Destination: River Walk
If the tiki torches springing up around the River Walk’s historic Witte building haven't already clued you in, downtown San Antonio is getting a festive new bar and restaurant combo next year.
Set to open in early 2021, Hugman’s Oasis — named for Robert H. H. Hugman, the visionary architect behind the River Walk — is a new destination tiki lounge from esteemed restaurateur Chris Hill. It will be complemented by South Asian comfort from House of Má, located above.
A local hospitality guru known for such concepts as the James Beard-nominated Esquire Tavern, Hill says he’s been wanting to open an elevated destination bar in San Antonio since he purchased the historic Witte building back in 2013. And, while undeniably retro, Hill believes the tiki trend is timeless.
“[It's] a concept that’s not so much ‘trendy,’ but has legs. I’m in love with the whole escapism element of tiki bars. Plus, it's [located] along the River Walk, which is tropical in its own way. Something completely off-the-wall-over-the-top just seemed like the right thing to do.”
The elevated island aesthetic was captured by Hill’s design team from San Antonio-based Giles Design Bureau. They also tapped renowned designer “Bamboo Ben” Bassham, known for designing such bars as Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas and Luau in Beverly Hills, to help create an atmosphere that Hill describes as “jaw dropping.”
“Not only does [Bassham] have every resource known to the tiki world, he’s a complete visionary. He’s building out all the specifics, including the huts, bar tops, detail work. You know, the magic,” Hill says.
Equally important for a tiki operation is a menu of colorful, tropical drinks. Hill brought on Esquire Tavern’s original bar manager, current Boulevardier Restaurant Group owner, Jeret Peña to lead the program.
Fresh off opening a tiki-inspired concept of his own — Southtown’s Hello Paradise — Peña and his bar manager Maren Erickson have whipped up elevated takes on tiki bar staples, including the Golden Triangle, a tequila-based sour cocktail with Sriracha honey syrup, cilantro, and a black sesame rim, and the Pinagroni, a spin on the traditional Negroni made with pineapple wash campari.
The industry all-stars don't stop there. The culinary dream team of chef Louis Singh and Eric Treviño, best known for Singh’s Vietnamese, will open their highly anticipated new Asian concept, House of Má, in the street-level space above Hugman’s Oasis.
Here, Singh plans to forgo his namesake operation’s brisket vermicelli bowls in favor of a more traditional approach to the country’s comfort food. Like the name suggests, “House of Má is going to focus on Vietnamese homestyle cooking,” says Singh. “This is the type of food that has been passed down from Vietnamese mothers and grandmothers for generations.” It will feature such authentic-yet-accessible entrees as Hủ Tiếu noodle soup and chicken Phở Gà.
Singh and Treviño will also provide Hugman’s Oasis with a casual, izakaya-style snack menu, which encompasses smaller bites like candied jalapeno rangoons and seasonal yakitori skewers. In turn, Peña and Erickson have curated a South Asian-influenced cocktail menu for the restaurant. It features such original creations as a Ramos gin fizz with a candied egg yolk garnish.
Hill and his team are tentatively aiming for an early 2021 opening date, contingent, of course, upon final construction.