If you have never experienced vertigo, then go to the Liberty Bar. No, you won’t suffer this dreadful dizzy spell from the food, but from the frighteningly pronounced tilt of the entire building, suffered from a flood in 1921. The Liberty Bar is a San Antonio landmark and has been in some form of continuous business operation since 1890. The house, on the outside, leans west. But the floor inside the house tilts decidedly east, thus creating a funky, carnival crooked-fun house that instills a charm that keeps locals coming back. A tag line on an NPR radio program says that the restaurant is “over 100 years old, and looking every minute of it.”
The menu could be described as somewhat New American with hints of the Southwest and the Mexico interior. It features a Basic Menu comprised of a quite lengthy list of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and grill items, as well as a Daily Menu that changes daily (of course) on which you can find a good selection of specialties. Although the Quail with Green Mole or the Filet with Cream of Huitlacoche looked very appealing from the Daily Menu, my wife and I decided to order from the Basic Menu instead, with mixed results.
The restaurant makes all their breads and desserts in-house. Although I am instantly endeared to any restaurant that serves me bread when I am seated, I was a little disappointed in that it was fairly dry and lacked flavor (white, wheat, and rye). We did order two items from the Daily Menu, the Leek and Mushroom Soup and an appetizer called Minguichi. The soup was nothing special, it simply tasted like a bland celery soup with a bit of a kick (probably from a serrano or jalapeno pepper), though full of button mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper, and a ton of black pepper. The Minguichi is a cheese dip made with a blend of cheeses and grilled poblano and red bell peppers. The waitress admitted not knowing all the cheeses used in the mix, but Muenster, gouda, and feta are at least three of them. The result of using these types of cheeses to make a dip is that the oil separates from the cheese, creating a curdled mass. The taste of the dip was tasty, nevertheless, although I could have used more peppers. But the texture left a lot to be desired. The home-made tortilla chips, however, were excellent.
My Roasted Leg of Lamb Sandwich with Aioli Morita was a disappointment. The rye was dry and the crust was toasted into bricks. The lamb was sinewy and lacked the robust taste I was expecting. The aioli was almost non-existent, but the side of flavored mayo (chipotle?) helped. I’m not big on potato salad, and this recipe didn’t do much to help. Granted, it is one of the better ones I’ve had given that the creamy dressing was light and there were good sized chunks of hard-boiled egg. Nevertheless, it was a little boring and does nothing to add to the dish.
My wife’s dish, on the other hand, made up for the disappointments quite handsomely. Her Chicken Breast with Achiote was cooked to perfection and had the soft texture of well-done fish. The achiote seasoning complemented the char-grilled taste of the chicken and came with a side of a tangy and garlicky cilantro chimichurri. The dish came with a side of grilled red cabbage and onion slaw that was a perfect companion to the chicken.
My experience this time around convinces me that my next visit will include an order from the grill. The Liberty Bar is an institution. The mixed crowd of long-time customers attests to its popularity, not only as an architectural oddity, but for its food and its desserts. The wait staff are laid back and will make you feel like a guest invited to eat in this historic home.