Watercolor View of Last Lunch at Arcade Midtown Kitchen
I love Chef Jesse Perez, and I love Arcade Midtown Kitchen. I have loved both since before the very first tasting where any profits from that evening were donated in entirety to the local chapter of Child Safe, a care center for child victims and survivors of abuse and neglect. I remember talking to Chef and hearing his excitement about opening the restaurant. He found the perfect location at the Pearl Brewery and aptly named the location based on a play on the word Arcade. By definition an arcade is “ ” and he coupled this with a tribute to the San Antonio Arcades that he remembered playing at, growing up with friends and family. He coined Midtown to denote the area before downtown, inspired from his culinary experiences in Midtown Atlanta. That’s right, San Antonio is his home and where his family is but he has also had chef stints in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, CA that really expanded his repertoire. His mom inspired this restaurant and although she passed away six years ago, was enshrined in the intimate alcove near the kitchen. His dad is always at food events, using the truck HEB gave him after decades of loyal service, to haul a huge grill brought to Culinaria events and support San Antonio’s food scene presence. You didn’t even have to be in San Antonio to feel Chef’s larger than life presence. I’d be covering food events in Austin and he’d be there with his crew ready to serve up food during the day, and celebrate success with his chefs and front of the house staff at night. His wife would be there a lot of the times too, just as accessible and friendly as Chef.
Chef Jesse Perez (@ChefJesseSA on Twitter) is one of the city’s humblest chefs. As a new blogger/free-lance writer he talked to me like I was someone and he always treated me with genuine appreciation for any coverage I might offer. He’s just that kind of guy.
Knowing that Arcade would be serving its last meal in a couple of days, my sister craving their Lobster Taco, we went in for one last lunch. There’s no sacrificing quality or service with this chef. He was there, manning the line, serving up favorites and finishing touches before the plates went out. His staff was just as engaging, his chefs active, and his bartenders serving up cocktails as soon as the restaurant opened at 11:30am. By 12:30 the place was packed and we were able to get in by saying we’d eat outside. There was a beautiful breeze between the Arcade and on our way out we got one last fortune from Zoltar.
My only regret was to not eat there more often (my bank statements tell me 12 times) and today I didn’t ask if I could get the PBJ meatballs at lunch.
I’d like to quote him, today, June 26, 2015:
I’m not going anywhere.
And I believe him. He’s home.