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Review: Swine is divine at downtown sammie shop

Paul StephenMay 24, 2019

Note: This is a Just a Taste review, which the Express-News does soon after a restaurant or bar opens to give our first impressions.

Joe Saenz has given downtown San Antonio’s sandwich scene a much-needed booster shot with the May 17 opening of his Swine House Bodega. The petite newcomer is tucked away in a back corner of Pinch Boil House and Bia Bar in the Rand Building, and despite its cozy quarters, is serving up some impressively big flavors.

Saenz has operated Swine House as a pop-up and catering outfit for the past couple years, and the bodega is the first brick-and-mortar home for the concept he bills as a whole-animal sandwich shop. That means layering scratch-made biscuits and breads with deli meat and charcuterie Saenz either cures himself or sources from trusted providers.

Now don’t be fooled; Swine House is a far cry from a full-service sandwich shop. The menu currently boasts just four regular items plus a rotating lunch special. If you want a drink, you’ll have to select from very limited options including Topo Chico, coconut water, orange-flavored S.Pellegrino and a couple others, but nary a Coke or Pepsi in sight.

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But trust us here, if you visit Swine House Bodega expecting a Subway or Jimmy John’s experience, you’re doing it wrong. This is a focused operation with a singular mission: celebrating the multitude of flavors that can be coaxed out of high-quality meats from animals that were humanely and responsibly raised on Texas pastures.

On the menu: It’s hard to beat a biscuit for breakfast, and Saenz’s are among the better to be found downtown. He serves the light and flaky rounds topped with butter and jam ($2.99) or as a sandwich with house-made sausage, a pasture-raised egg and American cheese ($6.99). The latter is a delightfully savory start to the day, the biscuit offering just enough structure to keep the juicy sausage, jammy egg yolks and gooey cheese in place.

The main lunch menu includes two staples: a premade grab-and-go sandwich built on a house-baked sourdough focaccia, and a more substantial deli classic made on a submarine roll or other bread.

During my visit, the focaccia ($4.99) sported pungent slices of Tomme de Hood from the Granbury-based Eagle Mountain Cheese, diced pickles and a few layers of razor-thin lonza, a type of cured pork loin, that Saenz finished with a coffee-based rub. It was a minimalist treat not much bigger than a deck of cards, but it delivered a huge burst of flavor and substance.

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The day’s heftier option was an assembly of peppery and well-marbled house-made pastrami with homemade sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and spicy brown mustard on rye bread ($11.99). It came together to form what is easily one of downtown’s more satisfying Reubenlike bites.

If you’re craving an overstuffed hoagie bursting at the seams with mounds of meat, lettuce and tomato, keep walking. But if you want a sandwich made with a clear point of view and integrity, Swine House Bodega is the place for you.

Location: 124 N. Main Ave. in the back corner of Pinch Boil House and Bia Bar, swinehousesa.com, Facebook: @swinehousesa

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch Monday through Friday

Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | pstephen@express-news.net | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen

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