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New Victoria restaurant, The Sendera, comes with a view

By Melissa Crowe
June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.

The main dining room of the future Sendera restaurant on the 12th floor of One O'Connor Plaza was in the middle of its transformation May 29. The carpet will be replaced in the room lit by windows, chandeliers and wall sconces.

First impressions are everything.

Walking from the elevator into The Sendera - the 12th floor restaurant at One O'Connor Plaza that boasts the best view in Victoria - Dennis Patillo and his wife, Louise Hull Patillo, make their mark.

"People want to have a local experience," she said. "They want to go some place that they can relate that experience to that particular community."

Steeped in the atmosphere of a South Texas ranch house, The Sendera, which translated from Spanish means "trail" or "shining path," seamlessly connects Victoria's history with its present style.

"I want people to feel like they're walking into someone's upscale ranch house," Hull Patillo said.

Together, the couple has taken a crash course in the restaurant industry. The Sendera is their latest venture after opening The PumpHouse, a riverside restaurant along the Guadalupe River located on Memorial Drive in Riverside Park, in 2011.

"People who have just moved to Victoria see things that maybe people who've lived here all their lives take for granted," Patillo said. "I think Victoria is an absolutely magical place."

The Sendera is expected to open in late July.

The first thing patrons see is the semicircle bar, made from gun-stock walnut and topped with Brazilian granite. Black brocade-pattern curtains add more layers in the couple's elaborate plan to make a quiet, dark and, above all, romantic setting for Victoria.

The worn, wooden floors from the restaurant's previous life as Olde Victoria at the Oak Room were replaced with an antique brick arrangement in the entryway, something you could find 200 years ago. They added custom-made carpets in an 1865 pattern throughout the dining area.

Looking across what was once a vast Venetian-style ballroom, Patillo takes pride in the dramatic change he brought to the space.

"My favorite part of the project is the creation of it," he said.

He said he also loves the menu planning.

"This is a place that's affordable for everyone in Victoria but also will have the best steaks in Texas," he said.

Perhaps the most remarkable change is the view.

Hull Patillo said her favorite part was taking down the shutters and opening the windows to the view of DeLeon Plaza, the historic courthouse and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Joan LaBeff designed this restaurant and the PumpHouse.

Patillo takes pride in what the PumpHouse has become.

"It's what we wanted it to be: high energy, fun, a place to celebrate," he said. "This place is a little more elegant, subdued but not stuffy at all."

The Sendera will be open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner.

Until opening day, the couple will be busy tieing up the last arrangements of the project. The china and glassware has arrived, but the silverware is still being shipped.

The floors are not yet complete, and the furniture has not been moved in.

Hull Patillo said the biggest challenge was simply bringing the materials up 12 stories.

"They had 35-foot rolls of carpet, but they could not fit in the elevator," she said. "They had to cut it into smaller lengths to get it up here."

The Sendera will be divided into six eating vignettes with three to four tables in each area with tooled leather chairs at each table.

Although the restaurant seats 156, "You'll never feel like you're eating in a ballroom," Patillo said.

Although a signature cocktail has not been settled on yet, he said, he envisions shelves filled with small batch, single-barrel whiskey and scotch.

"When you go out to eat, unless it's for business, it should be an event," Patillo said. "You feed your body, but also to some respect, your soul."

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