Liberty Lentils

So I don’t know if you have this thing with your city.

Basically,  I think I love where I live, but I’m still trying to figure it out even though it’s been 3 decades? But, yeah I’m pretty sure I do. I just haven’t always… It’s complicated!

San Antonio is a place that has been on the verge for like 30+ years. GREAT things are happening.

But sometimes things just seem to get a little distracted or momentum doesn’t pick up as quickly as you maybe thought it would compared to somewhere like, say, Austin, 1 hour away that looks night and day different than it did 30 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. And be it my age (I. want. it. now.), or living in Dallas and Austin at points in my 20’s, but in a moment of craving something like Vietnamese food in a restaurant with some actual ambience, you can start to get a little down on S.A.

Maybe you start comparing… and complaining…. But! As always with those tendencies, You shouldn’t! And I wish I could say it’s because Elizabeth Street is coming or something amazing, but really, it’s just because San Antonio is great. And P.S. it’s great on its own, rather than if it’s compared to other cities.

This is my new thing. I think I love San Antonio. (*Do not ask me in July/August though) But the real shift is that if you just look around, quit comparing, and enjoy some of the simple things you might be forgetting to, you will like the place even more. For example, eating in an old, hot pink, convent at Liberty Bar.

I don’t know that that is something you can casually do in another city. Maybe it is, but this is a reminder, that it is unusual and it is awesome. It’s special. (Almost as awesome as the Old Liberty Bar which hopefully will be incredible again one day.) I mean, you’ve seen pictures of our dog,

so you know as a family we love the exterior color, but there is a lot to love about the place.

Like the wallpaper and light fixtures

For starters, with Liberty Bar (and San Antonio for that matter) it helps to have your expectations in check and a go-to order in your back pocket.

For expectations, think about how you can watch “It’s Complicated” repeatedly even though by all intents and purposes the movie itself is not actually remarkable. But you watch it because Nancy Meyers, duh, and because Nancy Meyers homes, super duh.

And then you keep watching it because it’s a great movie to fall asleep to when your husband’s out of town and you’re afraid of the dark and the quiet. The movie is pleasant. It’s not your answer when someone says “I’m really looking for something excellent to watch tonight, any suggestions?” but if a friend comes over and you need a background movie because you’re actually going to talk the whole time, it’s a good choice. Similarly, Liberty Bar is comfortable and it has a great, every day, aesthetic. The space is more than inviting. It feels welcoming and warm, like a home. It’s cheerful and stylish, layered with lots of little details and fixtures. It has charm. Beauty and Charm actually.

I wouldn’t send someone there looking for a show-stopping restaurant experience. But I would say to you that if you’re looking for somewhere to go for a casual and dependably tasty meal in a cool spot, GO! And You’ll be so happy that you did. It really will melt your mallow.

As for a go-to-order. Borrow Johnny’s: Cold Lamb Plate and a Spicy Ginger Ale. Or Borrow mine. Start with the Eggplant Puree -SUH good, seriously- and then order the Lentil Salad.

I would never usually order something like that. Lentils? Boring. So no need to get disappointed if that’s what you thought. I don’t hate girly healthy food, no. But, contrary to what it sounds like, that is not this. I’m sure it’s also somewhat healthy (although bacon?) but really it’s just delicious. Nun’s honor.

So delicious in fact that I have started making my own version at home to several winning reviews. Our house is far from eating in a hot pink convent, but if you can’t actually go there and order for yourself, the dish is an excellent option for something that is inexpensive, delicious, easy, and quick if you do want to have it at home. I am no cook, but here is my version of the “recipe” I use.

What you’ll need:
-Lentils: I use the ones that are already cooked in pouches from HEB/Central Market (Barley and Lentils 8.8 oz) or Trader Joes (17.6 oz. pouch) 8 oz good for 2 people, 17.7 good for 4. Eating as a main dish.
-1 Package Spinach, 6 oz.
-1 package of Bacon, personal preference how much you use
-1/2 a white onion rough chopped
1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt, Pepper, and Red Pepper Flakes
Red Wine Vinegar

Basically whenever it’s convenient, cook your bacon. I do mine in the oven. This step is the longest, 20 min., and it just needs to be done before you get started on the rest. It can sit out too, so you can whip up the rest right before you are ready to eat if you want a hot dish, or you can do it all in advance, put it in the fridge and serve it cold. You could also use your leftover breakfast bacon…

For prep: Rough Chop your onion and your bacon. Mince your garlic.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan on medium heat.

Add your garlic and let it simmer for 30 seconds. (I say this because I’ve heard Ina say it.)

Add your onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until becoming translucent.

Add bacon.

Give it a couple of stirs and then add your package of lentils. They are already cooked, so essentially they just need to warm up /break apart, and soak up some of the yumminess from the bacon etc. You may need a little more oil here depending on what your bacon yields. Just don’t want everything to be dry and sticking to the pan.

Add salt and pepper, red pepper flakes to taste and the zest of 1 lemon.

Add the spinach and then carefully fold the heavier lentil mixture on top of the spinach so it will cook down a little, to preference. Squeeze the lemon in and check to see if you need a little more salt.

Once the spinach is where you like it, you’re all done. You can plate it and sprinkle a little red wine vinegar in for added acidity. Both at Liberty Bar and at home we serve it with tomato slices which I think are even more delicious if they’re also covered in red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.


Photo Sources: BexarWitness. RoamingHunger. Architectural Digest.