Veteran San Antonio chef cooks up neighborhood French bistro in Beacon Hill
Combining French cuisine with San Antonio flavors may seem like a risky move, but for SoHill Cafe owner Jean-Francois Poujol, it’s only natural. His new restaurant Julia’s Bistro & Bar, opened November 7 at 1725 Blanco Rd., reflects a lifetime of culinary learning.
Though he studied accounting in his native France, Poujol began working in restaurants when he moved to America. During his 17 years in San Antonio, he has worked at acclaimed Alamo City restaurants like Soleil Bistro & Wine Bar, Tost Bistro Bar, and Tribeca 212.
In November 2018, he opened SoHill Cafe in Beacon Hill, a neighborhood-friendly space with an approachable Italian menu. He hopes to do the same with Julia's, which is located in the space next door.
“Everyone thinks that French food is so scary,” says the veteran chef, “but I see French cuisine in a lot of food.”
Working with chef de cuisine Zack McKinney, Poujol created a menu mostly composed of classic dishes like duck confit salad, grilled frisee au lardon, and steak frites. Recognizing that some of those entrees may be unfamiliar to his clientele, he also snuck in Southwestern favorites like a cured salmon tostada and a lamb chili relleno topped with chimichurri.
“Instead of asking customers to step towards me, I step towards them,” explains Poujol of the mix.
Fittingly, the restaurant’s name is also a nod to approachability. Though Poujol came up with it in honor of his niece, the chef says it is resonant of a another, more famous Julia. He sees parallels in the way Julia Child popularized French cuisine in America to how he is demystifying it in San Antonio.
As another neighborly act, Poujol is working with local artists to decorate the interior. He admits, however, that the dining room is still a work in progress.
A few blank walls are not, he still hopes that Julia’s will become a easygoing local haunt.
“We want to keep it unpretentious and accessible, not foo-foo chi-chi,” says Poujol. “We are here for everybody.”