San Antonio’s food renaissance continues to unfold in Southtown through restaurants like Brigid, a new venture from Steve Mahoney and Executive Chef Chris Carlson, which pairs modern cuisine with old tavern culture.
Housed in an unassuming brick building along South St. Mary’s Street, the restaurant has already attracted attention for its modern American cuisine and its connecting sister bar, the Francis Bogside Tavern.
Mahoney, who has successfully opened bar concepts like Blue Box and George’s Keep, has always been interested in bringing a modern Irish bar to San Antonio. He decided to open the bar in Southtown, but he wanted to add a food element to keep in touch with the surrounding restaurants in the area.
“I knew we needed food, but I knew I needed someone else to do it, it’s completely different from what I usually do,” Mahoney said. “I knew Chris was thinking about new opportunities, so we talked about him working here and having free reign over the menu. He’s amazing, we’re so lucky to have him.”
“I chose Modern American to do what I want rather than being pigeonholed by certain types of cooking or flavors,” Carlson said. “There’s a simple, clean elegance in this food that really gives you freedom.”
Once seated inside, patrons are invited to enjoy an amuse-bouche such as the Brigid 75, a house interpretation of the French 75 cocktail. The dinner menu features surprising and delectable appetizers like the English Pea Soup, and the Pan Roasted Quail, served with figs and a salad of kale, beets and onions.
Carlson’s passion for gardening and fresh produce is apparent in every plate, whether it’s his Heirloom tomato salad or the seasonal fruit and vegetables found throughout the menu.
“Gardening leaves an indelible imprint on your brain,” Carlson said. “I’ve been working here for a good while in San Antonio, so I’ve gotten to know the local purveyors for local produce. It’s important to support the local farmers.”
Entrees include flavorful and fresh dishes like the pan seared scallops with summer squash, or the grilled Angus New York Strip served with warm truffled potatoes.
Carlson worked with bartender Olaf Harmel (formerly of the Blue Box) to match food with the house cocktails, tasting everything along the way.
“The bar works hand-in-glove with the restaurant to complement each other,” Carlson said. “I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel, I’m looking to provide simple, elegant and great food every time you come in.”
Before and after dinner, patrons can walk next door to Francis Bogside, which serves as Mahoney’s interpretation of a modern Irish pub.
Formerly a neighborhood bar, the building was shuttered in the ‘70s and used as storage until the team entered in late 2014. Mahoney has carefully preserved the building’s original ceilings and windows while making room for a dark wood bar, plush booths and unique paintings created by local artist Edward Sousa.
The tavern offers customers house cocktails, a selection of draft beers and ciders and a wide assortment of whiskeys selected by manager Christine Hill. Hill formerly worked as the bar manager at Blue Box, where she helped develop the bar’s beer and cocktail program.
“Christine is a real beer geek,” Mahoney said. “I knew I wanted a real cocktail program and a hybrid-Irish bar, and no matter what, I knew I wanted her to oversee the bar here.”
Brigid was named for one of the most revered saints in Ireland, while the pub’s title was inspired by Steve’s father’s middle name and a historic Irish battle. Mahoney hopes to eventually commission art of Ireland’s three major patrons, St. Brigid, St. Patrick and St. Colmcille, as a way to honor the establishment’s Irish roots. The pub’s interior is humble yet beautiful, and the welcoming staff promises to make Francis Bogside a popular neighborhood bar.
“Irish bars are fun,” Mahoney said. “You don’t ever see someone having a bad time at an Irish bar.”
Brigid’s grand opening date has yet to be determined. The restaurant and tavern are located at 803 S. St. Mary’s St., with a parking lot provided for patrons.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that Brigid’s grand opening would occur on Sept. 9. A date has yet to be set.
*Top image: Brigid showcases Chef Chris Carlson’s take on modern American cuisine. Photo by Lea Thompson.