Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery in the historic brewery at the Pearl was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings San Antonio in recent years. Southerleigh is named for the prevailing Gulf breeze and is Chef Jeff Balfour’s homage to his upbringing in Galveston, Texas.
The farm-to-table menu is a modern take on Texas’ cross-cultural cuisine, and in an effort to stay true to their roots, the on-site brewery offers a variety of original recipes, craft batch beers from brew master Les Locke. We spoke with Chef Balfour about the opening.
Where were you before Southerleigh?
I moved here about 12 years ago and opened Hotel Valencia.
How did Southerleigh come about?
I was approached by Silver Ventures, which was developing the space at the Pearl and it fit me perfectly. They wanted it to be a beer place, which works for me! I’ve never been a big wine guy—not that I don’t appreciate wine. I’m good at pairing food and wine, but I just don’t sit around the house and drink it.
How does it feel to be in such a historic space?
It’s amazing! It often hits me when something new is brought to my attention that I wasn’t aware of and I realize I haven’t appreciated it enough, which happens daily. It’s such a beautiful building.
What’s your inspiration for Southerleigh?
I had an idea it needed to be something kind of true to me—the stuff I grew up with, but we didn’t fully get the concept down until the day we opened. [laughs]
So what is it now?
Very coastal, East Texas home style cuisine with influences from New Orleans, but it’s not exclusive to that style. I also grew up with Tex Mex and Texas cowboy cuisine. The menu is constantly revolving and because we buy whole animals as much as possible from respected farms, I can’t just go and say I want this many rib eyes. We need to be able to use as much of the animal as we can. The same goes for seafood.
Why is farm-to-table important to you?
It’s always been important to me. I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember, since the early 90’s, when it wasn’t as fashionable. I learned to appreciate where things come from and how they get there. We need to utilize what we have as opposed to growing what we want. It’s a fun challenge, but it’s also respectful to the environment and the animals themselves.
What’s currently your favorite dish that you make?
Every day, they’re all my favorites and then it’s time to change them. I don’t like something for very long, but right now probably the snapper throats. We also just did a pot roast with eye of round that was fantastic. It reminded me of what my grandmother made. She was a great cook.
What do you think about the growing culinary scene in San Antonio?
I think it’s crazy exciting. When I moved here there was not much of a culinary scene. Now, we’re really seeing it explode on every level here in San Antonio with trucks, cool food, regional food, chefs doing fantastic restaurants. It’s just really exciting and fun to be a part of.
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