|The Esquire Tavern Travelogue|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 22:34|
Sitting on San Antonio's world famous River Walk, The Esquire Tavern is one of the oldest bars in the state. With a history drenched in both a storied and notorious past, today The Esquire is a throwback of what it was during it's time as San Antonio's premier watering hole.
The day after prohibition ended, the period we have come to refer to as the American Dark Ages, the Georges family opened The Esquire Tavern to much fanfare at the end of 14 years of government imposed "drieness." Opening day saw a line that stretched for over a block and one the most storied bars in San Antonio's history came into existantce on the heals of one of America's most noted periods.
The Georges family were immigrants from Greece and were pursuing the American Dream when they opened The Esquire. Originally, the family had tried to open an establishment on Houston St. but were denied by the City. Instead, they were given the rights to open a bar on Commerce St. which is the very same location the bar resides today. This turned out to be to families advantage as the location developed into a premiere locale on San Antonio's famous River Walk.
From 1933 until the bar shut down in 2006, the Esquire's demographics ebbed and flowed with that of the city of San Antonio. From some of the most notorious gangsters of the 1930s (who use to purchase guns just down the road,) the growth of the middle class, the hipster days, and right up to its notorious dive bar phase (a period the Mexican Mafia is known to have run prostitution and drug deals out of the bar,) The Esquire has seen it all.
In 2006 the bar shut down and took a 5 year hiatus, some would say sabatical, from the San Antonio bar scene and was widely considered a trouble spot. In 2008, renowned architect Chris Hill purchased the bar with the goal of restoring its original essence. In an article featured on mysanantonio.com dated October 6th 2010, Hill is quoted as saying "The more I looked at it, the more I realized I didn't want someone to open a barbecue joint there, I mean, I can remember going there and having a great time. I thought it was important to downtown that there's one old original space left on the river." We simply couldn't agree more.
When Hill purchased the bar it was in desperate need of renovation. The floor was falling through, the ceiling was falling in, the VIP room was still in existance (more on that later,) and the bathrooms could have been deemed a Super Fund by the EPA. In short, the place was dilapidated. But Hill turned it all around and brought the bar back to life in 2011 with a custom but vintage look that welcome's patrons today.
The VIP Room:
We mentioned the VIP room above and some of you are probably wondering what it is. The VIP room was a loft located above the original bathrooms. The bathrooms were originally located at the back of the current bar, instead of their current location at the front. The room simply contained a bed, a sink, and for the correct amount of money, some time with the bed's rotation of female inhabitants. In short, the VIP room was the Esquire's "Champagne Room," or as is known in the masseuse realm, a place to obtain the mystical "Happy Ending."
Today the Esquire has been renovated to re-establish it's custom but vintage look. The furnishings are still some of the original, though restored, and the bar is still one of the longest in Texas. It also features an upscale full service kitchen with great burgers and some of the best fried pickles in all of Texas. But what really sets The Esquire apart from other establishments on the River Walk, besides the fact it is the oldest, is the craft cocktails and traditional barmanship.
The bartenders have been selected not only on their personality and past experience, but also on their mastery of the lost are of traditional bartending. Drinks, both traditional and house specialties, are made to exact specifications and flair giving patrons a consistent and true taste to their cocktails. As a matter of fact, some of the regulars told us that they sometimes feel guilty drinking their cocktails after watching the level of work and pride the bartenders put into every drink.
The drinks are outstanding, the food is delicous, the location is prime, and the view from the balcony is perfect for such events as the yearly Taste of the Riverwalk. Today, The Esquire is the bar on the Riverwalk if you are looking for a melting pot of traditon, history, cocktails, and true barmanship.
The Mas Chingonie:
During our visit we were lucky enough to spend our time with The Esquire's Master Barman and cocktail aficinado, Jeret Pena. Besides being what some would consider a black belt in the art of barmanship, Jeret is a libation artist who is responsible for the creation of one of the Esquire's biggest hits....the Mas Chingonie. The Mas Chingonie is a spin off of the traditional negroni cocktail with a few key ingredient changes. Containing sweet vermouth, anejo tequila, Aperol, Miscow, stirred with a traditional heavy ice, and a grapefruit twist, this drink is "Chingonie" and a must try if you ever find yourself at The Esquire.
In The End....
It is the the dedication of current owner Chris Hill to providing his patrons with a vintage experience, the bartenders perfection of the craft cocktail, the food, and the history of The Esquire that makes it a true historical landmark and a must visit on the San Antonio Riverwalk.