When we describe the menu at Liberty Bar as “different,” it’s not a euphemism for “not good.” Twenty-four years in one of the toughest industries around, and Liberty has a roster of passionate regulars the envy of local restaurateurs. For natives, it’s often first on the list of places to take out-of-town guests for a “real” San Antonio experience. Many of Liberty’s familiar faces, including co-founder Drew Allen, have passed on or moved along although the bar and menu remain much the same. We decided to check in.
In the past, we’ve been less than satisfied with the service (legendarily personable but quirkily uneven), but on recent trips it was fine with just a few exceptions. When we wanted butter, butter was delivered. Water glasses were filled and refilled. Waitstaff didn’t disappear when it was time for us to get our check. (That last item is one of our San Antonio dining pet peeves.)
Lunch at Liberty Bar offers specials, plus the usual menu. We had the slabs of grilled potato with the wonderfully pungent garlic sauce, and it lived up to its reputation as a “must order” favorite. Also famous is the Goat Cheese with Chile Morita and Piloncillo Sauce. While it doesn’t look delicious at first glance, it is. The brown topping on the creamy goat cheese is made from a blend of the Mexican brown sugar and smoked chiles. The salt and cream of the cheese marries well to the smoky, sweet topping.
Moving on to the generous list of salads, we enjoyed one of the more complicated options, Roasted Hazelnut with Prosciutto, Apples, and Pecorino Cheese. Again, the contrasting tastes and textures make this a great option.
Lamb sausage and pork sausage off the grill were temptingly juicy and well-seasoned. Chicken Breast Achiote is tenderized and marinated with the subtly warm spice derived from the annatto bush and gently grilled for a succulent result that puts most chicken-breast entrées to shame. Cold slices of lamb, served with olives and the good bread, was OK, though the meat was somewhat rubbery and overdone.
For dessert, we arrived in time to snag a piece of the Lime Chess Pie, a wonderfully light and tangy custard treat that’s a testament to Texas cooking (Liberty’s justly famous pies, cakes, and bread are available to-go; just ask). We’ll make one more suggestion: Before you go to Liberty Bar, check out the menu on the website, liberty-bar.com. It’s packed with unusual options that will send you on your way, anticipating good things to come.