The birth of the restaurant industry in El Paso can be traced back as early as the 1880, when the railroad first came to the city.
Several pioneers recognized the need and the profit in providing dining services to the many “passers-through” and eventual residents who came to El Paso because of the development of the railroad industry.
One of these pioneers was Margaret Clark.
In 1908, Clark founded one of the first cafeterias in El Paso and in the Southwest. Clark’s first restaurant was in a 12 by 29-foot room where the Martin Building is today in downtown El Paso.
She started with only two tables, six chairs, dozen silverware, and glasses. Clark did her own serving, cooking, and washing. “I washed my dishes in a hurry and had them dried in a minute and ready for the next one,” Clark told the El Paso Times in 1921.
With her first month’s earnings she was able to hire a dishwasher.
Clark came to El Paso from Kansas City, Missouri, selling condensed milk and other food products for 25 years. She shared her reasons for deciding to open her own cafeteria, “Eating all kinds of food gave me the idea of a cafeteria. When I came west for my daughter’s health, I decided I would open my cafeteria with only two tables, and I did”,
By 1913, Clark was operating her cafeteria at Mills Street; by 1917, she was at 208 North Mesa.
In 1925, she moved to a new building on 311 Texas Street. From 1928 to 1938, Mrs. Clark Cafeteria was on 104 East San Antonio. Clark died in 1937, but family members continued to run the cafeteria until 1938.
El Pasoans can thank Mrs. Clark for founding one of the first cafeterias in the Borderland.