Good New Spots in San Antonio
Over the last couple of days my wife and I have visited three places in San Antonio that were new to us and reasonably new to San Antonio. Insignia and Auden's Kitchen are totally new. Sandbar has been around awhile but has moved into a nice new space at the Pearl Brewery development.
Insignia -- Chef Jason Dady's new venture in the Fairmount Hotel. We liked the space, with high ceilings and a large space where tables are well spaced. Large windows along two walls. We had dinner there last night. Nice service -- everyone there was very friendly. Food was pretty good. We had shrimp seviche and crab cake for apps. Both were good, expecially the seviche. Entrees -- filet mignon and striped bass -- were good except for tepid veggies served with the filet. Dessert of tres leches cheesecake was good. Overall, it was good, not great, but worth another visit.
Sandbar -- Chef Andrew Weissman has moved his seafood restaurant from catty-cornered with the bus station downtown to the developing Pearl Brewery area. The decor is bright, open and very, very nice. Excellent service -- by far the best we had this weekend. We were there for lunch yesterday. Had the clam chowder and a special, tempura shrimp, for apps. Both were delicious. My wife had the crab salad and I had another special, fluke sandwich, for main courses. Again, they were both delicious. We shared the key lime pie for dessert and, again, it was delicious. We loved this place. It was a great lunch.
Auden's Kitchen -- I loved Biga when Chef Bruce Auden opened it in an old house. I have never been impressed with Biga on the Banks and it's my opinion he made a mistake when he moved a great neighborhood place to the river. Thank goodness he has opened an new place that is more like a neighborhood place and that I think is a great concept. The place is very casual, the servers friendly and competent and the food was excellent. We shared an appetizer of wood-roasted Texas mushrooms that were sauteed with onions, peppers and tomatoes that was just out of this world. We split a wedge salad that was good. My wife ordered the short ribs and hit a homerun. Flavorful and falling off the bone. Excellent. I had a special, a sirloin steak served with fabulous mashed potatoes. The steak was delicious, but a little tough. (But I am accustomed to ribeyes, which are naturally much more tender than sirloin, so that may be why I thought it was tough.) Skipped dessert because we had just eaten too much already.
Still miss Le Reve, and don't think it can be replaced, but all three of these new places are worth a visit, IMO.
I took some friends out to Auden's Kitchen for lunch recently and I have to say we were underwhelmed on a few things. There were of course several dishes ordered and people sharing all around the table. The stick wings as an App was undercooked. Then one of my cohorts ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and it was VASTLY undercooked. Another thing that was lacking was the service. Waiter wasn't on top of things at all.
I hope this place does make it. I will try again in several months when they have a chance to pull their act together.
Somewhere in chowhound I have another post that talks about five different restaurants, but this post is about the Bar at Bohanan's, 219 East Houston Street in San Antonio, not the upstairs restaurant.
In the downstairs Bar, Mark Bohanan sheds some of the formality of the restaurant by offering a selection of traditional sounding sandwiches with upscale twists: the BLT features Kurobuta – the Kobe beef of pork – bacon; the grilled cheese has aged gouda, heirloom tomatoes and basil; and the roasted lamb has caponata, goat cheese and arugula. He even makes a nod to that traditional San Antonio snack, Frito pie.
We headed for other sections on the menu. Raised on the Atlantic Ocean by the Chesapeake Bay, I tend to be more than a bit snooty about crabcakes. The Bar at Bohanan’s makes a great Old Bay-seasoned one dominated, as it should be, by the flavorful lump crabmeat itself. The Bar’s take on a Nicoise salad features several small rounds of perfectly seared sashimi-grade tuna, and the blackened snapper arrived blanketed with freshly prepared vegetables. We bucked all wine-pairing rules and enjoyed a glass of a Chilean Carbenere blend from San Lorenzo Estates. (Photos from this meal are posted on my blog, postcardsfromsanantonio.wordpress.com.
The traditional dark wood used for the bar and trimmings is counterbalanced by the large storefront windows fronting on Houston Street and overlooking the courtyard. Seating and tables vary in size and arrangement, creating comfortable spaces for couples or groups of friends.
Bohanan’s Bar features classic cocktails. No modern-day blender in sight.
Mad Men is credited with igniting the classic mixologist craze; so it seemed fitting to order a drink invented by ad men with the swagger of Don “What-you-call-love-was-invented-by-guys-like-me-to-sell-nylons” Draper. The Moscow Mule. The refreshing drink with fresh lime and a strong ginger flavor seems more tropical than its name that reflects the Russian origins of the product the mule was supposed to push to gin-drinking Americans, Smirnoff’s vodka.
According to Cocktail Times, the Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by Heublein executive, John G. Martin, and the owner of the Cock ‘N’ Bull Bar, who wanted to bolster his flailing ginger beer franchise:
“They ordered specially engraved copper mugs and Martin set off to market it in the bars around the country. He bought one of the first Polaroid cameras and asked barmen to pose with a Moscow Mule copper mug and a bottle of Smirnoff vodka. Then he would leave one copy of the photo at the bar and take a second copy to the bar next door to show them that their competitors were selling their concoction. Between 1947 and 1950, thanks to their invention, Smirnoff vodka case columns more than tripled and nearly doubled in 1951.”
Surely, Don Draper would approve. Bohanan’s Bar seems to have the original drink down pat, evening offering it in a copper mug General Manager Scott Becker says they had custom-made in New York. My friend and I are hooked.
Attentive service, fresh presentation of food and cocktails Don would drink are all good qualities. But what makes a body want to return to the Bar at Bohanan’s is that it is quite simply a great place to talk.
Bohanan's Prime Steaks & Seafood
219 East Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
John Besh is an excellent chef and as he opens new places and puts a lot of work in them, they are usually truly awesome. After they have been open a year or more and his attention moves to newer things, they lose a lot of the original appeal. So go soon!!! And go often. He is amazing.
August 8, 2010 1:30pm Brunch at Audens Kitchen. Have never has such bad service and food. Chicken was greasy, probably precooked and held over. Servicer - where to begin - water never refilled during entire meal. Had to find the watier for issue on food and then again to get a check. Overated place. Two piece chicken dinner was a leg, thigh, mashed potatoes and no bread. $12 for not much more than KFC.
Amazed at how many people of all ages were out on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River at dusk and after dark on Saturday night - many on bicycles. People are ready, even though the plantings along this new stretch of riverside pathways are not, even though the banks seem moonscaped more than landscaped.
We were down there because we finally got around to... experiencing G&G Mobile Bistro, tracking them southward to 116 West Mitchell, tucked away behind Boneshakers. Parking is limited, but, as half the customers seemed to arrive by bike, that presents no real problem.
Shaded by trees, the new location offers a sweeping view of the river's voluptuous new curves in the Mission Reach. Once we have something growing, this could actually turn into the prettiest spot along the river's course through Bexar County and is ideally positioned to catch the evening breeze from the south.
We went out back and ordered the five featured courses for $14, no choices to make. What's on the blackboard is what you get. Then we went in to grab a not great, but very inexpensive, bottle of wine from Boneshakers, which boasts a pretty impressive beer selection.
Arriving at 7:45, just in time to secure prime seating, seating in short supply by 8:15. Don't know how they possibly keep track of who ordered one item, three courses or all five, but, somehow our little cardboard cradles came out one at a time, each one delivered to our table precisely as we finished the course before. The first course featured a mound of caramelized onion on brie served with croutons and slices of apples. The apples had a dose of coarsely ground pepper on them, which I wouldn't have thought would work. It did. Next was a plastic glass filled with an acorn squash soup, bravely made without ladling in too-rich cream and unexpectedly spiked with a flavor burst or two from chunks of lime pulp. Then we were served a great little salad, followed by pork flavored with balsamic perched on perfectly herbed vegetables. Everything tasted so fresh and healthy. The only course we didn't care for was the dessert, a flan-cake.
My husband kept repeating G&G is his new favorite restaurant. It's the type of place you want to tell everyone about on the one hand, but realize the danger that it will soon be too popular for you to get that prime seat. Shhh....
Hope they let us return. Occurred to me on the drive home we committed a food truck faux pas. We completely forgot to return our wine and water glasses to Boneshakers, rudely left them on the table under the trees. We'll be better next time.