O’liva Healthy Local Cuisine & Tasting Room, a new restaurant spearheaded by collaborations and nutritional partnerships, will bring the farm-to-table approach to a downtown “food desert.”
The restaurant, which opens to the public next Wednesday, will offer healthy and seasonal food options like ground lamb lettuce wraps, watermelon salad and a house made Angus burger.
O’liva’s sponsor and benefactor, Salud de Paloma Olive Oil, has helped make nutritious and flavorful foods accessible through local farmer’s markets, free cooking demonstrations and now, a physical space where people can gather to shop, learn and eat.
“The mission always been to bring a fresh food concept back to a place that had been dormant for 149 years,” said Chef Chuck Hernandez, an organic caterer, who has served South Texas for nearly 31 years.
Customers can sample different beers and wines at the bar, try a variety of olive oils in-house or sit and watch the chefs prepare meals in the open kitchen. The restaurant’s boutique showcases local and regional products like coffee, honey and the Salud de Paloma Olive Oil.
O’liva will also feature community-supported agriculture (CSA) in their open refrigerated case. Produce and meal options can be prepared for diners in-house or for take-away.
“We will be partnering with BikeWaiter to deliver food from the restaurant,” Executive Chef Chris Cook said. “Right now we’re in talks to deliver those CSA items, which could allow locals to receive fresh produce at the office or home.”
The restaurant’s approach to food might seem revolutionary to the downtown area, but it reflects a deep appreciation for San Antonio culture and history. Located at the footsteps of City Hall, O’liva is housed in a building that originally served as a Presidio to Spanish settlers in the 1700s.
“The [Native American] Indians were living here at the time, but the Spanish liked it here because of the river and the pecan trees,” said Hilda Perez Garcia, the interior designer for the HPG Design Group. “It later burned down, but they rebuilt it in the early 1800s; the presidio was built next door to the Spanish Governor’s Palace to oversee the construction of the Alamo.”
Black rocks from the original Presidio’s fire are still visible among the limestone wall. The restaurant’s interior has carefully preserved the building’s original floors and ceiling as well.
Construction was halted in 2014, when workers uncovered archaeological artifacts dating back to the Presidio era.
“It stopped the building for like a year, but they let us display some of what they found during the dig,” Garcia added, pointing to enlarged photos of the Presidio-era artifacts discovered by City officials. “This building has a great story. We kept as much of it as we could.”
O’liva is located at 115 Plaza de Armas, next door to the Spanish Governor’s Palace, across from City Hall. The restaurant will open to the public next Wednesday. Patrons will find seven free parking spaces directly in front of the building, or they can pay to park in the lot across the street. There are also several pay-to-park meters along Dolorosa Street, which offer free parking after 6 p.m.