When we first met chef Johnny Hernandez he was presiding over a smoldering outdoor grill, preparing juicy carnitas for a few dozen guests who were seated inside to savor a rare brunch opportunity at Casa Hernán. Occupying the landscaped grounds and first floor of his opulent hacienda home near the banks of the San Antonio River, the intimate event venue is a popular choice for brides and corporate execs and features the Mexican fare of True Flavors Catering company he co-owns with his siblings Letty and Mark.
Hernandez told us about his latest venture, El Machito, slated to launch in early March. This new concept will be a casual eatery specializing in mesquite grilled meats prepared over open fire on an asadero grill, presented as northern Mexican carne asadas and Jalisco-style parrilladas. Stepping into the old Stonewerks building in San Antonio’s Quarry area, guests will be taken on a journey of the senses from the traditional cooking methods to the rustic décor of metal works, wood carvings and unique handcrafted artworks from Puebla.
Achieving authenticity both in his menus and his interiors has become a signature of Hernandez, who typically travels to Mexico on a monthly basis, handpicking ingredients and curating each piece of décor with painstaking detail. The El Machito asadero was created by artisans in Mexico in the style of grills found in Guadalajara and Northern Mexico and will be prominently featured in the dining room, “like an altar where meat lovers come to worship,” he said. Among the featured meats you’ll find beef, heritage pork, house-made traditional Mexican sausages, lamb, poultry, seafood and locally-sourced cabrito asado – the house specialty dish.
The hand-carved bar will showcase the most extensive selection of Mexican wines in the nation, as well as Spanish and South American varieties, a menu of Mexican tequilas and mescals, and a list of hand-crafted margaritas.
In spite of its allure for adults, there’s no need to leave the niños at home. A fenced-in lawn and kid’s menu make this place as family-friendly as it is flavorful.
As hungry diners await the opening of El Machito, they can enjoy Hernandez’s creations at his growing empire of a half-dozen eateries that includes The Fruteria/Botanero on San Antonio’s South Flores Street, La Gloria in the Pearl Brewery and four restaurants inside two major Texas airports (San Antonio and Houston International) – two Fruterias, a second La Gloria and Mission City Icehouse, featuring craft beers and a selection of his favorite Mexican imports.