New Family to Revive Jingo House Cafe in Japanese Tea Garden

Another family will soon be guardians of the Jingu house and the food served there.

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

Since 1981, Fresh Horizons Creative Catering has operated a take-out style cafe from 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 turn down.

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

Lawton said he and Trevor were still in the planning stages, but they already had some great ideas for the new restaurant/café, including repairing the interior of the Jingu House to improve its aesthetics and functionality, while retaining its historical details.

One side will offer take-out sandwiches, ice cream and boba teas – a tea drink that includes fluffy tapioca balls. The Other Side “will carry on the tradition of House Jingu,” Lawton said. The menu will include a special chicken salad sandwich which is a nod to the historic tenants, the Jingus. The new concept will also sell specialty bento boxes, he added.

In the early 20th century, Japanese-American artist Kimi Eizo Jingu lived with his family in the garden and opened the Bamboo Room teahouse. Jingu raised eight children there while he was a 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 changed to Chinese Tea Garden.

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

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

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

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