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Chef Scott Cohen, formerly of Las Canarias in the Omni La Mansion del Rio hotel, has felt an affinity for French food ever since his New York days, and his cuisine at Las Canarias always melded local produce with French techniques and, dare we say, attitudes. At last he has been accorded the chance to be an out-and-out Francophile. In partnership with Patrick Kennedy, former owner of La Mansion, he recently announced the expected fall opening of Brasserie Pavil in Plaza las Campanas at the corner of Huebner Rd. and Loop 1604. Details will follow as soon as they’re made known.

Kobe beef is the draw at the appropriately named Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, located at Blanco Rd. and Loop 410. It will feature both the legendary Japanese beef and American products, hibachi grilling and hotpot preparation will be offered. There will also be a sushi bar. Lunch and diner will be served daily. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, 1007 N.W. Loop 410, 210-524-9333.

Steak will be on the menu and a “steakhouse” feel will characterize San Antonio’s new Wildfish Seafood Grille, the third link in a small chain that originated in Newport Beach. (The owners have the popular Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille in Austin.) But, yes, seafood is the focus. Chef Steve Warner, a San Antonio native who once cooked at Morton’s, The Steakhouse, will helm the kitchen, turning out dishes such as Gulf snapper with lump crab and lemon chive butter, poached lobster and a tableside-mixed ahi tuna tartare with chili oil. The restaurant will be located in the same Las Campanas center that will later house Brasserie Pavil, mentioned above. Wildfish Seafood Grill, 1834 N.W. Loop 1604, 210-493-1600.

San Antonians seem to have a hard time dealing with Spanish restaurants: we expect them to have enchiladas and don’t understand that a tortilla española is not something you wrap around refried beans sprinkled with grated, yellow cheese. Yet hope springs eternal. España has recently opened its doors at 5638 Hausman Road, and its list of sangrias and Spanish wines may help ease the uninitiated into the cuisine and culture. Tapas will include the misunderstood tortilla, along with garlic-grilled shrimp and mushrooms. España, 5638 Hausman Rd., 210-690-4433.

San Antonians do tend to understand steakhouses, and yet another is opening on the Golden Mile (or two) that is Loop 1604 east and west of Blanco Rd. Ounce will replace Pasion!, whose ardor recently faded, with an opening expected in May. Prime steaks and super-premium Akaushi beef (Texas-raised despite its Japanese name) will be featured. Ounce Steakhouse, 1401 N. Loop 1604 W.

If an antidote to richly marbled steaks is needed, look no farther than Café Vida, now open at 2711 Treble Creek in the Spectrum Rogers Ranch, a health club. “California-style” items, prepared with whole grains and meats raised without hormones or antibiotics, will underpin the menu. Vegetable juices and smoothies will also be available. Café Vida, 2711 Treble Creek, 210-408-9021.

The more the merrier when it comes to Indian restaurants, we say, and a new one that calls itself a café and tea house has opened with an emphasis on chai and coffee drinks. Mandala will be open Tuesday through Sunday with a menu said to offer Indian cuisine with “an American twist.” Mandala, 1710 Blanco Rd., 201-347-5692.

Tea seems to be enjoying a streak of popularity in the Alamo City as the opening of another tea house, Café Green Tea, suggests. In addition to the eponymous beverage, the café will offer matcha, a tea-ceremony tea that is made to be consumed leaves and all.  Barley tea, a Korean favorite is also on the menu, along with a variety of coffees, sandwiches, salads and pastries. Café Green Tea, 7460 Callaghan Rd. Suite 300, 210-340-1410.

Kirby’s Steakhouse, established in Dallas in 1954, finally made it to San Antonio with the opening of an outlet in the hot Stone Oak area. In addition to its Midwestern aged prime beef, Kirby’s offers a few surprises such as Oysters Ladybird (pan-fried and served on saffron-braised leeks), potato-crusted calamari, and cedar planked tenderloin tips. Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, 123 N. Loop 1604 E., 210-404-2221.

The doyenne of local caterers, Rosemary Kowalksi, and her RK Group have reopened the Carriage House Bistro at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The setting is the limestone Sullivan carriage house that was disassembled at its site near downtown, and then reconstructed at the entrance to the gardens. The expected soups, salads and sandwiches will be complemented by heartier fare such as pot roast and roast leg of lamb. The Carriage House Bistro, 555 Funston Place, 210-824-2062.

Joining the ranks of San Antonio’s several sushi establishments, Hon Machi Sushi & Teppanyaki has opened it doors. In addition to the expected sushi fare, you’ll also find noodles in various guises and tempura cloaking a variety of victuals. Hon Machi Sushi & Teppanyaki, 1321 N. Loop 1604 E., San Antonio, 210-494-1199.

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, claims authentic Italian credentials, down to its sanctioned tomatoes and an oven straight from Naples. Pizzas include squash blossoms with ricotta, fingerling potatoes with gorgonzola, radicchio and caramelized onions, and Margherita with bufala mozzarella. Among the antipasti are marinated, oven-roasted olives; sandwiches on rustic pizza bread include sausage, rapini and ricotta; and there is a classic chicken liver bruschetta. Dough Pizzeria Napoletana. 6989 Blanco Rd., San Antonio, 210-979-6565,

Mexican-style seafood is enjoying a burst of popularity in the Alamo City, with Mariscos El Marinero Mexican Seafood Restaurant opening in the location vacated by the late-lamented Paletta’s Imported Foods & Deli, an Italian institution that had its roots in a downtown community displaced by expressway construction. The now-usual seafood cocktails and ceviches are on the menu, along with oysters, soups and various seafood platters. Mariscos El Marinero Mexican Seafood Restaurant, 202 Recoleta Rd. at Basse Rd., San Antonio, 210-231-0579.

Merchant’s Grand Café opened to a limited dinner menu after the extensive remodeling of a once and former hardware store. Chef Jonathan Parker, previously of Pesca on the River and the now-defunct Las Leyendas, helms the kitchen. Opening appetizers include shrimp and scallop ceviche and deviled beef ribs with mustard greens; entrées include duck leg confit and salmon “a la plancha”; and among the desserts are a bittersweet chocolate and espresso torte with molasses cream. There are nightly dinner specials as well, among which Tuesday’s tamale-stuffed pork loin exhibits San Antonio-style inspiration. Merchants Grand Café, 5959 Broadway, San Antonio, 210-957-4544.

Bistro Time has changed its name to Bistro Thyme, and moved to Loop 1604 in one fell swoop. A wood-fired grill will allow chef/owner Sander Edmondson to add new items to his menu of updated Continental classics. The restaurant is currently open only for dinner. Bistro Thyme, 1321 N. Loop 1604, Suite 105, San Antonio, 210-495-0244.

Soleil Bistro & Wine Bar beat the seasonal rush with a late summer opening, but is now featuring fall items such as a pear and gorgonzola salad, four cheese macaroni with truffle oil and manchego, and chorizo and cranberry stuffed chicken breast with fall vegetables and creamy polenta. Soleil’s tapas menu complements a wine list that offers 50% off of bottles of Champagne over $30 on Wednesdays and a good selection of wines by the glass at all other times, along with bottles from around the globe. Soleil Bistro & Wine Bar, 14415 Blanco Rd., Suite 105, San Antonio, 210-408-2670.

In nearby New Braunfels, an American-themed restaurant baptized Liberty Bistro has opened under the direction of Darren Scroggins, former headwaiter-sommelier of nearby Myron’s Steak House. An abstract American flag made of lighting conduit adorns the ceiling of this hip hangout, housed in the semi-basement of the city’s old city hall, and the menu includes such items as T. Jefferson’s Tomato Bisque, Yankee Doodle Beef Noodle Soup, Johnny Appleseed Salad, Freedom of the Press Chicken and 49th State Wild Salmon Filets. Liberty Bistro, 200 N. Seguin St., New Braunfels, 830-824-7876.

Taste of Malabar, an Indian restaurant with a southern (India) accent, has recently opened on De Zavala Rd. Kerala-style dishes, such as the mixed-vegetable aviyal, prepared with coconut and curry leaves, and fish kerala masala are typical of this region of Southern India. Kappa, a mashed yucca tuber cooked in spices, and idally (or idli—steamed rice cakes) with lentil sambar, are among other regional specialties, though the menu does also offer northern items and the usual mixed pickle, raita, lassi and naan. The restaurant is open daily. Taste of Malabar, 5999 De Zavala Rd., Suite 109, San Antonio, 210-561-4409,

MeetaPeeta Mediterranean Cuisine has opened east of town, just off IH35, in The Forum. Think Eastern Mediterranean. MeetaPeeta Mediterranean Cuisine, 8311 Agora Pkwy., Suite 106, San Antonio, 210-566-6363.

Continuing the Asian expansion in the Alamo City, Savor Fare has opened in the northwest quadrant. The former owner of Saigon Elite will be serving both Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, to include tamarind shrimp and pho. The restaurant will be open Monday–Saturday for lunch and dinner. Beer and wine are available. Savor Fare, 8601 Huebner Rd., San Antonio, 210-641-1234.

The battery bunny of the restaurant world in San Antonio, Stefania Baldesarelli, has surfaced again with a new restaurant called Stefania’s Country Italian, and it features many of the same dishes we came to know at the old Nona’s and Dolores del Rio—namely lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, and gnocchi. Entertainment will also be featured, though we assume Stefania herself has definitively retired from the belly-dancing biz. Hours are Mon.-Fri. for lunch and Mon.-Sat. for dinner. Stefania’s Country Italian, 2322 San Pedro Ave., San Antonio, 210-733-6633.

Loretta’s Finest Southern Soul is bucking tradition in its decision to use no trans-fats, and is emphasizing the home in down-home by attempting to use organic produce where possible. Menu items include the expected fried chicken and catfish, along with the usual gaggle of greens from okra to cabbage. Loretta’s Finest Southern Soul, 858 FM 78, Schertz, 210-945-8700.

New Orleans Soul Food and Cajun Restaurant is a project headed by the Rev. LeRoy Gaylor with both his recipes and his mama’s, perhaps inspired by the presence of his parents who were evacuated from New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Chicken and dumplings, red beans and rice, seafood gumbo and more—plus comforting cobblers—are the focus of the menu. There are plans to add gospel music on Sundays, which should make the place soulful in every aspect. New Orleans Soul Food and Cajun Restaurant, 10255 O'Connor Rd., Live Oak.

Gourmet Burger Grill is the latest project of Jorge Cosio, who began on the River Walk with Manduca, moved to Cibal on Broadway and has now fled downtown altogether for outer Loopland, where we wish him luck. Burgers, including a Kobe beef model, are front and center, with lamb, crab and other unexpected ingredients also on offer between the bun. Gourmet Burger Grill, 18414 281 N., Ste. 116, 210-545-3800,

Dough is the name of a new pizza place to open soon under the guidance of foodie power couple, Doug and Lori Horn. Lori currently runs a restaurant referral business for conventions, and C.I.A. grad Doug has been working front of the house at Le Rêve while putting together the project, which is expected to be one of only 14 restaurants in the U.S. with a VPN designation. Verace Pizze Napoletana certification comes with a pledge to use the vera cosa such as San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, among other restrictions. The exact address and telephone number will be reported as soon as they are known.

The down-home, soul-sort of food is in the ascendancy with the opening of two new restaurants. Tank’s Chicken and Waffles, serves, yes, spicy chicken atop waffles with sweet maple syrup, among other delicacies. Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant offers more conventional soul fare with smothered pork chops, meat loaf and brisket, all potentially partnered with collard greens and candied yams. Tank’s Chicken and Waffles,1607 E. Houston St., 210-223-8950; Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant, 310 Valley Hi Dr., 210-675-6262.

When Little Hipp’s, a legendary burger palace on Mc Cullough, closed in 2003, there was as much lamenting as there was for the earlier demise of neighboring Hipp’s Bubble Room. Little Hipp’s former manager, Tim Lang has now returned with Timbo’s, in a carefully but minimally refurbished commercial structure on Pearl Parkway at Broadway, the entrance to the emerging La Perla development. Burgers are the basis of his menu, too–along with the iconic Shypoke Eggs in two forms. Timbo’s, 1639 Broadway, 210-223-1028.

Gago’s, offering “traditional Argentine parilla and pasta,” has debuted on the grounds of the Blue Hills Inn & Spa. Beef ribs, lamb, cabrito, suckling pig and more are all part of the cooking display as you enter. Empanadas, homemade Argentine sausage and a variety of pastas and pizzas round out the ultra-hearty fare–after which a romp on the Pampas would seem both reasonable and required. Gago’s, 21455 IH-10 W, 210-204-3974.

Jorge Casio, who owned the now-defunct Manduca on the River Walk and Cibal on Broadway, has decided to try his luck in Loopland with Gourmet Burger Grill in the Legacy center on 281 North. Though beef—including Kobe—is the basis of the menu, the burgers will come in inventive iterations with lamb, crab, portobellos and ahi among the offerings. Gourmet Burger Grill, 18414 U.S. 281 N., Ste. 116, San Antonio, 210-545-3800,

Chef Rick Frame, former sous chef for both Biga and Silo, has just opened West Avenue Kitchen with a lunch menu that focuses on soups, sandwiches and the likes of a “Cuban” Angus burger with ham and dinner fare including chicken on asparagus couscous and strip steak with a balsamic reduction. There’s a limited wine menu and an even more modest beer list—though the offerings include brews from Peru, Belgium and Blanco, Texas. West Avenue Kitchen, 13444 West Ave., San Antonio, 210-402-6226.

Celiac sufferers can find solace at the newly opened Little Aussie Bakery & Café just off Broadway near the Witte Museum. Breads and pastries are made, without wheat gluten, from rice, potato and tapioca flours bound with ground flaxseed. A lush-looking Pavlova is the signature dessert while house-made soups and simple, Big Bloke sandwiches round out the lunch and dinner menu. Waffles with fresh berries are a breakfast feature. Little Aussie Bakery & Café, 3610 Ave. B, 210-826-8830, San Antonio,

The Emerald Forest Café, promising (or threatening) a Wizard of Oz theme, is newly open in the space vacated by Encino Garden Grille. Hours are still in flux as is the notion of entertainment on weekends, but the menu includes a risotto-encased mozzarella “bomba,” seared carpaccio, a pear and Gorgonzola salad and a Cowardly Lion burger (the Dorothy is vegetarian). Locally legendary King Ranch chicken casserole shares dinner honors with grilled salmon, rainbow trout with mushrooms and the likes of a bistecca fiorentina. Emerald Forest Café, 12656 West Ave., San Antonio, 210-545-2881.

Silo Elevated Cuisine Restaurant

The new Silo offshoot has opened, with Chef Gus Ortiz in the kitchen. No word on the quality of the kitchen at press time, but Ortiz has always pleased in the past. Silo Elevated Cuisine, 434 N. 1604 W. at Blanco Rd., 210-483-8989, San Antonio,


Drink Coffee & Wine Bar is now holding forth downtown opposite the Hotel Contessa with an extensive wine list and an arsenal of easy eats that includes wraps, paninis, cheese plates, hummus with pita and the like. Regularly changing art by local artists is also part of the package. Drink Coffee & Wine Bar, 200 E. Market St., Ste. 100, San Antonio, 210-858-5949,

Serving “vegetarian comfort food,” Green Vegetarian Cuisine & Coffee has just opened in a much-remodeled house near downtown. Offerings include the Monster PB& J with peanut butter, jalapeño jelly and vegan sausage, as well as Not Dogs and a portabella burger. Green Vegetarian Cuisine & Coffee, 1017 N. Flores St., San Antonio,  210-123-1234,

Mon’s Thai, the popular Alamo Heights hangout, has spawned Spice Asian Bistro in the same shopping center as the new Silo. The menu is said to be “similar but not identical” to Mon’s. Spice Asian Bistro, 434 N. Loop 1604 W., San Antonio, 210-490-4003,

News Bytes

Wine Special at 20Nine
20Nine Restaurant & Wine Bar announces a Sunday and Monday promotion: half price on all bottles of wine after 4 p.m., with a limit of one bottle for each entrée purchased. Given the respectable wine list, this should be an inducement indeed. 20Nine Restaurant & Wine Bar, 255 E. Basse Rd., 210-798-9463.

Seafood Specials at Morton’s
Choosing to fight fire with water, not more fire, Morton’s, The Steakhouse is countering the proliferation of new steakhouse in San Antonio with, well, fish. It is adding to the menu to new dishes, the Chilled Ocean Platter and the Baked Ocean Platter. Lobster, shrimp, lump crab and more are featured in various preparations. Morton’s The Steakhouse, 849 E. Commerce, 210-228-0935.

Spring Menu Has Sprung
A new spring menu is being introduced at Andrew Weissman’s Restaurant Le Rêve, but the most important recent arrival is baby daughter Ella. Andrew and Maureen closed the restaurant briefly in late January to celebrate, but the tireless pair is now back at work. Rumors continue to circulate about their opening of a cheese shop in the near future, as well.

Construction Junction
Damien Watel, now deserving the title entrepreneur as well as chef, has begun to show signs of progress at his new venture on Stone Oak Parkway in the heart of the city’s fastest-growing zipcode. The owner of Bistro Vatel, Ciao Lavanderia and La Frite Belgian Bistro is currently training chefs for the new enterprise, which will reprise Ciao Lavanderia and launch a modified version of Bistro Vatel, tentatively titled Ciel—all with accompanying banquet spaces and associated retail. Completion is expected late summer.

Lunch at L’Etoile
L’Etoile has added a special, three-course lunch to its bag of tricks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The cost is $15. L’Etoile, 6106 Broadway, San Antonio, 210-862-5441.

Pasta Cucina at Carmine’s
Carmine’s, San Antonio’s New York Italian transplant, has responded to local demand and is modifying its format. Henceforth, a portion of the restaurant’s space in Schertz will be transformed into a more casual concept called Pasta Cucina, featuring, yes, a variety of pastas with an equally varied selection of sauces—all at lower prices than those in effect at Carmine’s current operation. Pasta Cucina will be open from Tuesday through Sunday for both lunch and dinner. The original concept will remain open from Wednesday through Sunday for dinner only and will offer a pared-down version of its previous menu. Carmine’s/Pasta Cucina, 3820 FM 3009, Schertz, 210-658-8822.
Mark Chapman, former pastry chef at Las Canarias in the Omni La Mansion del Rio hotel, left San Antonio a few years back for the allegedly hipper environs of Austin, but he has seen the error of his ways—sort of. Recently he was hired to revamp the dessert menus at both the original Silo on Austin Highway, and its new sibling, Silo 1604. Diners will now find the likes of Guayaquil chocolate caramel mousse, chocolate feuilletine “Candy Bar”, chocolate panna cotta with cinnamon chantilly cream (yes, chocolate is an obsession). For the chocaphobic, there is also a lemon custard cake with blueberry compote.

New Restaurant for The Fairmount
Dan Ward, driving force behind Piatti in the Quarry Market, has announced his intention to open a new restaurant in The Fairmount hotel with a local partner. Luca Ristorante Enoteca will replace the shuttered Sage after extensive interior remodeling that will make the bar more a part of the restaurant experience and will create a private dining space focusing on the boutique hotel’s interior courtyard. Opening is expected in mid-February. A property in the currently hot Stone Oak area is also under consideration. Luca Ristorante Enoteca, 401 S. Alamo St.

Glutton for Bohanan’s
The Food Network’s “Glutton for Punishment” star, Bob Blumer, was in town recently to tape a segment on grilling Prime steak at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood. His task? Grill 40 steaks of different cuts and sizes perfectly—and all at once. The segment will air early next year; only then will we find out if he passed the test or ended up washing dishes. Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, 219 E. Houston St., San Antonio, 210-472-2600.

Frederick’s Expands Hours
Not to be outdone, Frederick’s will open for dinner on Sundays during November and December. Frederick (who was previously a partner in the L’Etoile operation) features French cuisine with an Asian accent. Frederick’s, 7701 Broadway, San Antonio, 210-828-9050.

Working Hard for the Money
In a bold, yet retro move, L’Etoile has added tableside service to its arsenal of enticements–joining the few in town that make waiters truly work for their tips. (The Fig Tree Restaurant and Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood come to mind.) Steak Diane is one of several specials that will get the active treatment, and visions of flaming desserts can’t be far behind. L’Etoile, 6106 Broadway, San Antonio, 210-862-5441.

Cohen’s Cookbook
Scott Cohen, executive chef of both Las Canarias and Pesca on the River at the Watermark Hotel & Spa, has just released a new cookbook, “The Texas Hill Country Cookbook.” It’s published by Three Forks and is available for $25. Cohen has long been known for his championing of local products and growers, and this cookbook is a reflection of that dedication. Warm Texas Beef Tenderloin and Broiled Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit are just a few of the recipes underlining regional foods.

New Development in Loop 1604
Damien Watel, chef-owner of Bistro Vatel, Ciao Lavanderia and La Frite Belgian Bistro, has broken ground for a new restaurant complex on Stone Oak Parkway in the fast-growing quadrant north of Loop 1604. Ciao Due, with an Italian theme, and Ciel, a French restaurant named for its large skylights, will also feature banquet facilities, outdoor seating and a pedestrian “street” flanked by specialty boutiques. Completion is anticipated mid 2008.

Restaurants Expanding Hours
Azuca, one of the city’s Latin standard bearers, has now opened on Sundays and will be serving lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Azuca, 713 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, 210-225-5550. Café Paladar, the other Latin standard bearer, is now open on Mondays for lunch and dinner. (They do a stunning brunch on Sundays.) Café Palader, 18322 Sonterra, San Antonio, 210-798-7200. 20nine Restaurant & Wine Bar continues the trend of over-achieving hours with the decision to serve lunch from Monday to Friday. A new chef is making modest waves with revised menu items. 20nine Restaurant & Wine Bar, 9855 E. Basse Rd., San Antonio, 210-798-WINE.

For Truly Authentic Neapolitan Pizza
Dough Pizzeria Napoletana–literally a part of a DOC controlling the membership of restaurants subscribing to the strict standards of Naples-style pizza-making–has just received its oven from the mother city, after several changes of vessel and a long transit time. Doug & Lori Horn (he was previously a waiter at Restaurant Le Rêve), have also recruited Suzanne Wilkinson, a longtime fixture at Liberty Bar, to their cause, and an opening is expected in late November or December. Specialty sandwiches will share the menu along with the expected, pristine pizzas. Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, 6989 Blanco Rd., San Antonio, 210-979-6565,

Grissini’s Relocates
Ristorante Grissini has abandoned its old location near the Medical Center and has opened in new digs in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center (which recently saw the opening of a new Sushi Zushi as well).  Maria de Rosa continues to run the front of the house while Ezio holds forth in the kitchen. A new menu is said to be in place. Ristorante Grissini, 999E. Basse Rd., San Antonio, 210-615-7270.

To Market, To Market
Hot on the heels of the recent announcement revealing Kit Goldsbury’s $35 million endowment for the Center for Foods of the Americas and affiliates at the Perl Brewery Project, comes the opening of a much more modest, yet altogether welcome, operation—a weekly farmers’ market—at the same location. Expected to be open each Friday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. during growing season, the market will feature such local products as peaches from Stonewall (now in season) as well as squashes, melons, tomatoes and get-it-while-you-can honey. For more information, call Texas Farm to Table Restaurant (also in the Pearl Project) at 210-444-1404 or the Tri-County Farmers Market Association at 830-665-3579.

Mas Tapas
Chef Jason Dady of Bin 555 and The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills has announced that Bin will cease serving its Grande Piastra entrée plates in order to concentrate on the tapas-type offerings that have made the restaurant such a mecca for both wine and food lovers. (Think asparagus with poached egg, quail, and personal, wood-fired pizzas, for example.) Bin 555, 555 W. Bitters Rd., San Antonio, 210-496-0555.

Tapas & Tequila
Tapas and tequila make another match downtown in a newly announced program at The Westin Riverwalk. Always noted for its tequila selection (there are over 30), the bar is now offering tapas from chef Chip McMullin’s kitchen Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.—perfect for a pause from rambling the river. The Westin Riverwalk, 420 W. Market St., San Antonio, 210-224-6500.

Name Game
Luciano at the Strand, an Italian restaurant with Southwestern yearnings, has undergone a name change; it will henceforth be known as Luce Ristorante & Enoteca, reflecting owner Joe Buonincontri’s purchase of the shares of previous partners. Initial liaisons with chiles and other Latin trappings have been soft-pedaled lately, but a retreat to red sauce has nevertheless not taken place. Luce Ristorante & Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Rd., San Antonio, 210-561-9700.

Restaurant Revitalization
Chef David Bull, formerly of Austin’s The Driskill hotel, will be spending some of his time in San Antonio at The St. Anthony - A Wyndham Historic Hotel’s flagship restaurant in an attempt to breathe new life into the dowager dining destination. Both Bull and local favorite son, Andrew Weissman of Le Rêve and The Sandbar Fish House & Market, were nominated for a 2007 James Beard Best Chef: Southwest award.

Estrada Emerges in Place of Perez
Chef Ernest Estrada can add “executive” to his title at the Westin La Cantera Resort and its flagship Francesca’s at Sunset restaurant. Estrada moves into the position vacated by Jesse Perez when he left to helm the kitchen at Luciano at the Strand. Food and beverage director John Northcutt reports that the menu has already been changed by “40 or 50 percent,” and that Estrada will continue to work with consulting chef and Southwest guru, Mark Miller. Francesca's at Sunset, 16441 La Cantera Pkwy., San Antonio, 210-558-2442.

Destination Dinners at Southtown Café
The Southtown Café, occupying a former service station/convenience store in the emerging Southtown District offers “Destination Dinners.” Thursday and Friday evenings of each month. Specialty nights include: Italian Night, Crab Cake Night and Puerto Rican Cuisine Night. Southtown Café 1127 S. St. Mary’s St., San Antonio, 210-829-1196.

Grand Gourmet Gift
The bombshell culinary news of the year is the gift of $35 million by local philanthropist/developer (and former owner of Pace’s Picante) Kit Goldsbury to the Center for Foods of the Americas and its affiliated institution, the Culinary Institute of America. The intent is to “envision a future where Latin American cuisines are elevated to their rightful place among the great cuisines of the world,” and to that end, the bequest will fund new facilities at the emerging CFA, a part of the Pearl Brewery redevelopment, as well as scholarships there and new program development at both facilities. The San Antonio school thus becomes an official campus of the CIA, and it is expected to occupy new, expanded quarters in 2009. Center for Foods of the Americas, 312 Pearl Parkway, 210-222-1113,

Chef Shuffle

David Mendelson, a veteran of Morton’s, The Steakhouse, the Tower of the Americas restaurant, and several River Walk operations, has taken over the helm at Silo 1604 from Gus Ortiz. Mark Bliss, original chef at Silo Elevated Cuisine on Austin Highway, remains in a consulting role. Silo, 1133 Austin Highway, 1133 Austin Hwy, 210-824-8686; Silo 1604, 434 N. Loop 1604 W., 210-483-8989,

Mark Chapman, former pastry chef at Las Canarias in the Omni La Mansion del Rio hotel, left San Antonio a few years back for the allegedly hipper environs of Austin, but he has seen the error of his ways—sort of. Recently he was hired to revamp the dessert menus at both the original Silo on Austin Highway, and its new sibling, Silo 1604. Diners will now find the likes of Guayaquil chocolate caramel mousse, chocolate feuilletine “Candy Bar”, chocolate panna cotta with cinnamon chantilly cream (yes, chocolate is an obsession). For the chocaphobic, there is also a lemon custard cake with blueberry compote.

Scott Cohen, exponent of local produce and longtime executive chef at Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio and Pesca on the River at the Watermark Hotel and Spa, recently announced his departure. Cohen, whose cookbook, “The Texas Hill Country Cookbook”, has just been released, will work with Pat Kennedy, the former owner of both hotels. Projects include developing a local restaurant. “The kitchens [at Las Canarias and Pesca] will be even better than ever after I’m gone,” said Cohen, and while we have our doubts, the staff has been with him long enough to have absorbed his philosophy of French-inspired regional cooking. Las Canarias, 112 College St., San Antonio, 210-518-1063. Pesca on the River, 212 W. Crokcett St., San Antonio, 210-396-5817.

Christopher Spencer, right-hand chef of Andrew Weissman at Restaurant Le Rêve, will be moving to the kitchens of L’Etoile, the city’s other distinguished French restaurant. Weissman says he’s expecting the arrival of a replacement from New York’s famed Per Se, one of Thomas Keller’s acclaimed restaurants.

Gus Ortiz, formerly executive chef of the newly opened Silo 1604, has left their employ. We don’t know where he will land, but will keep our eyes and ears open. Silo 1604, 434 N. Loop 1604 W., San Antonio, 210-484-8989.

Chef Ernest Estrada of The Westin La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, and Francesca’s at Sunset has been “shuffled up” to the position of executive chef, according to F&B director, John Northcutt. In addition to retooling the menu at Francesca’s that was the legacy of departed chef Jesse Perez, Estrada will continue to work with consultant Mark Miller whose tingling touch can be felt throughout the restaurant’s offerings. Francesca’s at Sunset, 16441 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, 210-558-2442.

Chef Chris Carlson of Le Rêve has made a lateral move to next-door sibling The Sandbar Fish House & Market where he now oversees the new evening hours, Tuesday through Saturday, plus the ordering and preparation of all seafood. (The restaurant is currently closed for lunch.) Carlson also retains afternoon duties at much-laureled Le Rêve. The Sandbar Fish House & Market,152 E. Pecan St., 210-222-2426; Le Rêve, 152 E. Pecan St., 210-212-2221.

Now sole owner of Luciano at the Strand (look for a name change before too long), Joe Buonincontri has just hired a cook with fire house creds to run the open kitchen. We look forward to even more colorful cuisine as a result. Luciano at the Strand, 11255 Huebner Rd., 210-651-9700, San Antonio.


According to a previous owner, new ownership at The Guadalupe River Ranch has ambitious plans for revamping the entire compound–including the restaurant. It is to reopen as Tierra Sagrada as soon as projects have been completed. In the meantime, we are removing the ranch from our list and anticipate revisiting it soon; the setting is incomparable, and it deserves a restaurant to match. The Guadalupe River Ranch, 605 FM 474, Boerne, 800-460-2005.

Apparently chef/owner Sam Suwanasung has had enough of feeding breakfast pancakes to the patrons of the downtown hotel that housed his Thai Kitchen on the River; he has shuttered the restaurant. We will report on his whereabouts as soon as he surfaces again. Thai Kitchen on the River, 100 Villita St., 210-225-1234.

La Calesa, one of the city’s few restaurants serving interior Mexican cuisine, has closed. Despite rumors that the shut-down was “for remodeling”, no activity has been noted, and the location–directly across from a new, upscale condominium tower under construction–appears distinctly abandoned. We will miss the pibil preparations.

Circa 1900 has mysteriously closed its doors, and the space that was once festooned with swagged fabric stands empty. Another enterprise by the same owners also sports a “for-lease” sign. Lovers of Liberace-style atmosphere will now have to look elsewhere.

Don Quixote Restaurant & Grill has been replaced by a Tex-Mex restaurant–this after adding Mexican specials to its previously all-Spanish menu in an attempt to lure in locals. Flamenco aficionados now have only Carmens de La Calle to satisfy their urge to watch and wail.

Adobo Taco Company, an upscale take on San Antonio’s favorite food, has closed its doors, suggesting once again that it doesn’t pay to play too tony with tacos in the Alamo City.

Las Croabas, one of San Antonio’s few Puerto Rican restaurants, has closed, leaving aficionados of fried plantains and traditional mofongo bereft of these Caribbean classics.

The Vine Italian Ristorante appears to have withered away. We will miss chef/owner Rosie Tortore’s take on Neapolitan classics.

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