There are many places that make San Antonio unique. Most of them are historic, but with the renovations of the Pearl Brewery, our city has a new hot spot that is attracting many interesting stores and restaurants. La Gloria Ice House moved into the complex this past year and has fit right in. Everything from the building to the menu proves that both the restaurant, and San Antonio’s culinary scene, has some chops.
As you walk towards the restaurant and see the calavera sitting on the bench, you know that you are in for a good time. The restaurant gets every small detail perfect: from how their name is cut out of metal piece that holds items on your table, the table side purse rack for the ladies, and the really cool basket that the chips come in, the restaurant makes you feel carefree, like you are on a vacation.
I had some friends who came into town from Austin and were looking at possibly relocating to San Antonio. I wanted to highlight that our city also has a funky kind of vibe, so I decided to show off the Pearl Brewery, the Museum Reach river extension (they loved the F.I.S.H. sculptures), and La Gloria.
My friends have a 13-month year old daughter, and I knew that La Gloria would be the perfect place to take a toddler. There is a good buzz in the air from all the conversation and how the acoustics work, so I knew she could be a little rambunctious without disturbing any restaurant goers. Furthermore, with Pearl’s policy of “Please, Play on our Grass” I knew that mom or dad could take her outside to play.
La Gloria serves Mexican street food, so there are an abundance of tacos, tostadas, sopes, and tortas to choose from. The portions are small to medium sized and are designed for you to eat and share with your table.
We wanted to try a little of everything so we got a molcajete of queso with chile, ceviche verde (on the suggestion of @ShrinkingFoodie), a traditional tlayuda (think Mexican pizza), panucho cochinita pibil, and tacos dorados de pollo verde (on the suggestion of Eva at Mesa a Mesa).
You absolutely have to order a molcajete when you go to La Gloria. A molcajete is like a morter and pestle that is used to grind spices or prepare salsas in Mexican cuisine. If you ever decide to purchase one, the best are made out of volcanic rock and you have to cure it out by grinding rice in it. This will smooth out the molcajete which is very important because if you don’t do it the sharp edges will tear at your ingredients instead of grind them. Trust me. My friend tried to make a salsa with one I bought her before she cured it and it wasn’t working…
At any rate, the molcajetes at La Gloria come out of the oven at like a billion degrees and the contents are bubbling hot. Don’t believe me? Check out this video that I shot.
My girlfriend went to La Gloria once before and raved about the queso molcajete so we ordered it. The one we got was a little different because in addition to the queso there were a lot of chiles mixed in. Regardless, it was delicious with just a very mild spice. We spooned the boiling hot cheese onto corn tortillas and devoured the bowl in no time.
Since we ordered so much food and to avoid being verbose, I am going to show a picture and briefly say what I liked about each of them for the remainder of this post. I am not that big of a fan of ceviche, but the ceviche verde was working; what tied it together were the olives.
The traditional tlayuda was on an enormous fried tortilla and had black beans, cheese, lettuce, avocado, and some really nice tomatoes. Kick up the heat by topping it off with some of their house salsa.
The panucho cochinita pibil is the item that I would have left out (although it still was very good!). The pork was similar to pulled pork that you might get at a barbecue joint without the BBQ sauce.
The tacos dorados de pollo verde was my favorite dish of the night, and I don’t even like tomatillo sauce! (Whenever I hear of a verde sauce I immediately think of New Mexico green chiles so my taste buds are never prepared for the tartness of the tomatillo.) You get three mini tacos that are stuffed with perfectly marinated chicken and topped with farmer’s cheese and crema that give it a smooth taste. Be sure to get this dish when you visit!
To wash it all down, I had to try the Margarita La Gloria, which is a blue colored margarita. While it is not as tart as traditional margaritas, it is every bit potent. They also have a wide variety of aguas frescas, and when they brought out the sandia, or watermelon drink, I had to get a cup of it. I liked that it was not too sweet and there was a good amount of pulp in it, in addition to the fact that you get unlimited refills!
Finally, you would be remiss not to order the tres leches cake at La Gloria. Instead of garnishing the cake with sauce or chocolate, they let it stand on it’s own merits and it works quite nicely. Incredibly sweet and moist, regardless of how full you are you have to have a bite.
Chef Johnny and his staff have created such a great experience for locals and tourists alike. You would be well served to make a stop in midtown for not only a great atmosphere that extends from the restaurant to the river, but also for some incredible food.
Value: You can spend a little or a lot at La Gloria; while the plates can add up, you do have the ability to control how much you get.
Atmosphere: Such an amazing atmosphere! The devil is in the details and La Gloria gets it! What’s even better is that you are right by the Museum Reach portion of the river so you can go for an after dinner stroll
Service: The service had a couple of hiccups, but overall was pretty good (in fairness, they were slammed when I went); the main thing was when my friend ordered a Caipirinha and got a pink fruity drink; the waiter said that it was correct but I know that the drink should not be pink; we pressed further and he finally got the right drink from the bartender.
Salsa: Fantastic salsa with the right amount of heat! The chips were delicious as well.
Taste: You aren’t going to go wrong with a meal at La Gloria, there is something for everyone and it all tastes fantastic! They are very deserving of the best new restaurant nod!