For the glutton in everyone
"I never met a beer I didn't drink."
BEST OF CHINESE:
Let's begin with the cookie. According to your fortune, "You will consume all the delicious Chinese cuisine that P.F. Chang's has to offer. You will indulge without care in crab wontons. You will become lost in lo mein and make merry with mango chicken. You will savor kung pao scallops, delight in the Peking duck, and really, really like the banana spring roll. Oh, and a stomach will soon ache somewhere in your general vicinity. Lucky Numbers: 1-100." It's a long fortune, I know, but this is a big cookie. BC
Of course Starbucks would be our reader's first pick ... we live in a society of impatience and instant gratification! Stop and smell the coffee. Candlelight, our readers' second choice, has great ambiance, setting it apart from traditional stop-n-go Starbucks. A comfy, eclectic mix of couches and divans are scattered in natural clusters, providing excellent areas for study, book groups, or just relaxing. In addition to coffees, cakes, and pastries, Candlelight offers beer, an extensive wine list, soups, sandwiches, and entrees. Local artists' work, changing periodically, is featured on the interior walls.
This year, the Current's voters were in danger of losing the café voted Best Coffeehouse for years on end. However, thanks to new owners Juan Garcia and Ken Sheppard, Candlelight Coffeehouse and Wine Bar is still alive and kickin'. Last December, the previous owners announced the coffeehouse would be closing after nearly 10 years at its location. Garcia and Sheppard, who had frequented the establishment, decided to save it from serving up its last cup of java. Instead of closing for good at the end of December, the café held a grand reopening on January 5.
Definition of eclectic: a town in Alabama located at precisely 32.63676 N, 86.03474 W, approximately 9.6 square kilometers. Oh sorry, that's according to the U.S. Gazetteer. Here's the Noah Webster-ized version: selecting what appears to be the best in various doctrines or methods. The Cove's menu certainly takes the eclectic route, bringing in selections from seafood, deli, vegetarian, American, and other various cuisines to drive the indecisive customer insane.
Runner-up Liberty Bar leans like it has an inner-ear problem. From the outside it looks like a house of cards: one wrong move and the whole thing comes tumbling down. Once inside, though, it's clear that the structure is built to last, albeit with a slight tilt. Like its slanted exterior, Liberty Bar's menu seems equally precarious at first: Can one eatery successfully pull off a mish-mash of traditional Southern, Mexican, and Italian dishes? Try one of the off-menu, random daily specials and see if that answers your question. Liberty Bar handles food on the fly, a Gump-ian definition of eclectic: never knowing what you're gonna get. AB
2502 Nacogdoches, 824-7800
The problem with farmers' markets in San Antonio is that we don't really have any. Our readers chose Hank's House of Wares, which we suspect may be a joke. In second place, Sun Harvest, Market Square, and the market in Olmos Basin next to Paletta's. The last entry comes closest to the mark: Technically, a farmers' market is an open-air venue where FARMERS sell their produce. Sometimes, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, vendors sell seeds and plants, and there may even be a few butchers plying their trade. Also, these markets are punctuated with vendors who display handmade jewelry and other crafts. So, a grocery store is not exactly a farmers' market, nor is a household items store. Market Square downtown used to resemble this, but it has transformed into another commodity-driven tourist haven. What SA needs is a true farmers' market. Any takers? MSA
BEST GREEK FOOD:
Leave it to democracy's home turf to show us how it's supposed to work. A field of worthy candidates emerges from the citizenry and come before the people to be chosen. Debate and discussion ensue, and eventually a majority of voters realize that one candidate stands out above the others and thus is elected to be president, or student council treasurer, or Miss Sheboygan. So it is with the Best Greek Restaurant category.
Worthy eateries like Mina and Dimi's, John the Greek, and Papouli's drew votes, but Demo's clearly had a mandate from the people. There's a lot to like about Demo's: uncluttered dining area, open-air patio, substantial helpings that go a long way for the price, healthy alternatives for dieters, and polite service that's helpful without being over-zealous. AB
Though I demanded a recount, the Italian chain Olive Garden, which has no such garden, won Best Italian. Maybe it's because I lived in Italy that I have no affinity for endless amounts of bread and salad before an equally misunderstood menu of Italian fare. American chain Zio's Italian Kitchen boasts these kudos from a reader: "It's good, cheap, and the service is decent." But I can honestly say that Paesano's and Carraba's, which tied for third, both render Italian food more equivalently than the first two.
Shrimp Paesano has been tempting the palate of San Antonians for some time now, and always pleases. The Alamo Quarry restaurant displays old world, Mediterranean charm and the menu is reasonably priced. Paesano's on the River Walk is equally charming, but expect long lines; pony up to the bar for a glass of wine and take in the scene. Carraba's, a chain based in Houston, serves huge and yummy portions covering the gamut of both northern and southern Italian cuisine. MSA
There's nothing wrong with a midday margarita, particularly on a blue-sky day when the sun is shining and you're sitting on the patio of a place like Chacho's, which takes particular pride in its frozen concoctions. Pride in this case means freshly squeezed limes, premium tequila, a range of flavors from sour apple to strawberry, and a refusal to water down the works. "Our drinks are potent," says the menu, "so drink in moderation." Just one monstrous jumbo-sized margarita for you, then. BC
3810 Broadway, 822-3797
The word "mole" is derived from the Aztec "molli," which means "concoction," "stew," or "sauce." The Aztec emperor Montezuma was reportedly quite fond of mixing his chocolate with chile peppers; one report has him chugging 50 goblets a day of hot cocoa flavored with vanilla, honey, and red chile. It bodes well, then, when a restaurant like Picante Grill that is known for its mole takes its logo from an Aztec god. Don't bother extracting the recipe from the cook though; apparently her secret is viciously guarded. Just enjoy the spicy sweet taste and relish that, for once, you can consume chocolate with the main course. BC
Why do I suddenly hear Nell Carter singing the theme song to beloved '80s sitcom "Gimme A Break" in my head? This isn't meant as an insult to any Pizza Hut or Papa John's employees, managers, or patrons, but seriously, you gotta be kidding me. I know everyone has had some Pizza Hut and Papa John's at one time or another, and frankly, when it's getting late and all of the other pizza places are closed, a chain is your best bet for getting a melted-cheese and tomato sauce fix. But does that really make them the top two pizza options in town?
A quick survey of local pizzerias includes Volare, Florio's, Main Street, Sorrento's, and Rome's, our third-place contender. Rome's like each of the aforementioned locations and dozens more around San Antonio, offers a diverse menu that, in addition to pizza, includes sandwiches, pasta dishes, wine, and in Rome's case, a smattering of Greek cuisine for the Mediterranean connection. And, in most cases, a pizza of comparable size at a local restaurant is cheaper than the chain variety. Maybe next year, when we meet up again for our annual best of discourse, we can celebrate a local alternative to popular chains together. That said, I do support the one reader who voted for Chuck E. Cheese. AB
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