The first version of design plans for two new restaurants in the La Villita Historic District showcasing San Antonio’s culinary history got the thumbs up Wednesday. 

The Historic and Design Review Commission gave conceptual approval to the architectural team working on plans for a Mexican restaurant that would be built on the south edge of Maverick Plaza and for another smaller restaurant in the renovated Faville House, a historic structure in the plaza. 

Both restaurants are part of the City of San Antonio’s partnership with Chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloria

Three restaurants are planned in the plaza to showcase San Antonio’s culinary legacy, recognized in 2017 by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which named San Antonio as a Creative City of Gastronomy.

In August 2020, the HDRC approved the proposed changes to La Villita and work started a year ago at the corner of Alamo and Nueva streets to upgrade utilities to the historic site along with installing a new fountain, landscaping, pavers and lighting.

Mark Navarro of Fisher Heck Architects applied to the commission for conceptual approval to construct the two-story restaurant with indoor, outdoor and rooftop dining, and to build a one-story rear addition onto the historic Faville House that will also feature indoor dining space.

The new Mexican restaurant will be a 5,000-square-foot, single-story building designed to anchor the development and draw pedestrians from multiple directions into the plaza, according to documents submitted to the Office of Historic Preservation. 

Renderings show a brick structure that Navarro said was designed to be pedestrian-scaled and was inspired by the neighboring Fairmont Hotel and another hotel that was on the site before being demolished in the 1930s. 

Windows into the dining spaces are positioned to create interest for passersby. “That’s the whole purpose of this project, trying to reinvigorate this area on a day-to-day basis,” Navarro said.

The Spanish-themed Faville House restaurant is designed with a proposed addition to the stucco-covered house reflecting the small residences of the Victorian-inspired era in La Villita.

Another structure is planned next to the Mexican restaurant. But designs were not presented for that restaurant, which is expected to offer German fare.

An aerial site rendering of La Villita shows a reconfigured plaza and additional structures.
An aerial site rendering of La Villita in 2021 shows a reconfigured plaza and additional structures. Credit: Courtesy / MP Studio

Kathy Krnavek, first vice president and assistant to the president of the Conservation Society of San Antonio, said the organization appreciates some of the suggested improvements that have been made to the design of the Mexican and Spanish restaurants. 

But, she added, “we do not support the current design because it does not fit into the historic character of La Villita.”

The design panel approved the project with some stipulations involving architectural details, including non-gloss finishes and recessed window openings. The applicant will be required to submit final design plans for a certificate of appropriateness. 

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...