Steve McHugh has enjoyed a perch alongside the top chefs in San Antonio for more than a decade. After moving to the Alamo City from New Orleans to open a location of John Besh’s Luke, the chef opened his first restaurant, Cured, in 2012.
The restaurant, housed in a stunning historic building on the Pearl Brewery campus, showcases the small town Wisconsin native’s creativity and farm-to-table ethos and has earned McHugh six James Beard finalist nominations, placing him in a very select group of Texas chefs.
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With his new restaurant, Luminaire, which is slated to open in the 31-story Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue hotel next to the historic Paramount Theatre this summer, McHugh makes his first foray outside of San Antonio as a restaurateur.
The restaurant will follow a similar blueprint as Cured, sourcing from local farmers and ranchers to create cuisine that reflects Texas, though McHugh’s new restaurant will be a little more direct and approachable than some of what he calls his “out there” offerings at Cured. Diners can expect dishes like pork shank braised with Texas mead and served over masa at dinner and more casual fare like a porchetta sandwich and miso mushroom Reuben at lunch.
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Luminaire won’t focus as intently on the charcuterie that has been at the visual and culinary center of Cured, but visitors will find a menu of some of the greatest Cured hits that helped earn the restaurant a perennial spot on San Antonio Express-News critic Mike Sutter’s list of best restaurants in the city.
Luminaire doesn’t represent McHugh’s first entry into the hotel restaurant space. In addition to overseeing several Besh restaurants at hotels in New Orleans, McHugh also serves as executive chef at Landrace at the Thompson San Antonio, and he sees the modern hotel restaurant as a place that can attract both visitors and locals. He also knows that though his name carries weight in San Antonio, Luminaire will offer a chance to introduce himself to many in Austin for the first time.
“I learned a lot of lessons moving here from New Orleans,” McHugh told the American-Statesman. “I learned that I wasn’t going to be able to just open a ‘New Orleans restaurant’ and have it be successful; it kind of had to be about place. So I think with Austin, we’re going to be very smart about working with local purveyors who might be up there only and and working with other chefs and really getting to understand what’s important up there and how we can tap into that. Austin chefs are pretty amazing. I think it’s a pretty cool group. It’s tight and I like seeing that.”
In addition to the ground-floor restaurant, McHugh will operate the bar Las Bis next to the check-in area on the eighth floor of the 246-room hotel. Las Bis will serve small plates centered on conservas (tinned fish) accompanied by Texas olive oils and artisanal breads and jams. McHugh has even played with a smoked mackerel Frito pie.
“That’s where we’re really gonna let our hair down and allow our chefs to get creative and have fun with it,” McHugh said.
With a foot firmly planted in Austin, McHugh says he plans to continue to build relationships he has with chefs in town, and hopes he can show people here what’s made him and his team such a hit for so many years just an hour down the road.
“I meet more people in Austin who say ‘I never make it to San Antonio,’” McHugh said. “So I’m excited to bring the food that we’re known for to a new market.”
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