Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The lights came back on at one of Southtown’s most iconic restaurant sites Monday night.
Though restaurant service at what was once The Monterey isn't scheduled to begin until January or February, the one-acre space is now available for event rental with catering provided by Tim McDiarmid, local chef and owner of The Good Kind.
The signage at 1127 S. St. Mary’s St. still reads The Monty, but the restaurant will soon be renamed The Good Kind. The adjacent garden and other spaces, named Ivy Hall, are now open for weddings, receptions, special occasions, and corporate events, with the grounds, a converted shipping container, and indoor dining area available for rent.
The restaurant space that faces the street will be renovated to accommodate a full-time, counter-service diner serving fresh comfort food similar to McDiarmid’s restaurant at the Bottling Department at the Pearl.
On Monday, McDiarmid and her team at Tim the Girl Catering introduced the space to specialists in the hospitality and event planning industry by opening the gates, lighting several fire pits, and serving drinks and small bites. Beneath trees adorned with string lights and with the Tower of the Americas visible on the skyline, McDiarmid led group tours through the grounds and buildings and described her vision for how Ivy Hall can accommodate parties large – up to 400 people – and small.
“To have an acre right in the middle of Southtown is pretty special,” she said.
Catering menus will be unique to each event. Nancy Hernandez, owner of Eventfully Yours and a wedding planner in San Antonio for five years, said Ivy Hall provides another downtown option for brides and grooms looking for something special. "It's just gorgeous, with all the greenery, and having Tim the Girl on board for catering is great," she said.
Once the restaurant opens, it will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a limited bar menu with counter service, some indoor seating, and an outdoor dining patio.
Owner and landlord Stacey Hill announced plans in 2017 to open The Monty + Ivy Hall as a special event venue and renovated the main restaurant building. But because zoning does not permit event-only use of the site, an active restaurant has to operate there, McDiarmid said. Hill would not comment on that, but said, "I'm happy that people are happy."
What makes some people happy appears to be a local business owner running the show at an old favorite.
“There’s always, in my opinion, a victory when a local owner, someone from Southtown, owns a property,” said Jody Bailey Newman, co-owner of The Friendly Spot. “I think it means they 'get it.' They have a personal connection, and I think the result is that Southtown stays with locally owned businesses. So, of course, Tim the Girl is great news, and who we can really credit is Stacey Hill. She gets it and wants something cool and local to be there.”
Newman said the same of the recent news that longtime restaurateur Lisa Wong, who operates Rosario’s restaurant in the same neighborhood, bought El Mirador, a Southtown dining institution with a loyal following for five decades.
So although El Mirador regulars, many of whom live in the King William area, have expressed disappointment that the restaurant will close temporarily, the restaurant remaining in the hands of a local owner is perhaps consoling.
“I think if we have a fantastic, creative, locally owned business, we are a natural draw for people all over the city, to come down here and visit and spend money. As the trend goes, tourists want to be where locals are, [so] if we do a great job drawing locals, everybody follows,” Newman said. “I think that speaks to who we are and what we are – as a breeding ground [for restaurants] and landowners who are open to working with individuals or groups of local people, and not so much big investors or larger companies.”
As for the new operators at the old Monterey, she said. “That piece of property could be so many things, but Stacey is going to ensure it’s going to be something beautiful and low impact.”