The chef's table at O'liva — Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Suta
"It's by far the most open kitchen I've ever worked in. Nothing can be hidden. Guests get to see everything going on and enjoy all of the scents and smells," says Executive Chef Chris Cook.
O'liva restaurant is reviving the local food movement in a part of San Antonio that hasn't seen it for over a century, and they're doing it with an unrivaled panache.
O'liva restaurant in San Antonio — Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Suta
Chef Chuck Hernandez, owner of O'liva, has accomplished an amazing feat with this new restaurant, located in the Plaza de Armas City Center building, just down the block from the historic Spanish Governor's Palace.
Hernadez, who also owns Arugula Catering, practically invented the slow food movement. He's been sourcing locally and working with nearby farmers, ranchers and artisan food makers going on 30 years.
"O'liva is a fresh food oasis in the historic district, surrounded by the beautiful San Fernando Cathedral, the historic market square and the city center. People are excited that we've retained the integrity of the historic building," says Hernandez. "We've added a commercial kitchen, and the accents are bright and welcoming. But it still possesses an old-world charm that guests love."
It's nearly impossible to pin down the type of cuisine you'll find at O'liva, but it's always flavorful and creative. Hernandez describes it as "country food." But in fact, the cuisine is quite international, featuring dishes from an array of countries, including Lebanon, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and India. The list goes on.
Hernandez – also known as the "Pesto King," with a published book of recipes under his belt – is a traveler and lover of diverse cultures and cuisines. He's spent his entire career developing pestos with flavors that traverse the globe.
"We want people to experience great food that's locally sourced and grown, fresh, seasonal, from scratch and cooked with love and compassion," says Cook, who enjoys cooking without boundaries.
The restaurant will serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Truly, the chef's table for lunch is not to be missed. For under $10, you can enjoy a buffet of dozens of O'liva's signature dishes.
O'liva's owner, Chef Chuck Hernandez — Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Suta
"We'll be demoing in our open, exhibition kitchen quite a bit, as well as holding classes and wine and beer flights," explains Hernandez.
One of the unique assets of O'liva is that they have a boutique in the restaurant that offers a wide variety of locally made goods, such as the exceptional Salud de Paloma Olive Oil, honey, coffee, Texas Black Gold Garlic, candles and doggy treats.
Locals also appreciate access to a gourmet CSA (community supported agriculture) program. If you're planning on staying downtown for a while, you, too, can take advantage of the local ingredients, such as eggs, fruits and veggies – whatever's in season.
O'liva also participates in the Downtown Tuesday festivities, as well as other special events and offerings, such as Steak Night on Fridays, Sunday Brunch and the occasional live entertainment.
For information on upcoming events, please visit O'liva's website.