New and Noteworthy
Liberty Bar, San Antonio and El Mesón, Austin
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San Antonio What a relief to walk into Liberty Bar’s new Southtown quarters and find the good old familiar menu absolutely unchanged, even down to the spicy Blenheim ginger ale. Liberty gets more mileage out of simple ideas than anyone else. Take eggplant purée with Parmesan toast—a minor masterpiece. Unexpected main courses (“lamburger,” venison sausage, crab cakes) fill the menu; we ate very well on a grilled-duck salad with orange slices, walnuts, and pomegranate sauce (pictured) and on grilled salmon with a pestolike cilantro sauce. In short, the kitchen is as quirky as before, but Liberty’s new digs—a dignified late-nineteenth-century residence that was once home to a convent—actually have (gasp!) a touch of elegance. Bar. 1111 S. Alamo (210-227-1187). Open Mon—Thur 11—10:30, Fri 11—midnight, Sat 10:30—midnight, Sun 10:30—10:30. $$ W+
Austin This agreeable if sparely decorated offspring of the far more humble Burleson Road original focuses on the rich flavors of Mexico’s interior. And the kitchen is spot-on, from the smoky salsa (think mole and chipotles), perfect for dipping, to the simple, creamy guacamole, mostly fresh avocado punched up with a little cilantro (we slathered it onto hot corn tortillas). We approved of our tacos de camarón al pastor—small but not tiny shrimp marinated in achiote, grilled with fresh pineapple, and garnished with an avocado verde salsa. Even so, we couldn’t resist swapping with our companion. His chilorio, northern-style pork tips in a thin but flavorful guajillo-ancho sauce, proved irresistible. Beer, wine, & margaritas (good tequila selection too). 2038 S. Lamar Blvd (512-442-4441). Open Mon 10:30—2:30, Tue—Thur 10:30—10, Fri 10:30—11, Sat 9—11, Sun 9—10. Brunch Sat & Sun 9—1. $—$$ W+