The Liberty Bar didn’t just ditch its original Josephine Street location for Southtown’s funkier charms. It made the move without losing the eclectic charm of the original in terms of food and service. The atmosphere is decidedly different, but what would you expect?
The new location is much more spacious, brighter and, well, more stable. The bathrooms are also much more inviting, especially the men’s room, simply because it is not located off the kitchen. Yet, if all you enjoyed at the old location was the tilt of the floor (and I know many who did), you will be disappointed. Some, too, will take exception to the dull array of carpets that adorn the walls of the rehabilitated cloister, but there’s enough of a Liberty Bar vibe in the room to set most people at ease.
What makes the whole setup odd for many habitués of the old location is that the bar is now on the second floor in a space that feels, well, a little antiseptic at this point.
The new location needs to be judged on its own merits. So, without trying to make too many comparisons, let’s say that the setting is so different that you can still take out-of-towners wanting to enjoy an independent restaurant is uniquely San Antonian.
That’s what we did on a recent visit. We took a friend visiting for a few days for an early lunch, so early in fact that we preceded the crowds that eventually filtered through the doors. They were a welcome addition, giving the dining room an energy that made all seem right.
We started the meal with two aromatic, yet carb-heavy options, the grilled potato slices with garlic sauce as well as the sweet and creamy roasted head of garlic surrounded by a gargantuan mound of cheesy toast triangles. Old favorites both and both prepared exactly as before. Score one for consistency surviving the move.
Our waiter seemed a little stymied when our guest asked his option on several options for a main course, but he led her in the right direction by recommending the homey pot roast that arrived in a meaty broth. Again, carboholics would appreciate the potato and carrots baked in the mix, while beef lovers (and the two are not mutually exclusive) should love the moist, tender chunks of meat. Old-fashioned and perfectly comforting — just what our friend wanted.
I opted for the lamb burger, another old favorite that has its fans. Cooked medium, as ordered, the patty was full-flavored and nicely complemented by Kalamata olives in addition to the usual onion, lettuce and tomato. The kitchen was also nice enough to offer a side salad instead of the advertised potato slices, which would have been way too many after the appetizer.
An order of Puntas Norteñas was more than satisfactory for the third member of our party, though she balked at the hefty, $18 price tag. The meat was beef tenderloin, hence the price. But, the preparation was simply strips of grilled meat with bits of bacon and tomato, and plenty of garlic. Nothing here not to like, but we weren’t sure that this dish, which basically treats tenderloin like taco meat, warranted the price.
As good as the pot roast was, dessert was the true highlight of the meal with the lime chess pie drawing high praise all around for the cleansing citrus element in its cream setting. A slice of buttermilk pie, good as it was, just couldn’t compete.
Though our server made a good recommendation on the entrée, he seemed to have some sort of problem when it came to getting drinks and refills and he never seemed to find the right rhythm to make the pace of the meal smooth. (One last comparison: I recall similarly clunky service at the original — and far too many other restaurants in town, regardless of the type of food.)
Liberty Bar is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. As it eases into its new home, signs are promising that it will be with us for another 25.
The Liberty Bar
1111 S. Alamo St.
Open daily for lunch and dinner