Since 1993, the smiling face of the cartoon Mama Margie has warmly welcomed San Antonians searching for a quick bite to start their day or rambunctious after-hours crowds in need of comfort food to end the night. The 89-cent bean and cheese signs of the early 2000s were like a “welcome home” sign on Military Drive and the free-for-all chips and salsa feel are like a symbolic push from the grandma who never thinks you’ve had enough to eat. Being around the true Mama Margie, real name Margarita Abonce, feels a lot like home, too.
Yes, she’s real. The caricatures of “Mama Margie” have been a staple of San Antonio iconography, inspiring costumes and merchandise, since the 1990s. While the logo looks a lot like Abonce, it falls short in capturing the vibrant, 76-year-old that sits before me, sparkling and smiling in her Sunday best. Her drop earrings swing back-and-forth, emphasizing each of her laughs, and there are a lot as she introduces me to her daughter Claudia Silva and granddaughter Jocelyn Silva. Though her outfit is the complete opposite of the work attire she’s wearing in the logo, her red lipstick-rimmed smile matches.