Other cliche puns I could have used: Third Time's the Charm for Southtown Restaurant Group, Battalion Was LIT, I Went to Opening Night at Battalion and Didn't See a Single Hot Firefighter...
Jokes aside, I'm going to try to refrain from gushing over last night's experience at Battalion, the third restaurant from Andrew Goodman and Stefan Bowers, which opened inside a renovated firehouse. But here are some first impressions from night one:
1. It's hard not to get swept away by the lighting. After designing Feast (which is dimly lit) and Rebelle (even darker), Andrew Goodman said let there be light! Don't get too excited; the space is still very intimate, but guests won't be straining to see their dish. The chandeliers are a nice touch, and the spotlight that welcomes you while you ascend the staircase to the dining room lets you know you're in for a treat. With cursed Daylight Savings around the corner, the lighting inside the eatery will only get better.
2. The ambience. Perhaps I've seen one too many episodes of Law & Order SVU when Olivia Benson investigates artsy and tasteful sex dungeons/swingers clubs/et al.; or maybe hate-watching 50 Shades Darker has spurred my imagination to a ridiculous point ... but the notes of red and black and long-stemmed crimson roses give Battalion a sultry ambience. It's date night. It's girls night (to gossip about Tinder/Bumble escapades/fumbles). It's sexy sex, Fire Engine Red hot, and it works surprisingly well.
3. The view cannot be beat. Other than being inside the actual Tower of the Americas where diners can survey their kingdom and make ad hoc Lion King jokes, Battalion has one of the best views of the city. All north side-facing tables come paired with this view.
4. Though we skipped out on the house cocktails (for now), we dabbled in the Battalion Spritz, available in Campari and other liqueurs. I asked for an Aperol and both will likely be staples come summertime. Hopefully Battalion's patio will be ready for whiling away an afternoon pretending I'm at a quaint Italian villa.
5. It wouldn't be quite fair to review Battalion's fare after just more than 24 hours of it opening, but Bowers and his crew (Ezekiel Cavazos and Jacob Gonzales, formerly with Feast and Rebelle, are executive chef and sous, respectively) set a high bar for themselves as is. The menu is varied, and can accommodate most budgets (whether you're there for snacks or every item along with wine service). The 10 various $10 pastas are worth exploring. We sampled a pillowy, garlicky house-made ricotta gnudi in a pool of Sicilian tomato pesto and the fun Trenne (triangular penne!) Bombay loaded with pancetta bites in a sauce of cream, tomato, gin and dill pollen. The roasted cauliflower solidified my love of this highly underrated and versatile veggie. Excited to try to make my way through the menu and soon.
6. Southtown/Lavaca denizens filled the dining room, and even a certain beloved coach had to make it in for opening night. As First Friday approaches, remember to do the right thing and put in those reservations. Trying to get into Battalion might prove more difficult as people realize we've got a real winner in our midst.
604 S. Alamo St., (210) 816-0088.