Another family will soon be the caretakers of the Jingu House and the food that is served there.

The San Antonio Parks Foundation announced a new partnership Friday with the Lawton family, owners of Cappy’s Restaurant and Cappycino’s, to bring a cafe back to the Jingu House within the historic Japanese Tea Garden.

Since 1981, Fresh Horizons Creative Catering operated a grab-and-go style cafe from out of the gardens. However, the small catering company said goodbye to the Japanese Tea Garden last year.

When Cappy Lawton and his son Trevor were approached by the San Antonio Parks Foundation in late December, he said they knew it was an opportunity they couldn’t refuse.

“We want to make the Jingu House stand out more, and make it more accessible for all the people there,” Lawton told the San Antonio Report.

Lawton said while he and Trevor are still in the planning phase, they already have some good ideas for the new restaurant/cafe that include fixing up the inside of the Jingu House to improve its aesthetic and functionality, while retaining its historic details.

One side will offer grab-and-go sandwiches, ice creams and boba teas — a tea drink that includes chewy tapioca balls. The other side will “carry on the tradition of the Jingu House,” Lawton said. The menu will include a special chicken salad sandwich that’s a nod to the historic tenants, the Jingus. The new concept will also sell specialty bento boxes, he added.

Early in the 20th century, Japanese-American artist Kimi Eizo Jingu lived with his family in the garden and opened the Bamboo Room tea salon. Jingu raised eight children there while he was caretaker and died in 1938. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor a few years later, his family was evicted from their home and its name was changed to the Chinese Tea Garden.

In 1984, then-Mayor Henry Cisneros presided over the restoration of the Japanese Tea Garden and its name in a ceremony attended by Jingu’s children.

Lawton said they hope to open the cafe in the spring.

“We just really want to bring life back to the gardens,” he said.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the Science & Utilities reporter for the San Antonio Report.