The Pearl Brewery, in-fill's crown jewel

by Natalia Ciolko

Published in the San Antonio Current, February 2011

While new construction and dramatic rehabilitation of old facades at the former Pearl Brewery have attracted their share of breathless media attention, the trendy mixed-use idea is something new for the city, and it shows in the puzzled faces of mid-week visitors who put the Pearl on their list of stops. The food is what lures people, for now. You’ll find a trinity: Il Sogno, the Sandbar, and La Gloria — where they’re charging $5 for chips and salsa and feeling no pain. But in March, the Culinary Institute of America is going to open a cafe and bakery, where customers can (quite creepily) view the students as they work in the test kitchens.

There’s no night traffic here to speak of — it’s all about the Saturday “farmer’s market.” More like “standing-room-only crowd for lavender soap and sausage kolaches,” but even so, the fresh purple-hulled peas, miscellany of salad greens, and locally grown everything make it worthwhile. The Wednesday night market is a tamer affair — less spectacle, more speckled eggs.

“The Pearl has completely exceeded my expectations,” said Andrew Weissman, while prepping plates in the kitchen at Il Sogno. He’s the owner of two of the Pearl-based restaurants, and says he had a hard time accommodating the crowds at first.

The industrial-sleek Full Goods Building, all aluminum and hard edges, was the coziest spot in the world one rainy afternoon while having champagne and oysters and watching the cold, bleak world in the window fog over. The whole Pearl development is full of little experiences that no self-respecting local should miss.