The Maloney building is a sliver of masonry — the interior is a maroon-colored corridor broken up by an old bank vault: the wine “cellar.” The bartender comes in and out of its mouth, which opens into the horseshoe bar. Recessed windows span from floor to ceiling, though given the location not much light gets through. Domed frosted- glass lamp covers create a dim, but luminous interior. The Bombay Martini is delicious. I’m not usually a martini drinker, but I’m really enjoying going with the flow here.
A friend of mine tells me a story as we sit on the odd bar stools (they don’t seem to have a hard seat — just a leather cushion stretched over the wooden frame). He says that the building’s top floor used to house a rich, eccentric old guy. He owned a cow that stayed with him in the apartment. Every morning he would get up and milk the cow. I couldn’t verify the story, but who cares: that’s the kind of building it is. It’s got history, from the plaque outside heralding it as the old San Antonio Loan & Trust Company to the retrofitted wine vault to the tiny bar contoured into a corner near the (locked) Commerce-street door to the quaint, metal-gated entrance on Crockett (a street that would look more comfortable in New York City than San Antonio, which makes it all the more persuasively South Texan). It feels like you’re absorbing more than alcohol because you are.
It’s a Friday, and the bar fills, but never gets packed. Because it’s downtown, there is a mix of locals and tourists. The enormous flat-screen TV over the vault is broadcasting football and if you can swallow the $9 ticket on the martini (the happy hour from 4-7pm and the reverse happy hour from 9-11pm features numerous drink specials), it would be a great place to watch the Cowboys barely pull off a win. You might be rubbing shoulders with a Giants fan, but all the better. Happily, SoHo and its patrons make San Antonio a little more metropolitan, refined, and interesting.