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La Gloria Swings Open its Heavenly Gates


La Gloria, in Spanish, refers to paradise. (It can also refer to a kind of tart, but we'll put that aside for this post.) La Gloria is also the name of C.I.A.-trained chef Johnny Hernandez's new restaurant on the banks of the San Antonio River at the Pearl Brewery. Street foods of Mexico are its focus.

The building itself is a kind of Lake Flato-lite product, with lots of roll-up garage doors to encourage flow between indoors and out. (Good luck seeing them open much until fall.) Reinforcing the notion of Hernandez as a heavenly host, there are already a few fat-cheeked cherubs in evidence, and more are said to soon be suspended from the roof trusses. Chairs and tables have a definite made-in-Mexico look.

But so does the food. Though I happened to be there on the Cinco de Mayo public opening day (totally by accident, I swear) and did taste several dishes, it's not kosher to comment on food at this early date. (Do not take this as a not-ready-for-prime-time comment, however.) Unless 72 virgins are a requirement of paradise, however, I can say there is much to be anticipated at La Gloria.

First-timers may find the menu choices a little dizzying, despite a glossary on the back of the check-off menu you will be handed as you enter. Throw a dart (metaphorically), or just go with ingredients you know you like. There are tacos of every stripe (vegetarian items are marked with a v on the menu), tlayudas (unfortunately called a “Mexican pizza” but more like a very large chalupa), both “drowned” and dry-land tortas, quesadillas, panuchos (defined as a gordita), sopes, ceviches (including camarones agua chile rarely seen hereabouts), molcajetes (large, stone mortars filled with sizzling sauce studded with pork, beef or queso)â?¦.and even a whole fish of the day. Prices range from $3 for the simplest quesadilla to $14 for a molcajete with beef skirt. (The fish is market price.) Yes, this is more than you would pay for street food in Mexico, but that's life, and this isn't Mexico. If you're cautious, however, the tab doesn't have to be hellishly high.

There are no desserts, by the way. No coffee, either. Lingering, it's clear, is not thereby encouraged. But there is a margarita and a rum drink with lots of muy tropical chopped fruit. Mexican beer is available at the entry to get you started in case the line is long. I'd refer you to the website for advance menu research, but it isn't active yet. Eventually, you will be able to go to Now, you can call 267-9040.

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