion sizes and quality of the food is well worth the money. I would have to say one of the best restuarants in San Marcos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.