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Food & Drink

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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Food & Drink

Happy Hour Hound: Tribeca Di Olmos

Photo: Miriam Sitz, License: N/A

Miriam Sitz

East, breezy cucumber ’tini


The Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca—a portmanteau for Triangle Below Canal Street—is home to the namesake film festival, beaucoup celebrities and the Hook & Ladder Company No. 8 (where the Ghostbusters movies were filmed, NBD). The Olmos Park restaurant Tribeca Di Olmos, on the other hand, is home to a small but solid happy hour. (If only the restaurant were below a triangle, but alas, the McCullough traffic circle is as geometric as we’re going to get.)

Happy hour generously runs Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. and features $15 bottles ($5 for a glass) of select wines; $2 domestics and $3 imports/craft brews; $3 wells; $5 martinis; and $10 Long Island, margarita, apple cider or red sangria carafes.

To start, my happy hour cohort and I perused the martinis. Tribeca offers five varieties of the cocktail, all made with Cinco Vodka. Among the options of dirty, Cosmo, Saint and ginger, the cucumber sounded too refreshing to pass up. Summery, boozy and just sweet enough, the martini came in a glass rimmed with chile salt.

Post-‘tini, we opted for a sangria carafe. If you’re looking to quiet your work-week sorrows with a healthy buzz, stick with the martini or a well cocktail—the sangria, while tasty, fruity and not overly sweet, is fairly timid in the ABV arena. Wine-soaked apple chunks bobbed around the four-glass carafe, and skewered orange slices and maraschino cherries adorned our glasses. While the cucumber martini took the crown, the sangria was a cheerful Miss Congeniality.

Happy hour snacks include truffled fries ($5), a grilled Caesar salad ($5) and, best of all, half-price pizzas. The four pizza options range from $6 (margherita) to $8 (wild mushroom with pine nuts, pesto and truffle oil) during happy hour.

The choice between house-made Italian sausage with roasted red peppers and fresh oregano ($7) and artichoke hearts with pesto, goat cheese, capers and red peppers ($7.50), proved difficult, but in the end we opted for the latter—with delicious results. The flavor combo in this pie was absolutely on point and even the capers, not usually my favorite addition, worked in harmony with the rest.

Rounding out our experience, the truffled fries also hit a good note. Though I question their menu description as “home fries”—a term which, to me, calls to mind chunks, wedges or cubes of potato, more so than Tribeca’s narrow, crunchy fry. These frites came in a paper cone, lightly dusted in sea salt, pepper and Parmesan, and accompanied by a savory bacon aioli. My only quibble: I wouldn’t have been upset with a bit more truffling of my fries. Always more truffling.

Sitting in the sunlit bar area, which has two TVs and is snuggled between the patio and the rest of the restaurant, the vibe was comfortable, classy and subtly European. Thanks to the happy hour menu—rather small but tasty and affordable—in combination with the atmosphere, Tribeca will likely lure me back.

Tribeca Di Olmos

4331 McCullough
(210) 320-0698
tribecadiolmos.com

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Fresh, Local Comfort Food at Grayson Street Eatery

Photo: paytonphotography.com, License: N/A

paytonphotography.com

More beets, please; Grayson Street’s take on the beet salad


I’m not much for mystery. Surprise birthday parties aren’t my jam. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into. All. The. Time. I’m a bit of a control freak that way. Given that, I was a bit apprehensive when Grayson Street Eatery first opened its doors days before Fiesta in April. What were the hours?

Were they doing lunch and dinner? What exactly constitutes a “Texas bistro”? There wasn’t, at the time, a curated web presence to research and most calls went unanswered.

When I finally did stop by, it was still unclear what was in store. The converted home looks more gallery than eatery, and a lack of ambient noise made for an eerily quiet lunchtime. I picked up lunch to go, and bemoaned the heavy, overly acidic dressing that covered my side salad. My pulled pork sandwich that day was equally egregious and made worse by the addition of dried cranberries.

Opened by first-time restaurateurs Johnny Moreno Jr. and Oscar Montiel, Grayson Street Eatery struggled during its first few weeks, which led to the eventual placement of Armando Diaz (formerly with Piatti’s) at the helm of the kitchen, along with sous chef Dominic Ramos, who most recently helped open Big Hops Gastropub and owns Gourmet on the Fly food truck. The transition was evident during my second, much more skeptical, lunchtime visit.

The menu is small and still undergoing changes just about daily. You won’t find any unknown ingredients among the soups, salads and sandwiches at lunch, with appetizers and entrees reserved for the evening. Wary of any surprises, I opted for the chipotle chicken salad sandwich with melted gouda and house-smoked bacon. The results? Creamy and rich, flavorful without being overwhelmed by the bacon, and the lightly toasted Bakery Lorraine croissant didn’t hurt one bit.

Sandwiches are served with a green salad (with a hint of vinaigrette) and homemade chips, both delightful and fresh, a nice yin and yang of health vs. indulgence.

Grayson also joined one of the dozen or so restaurants out there to carry a beet salad, and while the raspberry vinaigrette sounded a bit too 1990s country club, the smoked beets, feta and arugula all worked seamlessly.

One of my lunch partners opted for the fries, a solid offering made better with the tasty house-made ketchup that has notes of garlic and Worcestershire sauce.

Was my first visit a fluke? Was my second visit luck? Only dinner would break this tie.

I stopped by on a recent Tuesday evening, the first dinner service of the week, and half the menu was unavailable. No mussels for this diner, but I got my seafood fix with a pair of Panko-crushed crab cakes served on a bed of arugula with a citrus dressing. Loaded with fresh lemon zest and actual lump crab instead of bready fillers, the cakes were a pleasant surprise, though they could have benefited from a bright aioli.

For our entrees, our server did offer two specials, a pork green chili soup and a shrimp roll. We opted for the latter to excellent results. Usually only served at lunch on a bolillo roll, the tender whole shrimp are tossed in a brown butter aioli along with diced green apples and Bibb lettuce.

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Lunchtime Snob: Islander eats at L&L Hawaiian Grill

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

A tasty, tasty gimmick


It’s been about a month since L&L Hawaiian Grill graced SA with its presence. The anticipation for the city’s first location of the big island franchise was palpable when we first reported the company’s intentions to open a branch in the Alamo Heights area in February. When the location finally debuted in the same center that houses a Shipley Do-Nuts and ACE Cash Express, throngs of hungry San Antonians lined up for a taste.

I stopped in during the first day of business to catch some of that madness, and sure enough, lines of curious eaters and L&L faithful filled the teeny storefront. And the company, which launched in 1976, later expanded into franchise territory in 1988 and finally made it onto the mainland in 1999, has plenty of fans.

Folks wearing Hawaii Harley Davidson tees and Kukui nut bead leis waited patiently for their meals during my first visit, while ukulele jams wafted from the Pandora station and tropical landscapes lined the back wall. To drive the island theme home, all female employees don orchids in their hair. Aloha, dammit.

To clarify, this is a fast food joint, through and through. They specialize in Asian, Pacific and American cuisine fusion, so you’ll find grilled meats, deep-fried shrimp and chicken katsu, and Spam as the main ingredients for rice bowls and ramen. And yes, there’s a ramen, or Saimin, burger (though the term Ramen Burger is trademarked by Keizo Shimamoto, who created the dish originally for Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg food market).

Perhaps the hordes endured the hour-long wait for that Saimin burger—a beef patty topped with green onions, a flurry of shredded iceberg lettuce and a teriyaki-like sauce sandwiched between two noodle patties, cooked just until al dente and then lightly pressed on the grill. It’s not the biggest burger, and it’s definitely not the best thing you’ll eat there, but it’s worth trying. At less than $8 with crinkle cut fries and a drink, the burger accommodates most budgets.

Unfortunately, you’ll want to skip the so-so ramen and head for the Spam or chicken katsu musubi ($2.95 each). Rectangular medium-grain rice patties serve as the vessel for a dollop of teriyaki sauce, a strip of grilled Spam or fresh-fried katsu that’s tied together with dried seaweed. It’s comforting, salty and sweet, but toss in a side salad if you want to add a few greens.

While the Saimin burger isn’t the most authentic of dishes, L&L does offer a few Big Island staples like the pulled “Kalua” pork, a Hawaiian plate with steamed pork chuck wrapped in a taro leaf (served only on weekends) and Loco Moco, which could replace menudo as a go-to hangover cure. Served with a scoop of the macaroni salad with bits of onion and carrots, the Loco Moco is a daunting plate of white rice, grilled-beef patties, fried egg and a pool of rich brown gravy. Hint: It’s even better the next day.

The initial crowds have waned and you can pop in and out for lunch within a 45-minute window. L & L might not transport you to Hawaii immediately, but I’ll take Spam musubi over sand-filled sandwiches any day.

L & L Hawaiian Grill

1302 Austin Hwy
(210) 474-6699
llhawaiiangrill.com

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sa_20140716_flynns.jpg

Jessica Elizarraras

Specials and throwback drinkin’ at Flynn’s

Flynn’s Hopes to Bring Back Rev Room’s Heyday

Photo: JESSICA ELIZARRARAS, License: N/A

JESSICA ELIZARRARAS


I have two memories of Revolution Room that will stay with me forever. The first hearkens back to my college days, when we celebrated a friend’s 21st birthday with a round of Four Horsemen shots that stayed in the birthday girl’s system for approximately 45 seconds before she threw up all over our table and proceeded to sloppily dance in the back room. The second most vivid memory comes years later when another pal wanted to revisit the bar and the DJ played Ginuwine’s “Pony” no less than four times in the span of an hour.

But that was ages ago. This time last year, Revolution Room had seen its fair share of parking lot altercations. So much so, that then-owner Lee Beekly (also of Taco Garage and Rebar) decided to give his eight-year-old establishment a makeover.

Revolution Room dropped the dance culture/cover rock it was known for and in its place came Leon, a country-esque bar that played homage to Beekly’s grandfather, a geologist who spent his career traipsing through South America and Europe on horseback. That experiment lasted through November 2013 before Beekly decided to cut his losses and close the doors.

It was hard to pinpoint the reasons why Leon didn’t click with bar-goers. The space had been spruced up inside and out, a spacious outdoor bar was added along with wooden picnic tables and rock and country music took the place of grind-happy DJs. But maybe patrons really did want to get their dance on?

Enter Eddie Kaufman, co-proprietor of Retox Bar on Patricia who took over the space this spring. The country essence still lingers, but the old Rev Room is slowly coming back, as Kaufman intended with an anything-goes, “everyone has a good time” attitude, according to the bar’s website.

Each room has gotten a bit of a facelift. The Pub, or first portion of the bar, holds pool tables, a stage for live music, darts, a small lounge, Pac Man and an electronic Jukebox that was cranking out country crooners, hard rock, pop and R&B. Within the span of my visit, Tenacious D, Nine Inch Nails, Usher and the Killers (Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” came on briefly before the bartender turned off the speakers in protest) played throughout the bar.

The bar’s backroom has turned into the End of the Line Club, where Top 40 and dance jams reign once again on weekends, but the area was fenced off during this particular evening. The main patio out front, well lit and cool once the sun goes down, is juxtaposed against the Broadway traffic, but probably makes for a fun hang as you watch patrons make their way across the busy intersection on Friday and Saturday nights (why isn’t there a stop light or crosswalk between these joints?).

The beer selection isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off (you’ve got Missions Untapped next door for that), but you’ll find big names on draft as well as several Shiner varieties available. Liquor options include top shelf varieties, and themed specials include Whiskey Wednesdays with discounts on Jack Daniels, Crown, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Fireball. You’ll find the usual draft beer nights on Monday, $3 you-call-its on Tuesday and karaoke on Thursday.

My visit on Wednesday was a fun mix of things—a fluffy and gentle Great Pyrenees pup greeted guests with a friendly nuzzle, a few pairs lingered around the bar in intimate clusters while $3 happy hour came to a close at 9 p.m. Things took an odd turn when the jukebox was turned up to 11 and a small group of dudes started playing Call of Duty on one of the Pub’s flat screens, a far cry from puking 21-year-olds, but I won’t argue with the accompanying free Chex Mix.

Is Flynn’s back to its old Rev Room days of debauchery and fun times? Only time will tell, but already the bar is tring to recapture those days past (with little to no Ginuwine).

Flynn’s Bar and Patio

8123 Broadway
(210) 901-8883
flynnsbarsa.com

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