Most diners at Bäco Mercat have probably tried to guess chef Josef Centeno's upbringing from what they see on their plates. Jonathan Gold has observed that the menu mixes "flavors from Italy, France and Western China, Georgia (U.S.) and Georgia (eastern Europe), Tuscany and Peru." In fact, the chef comes from San Antonio, Texas. Hence, the new restaurant he plans to open next fall: Bar Amá. The menu? Tex-Mex, the food Centeno grew up with.
Centeno's family's cooking inspires the menu, which may include "my great-grandmother's enchiladas, my grandmother's menudo and my mom's rice and beans," he says via email. Plus items such as guacamole, queso, ceviche and grilled meats. To drink, he plans to serve Mexican beer, mezcal and tequila.
Amá is slang for "mamá," and Centeno says the restaurant's name pays homage to the women in his family and "the food they nourished us with." He expects the menu to remind them of food they grew up with, but with a new "interpretation by the eldest grandson."
Conveniently for Centeno, Bar Amá is half a block from Bäco in downtown's Old Bank District. The new restaurant will combine two storefronts for a total of 2,100 square feet. (Bäco is only 1,750 square feet.) It replaces a vacant retail spot and Urban Noodle, a pan-Asian eatery that closed last week but hopes to reopen in another downtown location by October, according to the Downtown News.
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