Lovin’ on El Monty

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The iconic blinking lights of The Monterey's Monterey. Photo by Nan Palmero.

The iconic blinking lights of The Monterey's Monterey. Photo by Nan Palmero.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, in the presence of the Tower of the Americas and the Internets, to celebrate the holy matrimony of the constantly changing and the consistently delicious; the familiar and the unusual; the retrofunk vibe and the distinctly San Antonio feel. I present to you, kind people, The Monterey.”

That was the lede of one of my first posts on Living (San Antonio) — a silly little WordPress blog I started four years ago, back in the summer of 2011.

An Instagram photo from the early days of the app, The Monterey, and the blog Living (San Antonio), by Miriam Sitz.

An Instagram photo from the early days of the app, The Monterey, and the blog Living (San Antonio), by Miriam Sitz.

Reading the news here in New York that my much-beloved Monterey is shutting? Waves of nostalgia. Rapid-fire texts to friends in San Antonio. A nearly incoherent explanation to my Yankee boyfriend about why this matters so much.

Rewind to the summer of 2011. Fresh out of Trinity University, I was working at my first big-girl job in San Antonio where I was vaguely underemployed. After about a year, looking to fill those nine-to-five days that felt so long, I started a blog. Because what the Internet needs is more Millennials at the cusp of their quarter-life crises blathering on about their feelings, right?

Fortunately, miraculously, I recognized that I didn’t really know anything about anything, so, I decided to write about things I ate.

My first posts covered well-trod ground; Beethoven Maennerchor, The Friendly Spot, The Cove — places that were new to me, having just emerged from the Monte Vista bubble. But then, friends and I discovered The Monterey, not too long after it opened.

Photo by Nan Palmero. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nanpalmero/7419859568/in/album-72157630235891108/

The Monterey. Photo by Nan Palmero

We went, we ate, and I wrote up that post. And I kept writing. And eating. Living (San Antonio) turned into Miriam210 (I know, I’m embarrassed, too). Then, in early 2012, at a luncheon I attended for work, I listened to the keynote speaker talk about a hyper-local news blog that he and his wife were starting.

I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess who that man was. (Just send your invoices to Rivard Report HQ.)

That very day, I introduced myself to Bob Rivard and said, “I write a blog about food. I could write for you.”

Do you see this trajectory? Early El Monty on early Miriam210. A chance meeting that led to an initial Rivard Report story about Restaurant Gwendolyn — because, then, food was my beat.

And what a time to cover food in San Antonio. I started writing about other things for the Rivard Report and picked up with food for the Current a few years later. Hot Joy and Barbaro; Feast, Bliss, Eat Street — like Bob and Iris said in their post, it feels like The Monterey essentially paved the way for the rest.

Monty FBMonty taught me that I like brussels sprouts and sherry, and that I should pair a Real Ale Hans’ Pils with my crawfish. It served Mr. Parish, the founder of Parish Photography that my friend and former roommate Jenna-Beth Lyde now owns, countless plates of fried green tomatoes for Sunday brunch, and even acquiesced to his insistence that he bring his own utensils. It introduced me to hollandaise on french fries, and to countless amazing San Antonians.

There was a magical dinner there once that Nan Palmero photographed in the summer of 2012. It epitomized the sort of company one’s likely to encounter at the Monterey. “Mayor of Southtown” Mike Casey, Todd Morey and Shannan Hern, Elaine Wolff, John Mata, Peter French, the delightful Gloria Carey Nwelue — I didn’t know all those people then, but over the next few years, some would become great friends.

Elaine Wolff, “Mayor of Southtown” Mike Casey, and Xelina Flores enjoy The Monterey's patio. Photo by Nan Palmero.

From left: Elaine Wolff, “Mayor of Southtown” Mike Casey, and Xelina Flores enjoy The Monterey’s patio. Photo by Nan Palmero.

Nights like that are what the restaurant was made for. Texting with founder Chad Carey on Friday, he said, “I really built The Monterey to be a special place that transcended the transactional nature of restaurants. That’s what I mean when I say ‘I built it for people like you.’ And the most gratifying thing about the whole adventure wasn’t all the crazy food or the attention that we got or whatever. It was that I got to be a part of a place that was special for a lot of really great folks.”

Seventy-odd Rivard Report stories and four years later, I left San Antonio for journalism school in New York. From where I sit now, 1,824 miles away according to Google Maps, I say bravo, Chad and Co. Cheers to you, El Monty. Thanks for all you’ve done, and suerte with all that to come. May the rosé never cease to flow.

Photo by Nan Palmero https://www.flickr.com/photos/nanpalmero/7419807006/in/album-72157630235891108/

The Monterey patio. Photo by Nan Palmero

 

*Featured/top image: The iconic blinking lights of The Monterey’s 1962 Mercury Monterey. Photo by Nan Palmero.

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2 thoughts on “Lovin’ on El Monty

    • It was hard to say goodbye to Miriam Sitz and her good work: from beginner blogger to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism graduate. Good to have you back on the Report, Miriam. Check is in the mail. –RR

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