We were pleasantly surprised, then extremely confused, reading the Guardian's travel ode to San Antonio last Saturday.
It wasn't New Zealand music journalist (and Gypsy authority!) Garth Cartwright's assertion that "San Antonio is superior to all other Texas cities," or that Shiner Bock is "indisputably" Texas' finest beer, or that Cool Arrows is one of the best places to catch "loud rock," that confounded me. It was this charming first-person account:
By the time I felt the need for a drink, I'd lost count of the number of blocks I'd walked. Seeing a sign for a bar, I hiked up an iron staircase to the Esquire Tavern (155 East Commerce St), and felt as if I'd stepped on to the set of a Sam Peckinpah film. Founded in 1933, the Esquire is the only bar on the River Walk that caters for locals rather than tourists. The original 76ft-long bar and the ceiling fans survive, as does a magnificent jukebox packed with classic blues, soul, rock'n'roll and Tejano tunes. When three strolling mariachis entered, the jukebox was unplugged and they began playing. A heavily tattooed patron, disgruntled by the slow flow of tips, stood up and shouted: "Give 'em a buck!" From then on dollars flew thick and fast while the mariachis sang superb corridos (narrative songs that serve as a Mexican blues). The Esquire, I should also note, serves Shiner Bock — indisputably Texas's finest beer — in long-neck glasses. On a hot Texan afternoon, I was in heaven.
Local readers, answer me this: How long has the Esquire been closed now? Because when I moved here in early 2009 I was hearing hazy nostalgia about the long-gone most awesome bar on the River Walk. I mean, don't get me wrong, I wish Cartwright, who's written two books and numerous articles for major British media outlets like the Guardian, was correct. But, he's not.
Just in case someone in a different continent had better information than I did about an establishment located about a mile down the road, I called up the owner of the Esquire property, Christopher Hill. He confirmed what I knew in my cheap downtown beer-loving soul, the Esquire is still closed. Hill didn't remember talking to any foreign reporters about the bar recently and I told him about the article. "I love it! That's hilarious!" was his response. He also said the new, improved Esquire should be open in November. And when it does, I sure hope I'm among the first to know.
Until then, I eagerly await the reply of Cartwright or the Guardian travel section editor on whether the Esquire paragraph was the result of a long-held, non-fact checked story or just some creative re-imagining of an AOL Citysearch review.
Update: This just in from Cartwright:
I was in San Antonio in 2006 researching my book More Miles Than Money so all my info is based on what I did then (which included interviewing Lydia Mendoza at her nursing home). A shame to hear The Esquire has closed - my favourite bar in the US.
Yes it is a shame. But also, is it really too much to ask that if you base all your research for an article on experiences from four years ago, you do a little bit of poking around to make sure all your favorite bars and restaurants still, you know, exist?
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