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Food & Drink

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Cover 02/27/2013

Andrew Weissman poised to open The Luxury in addition to two more restaurants

Photo: ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN, License: N/A

ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN

Work in progress at Minnie's Tavern


The success of all his restaurants, from Le Rêve to Sip and Big'z, attests to one of Weissman's key strengths: a love of good food, no matter how humble or exalted. In Weissman's view, there are two schools of food philosophy, a sort of continuum between the more traditional, "tried and true" school based on the tenets of any given cuisine, and the more extreme school of invention, like elaborate fusion cuisines, or molecular gastronomy, where the emphasis is on experimentation and abstract philosophy. Weissman is decidedly in the more traditional camp, though he's by no means bound by it. All his menus show traces of nouvelle experimentation, but he's just as likely to launch into food reveries from his wife's native Costa Rica, or Mexico where he initially pursued a career in journalism, or the glory of bitter greens in rural Europe, or an exquisite pickle at a local Indian restaurant. Like most great chefs, Weissman is a huge fan of world cuisine and gets as excited about street food as he does about the finest truffles or sophisticated cooking procedures. Unlike most, he's willing to stretch his talents — and personal energy — over a range of venues.

The Luxury will illustrate his passion for inventive simplicity. The idea was to take an undeveloped corner lot and create a low-key outdoor gathering place catering to families, cyclists, and pedestrians along the new River Walk extension. Featuring inexpensive, healthy, fresh fare — a suite of international sandwiches, and salads — in a funky, enviro-friendly package, the playground and landscaping make use of cedar mulch from a family ranch; native plants create shade and a barrier to the street, and use reclaimed water from a common-sense water-catchment system. The sustainability motif is underscored by the use of re-purposed cargo containers for the necessary structures: a sort of riff on the food-truck craze, but more simply, a way to utilize existing materials in a novel and productive way.

This simple concept-driven lunch venue has taken longer to get off the ground than many of Weissman's more formal restaurants. Despite the City's moves to embrace the notion of sustainable practices, part of the hold-up has been the process of fitting the practicalities and rhetoric of sustainability to the existing codes, and stretching them outside the made-to-order box of conventional design and usage. Although he hesitates to publicly announce an opening date after several false-starts, and admitting much of the delay was his own doing, Weissman is double-staffed at the Sandbar with his crew for The Luxury, and states emphatically, "Believe me, I want it to open more than anyone!" Hopefully, the fact that he's cleared some of the practical and conceptual barriers for repurposed, sustainable development will make it a little easier for others to follow suit.

All in all, Weissman is proud of what he's accomplished, what the chefs and staff under him have accomplished, and that San Antonio seems to be coming of age as a fine dining town —adding to its reputation for top-notch Tex-Mex.

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