Best Restaurant 'Hoods

Get a taste of the Pearl, one of San Antonio's hottest restaurant neighborhoods

A taste of the Pearl, one of San Antonio's hottest restaurant 'hoods

Pearl District San Antonio skyline buildings
Time to explore the vibrant Pearl restaurant scene. The Historic Pearl/Facebook

For a while it appeared that all was lost: All restaurant action seemed to have been flung to San Antonio’s farthest reaches. New places were cropping up out by 281, in Stone Oak and Sonterra, in and around La Cantera. Even long-established favorites, Silo and Los Barrios among them, seemed to feel the need to plant a flag in the outer ‘burbs. 

Then came the Pearl Brewery redevelopment, and overnight, or so it seemed, nosebleeds were no longer necessary to experience exciting cuisine in San Antonio.

The classics
The restaurant scene centering on the old brewery began to develop slowly with the opening of the Culinary Institute of America campus. Within Pearl itself, Chef Johnny Hernandez mounted La Gloria, his take on Mexican street food; Tim and Alex Rattray founded The Granary, home for both house-brewed craft beer and upscale barbecue; and Andrew Weissman opened two places, Italianesque Il Sogno and Sandbar with its impeccable seafood and lust-inducing white wine list.

The culinary school’s own restaurant added cosmopolitan allure when it finally put in an appearance. It has recently been rebranded as Nao Latin Gastro Bar with students doing the noontime cooking and professional chefs turning out an evening menu that is more pan-Latin in scope.

Cured, helmed by Steve McHugh, who came to San Antonio to open Chef John Besh’s Lüke on the River Walk, emphasized the namesake charcuterie and salumi in concert with contemporary creations. Acclaimed bread and pastry artists Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, veterans of Napa Valley’s Bouchon Bakery, relocated Bakery Lorraine from a nearby restored cottage to a prominent Pearl location.

Continuing to enliven the mix, Local Coffee gave Wi-Fi addicts a place to get caffeinated, while Blue Box, a sophisticated bar, brought craft cocktailery to the gastrohood. Just outside the Pearl precinct, Stay Golden countered with more casual beers and cocktails and Brown Coffee brought its rigorous brand of locally roasted specialty brews to Broadway. SoBro opened with a menu of inventive pizzas and house-made gelati, while Timbo’s made sure old-fashioned burgers were not left out.

The creep away from Pearl’s historic heart continued with the opening of Chef Jason Dady’s Shuck Shack on Grayson across from the old Lorraine location. Fresh oysters and fish and chips with an only slightly cheffy bent were now part of the equation.

New additions
All the while the world waited with bated breath for the long-anticipated Hotel Emma, located in the historic Pearl brewhouse, to open its doors. First to come was subsidiary Southerleigh with its in-house brewery. Then, on November 9, Emma was unveiled.

Supper, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, is a light and airy space with an open kitchen commanded by Chef John Brand who brings with him a menu of refined farm-to-table offerings. Sternewirth, an eye-popping bar/lounge mixing steam punk and South Texas chic, ups the cocktail ante by also offering a bar menu from Brand’s kitchen. Larder provides a place for guests and local residents to provision for a picnic or just take home a salad, a sandwich, or a bottle of wine.

And the hostelry even debuted a new position, that of Culinary Concierge. Hugh Dashbach is in charge of bringing food folk and events into the hotel and for organizing hands-on forays out into the field as well. Take that, Stone Oak.

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