In north San Antonio, the Rim near 1604 and I-10 is growing rapidly. Originally anchored by the vaguely Greek Palladium, the area’s growth has bolstered retail and service industry ventures. As such, dozens of bars and restaurants have cropped up in the area, four of which happen to be within 100 feet of each other. With the intention to survey the nascent mini bar-district myself, I visited Brass Tap, General Public, the Lion and Rose and Mash’d on a Thursday night. Below, from favorite to least favorite, are my impressions.
The Brass Tap
17619 La Cantera Pkwy., Suite 2-208, (210) 670-7090
The first bar I visited ended up being my favorite, partially for its smiling, friendly service, but mostly because of its impressive selection of local beers. Though all four bars were either chains or the property of investment groups, Brass Tap tries hard to connect with its locale. Out of 60 beer offerings on tap, nearly 20 were San Antonio products, including the Branchline Old Three Hundred ($8), one of six sour beer choices and a remarkably astringent, tart drink that really pushes the palate.
In addition to the local beer, Brass Tap also promotes a community feeling through their “Brew Crew” program, a rewards system that individuals pay $15 to join, after which they receive a T-shirt, the opportunity to accrue credit, access to incredible discounts and — though intangible — a sense of belonging. Furthering in their community efforts, general manager Winnie Mak said that she and a representative from Lüke were organizing a fundraiser in support of the victims of the Pulse tragedy in Orlando.
Brass Tap serves food, though unlike its beer selection, the array of burgers, sandwiches, wings and nachos are focus group fare, by no means an effort to highlight local product. Nonetheless, one rarely visits a bar seeking innovative eats, so the issue is of little importance. Because of its amicable service, backing of local beer and community ethos, Brass Tap is more than worth visiting.
17623 La Cantera Pkwy., Suite 107, (210) 538-5833
The final bar I visited on my crawl, Mash’d won big points for its friendly, knowledgeable service, as well as its focus on moonshine.
Though moonshine technically refers to any high-proof spirit made illegally, most American moonshine uses corn, which through a process called mashing (hence Mash’d), ferments and can be distilled into liquor.
If your curiosity should incite you to order a flight of moonshines, as mine did, understand that you’ve essentially ordered yourself four shots of a very close relative of vodka. You can pick one of their pre-arranged flights ($14) or pick four of your own ($15), but regardless, be ready for a heady dose of alcohol. If you’re the type who typically avoids flavor-infused liquors, think again — if the liquor comes plain, i.e. without fruit, sweetener, or savory pizazz — there’s little for the average palate to appreciate. In which case, prepare yourself for an icy bite of antiseptic cleanser.
The food, like at Brass Tap and General Public, is anodyne New American, but the moonshine-centric menu is reason enough to visit, if for no other reason than the pleasure of checking a few novelty liquors off your bucket list.
The Lion and Rose
17627 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 798-5466
In a testament to the borderlessness of cultural appropriation, I found myself ordering a Black and Tan, a drink named after the British task force formed to repress Irish revolutionaries, in the form of a Guinness and a Harp.
The bar was nearly empty when I visited, except for a smattering of nerdy non-English drinkers. I was tempted by the Scotch egg ($5.49) and the Hackney hot wings ($10.99), but found myself far and way sated by the dense beer.
By this time in my crawl I had seen several of the area bars, and the quaint historical theme the establishment relies on felt tired and out of place.
The General Public, Mark Stenberg
17619 La Cantera Pkwy., Suite 102, (210) 920-1101
Though an agreeable institution, General Public’s lack of individuality landed it last in my esteem. The layout, which consisted of a horseshoe-shaped bar and a few scattered couches, caters well to the weary, but does little for promoting animated discussion or the sense of conviviality.
Once seated, I was graced with an economical amount of attention from the bartender. In an attempt to break the ice, I ordered the “Bartender’s Whimsy,” a freewheeling invention up to the bartender’s imagination. In return I received a saccharine lemon concoction that consisted of orange and lemon juice, simple syrup and Four Roses bourbon, a sweet but uninspired combination.
I sat in silence for the 20 minutes it took to drink my drink, and then left, in silence, passing a hostess who was on her phone.