The trees are crisp and bright and the flowers are blooming a rainbow of colors around us. Ahh summer. It's finally here - but so is the heat wave. We all know how vile the high temperatures in our beloved city can be, and just the mere thought of having a meal outdoors is enough to scare most folks away from the experience. It's a shame too, because if anything, we should take advantage of our (real) summer, the (supposed) relaxation period of the year, and spend it in our beautiful, natural outdoors. There are plenty of places in this city that make summer outdoor-dining comfortable and fun. Here are a few places.
At La Hacienda de Los Barrios, a lazy Sunday summer afternoon is surreally beautiful. With the warm breeze dancing around the patio (which is fully loaded with working high-speed fans), San Antonio's dead heat is forgotten. Knowing that music enriches life, the one-man-band of a singing guitar player happily plays classic tunes at his audience's request. Not just a place for Sunday afternoons, La Hacienda's patio is packed for happy hour, which happens daily from 3 to 6. The happy hours are extended into happy nights with Margarita Wednesdays and Longneck Thursdays. For those of you who prefer to bring your little ones, an excellent playground in its own little park awaits small feet and hands. The food is more expensive than your usual Tex-Mex menu, but the ambience makes up for that.
For an elegant outdoor dining experience, visit Biga on the Banks. Technically, it's on the River Walk, but well out of the way of the usual tourist paths. It's mostly an indoor spot, but it has a small strip of tables that line an iron railing overlooking the less-traveled part of the River Walk. Candle-lit, of course, the atmosphere radiates romance in every way. The food, an impeccable, eclectic mix of Southwest and Asian fusion, is accompanied by a fabulous wine list. It's the perfect place to treasure the moment with someone special while enjoying a warm San Antonio summer evening. Although quite pricy, it's worth every bit of the experience.
Since San Antonio houses many Mexican restaurants, it's nice to know when a really good one pops up, especially one that has a serene patio to enjoy. Ajuua's outdoor dining area, also equipped with fans, has a running waterfall to set the mood for relaxation, string lighting, and umbrellas over each table. They offer live music from time-to-time and an 8-foot projection TV on the patio (for Spurs games for instance, but also other sporting events). Happy hour, Monday-Saturday from 4-7 p.m. and Sunday from 3-7 p.m., includes margaritas, mojitos, beer, and appetizers. The mahi-mahi tacos are really delicious.
The restaurant doesn't fail to live up to the meaning of the term Ajuua, the ultimate expression of cheerful celebration. The entire menu is priced into the middle range; about $7-10 a plate for a traditional Mexican meal.
For a cheaper, yet still laid-back patio experience, Longhorn Cafe on Blanco Road near Loop 1604 serves up some nice burgers and related fare. The patio, equipped with wooden benches and lots of old trees, is a great spot to share a well-priced, cold pitcher of beer and an order of fried mushrooms with friends. It's an order-at-the-front kind of place where you pick up the food from the cooks themselves when it's ready. You can't hang out into the night, since it closes at nine, but Longhorn's great for kids as well.
Summer will fly by - so try not to take this season for granted and enjoy the surroundings it brings. Before too long, the trees will start to lose their leaves and the flowers will fade. So get out there and explore the city beyond in search of that perfect place to chill.
LA HACIENDA DE LOS BARRIOS
18747 Redland Road
BIGA ON THE BANKS
203 S. St. Mary's
11703 Huebner Road
17625 Blanco Road #1
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