Editor’s note: this story was corrected at 10:38 a.m. Aug. 25 to reflect that Benavides and Gallegos’s shop also carries vegan food options from Miss Chickpea’s Cafetal.
Tucked between a tire shop and a gas station is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gem run by a native Southside couple. Right across from Palo Alto College, Cultura Coffeehouse is a five-minute drive from campus that will make your day as bright as the shop’s electric blue walls.
The shop is as unique and authentic as the Southside itself, with its eclectic atmosphere, drinks like “Bruja Brew,” and a bright orange “no mames” beside the spray-painted menu. Cultura isn’t just any coffee shop — it’s a space created for and by San Antonio’s Southside.
Anthony Benavides, 2019 A&M-San Antonio graduate with a Masters in Special Education, said he had wanted to open a coffee shop since he was a kid. In December of 2020, that dream became a reality.
“Coffee’s always been a part of my life,” Benavides said. “I used to hang out with my friends at IHOP in the wee hours of the morning drinking coffee, I had coffee dates … it was just always a good time with coffee.”
Elissa Gallegos, Cultura co-owner and Benavides’ wife, has a similar relationship with coffee.
“My grandparents would always have coffee with pan dulce,” Gallegos said. “It’s a staple, a love language in Mexican culture.”
Gallegos said she thought dipping the bread in coffee was “soggy and gross” as a kid, but found a tenderness for the practice after her grandparents passed. Now, the coffee shop is one of the ways she keeps her grandparents’ memory alive.
For both Gallegos and Benavides, the most important part of the shop is fostering a space that serves their community as much as it represents it. Some of the ways they achieve this is by partnering with the other small businesses around them and supporting local art.
Benavides and Gallegos share a passion for art, regularly inviting local artists who have been rejected from galleries to hang their work on the Cultura walls next to Gallegos’ own paintings, which are for sale.
“Art has gotten me out of a lot of dark places, and you don’t see a lot of artwork on this side of town,” Gallegos said. “We shouldn’t have to drive to the other side of town. Everybody deserves beautiful art.”
On top of the art, Cultura carries pan dulce from San Antonio Bakery on Palo Alto Road as well as vegan options from Miss Chickpea’s Cafetal on Callaghan Road. In an Instagram post from July, Benavides explained the impact of shopping small and local as opposed to buying from large companies.
“Money spent often changes hands at least five times before leaving the area,” Benavides wrote in the caption. “So when you support us, you’re supporting the Southside.”
The road hasn’t always been easy for Cultura, but the playful relationship and positive outlook between Gallegos, Benavides, and the customers continues to drive the shop forward.
In April, Gallegos and Benavides were facing Cultura’s end due to financial reasons. The pair had to dip into their savings and search for second jobs to keep the shop open, and decided they wouldn’t renew their lease in August.
“There were moments where it was an uphill battle,” Gallegos said. “But we had to push through that fear of failure.”
After some soul-searching, Gallegos and Benavides decided they weren’t going to give up. They renewed the lease, and things have since been looking up.
You can find drinks like “La Llorona” and “Chupacabra” at 9427 Poteet Jourdanton Fwy Acc Road.