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Cover 02/27/2013

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



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Work in progress at Minnie's Tavern

"It's come a long way from when I first moved back here in 1997," he says. "Especially in the last three years or so — I think people are really starting to appreciate the quality of life here." He notes that the cost of living, and the cost of running a successful restaurant, is much more affordable here than in major markets like San Francisco or New York. Still, there's always the specter of sustainability.

"I'm loving it, but I'm still always concerned when restaurants open in such high volume," he says. "You have to wonder how many can continue to open and stay open." Yet despite his concerns, Weissman feels confident that the city has made a leap forward.

"I like the fact that there are now restaurant clusters," he says, referencing the increasing concentration of restaurants in and around the Pearl, which Weissman thinks keeps the competition and quality high and, ultimately, gives people a wider range of dining experiences. This, of course, is the important thing for developing a discerning palate for the city.

"I do miss French cooking, though," says Weissman, who considers French cuisine — with the exception of Middle Eastern and Asian traditions — one of the most fundamental in terms of understanding the logic of food, cooking procedures, and what Weissman refers to as "the Art of the Table." With that in mind, Minnie's Tavern will allow him to get back to some of the most fundamental and gratifying French food, without the haute-cuisine fuss. While Minnie's won't be the least expensive place in town, Weissman plans to serve traditional, exquisite, brasserie staples in the reasonable $18-$25 range, complemented by a bar serving fine wines and craft beers.

It was the iconic building, too, that prompted Weissman's decision to purchase the property and launch another venture. Like many local restaurateurs, Weissman had his eye on the property as soon as the Liberty Bar moved to Southtown. Established as a food and drink establishment in 1890 by Fritz Boehler, former brewmaster at what would become the Pearl Brewery, the building has remained in the family ever since.

"I had always told them if they ever decided to sell, I'd be interested," Weissman says, "but so were a lot of other people in town." Perhaps his San Antonio roots, his commitment to the trade, and his firmly established presence at the Pearl made it seem almost like keeping it in the family. Weissman will keep the general look and feel of the place intact, but the fact that it has been in almost continuous operation for over a century has resulted in a lot of deferred maintenance. He's putting energy into refinishing floors, taking care of basic repairs and refurbishments, and (finally!) a major overhaul of the (notoriously awful) bathrooms.

But wait, there's more: once Minnie's is up and running, Weissman plans to pull another rabbit out of his chef's toque. The small building out back will eventually open as the Rye House, a small craft whiskey bar offering high-quality charcuterie plates and a world-class cheese program. Taking advantage of the increasing number of wonderful, artisanal cheeses now available, Weissman wants to create an access point.

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