Sunday, December 12, 2010

En la calle: La Gloria Ice House

The busy shopping streets in any Mexican city or town are lined with vendors selling all manner of intriguing food; the sounds and smells and sight of the food are one of the things I like about travelling in Mexico. Unfortunately, I've never felt any of it is safe enough to eat, so I always just listen, and sniff, and look. That's why I've been itching to go to La Gloria Ice House, a new restaurant at the Pearl Brewery complex, which bills itself as a purveyor of "street foods of Mexico." Today I got the chance to go, with a friend I had not seen in a few months.

The place is across a parking lot from the main part of the Brewery complex, along Grayson Street and backing up against the River, just about where the new Museum Reach extension ends. It looks fairly mundane from the front, a red-and-brown brick building that resembles a late-1950s suburban ranch-style house. A side patio is well stocked with tables that flow on out onto the lawn, and there's another patio in back, overlooking the river. 

When you enter, you're confronted with a large blackboard giving names and prices; laminated sheets describe the various dishes, which I'm sure all but native Mexicans are mostly unfamiliar with: various tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and other things I don't remember. Bottled beer stands iced down under the menu board; other drinks are available from the cashier, where you place your order.

I went with a quesadilla gringa and the tamal del día; my friend said he was going to get a milanesa, then changed his mind at the last moment and chose a torta de carnitas on a whim.

Our food was good, for the most part. My quesadilla was well-prepared, but wasn't anything particularly exotic; maybe the name should have tipped me to that fact. The tamal was more exotic, and equally well-prepared, with a particularly tasty breading on it. I was, therefore, particularly disappointed in that all the street tamales I've seen in Mexico (and not dared to try) were much, much thicker. This batter was so good that I really would've like to have more of it.

My friend thought his torta was dry. I tried it, and have to disagree. He had a ramekin of sauce on his plate which provided all the moisture needed to bring out the taste of the food, which was good.

The real draw of La Gloria, I've come to believe, is that it's the current Place To Be Seen in San Antonio. We saw more well-known locals there in the space of 45 minutes than I've seen in the previous month. The place is just chic enough to draw all those mover-and-shaker wannabes out of Alamo Heights and Olmos Park just long enough to soak up a little of the reflected glory emanating from those who have already Arrived. Other than that, the ambience (or ambiance, if you prefer), is fairly routine: noisy enough that we could not understand a word our waiter said, a tad close, and kind of like San Miguel de Allende without all those street vendors. (Not good enough to rate a comparison with Guanajuato, or even Zacatecas.) And though it unfortunately lacks the sounds and aromas of the Mexican street, it still provides a relaxed and inviting setting for your rather upscale would-be street food.
La Gloria Ice House on Urbanspoon

Update: I went back to La Gloria just after Christmas, with two other people. This time we sampled grilled fish tacos (tacos pescado zarandeado) and two kinds of "Mexican pizza" (tlayudas tradicional and deshebrada). All the dishes were tasty and satisfying, though nothing in the experience gave me any reason to raise or lower my ratings for the place. It's good, and if you want to be seen, or hobnob with those who are out to be seen, it's the place to go. I suspect that, when the novelty wears off and the beau monde moves on to the next New Thing, what will be left will be a reliably good, enjoyable place to gather with friends who appreciate a cuisine that, for all our city's Mexican heritage, is still exotic to us.


  1. It sure ain't the kind of street-food I ever found in mexico. seems kind of fru-fru to me.

  2. AnonymousJune 22, 2011

    • I am sorry to say, but this place is beyond awful. Not only this place allows their waiter to write their own tip and charge it, but manager don't care about customers either. I am never coming back!!
    I came up from a long walk on the river walk to get a drink. The waiter made face at me cause I only ordered a drink to go. About a month when I looked through my bank statements, I found out that the waiter added himself a tip!!! I mean really? So I pick up the phone and call the manager, explaining that his water added a tip I didn't give him on my credit card charge. He is like, I will look through the charges and find out what happened. He never returned my phone call.


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