Of the nearly 24,000 restaurants listed nationwide on Yelp as of March 1, more than half are now permanently closed – the victims of pandemic closures and escalated unemployment throughout the country. 

In San Antonio, El Bosque, a Tex-Mex restaurant located on West Avenue, closed its doors May 31 after 26 years in business. A sign on the door attributes the closure to COVID-19 but asks customers to be on the lookout for a “possible reopening” next year. 

For those that haven’t shut completely, limited-capacity seating and takeout service, along with emergency small business loans, have kept them afloat.

But the owners of three established restaurants here are following through on plans to grow their footprints this year and next, and another newer entry to the San Antonio restaurant landscape recently opened a spinoff at the Pearl. 

The James Beard-nominated chefs of the progressive Mexican restaurant, Mixtli, announced Monday they plan to close their “cargo container” space in Olmos Park this fall and reopen in a larger spot in Southtown.

Chefs Rico Torres and Diego Galicia said the new restaurant, located at 812 S. Alamo St., will feature a dining room that seats 30 at multiple tables, an open kitchen, and a full bar. The concept will remain the same with a menu that transitions every 45 days, featuring dishes from different regions of Mexico. But an agave spirits cart will circulate in the new restaurant. 

“When we first opened Mixtli, we didn’t know what to expect or how our guests would receive it,” Torres stated. “Because of its size and the exclusivity of the dinners, it was a difficult reservation to make. Now, seven years later, we are excited to move Mixtli into a larger space with a full bar and make our restaurant much more accessible and inviting.”

“Every year comes with its challenges, and 2020 is no different,” added Galicia. “We knew moving Mixtli would be a thing to celebrate, but unfortunately, it comes at a time when our industry is hurting. I think San Antonio needs a reason and a place to celebrate the happy moments. Joy and celebrations don’t stop, and if we try our best to ensure our guests’ safety, we can celebrate as we should. We will be ready for our guests’ happy moments as soon as our doors open this fall.”  

Local chef Johnny Hernandez confirmed plans recently to break ground at Brooks this fall for his fifth La Gloria restaurant. Following its first location at the Pearl, which opened in 2012, La Gloria has expanded to full-service sites near the Dominion and at the San Antonio International Airport and a counter-service space at the AT&T Center. 

In March, Hernandez converted La Gloria’s dining room into a mercado that sold produce and eggs alongside toilet paper and other items sought after when the coronavirus outbreak forced restaurant closures in San Antonio. 

Starting in late May, the celebrated chef also deployed “margarita trucks” throughout San Antonio which have helped him develop growth areas for the brand. 

But his previous plan for La Gloria to open at Brooks is still in the works despite challenges posed by the pandemic.

“[The] Southside and Brooks are thriving, growing areas, and we know we have a strong following there, and we will do well like in many other parts of San Antonio,” he said. “They are ready and craving a more authentic San Antonio dining experience.”

Also on tap for Brooks is another installment of the Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery concept, a restaurant and microbrewery featuring a modern take on Texas’ coastal fare and locally brewed beers. 

Set to be called Southerleigh Haute South, that restaurant was expected to open late last year but has been delayed due to COVID-19, said a spokeswoman. The timeline now calls for opening during the first part of 2021 although no other details were provided. 

Earlier this month, chefs Nicola Blaque and Lionel “Butch” Blache, opened Mi Roti in the Pearl’s food hall which features several counter-service restaurants. Mi Roti, a spinoff of the chefs’ Jerk Shack restaurant, offers a West Indies- and Caribbean-inspired menu of build-your-own wraps and bowls. Blaque, an Army veteran and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, opened the Jamaican restaurant Jerk Shack in 2018. 

Mi Roti opened July 9 even as the food hall remains open for takeout and patio seating only, and face masks are required to enter the building. 

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.