Until a few months ago, I had no reason to drive into La Cantera Hill Country Resort. Even after spending more than five years living across the way off UTSA Boulevard, there was no valid reason for me to make the trek up that steep road in my former hooptie (the shape my car was in alone would have made it nearly impossible to even get there).
Built in 1999, a Westin property for most of its existence, the resort closed down in November 2014 as new ownership prepared an extensive makeover that would help the hotel compete with other resorts in town.
Doors reopened in March, with a slow trickle of guests, but the pools weren't open yet. I was lured in for a hardhat tour of the nine new dining concepts of varying degrees of swankiness, many of which were still under construction (hence the hat) in April. Now, several months later, the vision is complete and it's quite awe-inspiring.
Thankfully, the new restaurant and bar options aren't limited to hotel guests (the pools are so don't even think about it). But don't let your first foray into the resort be a mediocre one, and if anything, take advantage of the luxe bar spaces. Here's a quick run-down of what to drink, eat and avoid within your trip.
Do Take Advantage Of Those Views: Other than probably the Tower of the Americas (which you couldn't pay me to visit considering the elevator craps out far too often for my comfort), the resort is one of the few places where you can lord over SA's landscape. Soak it in as you drive up or just stay outdoors and take down some vino on the City View Terrace, open Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the Six Flags Fiesta Texas fireworks show from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Don't Miss Sire: This mini bar-crawl should feel like a staycation. Once inside the lobby, hook a left before Plaza San Saba (more on this later) and pretend you've been whisked away. The bar is located next to Bocado, a window shop where you can find charcuterie and cheese boards on weekends. As the resort's occupancy increases to 100 percent, the bar, filled with rich brown wooden paneling and club-style lounge seating, has served as a starting point for guests ready to party and relax. Start your night out with a Ginger Rogers, a dainty cocktail of sparkling wine, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, pear puree, lemon juice and ginger-citrus foam. Whiskey lovers will enjoy the Bourbon Basket, a sweet drink with aged bourbon, pear brandy, apple and lemon juice and agave nectar. My only quibble was the lack of large format ice, which would have made this drink go down a whole lot smoother. Take it to go and head straight out the doors to the patio.
Do Chill On San Saba: Were I more industrious, my patio would serve as a refuge from the hot summer days and I'd make sure every seating area was comfy and cool. Well, I'm not. But therein lies San Saba's appeal (well, other than the pool). There are about 90 (I'm being facetious, but there's definitely a lot) different patio furniture sets to choose from and almost as many water features. Pick one, or hop around like we did.
Don't Forget The Cigars: Guilty. And they're only sold at the golf clubhouse, so make note of that.
Do Visit Zach Garza: There are a few chefs in town that just get it, whatever it is. At Primero Cantina located next to the resort's giant pools, Garza (most recently with Johnny Hernandez's The Frutería) understands what folks want out of pool snacks. The guac topped with seasonal fruit — peaches during our visit — was hearty and fresh; the queso fundido, fired up with a bit of mezcal, was a favorite, while the beer can fried chicken wings with a guajillo and ancho barbecue sauce are reason enough to go, but don't pass the ceviche mixto, a citrusy number with halved cherries that made us wonder why we haven't been tossing cherries into ceviches earlier. And we'll take a full serving of the cucumber-lime granita palate cleanser that came along with it to go, please. On the drink front, there are patio-pounders to be had such as the Setting Sun Sangria, another sweet drink with white wine, fresh fruit, white peach puree, sparkling wine and then some. Too sun-drunk to pick? Go for the surprise Beer in a Bag option ($2.95). It was probably the most excited I've been to see a Corona in a while.
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