Members of The Historic Hotels of America group faithfully maintain their historic architecture and ambience, and they all have a heart, whether a dining room, lobby, gardens, or library. The Menger Hotel’s
heart is its bar. A scant score of years after the fall of the Alamo in 1836, William A. Menger, a German brewer turned businessman, opened his hotel on a dusty site adjacent to the iconic symbol of indomitable American spirit. The Menger soon became the hotel of choice for cattle barons, railroad magnates, empire builders, and “regular folk." Management made the prophetic decision to create an extraordinary bar befitting the luxury of the hotel. They created a replica of the elaborate cherry paneled pub in London’s House of Lords. Local lore holds that more Texas cattle deals were sealed with a handshake and three fingers of whiskey at the Menger Bar than anywhere else in the state. Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of his famous Rough Riders here in 1898, probably with the same seal of the deal!
Today, the tradition of casual luxury continues, from the antique furniture in rooms, suites, and public areas, to the mango ice cream, a signature offering of the hotel for over a hundred years. Mangos were once grown in what is now the immaculate garden courtyard of the hotel. The hotel is well-suited for conventions and special events, with breath-taking meeting rooms and premier cuisine in the Colonial Dining Room. One of the shops off the lobby promenade is J. Adelman Antiques, carrying one of the largest selections of antiques and vintage jewelry in Texas, adding a genteel civility to the ambiance.
In addition to being next door to The Alamo, the Menger is connected to the dazzling Rivercenter Mall and two short blocks from the world famous River Walk. Sprinkled along this watery, circuitous route are dozens of restaurants, both casual and first-cabin, hotels, and museums, including the Witte (natural history, science, and South Texas heritage) and the Institute of Texas Cultures (part of the University of Texas – San Antonio, specializing in interactive, multiculture education.) The Alamo Plaza Spa provides every amenity to pamper the body after a day of leisurely walking, shopping, and eating. Life is rough in Texas!
Before leaving the Menger, I asked Ernesto Malacara, the long-serving concierge, what he considers the most outstanding feature of the hotel. Without hesitation, Ernesto replied, “Our ‘family’ of employees, for sure. Working at the Menger is a privilege. In fact, eight senior staff represent over 275 years of service. We’ve always been a bit ahead of others in the hospitality industry, and we’re looking forward to our next 151 years.” Any parting comments? Again, without hesitation, and with a twinkle in his eye: “Remember the Menger”.