Bar Loretta relies on generations of creativity
When Roger Herr left San Antonio in the mid-1990s, the city’s food scene offered far fewer creative, upscale dining options than it does today. A place like Bar Lorette would have seemed an odd choice at the time, and diners in this town might not have embraced his laid-back yet refined take on modern Texas cuisine.
In fact, Herr and his wife, Sarah, went to New York so she could pursue her career after earning a master’s degree in fashion design. He calls it “one of the best decisions of my life”. While in New York, Herr was a bartender, and in 2000 he opened Souths in Tribeca. Then in 2006, he opened the 11th Street Bar in the East Village.
“Twenty-three years later, we returned to San Antonio with our two daughters in tow,” he says.
He knew he wanted to live in the King William area, run a restaurant in the neighborhood, and send his daughters to nearby Bonham Academy. And that’s exactly what it does.
His place, which is approaching a year in business, offers a vision of modern Texas aesthetics with style and impeccable taste.
Sarah Herr has redesigned the restaurant, which is housed in the former Madhatter’s Tea House, to give the impression of a Victorian-inspired mansion, while executive chef Paul Petersen has created an exceptional menu that gently evokes a feeling of belonging.
The menu is seasonal, but some of Petersen’s recent dishes have included chilli-glazed quail and Brussels sprouts topped with queso, as well as a gorgeous take on butter-seared scallops that paired the rich, delicate flesh with shaved fennel with citrus fruits and basil pesto. . Thick and succulent lamb chops with mustard, ordered medium-rare, had a lovely seared crust with a primitive red interior that paired deftly with the roasted fry. An expertly roasted chicken gets the luxurious treatment, served with a deeply satisfying mushroom bread pudding and topped with a runny fried egg.
A smart and delicious cocktail menu from Michael Neff, a pal of Herr’s from New York who was founder and director of beverages at the Cottonmouth Club in Houston, adds depth to the experience with the classics. There’s also an entire section of Manhattans and another of whimsical creations that incorporate items from, from all places, from Buc-ee’s—Big Red Sazerac, anyone?
“What we wanted was good, classic cocktails because they really have appeal,” Herr says, adding, “We wanted to have a sense of humor.”
Meanwhile, Todd Piernik, the house manager, helps Herr keep the service on point. Together, the team created a destination where diners must book weeks in advance for a weekend getaway.
“The concept is that I see Texas as a muse, as a giver of life, a material presence. Which comes from its soil, the Gulf of Mexico,” Herr says. “Plus, Texas feeds the world with its literature, its songwriters, its musicians.”
This famous Texas creativity inspired the restaurant’s name, which comes from a song of the same title by Fort Worth native Townes Van Zandt (and later covered by others including Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett). And there is a connection to the restaurant: these musicians all performed at the Beauregard Café, which operated in this space from the early 1970s until 1981.
Now, the space echoes a new generation of creativity that San Antonio’s culinary scene is more than ready to embrace.