This week, San Antonio’s popular Pearl neighborhood, known for its historic brewery structures, award-winning hotel, and a Culinary Institute of America campus, is growing its wingspan with the long-awaited opening of the restaurant Carriqui.
Named for the South Texas green jay or carriquí (KHER-ih-key) de montaña, a colorful bird that calls the region home, the restaurant draws inspiration from its flight path, which extends from the Rio Grande Valley to the Texas coast and north to San Antonio. Dishes from the executive chef Jaime Gonzales pull from South Texas foodways, including fresh Gulf ceviche, botana platters (large plates filled with cheese, meat, and more), and barbacoa and brisket cooked on custom Texas pits. Ice-cold margaritas with house-made chile salt and cocktails such as the Sage Brush and the Spanish Rose Gin and Tonic add to the venue’s deeply rooted sense of place.
The building itself dates back over a century. Once a nineteenth-century boarding house, it was later called Boehler’s Liberty Saloon and was a popular watering hole for workers at the neighboring Pearl Brewery. From 1985 to 2010, the building stood as Liberty Bar, an institution and beloved landmark recognized as much for its food and drinks as its trademark tilt—the building appeared to actually lean.
Today, that structural tilt is gone but the historic building—which was moved twice in its past—remains thanks to a meticulous, multi-year restoration by Don B. McDonald Architects and Troy Jessee Construction, both of San Antonio. Vestiges of the property’s layered past were carefully considered, including the original windows and hardwood floors, the latter of which were repurposed in the ceilings.
When Carriqui reopens on Friday, September 2, it will accommodate roughly four-hundred diners in the original, historic “Carriqui House,” the adjacent “Rock House,” and its expansive courtyard and back porch. McDonald along with designer Kristen Weber worked with local artisans and tradespeople to infuse the spaces with a singular South Texas spirit. The restaurant’s tables were all made with native woods, including mesquite, walnut, and longleaf pine, and art by talented Texans such as Ricky Armendariz bring the restaurant’s namesake, along with other local fauna, to life.
“Carriqui was eight years in the making,” says Elizabeth Fauerso, the CEO of Potluck Hospitality, the sole owner and operator of the 11,000-square-foot restaurant. “Being stewards of this historic 130-year-old building is an honor, and we feel a place as storied as this is a fitting home to showcase our South Texas culture.”