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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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'Most Naked Woman' Set to Shimmy at San Antonio Burlesque Festival

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

Seattle’s Waxie Moon

Photo: Julian Ledezma, License: N/A

Julian Ledezma

Burlesque Fest packs rhinestones, fire-eating and all sorts of surprises in between


The answer came unanimously without prompting or hesitation, as if sent straight from the sexually liberated goddess of serendipity.

“Sequins or fringe?”

“Rhinestones.”

Two men consider this question and then another query—just how many rhinestones is it possible to squeeze onto one jacket, exactly?

“San Antonio is all about glitz, glam, big hair and breakfast tacos,” says local performer Jasper St. James, as he fondly describes the burlesque scene of the city. “There is a level of pristine that other places have that we don’t care about, but we do love the sparkles.”

“I wish I were as sparkly as you,” sighs fellow ‘boylesque’ performer Dino Foxx, gazing admiringly at his cohort.

Our city currently boasts only a few prominent burlesque troupes including Le Strange Sideshow, Stars and Garters Burlesque, and Pastie Pops Burlesque. The groups regularly perform at venues across town, including Fitzgerald’s, The Korova and the Josephine Theatre. James and Foxx are two of a handful of San Antonio producers responsible for the upcoming San Antonio Burlesque Festival, now in its third year of existence.

A two-day showcase scheduled for the first weekend in August, SABF promises some of the best acts from across the country in addition to local favorites. The Friday Night Showcase will feature performances by Gaige, Foxxy Blue Orchid, Coco Lectric and Jasper St. James, as well as farewell performances by the current reigning Queen and King of San Antonio Burlesque, Olympia DeWinter and Stephan (no, not Saturday Night Live’s famous club kid character). Saturday will be an evening of headliners competing for a number of titles. Among the notable names are Waxie Moon of Seattle and Michelle L’amour of Chicago.

As if all that sparkle packed into one theater for two days weren’t enough, burlesque novices can also learn from the pros via workshops like “P*ssy Confidence” and “Booty Lab,” which requires participants to wear very comfortable clothing.

Classically associated with performers like Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm and Dita Von Teese, burlesque is recognizable to many but understood by few. The connotation of the word inspires the image of a tartish pinup doll shaking it seductively in a larger-than-life martini glass—and by that, I essentially mean Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

“It’s one of those things that you need to see to understand,” prominent burlesque performer Michelle L’amour told the Current in an email. Hailing from Illinois, L’amour currently holds the title of “Most Naked Woman” and caused a stir this year for her viral twerking video “Buttoven’s 5th Symphony.”

She observed, “There are many poorly produced burlesque shows that pay a major disservice to burlesque. It’s very hard for me to convince someone that they will like what they see if they’ve seen something of the amateur sort. You have to win the audience immediately.”

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Flavor File: New café on West Side, fine wine at the Granary and zany gelato at Blue Star

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

More gelato on the way from A La Mode


Chow down Belle Epoque-style with a pop-up dinner from a new chef collective. John Russ of Lüke San Antonio is joining forces with girlfriend Elise Broz (pastry chef at Biga on the Banks), Michael Sohocki (Restaurant Gwendolyn, Kimura), Pieter Sypesteyn (Where Y’at Food Truck) and the dudes from Mixtli to launch Alamo City Provisions. The group will host five gatherings this fall starting with a 1900s-themed, five-course dinner at The Josephine Theatre, 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, August 24. Other dates include September 21, October 19, November 16 and December 14 at The Inn at Craig Plate, Landa Gardens, Lambermont and High Wire Art Gallery, respectively. Purchase tickets through alamocityprovisions.com.

Café Tutti is out, and Deco Café is in. Opened by chef Jesse Camacho, the shop at 1933 Fredericksburg is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday for breakfast, coffee and lunch. You’ll find daily specials of the café variety, including BLTs, cranberry almond chicken salad sandwiches and a honey ham and cheddar wrap.

A La Mode Gelato, a relative newcomer to the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market, will open a storefront this fall inside the Blue Star Arts Complex. The booth, operated by chef Josh Biffle and his family, currently carries a handful of rotating gelato flavors (which Biffle makes in the wee morning hours on market days) including gorgonzola and candied walnut, vanilla bean bourbon, salted caramel and white chocolate with pistachio salsa and dairy-free sorbettos for $4 to $6. Biffle hopes to carry a menu of panini and soups du jour at the shop.

Hotel Valencia’s got a new executive chef running its kitchens. Robbie Nowlin (formerly with The Lodge, Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and most recently, Las Canarias) was hired to helm Valencia’s Citrus restaurant just under a month ago. Nowlin, who replaces Jeff Balfour of the upcoming Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, will launch a new menu on Friday, August 1 made up of dishes like foie gras crepes with compressed strawberry, banana, celery, black pepper creme fraiche and candied hazelnut; chorizo pork belly; tuna tartare; and butter-poached Maine lobster. Be on the lookout for a brunch menu this fall.

Didn’t get a chance to nab a ticket for Texas Monthly’s BBQ Fest on September 14? Fret not, you can still visit with one of the participating locals as The Granary ’Cue & Brew’s Tim Rattray serves up a six-course dinner with Sonoma’s Jordan Vineyard wine pairings on Monday, August 4. Produce from the winery will also be shipped in for the dinner, which will include Chardonnay vintages from 2007 and 2012 along with Carbernet Sauvignon vintages from 1999, 2002 and 2005. Reserve your tickets ($150) at thegranarysa.com.

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Truckin’ Tomato’s Mobile Farmers Market

Photo: Miriam Sitz, License: N/A

Miriam Sitz

Truckin’ Tomato tries to make healthy eating easier with its mobile market


Part farmers market and part food truck, Truckin’ Tomato is a mobile source for fresh, local produce and food products. Rolling around the Alamo City since May of this year, the 30-foot trailer parks at venues across town five days a week, including churches, offices, apartment buildings, parks and at special events (see truckintomato.com for a calendar with locations and times).

Shaun Lee founded Truckin’ Tomato last summer as a way to increase access to healthy fresh foods. The idea was born during the final semester of Lee’s executive MBA program at University of Texas—San Antonio. Native to St. Louis, Mo., Lee earned his masters degree in social work in 2003 and worked with an organization there to provide job training to the homeless. Haven for Hope later recruited Lee and in 2008 his family relocated to Texas. He served as Haven’s executive vice president through the end of June, resigning to focus his efforts on the Tomato.

The custom-built trailer made by Texas Cart Builder in Houston includes 20 feet of produce display shelves, a bakery case and a two-way refrigerator stocked with Revolucion coffee and juice, along with freestanding baskets for easy shopping. Inside, there are produce storage areas and a freezer, as well as a a food prep area for future use with three sinks, a large cutting board counter and space for additional freezers.

Farms from around Central and South Texas provide Truckin’ Tomato with produce ranging from melons, berries and citrus to peppers, greens, potatoes, tomatoes and more. “Farms come to us two or three times a week, or about every other day, depending on demand,” explained Lee. Non-produce items—juice, coffee, energy bars, jams, condiments, gluten-free organic tamales, etc.—are replenished as needed.

But more than just a mobile market, Truckin’ Tomato is a social enterprise. The business has partnered with Christian Hope Resource Center (CHRC), a nonprofit organization that provides food and social services to some 2,500 households every month. Most of the trailer’s revenue goes directly to CHRC, which serves as TT’s operational home base. “We receive all our orders there, have a carved-out space in their warehouse, park the trailer there and plug it in overnight,” said Lee. “We set up Truckin’ Tomato as a franchise model, so that if we expand we’ll have a nonprofit partner for each trailer.”

This summer, Lee will kick Truckin’ Tomato into a higher gear. “I’m going to be spending more time on expansion of the business model, adding an e-commerce function and a subscription service where people can order ahead of time.” Eventually, Lee plans for his business to partner with Haven for Hope. “We’re taking the summer to figure out our whole model, stabilize our procedures and see how it works best to run things. Then, we’re going to work with Haven as a part of their job training program, to give people actual real-life job experience. If it works out well, we’ll consider them for employment.”

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Chicken with a Cult Following at Pollos Asados

Photo: Bethany Rogers, License: N/A

Bethany Rogers

Keep it simple—and tasty—with these inspiring pollos


It’s late on a Sunday morning, and the crowd that will soon fill Pollos Asados is just beginning to dribble in. Outside, the smoke from both Pollos Asados’ food truck and the charcoal grill annex wreaths the low-slung building in a fragrant haze: mesquite with an hint of incense. If there’s an object of veneration here, it’s the namesake chicken gilded with a chile rub and further bronzed by the hot-burning fuel. This is why you’re here. Step right up.

The eatery is all hard surfaces inside, so the worshipers turn out to be a lively crowd—especially when the background is the blare of conjuntos norteños. You gotta love accordion. But it all feels right, down to the Mexican soccer games on the TVs and the no-nonsense attitude of the feisty and efficient waitresses. Your medio pollo will set you back a modest $7.69 (the whole bird is $12.99), arriving faster than a hail Mary with acolytes of bacon-y frijoles charros, simple but savory rice, a charred onion half, a single chile toreado and tender corn tortillas, all flanking the chicken cradled in a burger basket. Pull a passel of tiny napkins from the dispenser before tucking in.

Though modesty forbids, I could live on the beans alone; their deep flavor is the kind that inspires home cooks to engage in fruitless alchemical experiments to recreate it. The onion, wrapped in aluminum foil after its charring so it continues to steam and soften, is another less-is-more triumph. The chicken itself is robed in crisp skin yet moist within, with the best flavor coming from the dark meat—no surprise there. Eat it straight from the bone or tuck some into a tortilla with onion and a lashing of the squirt-bottle salsa; it’s disarmingly minty in color and an odd but appealing combination of picosa and cremosa, in fact. Squirt away.

Pollos Asados could justify cult status on the basis of its pollos alone, but as it happens there are short-of-burnt offerings from an indoor grill as well. The fajitas, a half a pound for $9.59, are almost suspiciously tender but taste of a proper, peppery marinade and have been grilled with bell peppers and onions. They would show well against the city’s other shrines to sizzling skirt, and may even best the chicken as a whole-taco experience with (so-so) pico, avocado, some of the even curiouser warm, red salsa and a grilled, sliced jalapeño.

Other carnes asadas include sirloin (the top-of-the-line offering at $19.89 a pound) and costillas de res ($12.99), but if we were to try one other thing on the menu, it would be a burger. Seriously. But not the Clasica or the Norteña with queso asadero y mas–rather the Salchiburger that’s a mix of beef, grilled sausage, asadero cheese, avocado, chipotle sauce and grilled onion. At $7.89 this is clearly not a bargain like the chicken; the whole bird would easily feed four reasonable folks, given all the sides. But if you’re going to order a burger, it might as well have cojones.

Pollos Asados los Norteños

4642 Rigsby
(210) 648-3303
The Skinny Mesquite-grilled pollo prevails at this jumpin’ Eastside joint; fajitas aren’t far behind.
Best Bets Half chicken with all the sides, half pound fajitas with all the sides
Hours 11am-10pm Tues-Sat; 11am-8pm Sun
Price $7.69-$19.89

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