Chef Scott Cohen was trying out some new sandwiches for the summer menu when I stopped by San Antonio's hottest new restaurant, Brasserie Pavil on Loop 1604 at Huebner. When I first walked in the door and took in the high ceilings and dark wood, I was immediately reminded of the spectacular Brasserie Georges in Lyons, a restaurant that first opened in 1836. Brasserie means brewery in French and the oldest examples of the genre, like Brasserie Georges, brew their own beer. Brasserie Pavil doesn't brew, but the bar features Texas microbrewery beers from Real Ale, Live Oak and Saint Arnold.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, chef Scott Cohen trained under Georges Blanc and Roger Verge in France. He has put together a French-inflected Texas beer food menu that features burgers, sandwiches, seven steak frites variations, seafood platters, house-smoked salmon, and some amazing French fries served in a paper cone. The casual menu seems to suit the recession-era zeitgeist because the place was packed.
Beer seems to be the big theme in San Antonio these days--the other exciting food destination that everybody in town is talking about is the newly renovated Pearl Brewery. The gorgeous 125 year-old brewery complex just off Broadway near downtown is being turned into what developers describe as an "urban village." A new farmer's market being held there is attracting enormous crowds, much to the delight of the first restaurant to open there--the Farm to Table cafe. South Texas cookbook author Melissa Guerra has also opened a very cool kitchen store in the complex. She is selling modern equipment along with lots of imported pottery, glassware and kitchen antiques from Mexico. Another restaurant called Il Sogno is in the works.
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Seems like the only thing missing at the new Pearl Brewery urban village is a place to get a beer.