Andrew Weissman achieved national acclaim with Le Rêve, and the shock of its closing in 2009 after an 11-year run is, I am told, still rattling some local foodies. Now, three months after opening The Luxury next to San Antonio Museum of Art, the James Beard Award-nominated chef continues to expand his empire from its base at the Pearl (Il Sogno, Sandbar) with a new French-inspired concept, Minnie’s Tavern and Rye Bar.
Located in the famously tilted Boehler House, once home to the Liberty Bar (and more recently, an indifferent effort named after the building), it’s just Minnie’s, for now. An out building on the East Josephine property will be transformed into a whiskey-themed room sometime in the future.
At the moment, no one seems to be missing cocktails. A half-dozen waiters in aprons and white shirts flit about the two freshly painted rooms delivering plates and bottles to white-clothed tables. Except for a beer sign and an antique portrait of a woman (Minnie?) above the long bar, the walls are bare. It’s the very image of a classic brasserie: one-step above a bistro, elegant, but casual, with a historical focus on beer. No mandatory jackets for men or ornately plated improvisations here, the menu features straightforward dishes inspired by France’s unfussy taverns.
Minnie’s is no brewpub, but has an extensive wine list (75 bottles, all French, with 12 selections by the glass) and ample imported and local craft beers on tap and bottled, but the food’s the thing. The thing is, though, strictly for carnivores — except for salads and desserts, vegetarians are clean out of luck. Those who eschew red meat, but do indulge in fish and seafood, are, however, in for a treat (or several). Fruits de mer — crab, shrimp, and lobster at market price, oysters at $3 each, are offered as starters. On the entrée list, Truite Arc-en-Ciel ($19), rainbow trout with crushed potatoes drizzled with vinaigrette, is delivered flaky in the fresh state Sandbar has taught patrons to expect; we look forward to trying the Ray a la Grenobloise ($18), fillets of skate wing dredged in flour and herbs and pan-fried in butter.
If the skate receives the attentions of the Confit de Canard ($19), duck confit, it should be more than serviceable. Confit is a traditional technique that slow cooks goose or duck in its own rendered fat; stored in same, it was originally devised to prevent spoilage. I’m not sure how long the joined leg and thigh had been swimming, but the lightly crunchy skin and moist, fall-off-the bone flesh was possibly as good as I’ve had — and I’ve consumed a flock, or two, by now.
The Steak Frites ($24) have arrived from the Sandbar menu, no surprises there, which is a good thing. Also available at The Luxury, the fries are superb. The menu, which also includes Croque Madame ($14), a ham and cheese sandwich with fried egg and Mornay sauce, seemed to be fixed when we visited, though the Boudin Noir ($18) listed was not available.
But if the main plate you choose is missing that day, don’t despair. Given the collection of hors d’oeuvres, it’s more than easy to bypass the entrées altogether. Unable to decide between the Pâté de Campagne ($10), Foie Gras ($15) and chicken liver mousse ($7), the charcuterie plate ($14) was ordered. Except for one of the salumis, all was made in house, including the pickles and whole-grain mustard. Of special note, the shredded, smoked duck breast and long strips of lardo (with flows of red meat, more like bacon) were especially fine. Just as impressive, however, is the butter, incredibly rich and served as an extra-large pat with the house rolls. Asked where it was sourced, our server replied that it, too, was house-made.
Of the typical desserts, the clafoutis — a French custard cake with fresh fruit — stands out. Cherries are in season now. If you order the duck, this is the perfect riposte.
328 E Josephine,
Best Bets Mussels, duck, house-made charcuterie, and amazing frites
Hours 11:30am-2:30pm, 6-9:30pm Tue-Sat, 10am-3pm Sun Prices $14-$24
The Skinny Weissman’s take on a French brasserie delivers the tight execution and quality ingredients his longtime customers expect, with refreshingly accessible prices