SAN ANTONIO -- On a large chalk board that looks to be 10 feet tall, Chef Tim Donovan has etched the menu in bold letters: Lamb Souvlaki, Toasted Taleggio, Pressed Pig. Further down the options include: a Pura Vida salad with corn, avocado, toasted walnuts, tomato, heart of palm, cilantro and lime; and desserts like espresso ice cream, caramel pudding and arroz con leche.
It's an ambitious menu, when you consider it's being served out of a boxcar.
It was March 3 that chef and restaurateur Andrew Weissman, owner of The Sandbar Fish House & Market, Il Sogno Osteria, and previously Le Rêve) opened his latest eatery. The Luxury is perfectly situated on the banks of the San Antonio River at E. Jones, sandwiched between the San Antonio Museum of Art and Broadway.
Weissman and Donovan expected to feed about 50 people at the "soft" open for the new relaxed outdoor venue. But it didn't turn out that way.
"Add another zero to that, and that's about what we did in the 3-hour time frame before we had to literally batten down the hatches," Weissman said.
It showed that San Antonio is eager for more Weissman 5-star fare...maybe with a few less bells and whistles.The Luxury is an outdoor space, complete with an eclectic assortment of picnic tables and benches, corrugated-metal awnings, camo shade and cafe string lights. The "drink box" creates a perpendicular corner for the venue - behind which patrons will find two bocce ball courts.
No reservations needed here. But Weissman and Donovan aim to maintain the same standards found at their more up-scale restaurants.
"We try to apply 5-star cooking principles and quality of product for our food, but in an extremely casual environment," Weissman said, adding that they source locally whenever possible.
"People treat it like their living room," Weissman said. "And so we have every stripe of individual showing up here. We've got guys pulling up here on their motorcycles, to attorneys. I mean, you name it - to kids living at 12welve 2wenty1."
Dog lovers welcome. Chef Tim said last week a whole group of dog-walkers called the San Antonio Nature Hounds passed through for a bit of refreshment mid-stroll.
Wednesday Michelle Forry stopped in after being told she'd have an 1-hour wait up the river at another water-front establishment. She ordered the Crispy Fish Banh Mi.
"Oh, my God, it's fabulous," she raved. "Who would have thought this fried egg would be this good!"
John Covert and his son along with Jim and Cindy Riley settled in to Pressed Pig with garlic, honey aioli, roasted peppers, charred onion and cilantro; and Curry Chix with arugula, tomato and mayo. The casual setting was a perfect post-Lacrosse match for their appetites. They'll be back, they said.
Friends - often with their dogs - meet up, laugh and indulge in fabulous cuisine. The airy, convivial cafe vibe is something out of Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party." On this day Weissman's wife takes a shift at the drink box, temporarily standing in for a staffer, while his young son and little daughter amuse themselves nearby, sometimes with bocce ball, sometimes bussing tables.
Meanwhile, Weissman and Donovan have determined a sort of a pattern so far: People start lining up at around 11:30, wanes a bit around 1:45 p.m. then picks up again by 5:30 to close at 9 p.m.
But will 5 people show up or 50? Trying to gauge the flow of foot traffic while never compromising on quality is the challenge for Chef Tim.
Weissman's sweetheart lease deal will keep The Luxury at 103 E. Jones for at least 5 years he says. But, if I were you I wouldn't wait to queue up. There's a lot of good eating to be had between now and then.
IF YOU GO:
-Check the hours, they may change, but they'll always be closed on Mondays.
-Don't make off with the toy animals, they are strictly to identify your order.
-Check out the bocce ball court. Equipment is available at the 'drink box' with the exchange of your ID.
COMING UP AT THE LUXURY:
- On March 27, Soler's Sports will launch their weekly Social Run starting off from The Luxury at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The speaker, a runner from South Africa, is being sponsored by Adidas. Hey, and if you get their early, Adidas will let you wear test a pair of their shoes! A pair of Adidas shoes will also be raffled off prior to the 3 to 5-mile informal run. Soler's will give away race entry fees, and Whole Earth Provision Co. usually hands out goodies. Go for the freebies and t-shirts!
AND THERE'S MORE TO COME:
-Once The Luxury has settled in to a 'predictable' pace, Andrew Weissman will be focusing on his other new project: Minnie's Tavern. Weissman purchased the historic Boehler building on Josephine Street - the original site of the Liberty Bar. But, this venue, like The Sandbar and Il Sogno, will be by reservation only.