On the Road

The Pearl of San Antonio

By: The Local Palate

Snapshot: San Antonio

When San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery shut down in 2001 after 118 years, the city fathers envisioned an ambitious second act for the sprawling industrial complex that once employed nearly a quarter of the town’s population. Fast forward seventeen years, and the mixed-use project known as the Pearl attracts residents and visitors in equal measure, thanks to its carefully cultivated food scene and lively celebrations like this month’s Día de Los Muertos—all while maintaining historical integrity with details that nod to its beer-making past. It’s the latest chapter in the storied history of the Alamo City, which celebrates its tricentennial this year.


The couple behind Bakery Lorraine met while working for Thomas Keller in Napa and it shows—the pastries are almost too pretty to eat. Wake up with a double espresso and Paris-perfect pain au chocolat as you ponder your takeaway macaron selection.

Weekends bring the Pearl Farmers Market and a host of snacks to tide you over till lunchtime. First stop: the open-air CIA Live Fire Kitchen, where students from the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio offer a rotating lineup of Latin American street specialties like arepas and chicharrones. For lunch, join the locals lunching at El Milagrito up the road and dig into a plate of barbacoa tacos.

Come cocktail hour, sidle up to the bar at Southerleigh Brewery for a Gold Export Lager and a plate of fried snapper throats, inspired by chef Jeff Balfour’s Galveston upbringing. Charcuterie fans: Cured’sSteve McHugh has a way with pork rillettes, smoked duck ham, and the like. Order a variety to share with a glass of Texas wine—there are several by the glass—or a mezcal-based Marfa Lights Out.

Save room for Supperat the Hotel Emma. It’s a toss-up between the crispy and smoked quail, or the five-spice braised pork with a warm red cabbage salad, which tastes like an homage to San Antonio’s German heritage. Either way, don’t pass up a bowl of the impossibly good salt and vinegar roasted brussels sprouts. Still craving a taco or two? The mini dorados verdes (chicken with tomatillo salsa) over at La Gloria will do the trick. Wrap up the evening with a scoop of horchata ice cream from Lick Honest Ice Creams.   


One-off shops are the rule in the Pearl. Peruse Tiny Finch, stocked with handmade finds from local letterpress cards to handwoven tablecloths. Larder, Hotel Emma’s exquisitely curated grab-and-go provisioner specializes in things you didn’t know you needed, such as artisanal soaps and fruity paletas. And you can’t leave San Antonio without a guayabera (aka a Mexican wedding shirt). Find yours at Dos Carolinaswhere owner Caroline Matthews has been sewing them since 1987. Another must: a stroll along the River Walk to the San Antonio Museum of Art, home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Latin American art in the US.


Named for the widow of the Pearl president who steered the brewery through Prohibition without laying off an employee, Hotel Emmahoused in the original brewhouse, is industrial chic without the pretension. A gracious Texas vibe is evident in everything from the welcome margarita in a hand-etched Mexican glass to the guayabera robes hanging in guestrooms.

Hotel Emma exterior; Photo by Julia Keim

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