A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

This year’s James Beard Award competition has moved into the “finalist” phase of the event and San Antonio has put up a decent showing. Unsurprisingly, perennial favorite, Mixtli (one of the most unique dining experiences in San Antonio), is a finalist for outstanding restaurant, a feat we all saw coming and is well deserved. But what we didn’t see coming was the other finalist for SA – Chef Chris Cullum of Cullum’s Attaboy (one of the best restaurants in San Antonio).

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Cullum is a finalist for the best chef in Texas award, standing among the likes of some big names coming out of Austin, Houston, and Dallas. But what makes Cullum’s nomination so special is that he is all in on preserving some of the best food that San Antonio has dished out in the thirty years he has been a part of the city’s culinary scene. So in many ways, this doesn’t just feel like a possible award for Cullum, but for the whole city of San Antonio.

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Cullum’s Attaboy, the restaurant for which Cullum is nominated, is a jazzy brunch restaurant that does a bang up job of preparing traditional brunch foods, while innovating with gourmet ingredients and flavors. The menu is chock full of elevated and delicious dishes that somehow manage to remain recognizable and comfortable, despite their high end flourishes.

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

I visited Cullum’s Attaboy a few years ago just as the restaurant had opened and was still getting its feet wet. Even with just a few months of operating, I was blown away by the food and the service (Cullum himself made my mimosa!). Now, with a few years and a James Beard Award nomination under its belt, it felt like a fitting time to return and see how the restaurant has grown and evolved. 

Location

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Cullum’s Attaboy is located along the hopping St. Mary’s Strip, which is known for its food and beverage offerings. The restaurant sits right next door to Cullum’s other digs, Cullum’s Attagirl, a cheeky little restaurant where you can go to nosh on wings and sandwiches.

Parking

In a word: it’s blah. The St. Mary’s strip offers lots of options to eat and imbibe, but few options to park. As with many of the businesses in this area, Cullum’s Attaboy does not offer dedicated parking so patrons have to park along the street. And with the sheer number of eateries, as well as residential homes, it can be difficult to locate a spot. 

Good news though for Attaboy fans, the restaurant closes early enough in the day that you are not likely to run into the happy hour or evening revelers taking up all the parking spots. Just be aware of the limited parking during the lunch rush. If you can go for breakfast or brunch, you should be in good shape.

Exterior

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Cullum’s Attaboy operates out of an old house that has been converted into a restaurant. There is a small outdoor patio with seating for those looking for some al fresco dining.

Interior

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Upon entering, guests are met by a cooler containing the various bottles of bubbly that Cullum uses in his mimosas and cocktails. The restaurant is counter service-ish, in that you order at the counter on top of the cooler, and then take a seat along the brunch bar or at one of the tables and your meal is delivered to you. 

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Décor is pretty minimalistic, playing on the feel and order of the older house that the restaurant operates out of, as well as Cullum’s nostalgia for the San Antonio jazz scene of his youth. While you won’t be blown away by the appearance, it will be warm and friendly.

Service

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

As I mentioned before, the restaurant is counter service style so interactions with a server are minimal. That said, you won’t be left wanting or frustrated by a lack of attention. If you need something, just head to the counter or holler and they will quickly respond to whatever you are looking for.

Food

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

This is the primary reason why Chris Cullum has been nominated as a James Beard award finalist. His food is insanely good. 

At first glance, the menu doesn’t look like anything special. But that’s exactly why Cullum is being recognized by the James Beard Foundation. He has taken normal and transformed it into something different and wonderful. 

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

On this visit, we tried the smoked brisket, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, as well the baked tomato French toast, and topped it off with two steaming cups of coffee. Everything was perfect – even the coffee which was full-bodied and crazy smooth. 

But coffee doth not a full breakfast make, and not the only dish to shine in our experience. The baked tomato French toast, in particular, was absolute FIRE. And quite unusual. No butter or syrup and not at all sweet. Just the French toast, topped with melted gruyére cheese, roasted tomatoes, and a tangy hollandaise sauce. Savory French toast – who’d have known it would be the superior French toast?

A Visit to James Beard Award Finalist, Cullum’s Attaboy

Fancy brunchers will also be able to find something special here. Caviar, paté, escargot, and scallops are all options at Cullum’s Attaboy as well as all manner of champagne-based brunch cocktails.

The whole meal feels so brunch-normal, and yet so brunch-unique. And while I can tell you it all tastes amazing, I can’t tell you why or even how this happens. Perhaps that’s the X factor that the James Beard Foundation has landed on, making Cullum a very deserving candidate for this nomination.

WEBSITE | 111 Kings Ct, San Antonio, TX 78212

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