First look: East San Antonio staple Tucker’s Kozy Korner's befuddling lunch menu comes up short

Given the disappointments, it seems like the revamped menu — a blend of barbecue and Vietnamese cuisine — could do with more time.

click to enlarge The new lunch menu at Tucker’s Kozy Korner includes both Vietnamese and barbecue dishes. - Nina Rangel
Nina Rangel
The new lunch menu at Tucker’s Kozy Korner includes both Vietnamese and barbecue dishes.
East Side institution Tucker's Kozy Korner has been serving up drinks and easy vibes since it opened in 1948, but in recent years, its kitchen has been a veritable revolving door of operators and concepts.

From Vietnamese-inspired bahn mi sandwiches to skillet pork chops, the small kitchen has pumped out a variety of cuisines from a variety of chefs. Which made it all the more confusing when the latest menu, which made its debut last week, promised an eclectic mix ranging from breakfast tacos to Vietnamese pho to barbecue to Southern comfort food.

What do those diverse menu options have in common other than the simple fact that they're all potentially delicious? We stopped in for lunch to find out.

Part of the hodgepodge nature of the new menu stems from the dual chefs now presiding over Tucker's kitchen: Jenny Nguyen and Charles Daniels. Nguyen hails from Vietnam, drawing inspiration from her childhood, while Daniels has served up pit barbecue out of his East Side kitchen since the late 1980s.

click to enlarge Veggie pho with tofu is one of chef Jenny Nguyen's dishes. - Nina Rangel
Nina Rangel
Veggie pho with tofu is one of chef Jenny Nguyen's dishes.

Nguyen's contribution to the new menu includes beef, chicken and veggie pho. Add-ons such as a soft boiled egg, extra noodles and extra protein are available for an additional cost. I went with the veggie pho to keep things simple but sprung for extra noodles — an ask that ran an additional $4.

Unfortunately, the broth didn't yield the delectable concoction of beef bones, ginger, onion and aromatic spices one expects from a bowl of pho. The soup offered generous chucks of carrot, mushroom and tofu, but overall, it lacked complexity due to the lackluster broth.

click to enlarge The two-meat barbecue plate at Tucker's is available with brisket and chicken. - Nina Rangel
Nina Rangel
The two-meat barbecue plate at Tucker's is available with brisket and chicken.

My dining companion opted for Daniels’ two-meat barbecue plate, which included brisket and chicken served with cornbread, green beans and potato salad. Again, we were met with disappointment.

The complexity and succulence one expects from constantly tended barbecue was absent. The $16 plate offered just one lonely slice of brisket, which would have been fine had it not been so extraordinarily dry. Not even generous amounts of house barbecue sauce could moisten the meat. The green beans and potato salad were well-seasoned, however.

Given the disappointments, it seems like Tucker's new menu could do with more time. Time let the pho broth and barbecued meats develop many more layers of flavor — and time to reevaluate the efficiency of offering three different concepts daily.

Even so, there was enough potential on display to suggest a return visit for dinner, at which time the eatery switches concepts yet again. Evenings bring a Southern comfort-food collaboration with organic, gluten-free eatery Sweet Yams, located just up the road.

Tucker’s serves breakfast 7-10:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. and dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The establishment's bar operates 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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About The Author

Nina Rangel

Nina 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. She enjoys writing about industry-specific challenges, victories and everything in between.

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