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Adiós Revolution Room, Hello Leon

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Change. Some campaign on it, creatures of habit can’t stand the thought of it. For Lee Beekly, owner of Revolution Room, change was necessary.

Beekly, who also owns Taco Garage and Rebar, decided to do a 180 with Rev Room.

“A year, year and a half ago, it started going in a different direction that we wanted,” Beekly said. “I’m older now, I wanted something different.”

The catalyst for the upheaval? Constant police attention the Revolution Room received in the past two years.

This wasn’t always the case. Beekly first partnered with Greg Bickerstaff to open Revolution Room eight years ago after a would-be trip to Berlin turned into an extended stay in Prague. There, Beekly visited coffee shops, discotheques, grotto clubs and learned about the Velvet Revolution (the former Czechoslovakia’s non-violent protest that led to the collapse of Communism there).

The bar was a go-to for area college students looking to barhop between The Hangar, Rebar and Salud without heading downtown.

But now 48 years old and a family man, Beekly’s looking for a change of pace from the “Dance Party, USA” culture.

Sure, Beekly admits, fights happen. But the rowdy, rough-around-the-edges crowd garnered attention from WOAI this past February, which interviewed fed-up neighbors about the weekly parking lot brawls. The segment, followed by a particularly gnarly fisticuffs session amongst bar hoppers near Rev Room, led to Beekly taking down the establishment’s sign, changing the dress code and finding new deejays within days.

The bar is taking on a new moniker, Leon, after Beekly’s grandfather, a geologist born in 1883 who scoured South America and Europe surveying the land for oil and railroads on horseback and later Model Ts. Photos of Leon and his work buddies are scattered throughout the bar, along with new wooden panels, antique tables and wagon wheel light fixtures.

The lifelong restaurateur and bar owner isn’t going it alone. Beekly’s enlisted the help of new partner and longtime Taco Garage patron Joel Rivas to rebrand Leon into a rustic, Americana-tinged ice house/whiskey bar/beer garden.

“We wanted to build something that fits into the neighborhood,” Rivas said of the bar space they’re hoping to turn “from a menace into an asset.”

The upgrades have been slow and steady: The two-month old patio will eventually incorporate a 1955 Spartan trailer outfitted with some 18-plus draught beers. Already, the beer and booze selection is looking up with the addition of craft brews and local spirits. Although the grand opening isn’t slated until August 16, and Beekly often wonders if the venture will stick, he’s finding some peace of mind.

“Sales might have plummeted, but so did the police blotter,” he said.

Leon

8123 Broadway
(210) 320-4567
facebook.com/Leon1883

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What to Know Before You Go On A Cleanse

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

When it comes to juice, your choices are plenty


It’s been a year since I’ve taken up this gig of eating and drinking across San Antonio. Since then, no fewer than seven juice shops have opened in the area. And this gaggle of juicers is of a slightly different breed than, say, Jamba Juice. Urth Juice, One Lucky Duck and two Juice Central locations have all opened in the last year; Raw Happiness inside the Wong Grocery building will open in the next few weeks, while the juicers that started it all, Juicer Heroes, have opened two more locations across the city’s North Side. Elizabeth Johnson, chef and former Culinary Institute of America instructor launched Crave Market, and introduced a line of eight-ounce juices to SA. Revolucion Coffee + Juice, which opened in 2012, continues to add to its juicy lineup.

Aside from reporting any new openings and the occasional fruit- and veg-filled purchase, I stayed away from really diving into this topic. As a food writer, the idea of juicing and—gulp—a cleanse was entirely too foreign, especially given the range of health mantras being tossed around: ditch the sugar, ditch the grain, gluten-free is the way to go, moderation is key, the list goes on.

But these shops are out there, and the deluge of juice isn’t stopping any time soon. I decided to cast my fears aside and try out a juice cleanse, hoping to dispel any personal myths about the process along the way. Here’s how my trip through juiceville went down.

Drowning in Options

For starters, the exact definition of “juice cleanse” seems to vary. Most juice shops will offer some kind of juice cleanse (with the exception of Crave Market) made up of a variety of juices, while cleanses at Juice Central and One Lucky Duck include a variety of small meals or salads. Cleanses at Revolucion, on the other hand, include a selection of dairy-free nut milks, which help supplement protein. My options were wildly varied.

How long I wanted to put myself through this journalistic endeavor was also a caveat—as a food writer and general lover of all things meaty, I had to figure out how long I could feasibly last. Again, options abound. There are one- and two-day cleanses available at Juice Central, while three- and five-day cleanses are available at Juicer Heroes, Farm to Juice, One Lucky Duck and Revolucion. Those brave enough can try seven-day cleanses available through Urth Juice and Juicer Heroes. Angie Carral, owner of Revolucion, shared a tip.

“We recommend you do it when you’re most busy. That way you’re not having to think about what you’ll have for lunch or dinner, there won’t be any distractions,” Carral said. On the flipside, Noah Melngailis, owner of One Lucky Duck, recommends setting yourself up for success by clearing your schedule or making sure you’re not halfway through a cleanse before realizing you’ve previously made dinner plans.

Because my schedule often revolves around restaurant and bar reviews, along with media previews and occasional tastings, I chose to go with a three-day cleanse. I cleared my schedule of any weekend outings, and stayed away from activities that revolved around food.

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Flavor File: Say.She.Ate’s SoHo kitchen, Tre Trattoria Downtown’s last hurrah and ‘Bon Appetit’ taps two local joints

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Turns out tasty things come to those who wait. After several months of building and what nots, the Say.She.Ate kitchen inside SoHo Wine & Martini Bar (214 W Crockett, (210) 444-1000), launched this past weekend. Brandon McKelvey’s menu is an exercise in knowing what the imbiber wants to eat, be it one or several ’tinis in. The duck fat potato chips are savory and evenly crisp, while the compressed watermelon and dehydrated Spanish chorizo on endive leaves with feta and walnuts works as a light snack. But the menu isn’t just dainty bites–garlicky escargot spinach dip, Akaushi dog and bacon-wrapped dates are also plenty available. Prices range from $5-$13, and the kitchen (seemingly not any bigger than McKelvey’s mobile space) will open 6 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday and 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

There are other chances to eat great looming on the horizon (aside from the last remaining days of Culinaria’s Restaurant Week). This Sunday, August 24, the Alamo City Provisions group will kick off its dinner series at the Josephine Theatre at 6 p.m. I won’t bore you with the details (you can find them in our Culinary Calendar), but I’ll leave you with this: How do five courses with boozy pairings prepared by some of the area’s top chefs sound? Get those reservations in ASAP.

The dinner’s date coincides with the closing of Tre Trattoria Downtown (401 S Alamo, (210) 223-0401), Jason Dady’s second venture inside the Fairmount Hotel. The eatery will serve its last brunch on August 24. “The city is ripe with opportunity and we are excited to find the next Two Bros BBQ Market, Tre Trattoria, Umai Mi or heck, whatever concept we dream up next,” Dady said in a statement.

Over on the North Side, Big Hops Gastropub (22250 Bulverde, Ste 106, (210) 267-8762) is hosting Bacon Week–a week of bacon and beer, paired together for your enjoyment. Stop by August 25-31 and sample four types of house-cured and seasoned bacon, paired with four craft beers. Pairings include coffee bacon with Prairie Ales BOMB! and Chinese five-spice bacon with Karbach Rodeo Clown.

Fans of Ming’s Thing, a Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market and now Pearl Farmers Market staple will soon be able to buy Ming’s sauces on weekdays. Owner Ming Qian will open a kitchen space for catering production and retail inside the former Boxcar Creamery in Olmos Park at 5249 McCullough in the coming months. Follow Ming’s Thing on Facebook for more details.

Finally, Bon Appetit included two area favorites in its Top 50 best new restaurants list. Cured, owned by chef Steven McHugh and wife Sylvia, and Southtown’s favorite former pop-up, Hot Joy, made this year’s round-up. The magazine’s Top 10 Best New Eateries for 2014 were announced Tuesday, August 19, before our press time.

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Value Vino: Finding sangrias that don’t suck

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I didn’t know this: sangria, that often-sludgy glass of fruit salad irrigated with schlocky red wine and even-worse brandy, made its first, large-scale U.S. appearance at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. I also didn’t know that another name for sangria (think “bloodletting,” for obvious reasons) in Spain, along with Portugal the countries of origin, is zurra. But René Fernandez of Azuca and Starfish does. The lively Latin bar that is sandwiched by the two restaurants offers five versions of the now classic drink.

Number one on Fernandez’s list is a Zurra, and it includes house red wine, Presidente brandy, chunked apple, citrus, stone fruits and sparkling water. Variations on a theme, he explained, include the obvious Very Berry; a Blonde with white wine and white fruits such as peach; and another called Mamushka (think nesting Russian dolls) that subs vodka for the brandy. But the one he insisted I try is the Del Patrón, a swanky rendition using a Spanish tempranillo, Cognac in lieu of brandy and Grand Marnier. The bartender shakes this one up to order with apple and citrus and serves it in a tall Collins glass. It’s anything but sludgy or schlocky.

Once you start looking, San Antonio has non-sucky sangrias to spare. At Spanish-themed Barraca, there’s a standard base mix including pear cider (cava and cider are classic Spanish variations on wine), Sprite and several fruits, to which cabernet or pinot grigio is added. The Cork Bar at Las Ramblas in the River Walk’s Hotel Contessa calls its happy hour “sangria alegre” and features a drink with orange, pineapple and cranberry juices plus orange, peach and apricot liqueurs and a “hint of cinnamon.” At Johnny Hernandez’s Frutería, the drink takes a turn south with blanco tequila, white rum and damiana, an (allegedly aphrodisiacal) herbal liqueur from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Chez Zinc, think a more upright version with a classy red, pomegranate juice, brandy and fresh fruit. Though nobody here does it that I know of, an even simpler version in Spain would be called a tinto de verano, consisting of red wine, ice and lemon soda. This you can easily do at home. Or you can riff on a basic recipe such as the one below (white, as it strikes me as easier to play with):

2 bottles white wine such as verdejo or vinho verde to preserve the Iberian vibe
1 cup brandy
2 navel oranges, sliced
1 lemon and 1 lime, sliced
1/4 cup superfine sugar or simple syrup, to taste

Pour wine, brandy and sweetener over fruits, let marinate briefly, and serve with a bucket of ice on the side.

It’s easy to imagine riffing on the fruit (say pairing lychees with Riesling or using watermelon with Beaujolais), infusing a simple syrup with ginger or heading east with Asian pear, sake and sauvignon blanc. It’s summer, and anything goes.

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Big Hops Gastropub

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Bratwurst

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Gravy-topped WTF?! (What The Fries?!)


On a recent Sunday, my wife and I drove up 281 and into the heart of San Antonio’s ever-expanding Northside suburbs to try out Big Hops Gastropub, the most recent addition to Rob and Kylie Martindale’s stable of craft-beer establishments. Taking over the location that formerly housed the Tap Exchange, this location augments Big Hops’ focus on providing artisanal brews to the thirsty, growler-toting masses with a foray into beer-focused cuisine.

Like its parent growler station on Broadway, Big Hops Gastropub sits in a strip mall. Flanked by a Chinese restaurant, a children’s dance studio and a dentist’s office, it’s a slightly surreal locale for a tavern. Once inside, however, all the trappings of a contemporary brew haven are on full display—flat-screen TVs playing major league sports, handsome wood-and-corrugated-tin decor and several dudes with gnarly beards and workman’s shirts pouring and partaking of IPAs and stouts from across the nation. There are 51 taps here, with roughly two-thirds of them tapping Texas kegs, most prominently Branchline, Karbach and Busted Sandal.

Taking advantage of their Sunday special ($3 off every Texas-made beer), I ordered a pint of Ranger Creek’s Strawberry Milk Stout (normally $5.50). My spouse, being very close to nine months pregnant, opted for the Saint Arnold’s Root Beer ($3 and, sadly, not discounted), also on tap. Our friendly and knowledgeable server brought our beverages in the pub’s signature pint glasses—squat little guys that look like beer barrels in miniature. Perhaps because of this design, there was less head on the stout than I’d anticipated, but one need not be particular when he drinks Ranger Creek draft for $2.50.

Though I’d heard good things about the duck fat frites, we opted instead for the “WTF?!” (What The Fries?!) ($12). A gourmand’s take on the Quebecois staple poutine, the appetizer ladles pork gravy, melted cheese curds and bacon over the pub’s Belgian-style frites and comes in a cast-iron skillet. Though the hearty toppings rendered the fries more moist than I cared for, it quickly became apparent why our northern neighbors go nuts for this stuff: with all that fatty, starchy flavor, it’s a perfect pub food.

After polishing off the skillet, my wife and I pondered our dinner options. The Big Hops Gastropub kitchen prides itself on both its locavore ethics (every ingredient comes from as close a proximity as possible, with all menu items made in-house) and its cerveza-centric focus. Simply put, everything on the menu is meant to maximize the beer. However, there was one dinner that seemed the most obvious choice for the ultimate ale-oriented supper: the bratwurst ($9). Comprised of a house-ground bratwurst staked to a pretzel bun and served with sweet, tart sauerkraut and spicy mustard, this was a fitting reminder of Germany in the midst of an overtly American brewpub. When it proved difficult to negotiate wrapping up the meat in the bun, I did things kindergarten style and tore pieces of the bread off with my hands.

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