Bringing U.S. and import craft and Texas beer into the spotlight has become a staple for several local San Antonio area establishments such as Flying Saucer, Hills & Dales, Freetail Brewing Co., The Friendly Spot, Pedicab Bar, and AJ’s Ale House in New Braunfels. But the idea of a gastropub has been hit or miss, not just in San Antonio, but throughout the nation.
That’s why the idea behind well-known Chef Jeff Besh and Chef Steve McHugh’s new San Antonio restaurant will be such a revelation here. The new Lüke restaurant brings simplicity, quality, and beer-centric cuisine.
“I started with John 10 years ago and it was all fine dining and about how many ingredients you could put on a plate,” McHugh said. Now it’s coming back around to comfort food, he observed, such as a bowl of mussels or great steak and fries.
Beer comes into play as both classic accompaniment and ingredient.
The idea with the new restaurant at 125 E. Houston on the San Antonio River Walk is to have about 50 percent of the beers from Belgium, Germany and France (although the list of great French beers available is a very short one) and the other half from Texas breweries. That means Real Ale Brewing Co. in Blanco and Saint Arnold from Houston, whose Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower beer McHugh is a fan of. Talks to have San Antonio’s newest microbrewery, Ranger Creek Brewing Co., as part of the lineup are in the works. And other Texas breweries, especially as they relate to the food, will be in the mix.
The other thing that distinguishes a true gastropub from just a great restaurant with an admirable beer selection is the ability of the chefs to incorporate the beer as an ingredient in a farm-to-table manner.
The German-French influenced cuisine (with emphasis on that amalgamation known as Alsatian) will include beer in regional dishes such as wild boar beer sausage. McHugh, a native of the Midwest, grew up with his father boiling bratwurst in beer and onions before they hit the grill. So for him the connection between beer and the culinary arts was made early on.
Bartenders and other staff at Lüke will be encouraged to understand the story behind the featured beers and be able to explain them to the clientele, McHugh said. Expect an opening of October 25, but it could be a little later. Whenever it happens, come thirsty.•
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current. He is the author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to the Brews and Brewers of the Lone Star State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.