Forty years ago, Palmer’s Restaurant regularly welcomed 18-year-old freshmen from nearby Southwest Texas State who came to unwind and drink their study woes away.
Eventually, the drinking age would be raised and the school’s name changed, but Palmer’s has remained the go-to spot for students and locals alike.
Mike Palmer McKinster opened Palmer’s in 1978 and named the restaurant after his mother. He sold the place to Rick Travis and Rob Haug in 1980. Travis and Haug added the Amethyst Room, bar and courtyard during their time of ownership. They then sold Palmer’s to current owners Monte and Kristin Sheffield.
Monte Sheffield has been a restauranteur since 1988, and has worked in various restaurants throughout San Antonio and Austin. In 2003, he decided to move to San Marcos, and it has been his home ever since.
Monte and Kristin Sheffield eyed Palmer’s for years before finally becoming owners in 2010. Once they took over, they quickly added Sunday brunch, which has been one of their most popular features. They even added Saturday brunch six years later to make it a full weekend of mid-morning meals.
Sheffield said the menu at Palmer’s takes on tastes from a few different cuisines.
“We’re evolving in the food category,” Sheffield said. “We have our Hill Country food that is popular with the region, but then incorporate a little bit of New Mexico, Latin, Gulf Coast and Cajun.”
The menu wasn’t the only thing the Sheffields changed when they took over. They added the Guesthouse, a two-bedroom suite located next to the courtyard, as well as a garden patio for small parties.
Community involvement is something the Sheffields brought to Palmer’s. The restaurant owners pride themselves on giving back to the community.
“We’ve got a cork board as our living art,” Sheffield said. “We fill it up with corks and when it’s full, I donate $100 to Own Your Own Universe and the corks get recycled by Recork.org.”
The community gives back to Palmer’s as well. Sheffield said one of the best things about his time at Palmer’s is the families he has gotten to know over the years.
“It’s neat because you see the mom and dad coming with the grandparents,” Sheffield said. “Then their kids getting of age where they start getting into serious relationships, then they get engaged and have their rehearsal dinner here. A few years down the road a baby bump starts showing and here comes the stroller and the high chair.”
Manager Kyle Easterling has been at Palmer’s since 2012 and said he recalls families that knew the place before it was Palmer’s.
“I have guests that come in and tell me they grew up playing in the courtyard with the original owner’s kids, the original builder of the house,” Easterling said. “I’ve had guests that remember Christmas parties here during the 1950s and guests that used to spend happy hour here in the 1980s while they were attending Southwest Texas State.”
James Jones, economics senior, said while Palmer’s is a great place for drinks, he also goes with his wife for their anniversary.
“I definitely like the bar,” Jones said. “I like the atmosphere; it’s upscale and laid back. When I brought my wife for our anniversary, they brought us crème brûlée to share, which was cool.”
Anniversaries are popular at Palmer’s, but Sheffield said engagements are common as well.
“We have tons of engagements here,” Sheffield said. “We’re kind of the engagement place. We’ll have the nervous groom come in, set it up and want us to deliver the ring in a cake or a glass of champagne or something.”
Easterling said they are highly aware the restaurant is a hub for helping create memories for the community.
“We take pride in how many special memories have been made here over the years,” Easterling said. “We are thankful to be the first choice for so many special occasions.”
Palmer’s has been making memories with the San Marcos community for 40 years. The Sheffields, along with their crew, are making sure the tradition continues.