San Antonio's elevated, earthy American fare
Located inside the eclectic Hotel Emma housed in the old Pearl Brewery building, Supper reflects both the history of its surroundings and the high bar set for foodie-focused fare that is so celebrated in the present day. Chef John Brand’s straightforward American eatery, with its focus on fresh greenmarket cuisine, complements San Antonio’s new hip hotel and serves as a good addition to the Pearl area’s fast-growing culinary scene.
Chef Brand’s elemental approach to cuisine is reflected in his restaurant’s name — to him, supper should be a shared ritual, like gathering at a family farm table eating fresh seasonal fare grown nearby. Raised in the Midwest with its robust tradition of unpretentious but flavorful farm-fresh food, Brand has learned to incorporate elements of America’s diverse multicultural culinary map into his menus. It’s a part farm table, part bistro table experience with food that does indeed feel good to share.
Brand finds his freshest ingredients for Supper at a nearby Floresville-area farm and creates a menu that at first seems understated but is based on long-standing American traditions. Simple starters include dishes like salt and vinegar Brussels sprouts, grilled asparagus served with miso mustard, warm Honeycrisp apple and parsnip soup, and braised oxtail stew with mushrooms, cipollini and walnuts. Entrées are modest-sized and can range from roasted chicken with fresh market vegetables to duck confit with Meyer lemon and seven-herb salad. Save room to sample one of Supper’s so-called “endings,” such as maple and burnt sugar panna cotta served with sweet potato sorbet, or the chocolate cake sprinkled with Oaxacan sea salt.
At breakfast, choose from traditional dishes that have been amped up with flavor and fresh ingredients. Spiced waffles come with duck confit, cranberry, orange and goat cheese mousse. Here, a simple egg-and-bagel dish is elevated with jalapeño cream cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. Lunch, too, offers favorites with a twist — the burger is served with deviled egg mayo and green tomato, and the roasted green beans arrive with toasted seaweed remoulade.
To reach Supper, you may pass through Hotel Emma’s industrial-chic spaces, including cavernous rooms filled with elephant-sized historic brewery machinery. Supper’s setting is far less grandiose. A more intimate space with ivory walls and wood floors, it features no white tablecloths or flashy wall colors. Instead, Supper is a warm, well-lit spot that’s energized with clanging pots and pans in its open kitchen. (You can dine at the counter here as chefs prepare meals.) There are roomy banquettes near the bar in front, tables in the back rooms, and even a few bistro tables on a narrow outdoor patio with views of the San Antonio River — a coveted spot for a quiet meal. The San Antonio restaurant is stylish but charmingly modest.