Chef Johnny Hernandez is well known in San Antonio for opening La Gloria, one of the first restaurants at the Pearl Brewery complex, as well as the catering company True Flavors. An entrepreneur who always looks for new opportunities, Chef Hernandez is turning his eye towards opening Casa Hernán on Cevallos Street, a special events hall that doubles as the Chef’s residence. Beginning in September, the chef will host a brunch on the second Sunday of the month called Domingos at Casa Hernán that will feature a variety of foods from interior Mexico.
Casa Hernán has the feel of a stately hacienda from Mexico; adjacent to the recently developed Cevallos Street Lofts, visitors walk past a lush landscape and koi pond to the entrance. Previously the building was home to a pair of artists; the wife exhibited paintings in the front and the husband used the back to do woodworking. Chef Hernandez has now decorated the foyer of the building with artwork from Mexico along with photographs of the artisans who made many of the dishes and settings. He looks to exhibit local artists there in the near future.
The main room is spacious, well lit and has a homey feel and it seems like you might have stumbled into a friend’s large dining room. Guests will be seated eight to a table for the brunch, and will be able to converse with old friends, or the opportunity to make new ones. Already the hall has been used to show off our local culture and entertain businessmen visiting San Antonio; with Domingos at Casa Hernán, Chef Hernandez hopes to also invite local residents in each second Sunday for brunch.
“[Domingos at Casa Hernán] will have something coming off the grill, out of the ground, and tortillas coming off the comales. The meal will start off with fresh fruit, yogurt and granola along with fresh orange juice or an aguas fresca,” Chef Hernandez explains. “We’ll offer a couple of cocktails like a tequila sunrise or a mimosa. The meal itself will still be very interior focused: we’ll do traditional chilaquiles verdes, tamales and barbacoa.” Additionally, Chef Hernandez plans on bringing in an outside chef who specializes in different regional Mexican cuisines to prepare a dish for the brunch.
The chef has already installed an outdoor grill and several different in ground pits to prepare barbacoa, a traditional Sunday morning meal in San Antonio and what is sure to be one of the highlights of the Sunday brunch. “Most likely the tradition [of barbacoa on Sundays] started because of how laborious it is – you couldn’t do it during the week,” chef says. “Even as little kids, it was always Sunday, it was barbacoa day. My dad worked six days a week, but Sunday was [time for] barbacoa. We would have our barbacoa and then go to mass.”
Barbacoa will be prepared in different ways, including the familiar Norteño style of cooking the entire head of the cow in the ground and the meat pulled off by hand. “We will do whole head barbacoa – it is the best. You mix everything in there: eyes, brain, everything.” Visitors shouldn’t dismiss it before they try it – barbacoa is a staple of South Texas.
Domingos at Casa Hernán will be an experience for San Antonians to come together on the second Sunday of each month to get some amazing food from a chef who knows not only interior Mexican cuisine, but also San Antonio.