San Antonio chef bringing burger, hot dog concept to recently shuttered Hello Paradise spot

click to enlarge One of Hello Paradise's key draws was its large patio. - Instagram / helloparadise
Instagram / helloparadise
One of Hello Paradise's key draws was its large patio.
A new concept dubbed Big Animal is taking over the space that recently housed Thai food and tiki-drink haven Hello Paradise, bringing approachable bar food and “really good cocktails” to the Pearl area.

San Antonio chef Mark Garcia, who helms south-of-downtown spot Bandit BBQ, is partnering with local cocktail guru Jeret Peña — one of Hello Paradise's owners — on the new venture, which will specialize in burgers, hot dogs and sausages. It's slated to open in April.

“We’re kind of billing it as a homier alternative to all of the fine dining in the area … accessible, you could say,” Garcia told the Current. “The food will be Texas-centric, so people can expect thoughtful burgers, our Frito pie … just low-cost, good food.”

While Garcia’s barbecue joint offers full counter service to folks who dine in, he says the sheer size of the upcoming Big Animal space required a different serving model.

“We’re trying to capitalize on existing technology as much as possible,” Garcia said. “People are going to be ordering food from their tables, eliminating the bottleneck effect we would see when people order food at the bar. We’re hoping this means people will see more efficient service and faster food times.”

The new concept will make use of partnerships with local ranchers, offering Texas-raised beef wherever possible.

Peña and his Boulevardier Group launched Hello Paradise in December 2020 with a menu focused on Thai fried chicken, Tom yum noodles and curry. Frozen drinks were a bar specialty. Moving forward — and after “dramatic reimagining” of the kitchen space — Peña will consult on cocktails for Big Animal but leave the food to Garcia.

The interior of the building, which also formerly housed Jason Dady’s Shuck Shack, will also get some love from a renovation crew. It currently has the capacity to seat about 20 people, but Garcia says he wants to open it up to create a warmer, more inviting vibe.

Folks familiar with the hearty fare and casual atmosphere at Bandit BBQ may find a more central home for accessible food and drink in Big Animal when it opens this spring.

“I think [Big Animal will be] cut from the same cloth as far as our focus on quality. … I don’t even know if people give a shit about that anymore, but with a larger kitchen, we’ll be able to give people more options and have more fun with the menu,” Garcia said. “Hopefully, in that area, people will be more receptive to new ideas, and trying new stuff. I’m looking forward to giving it a shot.”

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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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