Bar Loretta wins with its comfortable vibe and hand with familiar Texas flavors

The Current's food writers first discussed reviewing Bar Loretta a year ago, as San Antonio diners began returning to local tables, thinking the pandemic was on the wane. That was before Omicron reared its ugly head.

My culinary cohort Ron Bechtol first visited the Southtown restaurant, which vies to put a modern take on Texas cuisine, around its summer 2021 opening. However, after he expressed concerns about the dining room's COVID protocols at the time, we tabled a review for a later date. We wanted to ensure we were getting the full picture.

That later date has come.

As time passed between Ron's first visit and now, the spot has solidified its place as a King William-area dining destination.

While our dining experiences differed greatly — Ron's with a large group and mine as a solo guest at the bar top — we had two observations in common: the service offers comforting vibes reminiscent of a visit to an old friend's home, and the food leaves you satisfied, in all senses of the word.

Ron and I both tried the griddled green onion polenta cake, served with balsamic-braised wild mushrooms and Texas goat cheese. The pillowy cake offered bold goat cheese funk — that's a good thing — and the fresh green onion cut through the creamy texture perfectly. Ron found the balsamic wild mushrooms to be the dish's true star.

We were both impressed greatly by chef Paul Petersen's chili-glazed pork tenderloin. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, it was nestled atop a sweet potato chorizo hash that made my taste buds sing. We agreed the chili heat wasn't forthcoming, but in both cases, the succulent pork had a perfect char, and it cozied right up to its apple-bacon jus.

We both tried the French toast brûlée with vanilla bean ice cream, though Ron was given a spectacular bit of insight: one of the servers was responsible for making the banana nut bread used in the base of the dessert. Promote that woman immediately.

Here's where our dining experiences diverged, however.

Ron's assessment of the chicken livers — potentially one of the homiest options on the menu — was largely positive, though they lacked the look of the crusty grûyère gratinée they were advertised to be capped with. Even so, he finished the entire order.

Continuing with the "homey" theme, Ron found that the summer-vegetable succotash served with the crispy brick chicken almost upstaged the bird with its crunchy corn and bright, tiny tomatoes. The sprightly lemon-thyme jus might have served to de-crisp the juicy chicken a tad, but it only reinforced the brilliant succotash.

Ron loved the idea of a salmon "al pastor" with charred pineapple crema, clearly inspired by the Mexican spitted-pork preparation. However, he found the dish could have been better executed. While the fish itself was cooked well, forcing it into a fried red tortilla cup did neither it nor the diner any favors, and the pineapple crema struggled to emerge.

On my visits, the butter-roasted scallops, served with a salad of shaved fennel and citrus, was a winner — if a pricey one. At $18, I felt no shame in asking Petersen to share his secret for the perfect pistou that accompanied the seafood. A pistou is much like a pesto, sans pine nuts, and for those wondering, Petersen swears that high-quality olive oil makes the difference.

I'd also order the crispy brussels sprouts again, which featured a balanced maple glaze, toasted pecans and queso fresco. Though I generally dislike the texture of most Mexican cheeses, the mild queso fresco was needed in this dish since its understated saltiness helped the brussels shine.

For libations, Ron explored the wine list, but came away with this advice: if you're planning on red with dinner, order a glass of white first so there's time to chill the otherwise too-warm red.

I too stuck with wine, until dessert rolled around. At that point, I ordered my all-time favorite cocktail, a white Negroni, which was perfectly prepared. Loretta's riff on the bracing Italian favorite features gin, pleasantly bitter Suze and soft, fruity Lillet Blanc. The preparation is equal parts light, bittersweet and floral — the perfect finisher to an epic meal.

As mentioned earlier, both Ron and I were enamored with the service at Bar Loretta, where the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and attentive. The service is some of the best we've had at a time when good restaurant staff is hard to come by.

The restaurant's impossibly stylish space boasts rich color and texture, as well as gilded details that delight. Owner Roger Herr has taken a storied — if somewhat schizophrenic — historic building and gently transformed it into a welcoming restaurant where the feeling of being right at home is only reinforced by the food.

As mentioned above, Current food writer Ron Bechtol contributed to this review.

Bar Loretta

320 Beauregard St. 78204 | (210) 757-3607 |

Kitchen hours: Monday- Thursday 4-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4 p.m.-midnight, Sunday 4-10 p.m.

Bar hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily

Entrée prices: $12-$32

Best bets: Butter-roasted scallops, chili glazed pork tenderloin, crispy brick chicken, French toast brûlée

The skinny: Chef Paul Petersen has taken a menu that looks scattered at first glance and turned it into a tome that references both Texas and years of cooking experience. Dishes such as pan-roasted chicken livers and a smash burger with American cheese represent the down-home side of the document, crispy brick chicken with a sublime vegetable succotash takes "home" to new levels, and chili glazed pork tenderloin makes the most of its pairing with a chorizo and sweet potato hash. Don't leave without sampling the banana nut bread French toast brûlée.

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Nina Rangel

Nina Rangel uses nearly 20 years of experience in the foodservice industry to tell the stories of movers and shakers in the food scene in San Antonio. As the Food + Nightlife Editor for the San Antonio Current, she showcases her passion for the Alamo City’s culinary community by promoting local flavors, uncovering...

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