Isabel Martinez remembers arguing about the proper way to cook rice with Mr. & Mrs. G’s Home Cooking and Pastries owner William Garner in the restaurant’s kitchen. He would insist on keeping the flame low, and she would refuse. They’d go back and forth until she finally caved. The rice, as always, came out perfect, she said.
After decades of running the Eastside soul food restaurant with his wife, Addie, Garner died in 2021, just four years after his wife’s death.
The couple’s passing left a void at the restaurant and in the community. Staff and customers said they miss being greeted by Addie Garner as much as they miss her husband’s wise words. They crave her pastries made from scratch and his experimental dishes.
Martinez, now head cook with 10 years at the restaurant, looks back on her memories of bickering in the kitchen fondly. She will occasionally pass by the corner where Garner used to sit and expect to see her “Papa,” as she used to call him. Sometimes, she’ll even still talk to him in the kitchen, she said.
Now, after 32 years in business, Mr. & Mrs. G’s is closing its doors. Saturday will be its final service.
When Vicky Adams, Garner’s daughter and vice president of Mr. & Mrs. G’s, made the announcement via a Facebook post July 7, there was an outpouring of support from the community in the comments.
Adams described the decision to close the restaurant as bittersweet and cited COVID-19 among the reasons that led to the decision to close the restaurant’s doors.
“I just know that it ran its course and a lot of good came out of it,” she said. “I know my father would have been happy for me to do what I wanted to do with my life.”
A soulful pairing
William Garner, better known as Mr. G, was born in Hartselle, Alabama, and raised there by his grandmother, who taught him all about southern cooking.
Garner later relocated to San Antonio to work in the Air Force. When he became a single father, he taught his young children how to cook for themselves on days he would work long hours. Soon, he was dreaming of opening his own restaurant, eager to put his talent to work.
He met Addie Quinn through a mutual friend at Brooks Air Force Base. She was a warm, outgoing woman from Inverness, Mississippi, who balanced Garner’s more reserved personality. The two married in 1986.
With Garner’s soulful cooking and his wife’s baking that Adams said “blessed the world,” the two opened up Mr. & Mrs. G’s in 1990. The restaurant — serving up home-cooked southern favorites like fried catfish, barbecue ribs and okra gumbo — quickly became a neighborhood staple with regulars from nearby churches, workplaces and the former Air Force base nearby.
Last Wednesday, as the restaurant opened for its penultimate week, staff welcomed customers to join the line and grab a plate of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Sayaunda Casey and her friends sat down at a clean table with their meal trays, recalling the early years of the restaurant.
Casey, a customer of the establishment for over 20 years, said members of her church would enjoy Mr. & Mrs. G’s after services and even ask them to cater events.
“We were thinking about where to go for lunch,” Casey said. “Some people would take a bathroom break early so they could beat the crowd, and the whole church was over here eating.”
Jim Morgan was also at the restaurant for lunch on Wednesday. He said the line for food would often be wrapped around the building with hungry workers during his lunch breaks.
“This is like the Mi Tierra of the Southeast Side,” Morgan said. “I used to come here from work, and all the airmen would be wrapped around the building.”
A lasting legacy
Loyal customers from all over San Antonio can attest to how good the food is, said Adams, but the Garners’ impact went beyond the restaurant and beyond the East Side.
“This is bigger than the African American community, bigger than the Hispanic community,” Adams said. “It’s people of all different incomes, all different ethnicities, all different walks of life. You got your white collar, you got your blue collar — kids grew up in here.”
Customers said it wasn’t just the food that kept them coming back, but the Garners. Adams described her stepmother as the “heart of the restaurant.”
“Mrs. G., she cared for everybody,” Martinez said. “Sometimes customers get ready to pay and she says, ‘That’s OK, baby, go eat. We’ll take care of it.’”
Martinez recalled a time when she told Garner she was going to be late to work because her electricity was cut off. “She said, ‘Do you need money?’ That’s the first thing she said. I never got that, not even from my family.”
As customers and staff reminisce about the time they spent in the restaurant, the establishment is slowly depleting its inventory and working toward closing. According to a Facebook post from the restaurant, they will continue to attend “flea markets, food truck parking and other special events.”
Adams, who inherited her love for cooking from her father, also owns a food truck called &Gravy located on Potranco Road. She said she is grateful for the love from the community and that the best way to continue the Garners’ legacy is to remember their names.
“Their legacy was not just this restaurant,” she said. “That’s not all my father’s legacy is all about. His legacy is perseverance, his legacy is him being a mentor, his legacy is his wisdom that he put out. As far as Addie, her legacy is outside of this restaurant as well. She was a mother to everybody.”
Mr. & Mrs. G’s will open for its last week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.