Along the San Antonio River sits The Pearl, a foodie’s paradise. The 22-acre Texas campus hosts 15 restaurants and cafes and a twice-weekly farmers’ market alongside apartments and businesses, encouraging locals to gather for good eats and socialization.
New to the neighborhood is Hotel Emma, a gourmet-centric boutique hotel. The 146-room property, designed by Roman & Williams, is housed within the original 121-year-old brew house of the Pearl Brewery. Those who have been working to bring the epicurean–focused property to life, including Culinary Director and Chef John Brand, have created a one-of-a-kind experience that will blend seamlessly with its surroundings.
“Anyone staying here likes to eat and spends their money on eating,” Brand explains. “We want share all of this with the other chefs and restaurateurs on the property. I’m buying certain things from other vendors and restaurants on property, so we kind of spread the wealth with everybody. It’s more of a partnership than a competition.”
The hotel, opening on Nov. 12, introduces three new eating establishments to the area: Supper, a traditional American restaurant with seasonally and locally inspired ingredients; Larder, a market with local groceries and freshly prepared foods to eat in or take out; and Sternewirth, a bar and clubroom where guests and locals can enjoy classic cocktails under 25-foot vaulted ceilings. The hotel’s name comes from the wife of brewery founder Otto Koehler, Emma. In order to honor its namesake, careful steps were taken during construction to ensure the brewery’s original equipment could be used, from the water boiler to fermentation tanks.
Just as it was important to remain authentic to the property’s roots, Brand says the key to crafting each menu was remaining authentic to his instincts. He intends to put items on the menu that he knows how to do well.
“It will definitely fit within our flavor zip code,” he says. “We definitely refine the flavors because I do believe that food has a sense of place. But in certain places, cities get in the way of their own culture.” Brand says he wants to create a menu that celebrates not just San Antonio, but tastes from around the world.
To help guests navigate the neighborhood’s many flavors, the hotel has a culinary concierge on staff. Hugh Daschbach has been tasked with guiding guests’ culinary experiences during their stay.
“He’s not necessarily the concierge that just goes out to get SeaWorld tickets,” Brand says with a laugh. “He’s out there pursuing things on a culinary level. The idea is that he will help you discover our flavors and our history, our sense of place, and guests are able to walk away with a certain slice of it.”
While guests have plenty of food destinations to explore, they need not even leave their rooms to find culinary touches throughout the space. Each room features a kitchen table instead of a desk. To store all of the delectable treats guests find during their stay, an armoire-sized icebox is placed in each room, already stashed with some of the city’s best offerings.
“We encourage you to eat the local cheese, popcorn, chips, and salsa. There are a variety of snacks that lend themselves to our locality,” Brand says. “A lot of little touches throughout the hotel play into where it fits within the community.”