Grins’ first cook, now owner reflects on 44 years in San Marcos

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After more than 40 years of business, Grins Restaurant—locally famous for its 99-cent frozen margarita happy hour and homemade menu—has become a San Marcos staple among locals and Texas State University students alike.

When Grins opened its doors on Valentine’s Day in 1975, current owner Paul Sutphen was hired as the restaurant’s very first cook just as he was completing his senior year at Texas State, then known as Southwest Texas State. Now, 44 years later, after buying out one of the founding owners, Sutphen owns the restaurant along with his business partner and fellow Southwest Texas alumnus Johnny Ferrell.

“I think I’ve got a lot of empathy for every job here,” Sutphen said. “I still do a lot of dishes when we’re busy and so does my business partner, Johnny. I mean, it’s our job to do whatever it takes. That’s the joy of it. We’re here to make money, but we’re here to make an impact on people’s lives in San Marcos, too.”

The restaurant—originally a home built in 1948—could seat up to 60 customers in 1975 and was a local hotspot for live music. Since then, it has undergone three expansions and can now seat up to 250 customers.

Today, patrons can enjoy their meals on a balcony overlooking the university while enjoying a menu that includes the same homemade meals that served as the entire menu in 1975—nachos, hamburgers and draft beer.

“We’re consistent,” Sutphen said. “We still serve our classic 4-ounce and 7-ounce cheeseburgers, and they’re still our No. 1 sellers.”

Sutphen said he and Ferrell take joy in giving back to the city in which they grew up and built a business.

“We have an obligation to San Marcos,” Sutphen said. “I mean just to be a socially responsible business. One of our biggest charities is the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center and the Hays County Food Bank; and we’ll support anything to do with Texas State, whether it’s faculty lunches or raffles—anything to do with students because that’s what got us here.”

Grins Restaurant
802 N. LBJ Drive, San Marcos
512-392-4746
www.grinsrestaurant.com
Hours: daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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Anna Herod
Anna Herod covers local government, education, business and the environment for the San Marcos and Hays County communities. Born and raised in Texas, Anna moved from North Texas to San Marcos in 2014 where she has been covering local news ever since. Her bylines have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Hays Free Press and The Burleson Star. She is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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