Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Editor's note: Even the most devoted Thanksgiving turkey enthusiast eventually needs a change of protein. To that end, Rivard Report staff roamed the city to find hidden gems, longtime local favorites, and other independent eateries that serve slices of San Antonio's manifold cultures. For more stories in our Escape the Turkey series, click here.
The word fremdes in the Alsatian dialect means “outsider.” But the atmosphere is warm and welcoming at a pizza place with the tongue-in-cheek name in the Little Alsace of Texas.
It’s a half-hour road trip west from San Antonio to reach Castroville, settled in 1844 by immigrants from the tiny French region that borders Switzerland and Germany. And while you can find only a few descendants who still speak the native tongue, everyone in this town of 3,000 likely knows Fremdes.
The menu at this restaurant features seven signature pizzas, including the Flammekueche, which is topped with crème fraiche, onions, prosciutto, and muenster cheese, and a Margherita made with pesto sauce. The dough is made fresh every day and pizzas are baked to order in a wood-burning oven.
There are also loaded nachos and buffalo wings, a variety of salads, spaghetti and meatballs, Stromboli, and the Outsider chili dog. You can choose from a selection of wine and draft beers, some local craft varieties.
Opened in June 2017 by Tim Kelley, Fremdes is tucked behind the town’s leafy September Square in a renovated building that now resembles a rustic barn. Kelley, a transplant from Vermont and the town’s mayor, leaves the restaurant in the hands of Michelle Brown.
“This is a meeting place for outsiders to come in,” Brown said. “Everyone is welcome. If I didn’t work here, I think I’d be here all the time anyway.”
It’s not just locals who meet at Fremdes. Tables fill quickly every evening on the shady outdoor patio, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when live music is offered. On one recent fall evening, local country singer JR Herrera performed new and familiar tunes as families relaxed together and children twirled around the landscaped courtyard.
Diana Uresti and her husband drove to Fremdes in October from their home in Bulverde to hear their goddaughter Colleen Michelle Miller perform with Megan Ashley. "I love the location and the park across the street. It's like a diamond in the rough," Uresti said.
"There were a lot of families. Colleen and Megan sang happy birthday to one of the kids. It made their day!" she added. "We ordered the Fremde [pizza] – it was so good. Our waitress treated us like a best friend."
Inside the cozy restaurant, you can chat with friends and family or watch a football game. On Sundays and Mondays, Fremdes offers specials and take-out pizza orders fly out the door. Since opening, the restaurant has baked and sold 31,232 pizzas.
“We have people tell us all the time they come in from San Antonio,” Brown said. “It’s kinda neat to think we’re only 15 minutes from Loop 410, so it’s not too far away. But some people say that instead of fighting the crowds and long waits in San Antonio, they’d rather go where it’s a little slower and not as many people. And some just come for the food.”
If not in the mood for pizza, Fremdes’ sister restaurant, the Castroville Café, is right next door in a historic home with a garden patio, front porch, and cottage-style decor. The café serves salads and sandwiches for lunch, and steaks, pasta, and other homestyle meals in the evenings.
The meatloaf special is Brown’s favorite entrée. Her official title is controller, and though she’s no cook, she has been known to lend a hand bussing tables and serving drinks when it’s busy. At 27, the Texas State graduate gladly returned to her hometown to run the restaurants.
“I like that you get to see lots of faces you know,” Brown said. “There’s also a lot of new people, visitors coming to town, people just passing through who stop to eat and walk around. It’s like a small-town thing. It’s a lot slower than being in San Antonio around hundreds of thousands of people all the time.”
Neither restaurant will be open on Thanksgiving so the 15 employees can be home with their families.
Fremdes is open daily from 4 to 10 p.m., and Castroville Café, is open Monday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.