1022 North Main
There is nothing wrong with wanting to reduce one's carbon footprint. Doing that is the main justification for the current fashion of "Eating Local": buying supplies from nearby producers eliminates much of the pollution created by transportation, which is, after all, one of the filthiest things we routinely do. And there are, purportedly, side benefits as well: Savings in transport costs. Greater local prosperity. Fresher foodstuffs. But after a first visit to this recently-established restaurant, I begin to wonder where the benefits are accruing.
The Clean Plate is owned by a couple of women who used to have a food truck, but found that San Antonio wasn't ready for bison burgers on wheels. So they moved into the space vacated when Pete's Tako House moved downtown, and started serving an interesting mix of Asian and New-Age selections. We happened to be there on what was a normal gorgeous late-autumn weekday in San Antonio, so we grabbed a table on the "patio," a small enclosure jutting into the triangle where Main and Lexington Avenues come together. City folk from Dallas or Houston or Philadelphia might question an outdoor table by two major arterial streets during a workday, but we know that in this part of town, heavy traffic means there might occasionally be as many as two cars at the red light. Traffic noise was not an issue.
The waiter was, inexplicably, as nervous as a black cat passing a coven on All Hallows' Eve, but the service was good nonetheless. One of the owners, cheerful, personable, and bedecked with enough piercings and tattoos to make me feel uncomfortable, came out to check on her al fresco customers, and to give a little background on the restaurant. Judging from the publicity stories I've seen in a couple of places, she's getting lots of practice at that.
Our first choices for an early lunch late last month were unavailable, one because the kitchen had run out of an essential ingredient, the other because the dish is being taken off the menu and they hadn't gotten around to printing new ones. So, dismissing other, more exotic options (mostly because they seemed overpriced), we both fell back on the tried-and-true choice of Americans everywhere, a plain ol' burger and fries.
Well, perhaps "plain" ain't quite the mot juste here. The burger was on a nice, soft bun, with fresh veggies to grace the assemblage, and an unusual combination of seasonings in the meat. It was cooked a little longer than medium, and considering that I'd have ordered it medium-rare (had I been asked), I thought it was a little on the dry side. But I use the phrase "plain ol' burger" to distinguish the hamburger from the bison burger, also on the menu. This beef was as dry as bison. Some may consider that a good thing; I do not; but it was, still, acceptable. The fries were nicely seasoned and expertly cooked, but suffered from being composed mostly of the residual shards of cut potatoes. Every silver lining has a cloud, and the silver lining here is that it makes you eat them more slowly.
|Last city inspection: September 2013|
3 demerits (very good)
I don't know how much carbon we saved the world by having lunch at the Clean Plate. I know we did not have remarkably fresher ingredients than we would have gotten at, say, Timbo's or the Armadillo, two nearby eateries that do burgers better; and I'm absolutely certain that we saw no price savings from the lowered transport costs of eating locally. Quite the contrary: these burgers were flat-out overpriced.
The Clean Plate, obviously, is not a burger joint: In that sense, it is unfair to judge the place on its burgers. Okay, I'll accept that, and despite my disappointment on this first experience with the place, I look forward to trying some of those more exotic offerings. But that will have to be another day, if the place stays around long enough.