Karam’s–San Antonio, TX

Karam’s Mexican Dining Room (Closed)
121 N. Zarzamora St.
San Antonio, TX
Date of Review: Jan. 2005

Karam’s has been around for so long it is one of the few restaurants I can say I have gone to for more than 30 years. I also think it is one of the best examples of Tex-Mex food there is. So far, in fact, it has turned out to be the restaurant by which I judge Tex-Mex food. Many restaurants in Austin came close, and some had specific items that were better, but Karam’s seems to have captured the essence of Tex-Mex cooking to a point that it is almost equal in quality to other styles of Mexican cooking.

Known for its Cheese Enchiladas, I think they are some of the best I have had that are not New Mexico or El Paso style. They are interesting because the tortillas are soaked in a sauce that turns them the signature red of true Tex-Mex style.

Although the enchiladas themselves are good, a combination dinner is even better– there may be no better examples of Tex-Mex style Tamales than at Karam’s. These have a masa that is soft and seems to break away the moment a fork touches it, with a flavor that I could almost imagine all the times I had fast food and TV dinner tamales while on a student budget, but which even most Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin could not duplicate.

Karam’s is popular enough to have required building a parking lot across the street. In addition to the restaurant, Karam’s Catering, a separate portion of the building dedicated exclusively to take-out orders, does a brisk business. With the mild weather found in south Texas, the outdoor patio with a fountain is an added attraction.

I think that unless you are specifically hungry for meat items such as the fajitas at Mi Tierra, you really owe it to yourself to make Karam’s your one special San Antonio Tex-Mex meal. It is a San Antonio institution for a reason.


Cuisine: Mexican Tex-Mex
Cost: $$
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Catering

Chile Index: chile 3

Most Recent Visit
Jan. 6, 2005

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items
Cheese Enchiladas, Tamales, Tacos

Special Ratings

star 5 Cheese Enchiladas
star 5 Chicken Tacos
star 5 Tamales
star 3 Refried Beans
star 5 Chips
star 4 Salsa

Menu (Date Unknown):

Menu courtesy of Eugene F. Michael El Paso Menu Collection, MS499, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department. The University of Texas at El Paso Library.

Note to Readers:

This review is reprinted from my original web site (Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page) and the newer site (OK Gourmet).  By putting it on Steve’s Food Blog I hope to keep it accessible to readers and to preserve the information as something that I think is of historical importance for Tex-Mex restaurants.

Karam’s was quite possibly the best Tex-Mex restaurant I ever found in Texas (there were a couple in Austin that were close).  Unfortunately when I discuss Tex-Mex restaurants I often have to refer to ones that are now closed (of which Karam’s joined the ranks in about 2005).  I wrote a blog post about why I do not think the Tex-Mex food served now is as good as it was at these former restaurants which were considered leaders of the Tex-Mex restaurant world:

Why Does Tex-Mex Not Taste the Same as I Remember Growing Up?

The Karams’ daughter wrote a very informative comment about the restaurant, and it is certainly relevant to this review as well as a discussion of Tex-Mex food in general.


Pamela Karam’s Comment (Dec. 10, 2015):

Dear Steve,
Karam’s Mexican Dining Room of San Antonio had the absolute best Tex-Mex in the country.
My parent’s invented the style that chefs tried to copy without much luck.
All over the country to this day when I say I’m from San Antonio, strangers will ask me if I ever ate at Karam’s. Of course they go crazy about the food when I tell them who I was lucky to be.
My dad started me in the kitchen and I know the secrets to the taste of our food.
I miss a Deluxe Dinner as much as the next person.
Thank God I can whip one up when necessary..
I’m glad you enjoyed our place.
I loved it and miss it every day.

9 thoughts on “Karam’s–San Antonio, TX

  1. I have wonderful memories of eating at Karam’s, which was very close to my grandparent’s house. As a little kid, (who an I kidding – as a teen and as an adult!), I loved the way it looked inside and the food was so delicious!

  2. Hi Steve,

    Do you know the relationship between Karam’s Mexican Dining Room and The Mexican Manhattan that was also owned and operated by a Karam family?
    Were these the same family or different? I have since learned that while both Karam’s Dining Room and Mexican Manhattan have closed, a granddaughter (?)–Alex Karam Hagen–has started a food truck in Austin called Karam’s Tamale Company. Any further history you can share about the Karam family (Lebanese) in San Antonio would be greatly appreciated. Muchisimas gracias.

    • I do not know the family so I cannot fill in any information about that. I do think, though, that if someone is selling tamales under the Karam name they must be using the original recipes, which only the family knows. This is conjecture on my part, but I know that I would really like to try the food if they are selling it again. Do you know the food truck’s location?

  3. Their refried beans made the Super Chalupas! I would love that recipe.
    The beans on their dinners were different.
    Is it possible they would share their recipe for the Super Chalupas? I have never tasted close to them! They were awesome!!!

    • I miss Karan’s so much still to this day. I’m still here googling “where can I find in San Antonio enchiladas that taste just as good as Karan’s”. There is no place

  4. My grandfather, John Cheslyn, was known as the “Margarita King” by Ralph, back in the day. I have fond memories from childhood and teenage years at Karam’s. Before my Poppop passed away, he’d been in a wheelchair due to RA for years, and although he didn’t drink as much anymore because of his health, Ralph still addressed him as Margarita King. I played in the courtyard around the fountain. I ate my weight in enchiladas and was very sad to hear of the restaurants closing a few years ago. Karam’s can and will never be replicated.

  5. Karam’s restaurant, was my favorite place, especially for their enchiladas. In 1949 my brother and I talked our parents into buying a TV. We told them we would pay for it by selling newspapers on weekends. Our parents would drive by our station and ask us if we had eaten, and could they bring us something to eat. We’d holler Karams, Karam’s enchiladas. That summer we fell in love with Karam’s enchiladas. As the years went by, Karams was a must stop whenever I visited my parents in San Antonio, they loved Karam’s. My last visit to Karam’s was in the late 90″s. The things I loved most my parents, Karams are now gone, San Antonio is not the same, San Antonio is still a great city, but it doesn’t hold up to old memories.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories. Like you, I have treasured memories of Karam’s, and like you, I miss the ‘old’ San Antonio.

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