Iconic Leon Springs restaurant gears up for Thanksgiving
Story by Pamela Price
This story originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Leon Springs Community News.
We’ve yet to greet the first trick-or-treaters here in Leon Springs, but the folks at the original Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q are already gearing up for the hectic Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. This means, of course, that it won’t be too long before a familiar autumn scene appears on the IH-10 frontage road: a line of cheerful, patient adults wrapping around the historic eatery’s bright red exterior waiting for their holiday goodies.
Although Rudolph Aue’s family didn’t start serving up barbecue at their erstwhile stage stop turned gas station until 1989, Rudy’s smoked meats and trimmings have come to play a starring role in many Central Texas holiday spreads.
In fact, the upcoming holidays are among the few times each year that the Rudy’s crew departs from the restaurant’s standard menu, offering up an assortment of traditional vittles (gravy, dressing, ham, whole smoked turkeys, ham, and pie) alongside their standard and abundant creamed corn, beans, brisket, turkey, chicken, and sausage.
“It’s a family tradition, for us and our customers, to have the holiday items,” said Shannon Walsh, director of marketing. “At Thanksgiving, our most popular items are the turkeys. For Christmas, it’s the hams.”
Walsh added that although the restaurant began taking holiday orders weeks ago informally, the official start date for holiday orders was October 11. That’s a full 45 days before Turkey Day.
“Our customers call-in or pre-order their items and select a time for pick-up. You definitely want to arrange an early pickup [in the week] to avoid the lines. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, that’s when we’re flat out busy.”
Walsh noted too that there’s a limited supply of smoked turkeys each year, all of which are prepared on site. “We sell them until we sell out. And then they’re gone.”
Many customers purchase only the main course for Thanksgiving, but most people round out the main meal with dressing, gravy and one of the fresh pies made by Nadler’s Bakery, another long-standing San Antonio business with a loyal customer base.
There’s usually a last-minute run on Rudy’s signature items, too.
“We’ve found that when many people stop in to pick up their entire holiday meal, they also purchase a little brisket and some creamed corn. Sometimes it’s to serve as a barbecue dish on the holiday. Other times it’s purchased to give the cook a break from the kitchen that evening,” said Walsh.
For volume, the upcoming winter holidays rate right up there with Easter, Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July and other high volume days at the restaurant. “We’re busy the entire week of Christmas,” said Walsh. “Winter isn’t a typical ‘barbecue season,’ yet we’ve had many of the same customers dining and ordering to-go items from us for years.”
This year the restaurant is breaking with tradition somewhat, opening its doors on Christmas and Thanksgiving Days for the first time. “We got a lot of feedback from our customers, especially long-time, repeat visitors from out of town. They’d be in San Antonio only for a day, visiting relatives for the holiday, and they couldn’t eat at the original Rudy’s because we were closed. We decided to do something about that.”
Perhaps then a new Leon Springs tradition will be born this year: Thanksgiving dinner enjoyed at the original Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q.
A Taste of Central Texas
Looking for a memorable, Texas-themed gift to send far-flung family and friends this year? Shannon Walsh recommends a container or two of Rudy’s Rub or the restaurant’s signature Rudy’s Bar-B-Q Sause. For more information, call 210-653-RUDY.