your guide to the Pearl District San Antonio
Exposed piping. Postmodern facades. Tonal trimmings. San Antonio’s Pearl District feels different from the city we saw yesterday. As I walk towards Hotel Emma, my steps quicken in anticipation. I’m in love with the style – this style. It’s new and unexpected.
Youthfully charged and restaurant heavy, The Pearl District in San Antonio has dipped over a century of history in modern vibrancy. The result? A dynamic 20-plus-acre mixed-use space rooted in the past.
Here’s our complete neighborhood guide to The Pearl District San Antonio (including a deep-dive into its risqué history, a few restaurant and brewery recommendations, and a list of our favorite local businesses)!
Table of Contents
Pearl District San Antonio History
The story of Pearl District San Antonio begins in the 19th century with Pearl Brewery, a San Antonio-based beer house that after a hundred years and a few change of hands, closed down permanently. In-between, just before and after Prohibition, lies a scandal-driven tale with plot twists and turns.
Our lead is Emma (well, ultimately, three Emmas). Emma Koehler, whom Hotel Emma and a street just a block down, is named after, was a woman with a sharp mind and sharp features. She was also the wife of Otto, the former President of Pearl Brewery.
Like Emma, Otto was an ambitious German immigrant. And by the time he scooped up a position at The Pearl, he was already well versed (and respected) in the beer trade.
Emma helped Otto with the business as he built it up. She was strong-willed and had a genuine knack for commerce. She stood by Otto during his wins. And she kept The Pearl going during Prohibition (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Just after the turn of the first decade in the 1900s, Emma met with a harsh accident that left her confined to a bed. So Otto brought in a young, brunette nurse, also named Emma (Emma Dumpke, nicknamed Emmi) to help his wife around-the-clock. And shortly after, he and Emmi began to have an affair (at the time, Otto was in his 50s and Emmi was in her 20s).
Emmi had a friend, also named Emma (Emma Burgermeister, nicknamed Hedda), who she invited to the area. She was a tall, blonde, stormy-eyed bombshell and quickly caught the eye of Otto.
Otto purchased a cute little cottage nestled amongst Hill Country views for the two Emmas. And because he was a man who kept his own interests at top priority (and sensed Emmi’s love was wavering), he willed the property in Hedda’s name (though some sources claim it was in both of their names).
Almost three years after Otto and Emmi’s affair began, she found and eloped with her true love (not Otto). Otto couldn’t take it. He wasn’t satisfied with one Emma (or two Emmas for that matter). He wanted all three Emmas. So he doubled down on Hedda, who was growing increasingly uncomfortable.
When Otto proposed to Hedda, she refused. Emma Koehler, in her bed-hooked state, needed support. And Hedda couldn’t allow Otto to treat Emma K. with a final-straw level of callousness and disregard.
So Otto moved on. And Hedda, dependent on Otto, began to worry about her financial security. The two proposed to meet at a bar, only if Hedda brought all evidence of their relationship.
Things went south from there. With a new plan, Hedda brought Emmi back before the meeting. Emmi convinced Otto not to meet at the bar but at the cottage he had once bought for Hedda and Emmi instead.
Otto set out on a buggy, just past 4:00 PM, and arrived at the cottage he hadn’t visited in so long. No one really knows what happened next. There were two guns involved – one a .32 caliber. Hedda fired it. Otto was dead cold on the ground.
Emmi screamed. The police arrived. And Hedda admitted to murder. Her exact words? “I’m sorry but I had to kill him.”
Emma Burgermeister was charged with the murder of Otto Koehler. After a stint in jail, she fled to Europe and became a WWI nurse. Four years later, she, once again, stepped foot in San Antonio soil. She was tried for a week and acquitted.
A year later, Hedda and J.W. Turley, who was a juror on the case, settled down in the same San Antonio cottage where she shot Otto.
But it’s a parallel storyline and beyond that deserves even more attention. Far before the 19th amendment was ratified, Emma Koehler took over Pearl Brewery right after her husband passed away. And the business thrived under her care.
During Prohibition, she pivoted. Pearl Brewery became a bit of everything – a drying cleaning service, an ice-creamery, a soft drink producer, a sign maker, a mock alcohol mixer, and an auto repair shop. This was all pioneered by Emma Koehler. And a few minutes after Prohibition ended, Koehler brought the beer right back.
She was a force to be reckoned with until the day she died. Her will endowed her wealth to orphans and crippled children (Emma had no children of her own).
Despite the lust-driven undertones of Pearl Brewery’s former head, it is Emma Koehler who kept Pearl Brewery alive and thriving. And it is her memory that presses on.
In later acts, Pearl Brewery is bought out. The business was in flux. After 2001, it was close-to abandoned. The area became a brownfield site. But a few architects persisted in their vision for The Pearl District. And today, it’s rolled past the punches and became one of the most popular entertainment complexes in San Antonio.
P.S. I loved Joe Holley’s original reporting on the three Emmas story. It was one of many sources I used to piece together Pearl Brewery’s history. I’ve linked all the other sources as well in this section (in case you want to learn more).
Pearl District Restaurants
The story of the three Emmas makes for an interesting (to say the least) conversation over a meal at The Pearl District. Here’s where to eat in the Pearl District San Antonio.
Green Vegetarian Cuisine
Green Vegetarian Cuisine turns naughty, indulgent Southern comfort food into nice, wholesome dishes. We’re obsessed with their cauliflower wings, which are lightly battered, fried, and generously drenched in spicy buffalo sauce.
La Gloria brings the food traditions of Mexico to a whole new level. The menu is spearheaded by multiple award-winning Chef Johnny Hernandez. The food is good (the margaritas are even better). Chips and salsa aren’t comp (a rarity in Texas). Skip the tortilla-based offerings and head straight for either of the molcajetes.
The Bottling Department
Y’all know I’m obsessed with food halls. And The Bottling Department fits the bill of a stylish deck of restaurants all in one place. Here you’ll find Bud’s Southern Rotisserie (a Louisiana inspired homestay), Tenko Ramen (fill-you-up-quick bowls peppered with spice), and Fletcher’s Hamburgers (meat-blend patties to die for). There’s a bar on-campus too and two street-food inspired options – Mi Roti (Caribbean) and Chilaquil (Mexican).
Pearl District San Antonio Bars
The Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden
With a wide selection of libations, The Boiler House is a long-standing happy hour favorite. The brunch menu is also worth noting, especially the marinated flank steak and fried eggs. Don’t be put off by the price. The entrée can be split between two.
Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery
Southerleigh’s quick expansion is proof that it serves good food that San Antonio locals love. Southerleigh doesn’t limit itself to beer and wine (though their drinks really shine, from the craft beer to the cocktails). There’s an oyster bar too. But here’s what you’ll want to order: fried chicken or the po boy (maybe both).
High Street Wine Co.
High Street Wine Co. is for wine lovers. It’s a company that knows and understands wine through-and-through. If you’re planning a date night (or date day) at The Pearl San Antonio, slow down your visit, enjoy the ambiance, and pair your wine with a charcuterie board (the plates are on the small side but well worth it).
Dessert At San Antonio’s Pearl District
Bakery Lorraine is a Hill Country area chain so you’ll find locations scattered throughout Austin and San Antonio. Try the spiced-just-right and sized-just-right Mexican Habanero Cookie. Or opt for one of the sumptuous fruit tarts.
Lick Honest Ice Cream
A Central Texas chain, Lick’s name is derived from its mission to use no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no high fructose corn syrup, and no preservatives. The result? Creamy artisanal ice cream with v-e-r-y light flavor notes (go for the Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil & Sea Salt).
P.S. They have vegan options!
Shops At The Pearl District San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop
I’m really hoping I get a chance to revisit The Pearl District so I can film a bookstore vlog at The Twig (and pick up some new reads as well). But in the meantime, I’ll just spill the details on one of my favorite bookstores in San Antonio. The Twig is an intimate space and it packs a lot. You’ll find a choked-up stock of everything – new releases, old favorites, poetry, classics.
The Sporting District
Whilst The Sporting District is officially a menswear store, it is worth popping into. The interior is fun and rustic. It’s well-designed, chic, and Southern to the core.
P.S. If you’re looking for breathable mens’ shirts, Dos Carolinas, nearby, sells guayaberas.
Pearl District San Antonio Hotels
When I walk into Hotel Emma, I’m blown away by the industrial overtones – the gears and metal and fiery orange glow. I’m doubly blown over by the hotel’s library, a dreamy room of bookshelves tucked behind a glass wall (tours are offered on select days for non-guests).
Hotel Emma is the place to stay in The Pearl District San Antonio. It’s a boutique property that pays the utmost attention to the smallest of details (in fact, some of the original brewhouse’s ruins have been welded into the hotel’s design – how cool is that?).
And the name is a sweet homage to Emma Koehler. Without Emma, Pearl might have shut its doors earlier. Prohibition was a tough time for bars and breweries. And Emma taught us an important lesson about fighting on. She branded The Pearl of the past and now, she’s branded into The Pearl of the future.
Did you find this guide to The Pearl District San Antonio useful? What do you think of the history? Let me know in the comments below! As always, I love to hear from you.
How big is the Pearl District in San Antonio? ›
Aside from food, the Pearl District is known for its unusual boutique shops. The 22-acre area has plenty of places to buy various kind of clothing, books, gifts, home décor, art, jewelry, and more.Can you walk to the Pearl from the Riverwalk? ›
We decided to walk to the Pearl Brewery from the Hyatt Regency on Riverwalk. Unfortunately we walked the road to get there, but discovered the Riverwalk connected the Pearl Brewery development with the rest of the Riverwalk area. It is only about a mile and a half, but so enjoyable on the Riverwalk.What is the Pearl San Antonio? ›
A True San Antonio Experience
With a rich history dating back to 1883, the Historic Pearl, also known as the Pearl Brewery District, was one of Texas's largest breweries, brewing one of Texas's iconic beers, Pearl Beer, from 1883 to 2001.
SAN ANTONIO - Police are investigating a murder where a man was shot and the three people inside his car with him ended up near The Pearl. The shooting happened just before 9 p.m. Tuesday when police got a call about a man with a gunshot wound inside a car at The Pearl.Why is it called the Pearl San Antonio? ›
Though the Pearl gets its name from the beer produced there, named so by German Kaiser-Beck's brewmaster who thought the foamy bubbles in a freshly poured glass resembled sparkling pearls, the plant opened in 1881 as the J.B. Behloradsky Brewery.How long is the River Walk in San Antonio? ›
The San Antonio River Walk is 15 miles long and flows through about 5 miles of downtown San Antonio. While there is no specific River Walk address, you can use the Shops at Rivercenter located on the River Walk as your GPS guide: 849 E. Commerce Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205. Get directions.Where is the best part of San Antonio Riverwalk? ›
The best part of the Riverwalk is not the shop/restaurant/bar stretch, but the part that ambles along the upper reach of the San Antonio River's passage through the city. The part that skirts the King William district is particularly nice, as is the Museum Reach.Is the Riverwalk safe at night? ›
Riverwalk is very safe at night. Yes most of the restaurants will be open at 9 pm.Where is the famous River Walk? ›
The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a San Antonio treasure and the largest urban ecosystem in the nation. Tucked quietly below street level and only steps away from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city.Why is it called Hotel Emma? ›
Hotel Emma is named after Emma Koehler, wife of Pearl President Otto Koehler. Following the death of her husband in 1914, Emma took over as Pearl's CEO. Emma kept the brewery doors open during Prohibition by expanding business lines to encompass auto repair, soft drinks, ice cream and dry cleaning.
Who owns the Pearl in San Antonio? ›
In 2002 Silver Ventures (owned by San Antonio businessman Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury) purchased the twenty-two-acre Pearl Brewery complex and developed a master plan for both revitalizing the area while preserving its historic structures.Who is the owner of Hotel Emma? ›
Welcome to the Hotel Emma. The hotel, which opened in the fall of 2015, is owned and operated by Kit Goldsbury's Silver Ventures. Goldsbury, who sold Pace Foods and its famed picante sauce to Campbell Soup Company in 1994, bought the brewery in 2001 and transformed it into a self-contained neighborhood.What foods is San Antonio known for? ›
- Puffy tacos.
- Texas quail.
- Sweet potato fries.
- George's Bank sea scallops.
- Bread and butter.
- Chicken fried steak.
Pearl prices can range from less than $1 to $100,000s- depending on the type, size, quality, luster, color and shape.What is price of pearl? ›
The cost of 1 gram A-grade freshwater pearl can be as low as INR 40. The cost of 1-gram highest quality freshwater pearl (AAA) is about INR 250.Is Schlitz beer still made? ›
Although it has fallen from its former title as one of America's most popular beers, the Schlitz brand is still alive today and remains a sentimental favorite in the Midwest.Who are the three Emmas? ›
The 3 Emmas
Emma Koehler was hurt in an auto accident in 1910, so Otto hired a live-in nurse to help… a young, attractive nurse named Emma, nicknamed Emmi. Otto and Emmi began an affair. Emmi had a tall, blonde friend also named Emma, also a nurse. Otto set the two of them up in a little house on Hunstock Ave.
Carlsberg 1883; the amazing story of an old beer bottle found the cellars of the old Carlsberg brewery. Through a complicated scientific process, the scientists in the Carlsberg Research Laboratory managed to grow and purify the original Carlsberg yeast from 1883 from the bottle.Why is the Riverwalk so famous? ›
serves as a parade route. The Riverwalk is famous for hosting river parades throughout the year. San Antonio's favorite way to celebrate, river parades invite citizens to line the banks of the Riverwalk while river barges are decorated as parade floats and navigate the river.What is the best time of year to visit San Antonio? ›
The best time to visit San Antonio is from November to April, when the weather is comfortable and the hotel rates are lower. Summer sees the largest influx of tourists from in- and out-of-state.
How much does the San Antonio River Walk cost? ›
The River Walk itself is free. The boat tour's not expensive, it's about seven dollars, and they'll give you a complete oversight of the attractions along the walk.Is the River Walk worth it? ›
The Riverwalk is not just an attraction but a destination in itself. There are plenty of things to do here from dining, shopping, and nightlife in its most popular area to a host of cultural activities and historic sites in other sections.How many days do you need to visit San Antonio? ›
For a first-time visit, I recommend spending 3 full days in San Antonio. If you can stay longer then do so as there is plenty to keep you busy. Once you spend a little time in San Antonio you will quickly realize this won't be your last trip there. It is a fun city to explore over and over again!How far is Riverwalk from Alamo? ›
How far is it from The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio to The Alamo? The distance between The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio and The Alamo is 1665 feet. The road distance is 2700 feet.What should I avoid in San Antonio? ›
- Pecan Valley. This is a neighborhood located right on the Southeast Side of Texas. ...
- East Terrell Hills. ...
- Arena District. ...
- Villa De San Antonio. ...
- Westwood Village. ...
- Villas of Babcock-Summerwind. ...
- Cable-Westwood. ...
- Rainbow Hills.
- Alamo Heights.
- Downtown San Antonio.
- Monte Vista.
- Oak Park-Northwood.
- Tobin Hill.
The Parks and Recreation Department will continue to post signage in all parks and outdoor facilities to encourage mask-wearing if social distancing is not possible, the city said. Officials say masks will be required on the city-owned River Walk if people cannot maintain social distance.How deep is the water in the Riverwalk? ›
How deep is the Riverwalk? A. In the downtown (Horseshoe area) of the Riverwalk it is only 3 or 4 feet deep. It does get deeper in the main channel and near the lock and dam on the Museum Reach.Does the San Antonio Riverwalk flood? ›
Despite flash floods that occur occasionally in the Texas Hill Country, San Antonio's River Walk generally has remained safe from the river overflowing. The San Antonio River flood control system is an engineering marvel; one which other cities could consider for the protection of their own commercial centers.Who owns the Pearl? ›
It's been almost two decades since Pearl Beer was brewed in San Antonio, but it will make a comeback on store shelves with a new look. Pabst Brewing Company, which owns the Pearl brand, reports that the beer will hit shelves in San Antonio and Austin this month and then be distributed statewide in June.
When was the Pearl built San Antonio? ›
Pearl Brewing Company.
|Owner||Beer: Pabst Brewing Company Brewery: Silver Ventures, Inc.|
About Pearl | Local Flavor Since 1883 in San Antonio.When did the Pearl brewery open? ›
Pearl has a rich history dating back to 1883. Here's how the brewery transformed over the course of a century to ultimately become the crown jewel in revitalization efforts of southern Midtown and northern Downtown San Antonio.Can you still buy Pearl Beer in Texas? ›
Pearl Beer will be available at select retailers in all major Texas cities, with six-packs available at a suggested retail price of $9.49.When did the Pearl brewery in San Antonio close? ›
The Pearl brewery closed in June 2001, and Miller Brewing Company in Fort Worth contracted with Pabst to take over the production of Pearl and Lone Star brand beers. In the 2010s Pearl beer was still sold in regional markets in Texas.Who built the Pearl? ›
Developed by United Development Company and planned by architecture and design firm Callison, the island is located 350 meters offshore of Doha's West Bay Lagoon area. In 2004, when the project was first revealed, the initial cost of constructing the island stood at $2.5 billion.Who owns the Emma hotel San Antonio? ›
Welcome to the Hotel Emma. The hotel, which opened in the fall of 2015, is owned and operated by Kit Goldsbury's Silver Ventures. Goldsbury, who sold Pace Foods and its famed picante sauce to Campbell Soup Company in 1994, bought the brewery in 2001 and transformed it into a self-contained neighborhood.What year did Hotel Emma open? ›
The Hotel Emma opened on November 12, 2015. The hotel includes more than 160,000 square feet of floor space, with 6,000 square feet of meeting and venue space. It also features cellar spaces for events, receptions and gatherings.Who was Otto Koehler? ›
Otto Koehler was one of the wealthiest men in the Southwest at the time of his death in November 1914, according to an Express-News story. He took over as president of the Pearl Brewing Co. in 1902. The historic brewhouse is now an anchor of the Pearl complex.Is Lone Star beer still made? ›
Lone Star Brewing Company.
|Owner||Pabst Brewing Company|
Is Schlitz beer still made? ›
Although it has fallen from its former title as one of America's most popular beers, the Schlitz brand is still alive today and remains a sentimental favorite in the Midwest.What type of beer is Pearl? ›
Pearl Beer - Experience the New Pearl: Fine Lager Beer.Was there beer in 1883? ›
Carlsberg 1883; the amazing story of an old beer bottle found the cellars of the old Carlsberg brewery. Through a complicated scientific process, the scientists in the Carlsberg Research Laboratory managed to grow and purify the original Carlsberg yeast from 1883 from the bottle.