This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When two friends who work downtown wanted to meet for lunch at Restaurant Gwendolyn, the San Antonio Express-News’ 2011 Critics’ Choice Award for Best New Restaurant, I didn’t need any convincing.

Located at the former site of La Rêve, the New York Times-reviewed restaurant owned by Chef Andrew Weissman, the OMG-this-is-so-amazing food juju remains. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Restaurant Gwendolyn’s owner, Chef Michael Sohocki, worked at La Rêve and Il Sogno Osteria, Weissman’s latest restaurant, before launching out on his own.

Serving food that is local, seasonal, old school (pre-Industrial Revolution) and handmade is Sohocki’s mission. His menu, which changes daily depending upon what’s available within a 150-mile radius, lists the farms or ranches where the food was acquired. No pre-processed, frozen/reheated food served here.

My lunch partners both selected grilled ham and cheese sandwiches served with a side of potato salad. This was no ordinary ham and cheese sandwich, though. The oohs and aahs emanating from their lips confirmed this. I selected the local cheese plate with dried fruit and candied pecans. A drizzle of Walker’s honey from Walker, Texas, lit up my mouth. My selection was delightful, not only in taste, but in presentation. I’ve read that you eat with your eyes first, and my eyes were very happy as were my taste buds.

Restaurant Gwendolyn is located in downtown San Antonio at 152 E. Pecan at St. Mary’s, overlooking the San Antonio River Walk. Parking may be found across the street at the city-owned St. Mary’s Street Garage between Pecan and Travis streets. Valet parking is also available.

Sohocki named the restaurant for his grandmother, Gwendolyn, who sounds like she was quite a woman. Antique furniture that was hers graces the intimate, light-filled dining room. The restaurant is small, so call (210) 222-1849 to make your lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or dinner (5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.) reservations. For the XY (male) set, jackets are appreciated. At night, you may select a 3-course tasting for $50 or a 5-course tasting for $65. I know where I’ll be celebrating my next special day!