The news came in a Tuesday afternoon press release from Giant Noise, the Austin public relations, marketing and events firm that represents the Pearl.
“After over two successful years at the Historic Pearl in San Antonio, renowned and award-winning Chef Jesse Perez has decided to close Arcade Midtown Kitchen to focus on culinary expansions including his newest endeavor, Oxido, in New York City,” the press release stated.
The Pearl eatery opened in February 2013 amid great fanfare following Perez’s return to his hometown. His “Americana” menu was praised by regulars for signature dishes like soft lobster tacos, chorizo mussels and a gourmet hamburger.
The contrast between Perez’s unexpected decision to close and his outlook in 2013 was the subject of considerable speculation in the local culinary community as news spread.
“First and foremost, my family’s here,” Perez told the Express-News in a February 2013 interview. “I always told myself that if the ultimate goal was to have my own place, I wanted to do it back here in San Antonio. Also, the development of what’s going on here at Pearl — when I saw all this going on, it was a no-brainer. But with that, I had to make sure I had a well-developed concept that Pearl was interested in, but, more importantly, that was going to work in San Antonio.”
The press release stated that Perez will focus his creative talents as a part owner of recently opened Oxido, described by the Village Voice as a “fast-casual modern Mexican spot” located in New York’s Flatiron District. Eater described Oxido as a more upscale, artisanal version of Chipotle. The concept could be poised for expansion in New York, drawing Perez away from his hometown.
Perez, however, said he plans to continue representing and supporting San Antonio’s culinary revolution through his work with Culinaria.
“I’m incredibly thankful for all of the support Arcade Midtown Kitchen has received over the past couple of years,” Perez stated in the press release. “We’ve experienced great successes as a restaurant and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and diving into new business endeavors and adventures.”
There are unconfirmed rumors that Perez and a partner plan to open a new restaurant across Broadway on Grayson Street in close proximity to the Pearl. There also are reports that Pearl management already is considering other restaurant concepts to take the space of the first high profile restaurant to close there.
The traffic at Pearl restaurants is said to be strong and still growing, as evidenced by the success of Bakery Lorraine and Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery. There is strong anticipation for the opening later this year of Supper at Hotel Emma, led by Chef John Brand, a Midwestern native and adopted South Texan who favors seasonal greenmarket cuisine artfully served in an informal farm-to-bistro table setting.
Perez has earned national attention and awards during his 20 years working in kitchens, including the title of “Top Latino Chef” in 2009 by the Flavors of Passion Awards. In 2013, the Arcade was featured as one of the best new restaurants in San Antonio by Eater and San Antonio Magazine. His return here was seen as more evidence of San Antonio’s growing sophistication and breadth as a culinary destination.
Locals can still book a table at Arcade, but not for long. Perez plans on a series of closing celebration menus leading up to last call on Sunday.
*Featured/top image: Arcade Midtown Kitchen. Courtesy photo.