Boom Ups The Ante For Music (and Food) On Venerable St. Mary's Strip

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Pieter Sypesteyn feels right at home living and working in the Tobin Hill neighborhood. - SARAH FLOOD-BAUMANN
Sarah Flood-Baumann
Pieter Sypesteyn feels right at home living and working in the Tobin Hill neighborhood.

New Culinary Options

Just as the music scene along St. Mary's is going through a tonal renaissance, so is the neighborhood's food and nightlife landscape.

The momentum picked up in the summer of 2013 as Delgado opened Faust Tavern and Casey Lange and James Moore opened the doors of TBA (formerly Salute), promising serious cocktails, fanciful infusions and upscale snacks within a neighborhood bar.

Delgado ditched the pizza-by-the slice-approach — "it might have been too soon" — and used its wee kitchen as an incubator of sorts for Drew Morros of Crossroads Kitchen (read more about Morros and her Southern fare on page 31).

"We met Drew during one of her pop-up dinners and figured the kitchen was the perfect place for her to do her thing," Delgado said.

Though Delgado and Morros plan to relocate to Southtown, the eatery has grown quite the following with late-night eaters and food industry members. Delgado and business partner Andrea Vince will stick with the Strip for their next venture, La Botanica, which pairs vegan eats by chef Rebel Mariposa with Vince's herb-filled cocktails. The restaurant will fill the empty space at 2909 N. St. Mary's this summer.

For Mariposa, a native of San Antonio and longtime Delgado buddy who had concentrated on a vegan catering business, the decision to jump on board with the new project was not an easy one. But it felt right.

"This is why I moved back to San Antonio," Mariposa said. "I wanted some of the development to be from some of us in different neighborhoods ... to keep San Anto in San Antonio."

The eatery will focus on regional fare with a focus on Tex-Mex and New Mexico cuisine, though diners can get a fried green tomato po'boy with their chile relleno.

La Botanica will follow Pieter Sypesteyn's The Cookhouse (720 E. Mistletoe) and Chris Cullum's Attagirl (119 Kings Court) as new eateries along the Strip. For Sypesteyn, the reason to move into the area was twofold: The Tobin Hill neighborhood reminded him of New Orleans and it was affordable.

"We were already invested in the neighborhood and its great feel," Sypesteyn said of he and wife Susan's purchase of a home in the area three years ago. The building, constructed in 1931 and the former home of Carmens De La Calle for 14 years, was the perfect size for the restaurant's concept and their vision of the eatery.

Like Mariposa, Sypesteyn also noted the area's booming growth.

"We saw it happening when they expanded the river into the museum and the Pearl," Sypesteyn said.

Feeding Off The Pearl

For Casey Lange, he's glad to see some of the Pearl's momentum expanding into the area he had hoped would turn into a walkable bar and restaurant scene 10 years ago when he opened Limelight. Like Delgado, he stressed community instead of competition.

"The new operators are bringing in some great ideas and are exactly what the Strip needs ... I believe the shared vision of a number of my fellow operators on the Strip is for St. Mary's to be a one-stop destination," Lange said via email. "You only have to park ... and then you can walk to see a show, have a delicious dinner, enjoy some great cocktails, play some pool, dance your ass off, watch a Spurs game or whatever you wish to do that night."

Lange's all-day breakfast concept, Hash, is still in the works — it's slated to open this summer. Though he was coy about other upcoming projects, Lange shared a bit of chisme: "I can say that in the next few years there are at least two more restaurant and bar projects that I am currently working on renovating ... on St Mary's and will be a partner in."

Cullum's Attagirl, first announced in September, is hoping to open its doors in the next few days. The tiny eatery, former home of Willard's Jamaican Bar-B-Que, will fire up tabletop fryers and Panini presses to serve small plates of fried chicken and grilled cheese.

Keep and eye out on Urbex, the newest project from Rudolfo Martinez of Tapa Tapa Truck and Concrete Jungle, inside the former filling station adjacent to Burger Boy. The tiny space will feature a full-service bar and serve a family-style tasting menu that blends technique with hyper-local foraged ingredients.

"St. Mary's has been hot since the '80s, and it's the third-easiest neighborhood to get into that we can still afford," Martinez said. "It's the natural choice."

With St. Mary's encroaching on the Pearl's collection of apex eateries, the area is quickly becoming a connected, pedestrian-friendly feast. From the heavenly Pearl to the hellaciously cheap Faust, it's a nightlife destination returning to its prime.

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