The soft opening was Thursday, and lunch today during Fiesta’s big Battle of the Flowers Parade, was unsurprisingly a casually paced public opening. But chef and owner Johnny Hernandez was all action, training cooks in the kitchen and at the huge, mesquite-fired grill. Cabrito (a house specialty) was roasting on vertical spits while grilled chicken, pork and other interior Mexican specialties awaited their turn on the cutting board.
The exterior, just off Basse Road on Jones Maltsberger, is as appealingly tidy as his Pearl located La Gloria. The outside area in front of El Manchito featured Mexican sculpture, including a giant, Don Quixote-like figure on horseback and another fellow seated at a bench near the door. A comfortable screen-roof patio and plenty of service staff gave our opening lunch a nice ambience — and plenty of flavors from the interior of Mexico.
Our first tastes were a toasty rectangle of panela cheese, topped with a hot-sweet mermelada (tomato, piloncillo, chile de arbol); pelliscada huitlacoche, or tortillas freshly made with bits of huitlacoche in the masa. Though the flavor of huitlacoche was difficult for us to catch, the mild topping of crumbled Mexican cheese and crema, a little salsa verde made them delicious.
Grilled homemade sausage is a specialty to try: One is a large, not-too-greasy house version of chorizo and a another a variation, a flavorful Tolucan style green chorizo (Chorizo verde). These are all served with grilled onions, hand-patted tortillas, with salsas (mancha) on the side.
We found particular pleasure in the Cecina, thinly sliced, partially dried beef with plenty of salt a tender, grilled specialty you’re unlikely to find in many other San Antonio restaurants. Finally, the cocktail list looks worth exploring, though we didn’t do it at lunch. I’ll be headed back for the El Machito or the Zona Rosa, a Jamaican margarita with sweet basil and Herradura Silver tequila.
The restaurant is at 7300 Jones Maltsberger Road, open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. $-$$