Walking through San Antonio’s new 40,000-square-foot specialty grocer and eatery, Pullman Market, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my first time visiting Eataly in New York’s Flatiron District. Swap the aisles of fresh mozz (though Pullman has that too) and Italian wine bar with fresh-off-the-press tortillas and a mezcal bar, and you have Pearl’s latest addition. 

I toured the massive market from Austin’s Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group in early April with an animating question on my mind: Does Pearl need another food court? In addition to several restaurants—including Ladino, another Emmer & Rye spot—at the endlessly growing development north of downtown, Pearl’s Food Hall at Bottling Department houses a collection of fine grab-and-go restaurants where shoppers can pick up barbecue, fried chicken, pizza, tacos, or just a glass of wine to enjoy on the lawn. But as I walked through Pullman Market, I quickly realized I was asking the wrong question. 

Through the doors of the 75-year-old former Samuels Glass Co. building is an entire ecosystem that subtly celebrates Texas: the grocery store boasts 150 vendors, from locally sourced meats and produce to Texas-made wine. After a day or two, unsold produce will move over to one of Pullman’s four restaurants, Kevin Fink, one of Emmer & Rye’s partners, tells me. That holistic approach is apparent throughout the building, from butchers using every part of the animal and supplying lard for fresh tortillas to the market sending compost back to one of its partner farms. 

Two of Pullman’s restaurants—Fife & Farro, a casual pizza and pasta spot, and Mezquite, a Sonoran Mexican restaurant with a sweeping dining room and gorgeous mezcal bar, Mezcaleria—open today. Two additional restaurants—Isidore, a fine-dining spot with a seasonal menu named after the patron saint of agriculture; and a dessert bar called Nicosi—are slated to open later this spring.

As I listened to Fink passionately describe the forthcoming restaurants, peeking into the twenty-seat chef’s counter at Nicosi (where hosts will ask you to shut down your phone at the door), a new question emerges: Will San Antonio support such upscale eateries? While my hometown boasts no shortage of excellent restaurants, we also have a culture that veers toward the casual. Fink isn’t concerned. Austin, Dallas, and Houston all have “special occasion restaurants,” where diners can celebrate anything from a promotion to simply having family in town. Fink believes San Antonio should have them too. “We deserve that,” he says.