Best Of 2007

Saustex Media impresario and local punk legend Jeff Smith recently made the valid point that for all the sadness accompanying the 2005 murder of Taco Land owner Ram Ayala, the tragic loss spurred the music community to develop.

The brutal circumstances surrounding Ayala’s death merely drove home the point that the local music scene could never go back, could never again have the kind of nurturing environment that Taco Land provided. The only recourse was for musicians to fend for themselves, and as Smith argues, to work a bit harder to connect.

In SA’s second post-Taco-Land year, we saw evidence of such resourcefulness in a variety of places. Delphine Gunning, owner of singer-songwriter haven the Red Room, moved her establishment to North Broadway’s Taco Garage, and proceeded to create a San Antonio answer to SXSW with the seven-day SA Indie Fest. The event brought 150 under-the-radar performers to three locations and provided echoes of SXSW circa 1987, before it became a cold, efficient, tourist-attracting, money-making machine.

Limelight built on its promising beginning to become the venue of choice for local underground-rock bands and White Rabbit stepped up its game by booking the likes of Spoon, Of Montreal, and Gym Class Heroes. During a month-long stretch last fall, SA hosted Kings of Leon, Spoon, and Wilco, with the last show attracting a major Austin contingent. And wasn’t that a nice switch on the established pattern.

Best of all, San Antonio artists such as Sexto Sol, Marcus Rubio, Druggist, Question, Buttercup, Snowbyrd, DJ Jester the Filipino Fist, Fin Del Mar, and José Rubén De León  released outstanding new music in the last year, with the Blackheart Records debut from Girl in a Coma an imminent attraction.

There were setbacks to be sure — the closing of The Davenport and TABC hassles for The Sanctuary — but the last year felt like a period when SA music truly began to explore the full range of its potential.

— Gilbert Garcia



Suzy Bravo
Best Tribute to a Recently Deceased Legend
Suzy Bravo and the Soul Revue

When James Brown passed away last Christmas, Suzy Bravo knew someone had to organize a proper San Antonio send-off for the Godfather of Soul. After a few days passed, she realized that she was that person.

Bravo, a singer with roots in both classic soul (it’s the music her mother played for her when she was a child) and the Taco Land punk scene, rightly viewed Brown as a monumental innovator whose fingerprints can be found on practically every note of contemporary pop music (with the possible exception of that last Jessica Simpson album). She assembled her Soul Revue (a local supergroup with a Tuesday night residency at The Mix), added some special guests, recruited the mood-setting DJ skills of JJ Lopez, and brought in Shek and Robert Tatum to curate a collection of local art. The resulting tribute show at Limelight  was a raucous celebration of Brown’s eternal groove, performed with just the right touch of punk irreverence.

— Gilbert Garcia



Best Album
Buttercup’s Hot Love

Some bands work better under pressure. For San Antonio’s brainy pop quartet Buttercup, the pressure is all self-imposed. The band has publicly promised that if they ever fail to adhere to the highest standards of music-making, they will wear their clothes inside-out for a full year. For my money, that’s a ballsier bet than Muhammad Ali promising to crawl across the ring if Joe Frazier beat him (a promise that Ali conveniently forgot after losing the fight).

Buttercup won’t have to be inverting their garments anytime soon, based on the song-rich wonder that is their 2006 album, Big Love. Every bit as smart and eccentric as their debut release, Sick Yellow Flower, Big Love added loads of time-tested pop candy: lush harmonies, bossa-nova flutes, and chiming guitar overdubs. It captured the group’s deadpan sense of humor and made even its darkest ruminations feel inviting.

Hot Love’s title song was chosen as NPR’s Song of the Day last June, and NPR contributing writer David Brown nailed the band’s artistic intent when he observed that “Buttercup is out to tickle the left side of listeners’ brains.” With Hot Love, they consistently succeeded.

— Gilbert Garcia


Best Busker
Russell Hoke

When it comes to buskers, San Antonio can hardly compare with the London Underground or Boston’s Government Center. But however deficient we are in quantity, Russell Hoke more than compensates with sheer originality, commitment, and creative spirit.

The 42-year-old Hoke faithfully blows bagpipes in downtown’s Convention Plaza, in a manner that he compares to the sound of “one hand clapping,” “rain on train tracks,” and “scissors on carpet.” Hoke’s willingness to serenade tourists with a loud, piercing instrument beloved in Scotland and reviled in most of the rest of the world simply demonstrates that commercial inclinations don’t interfere with his love of music.

A folk musician (the banjo was his first musical obsession), poet, and earnest bagpipe historian, Hoke and his pipe cohort Michael Santos add a touch of joyful surrealism to the downtown walking experience, and probably make a few tourists briefly wonder if they’ve landed in the right city.

— Gilbert Garcia

 


Best Radio Show
“Lunch Feature”
KRTU 91.7 FM, 11am-1pm, Weekdays

When I was in college, the one enjoyable part about end-of-the-semester reading periods was knowing that our campus radio station would devote those weeks to long “orgies” celebrating the work of a particular artist: everyone from Frank Zappa to the Velvet Underground to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Listening to Aaron Prado’s “Lunch Feature” on KRTU every weekday provides a similar high, without the specter of all-night cramming sessions. Prado, KRTU’s brilliant music director, has designed “Lunch Feature” as a week-long tribute (in two-hour daily installments) to the greats of jazz, and the results are like highly entertaining undergraduate courses. Whether the week’s subject is Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, Joe Zawinul, or another jazz titan, Prado unearths obscure gems from their catalogs, and spikes the listening-party punch with fascinating anecdotes about each artist’s creative process. If you’re stuck in traffic on the way to your favorite restaurant, “Lunch Feature” guarantees that at least you’ll have good company.

— Gilbert Garcia

 


Best Music Store
Krazy Kat Music
3020 N. St. Mary’s, 737-0523

If you measure music stores by the quantity of their inventory or the sleekness of their presentation, Krazy Kat couldn’t hope to compete with the chain-store likes of Sam Ash and Guitar Center. But Krazy Kat has the feel of a real local, indie music shop, where shopping is much like rummaging through an antique store for a timeworn gem.

At Krazy Kat, you can find Flying V ukuleles, lutes, double basses, Cry Baby guitar pedals, and a peerless selection of wondrous tube amplifiers. Just as importantly, at Krazy Kat you consistently encounter a helpful, relaxed staff. If they can’t help you with a problem, they’ll recommend someone who can, even if it’s someone at a competing store. That’s a mindset you don’t get from the chains.

— Gilbert Garcia    

 


Best Recording Studio
(Tie) Salmon Peak Recording Studio
25802 Hazy Hollow, 378-3304
Blue Cat Studios
1311 S. Presa, 532-8300

Located in a gated, residential community in North San Antonio, Salmon Peak Recording Studio offers the casual, comfortable ambience of home recording, but with considerably more technological firepower than any home-studio Pro Tools setup could hope to muster.

The studio’s sonic architect, RB Blackstone, is known for having the best ears in Bexar County, and in addition to his engineering acumen, he’s also a skilled keyboard player who brings a musician’s sensitivity to his engineering work. (Full disclosure: I had some mixing and mastering work done last year at Salmon Peak.) Salmon Peak has a grand piano, superlative tracking room, five isolation booths, a vintage 24-track Neve console, and a vaunted Elvis Presley vocal mic that Buttercup used during its Hot Love sessions.

Blue Cat Studios has demonstrated a remarkable versatility over the years, building its name on high-profile Tejano projects, but also recording heavy metal, blues, pop, and various forms of alternative rock. The studio, run by Grammy-winning producer Joe Trevino, is also appealing because it meets so many needs of fledgling bands, including analog-digital transfers, polishing of home demos, and CD pressing, duplication, and manufacturing. Among the recent projects to emerge from Blue Cat was Augie Meyers’s Tex-Mex collaboration with The Texmaniacs, My Freeholies Ain’t Free Anymore.

— Gilbert Garcia     

 


Most Ubiquitous Song of 2006
“El Baile Del Gorila”
(Gorilla Dance)

If I told you there was a more pheromone-inducing song than “SexyBack,” sung by a mere child, that was about gorillas dancing and grunting in their heavy-knuckled way (“uh-uh-uh-uh”), would you think I was a trembling pervert of the Texas Youth Commission variety?

Because the one song that spoke to my ovaries with its calls to dance “como las gorilas” was “El Baile Del Gorila” — played to damn near gonadial death in San Antonio last year. Which is notable, because the “Gorilla Dance” was originally a rumba sung in 2000 by a 10-year-old Spanish pop squeak named Melody. In 2001 it was made into a Mexican cumbia by the Lone Star’s Grupo Massore, whose singer is an 11-or-so-year-old boy.

Other than being an insta-heat maker, I have no idea why Massore’s version was resurrected and played at the Halloween party off Broadway hosted by David Van Os’s daughter, in Traxx’s bar on Hildebrand (OK, I requested it), at a fall wedding at Lackland for my ex’s family, and at Ciro Rodriguez’s congressional victory party December 12 at the Harlandale Civic Center. (Where a four-person “more cowbell” contingent  accompanied the CD with arrhythmic percussive fervor to celebrate the end of District 23 Republican Henry Bonilla. Which reminds me: Bonilla played Pat Benatar’s taunting “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” at his November 7 election event, which set him up for an eventual runoff loss. Who’s got the notch in his lipstick case now, Henry?)

My favorite “Gorilla Dance” last year came courtesy of Grupo Geno (Myspace.com/grupogeno), who performed it live at Rosario’s one First Friday. The lead singer, a grown-ass woman, brings a Deep Purple “Child in Time” feel to gritas meant to get us dancing like primates.

—Keli Dailey



DJ Tech-Neek
Best Niche DJ

DJ Tech-Neek

It’s tough to pick against perennial powerhouse DJ Donnie D in this category. His skills and song selections are always improving, and this year Donnie has been educating the local masses with his weekday, old-school lunch set on Power 106.7. Still, this year’s nod has to go to DJ Tech-Neek, who orchestrated, executed, and followed through on his plan to release the free mix-tape Lord Meems: Episode 1 and keep his name on your mind.

Tech-Neek started off the year rocking the underground (and First Friday crowds) with his infectious blend of soulful hip-hop. He followed that up with the solid Lord Meems disc, which is still being distributed at gigs and record shops across the city. An appearance on 98.5 The Beat opened Tech-Neek up to even more listeners, and these days you are just as likely to catch him opening up for a national touring act as spinning at a South Side sports bar. Regardless of the venue, Tech-Neek keeps it right.

— M. Solis

 


Best Show
Spoon
September 29, 2006, White Rabbit

Seven years had passed between Spoon shows in San Antonio, and Britt Daniel decided to put his foot down. The band’s frontman adamantly told his reps that he wanted to include an SA stop on Spoon’s short fall, 2006 tour. The resulting, jam-packed gig at White Rabbit on Friday, September 29, had a euphoric feeling even before the group hit the stage.

Local heroes the Sons of Hercules (one of Daniel’s all-time favorite Texas bands) opened the show by creating a proper sense of mayhem, and Spoon tore through highlights from its last three masterworks, with tantalizing samples of their forthcoming release. With new bassist Rob Pope locking into Spoon’s off-kilter rhythms, Daniel looked positively giddy to be back in SA. And the feeling was clearly mutual.

— Gilbert Garcia


Previous Winners

Best Gallery Show

1. Bettie Ward
      The Marvelous Hysterical,
       Southwest School of Art & Craft
2. Mike Esparza
       The Bijou
3. Casting a New Light
       Southwest School of Art & Craft

The always-polished Southwest School of Art & Craft scored twice in this category, once with their Fotoseptiembre group show, and again with Bettie Ward’s provocative embroidery `see The Art Capades, January 31, 2006, for a review.` Painter Mike Esparza, twin of the Current’s own Matt Esparza, also made an impression on readers.


Best Museum Show

1. Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth, Basquiat
       The McNay Art Museum
2. The Genius of Shibata Zeshin
       San Antonio Museum of Art
3. Anything at the Witte

Our readers love the Witte’s Texana collections and kid-oriented traveling exhibits, but the McNay’s turn at Factory Work, a touring show that explored the mutual influence of Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth, and Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, took top honors. You can enjoy the second-place winner, Zeshin’s genius (the work was assembled by San Antonio collectors) for yourself through May 6. See Samuseum.org for details.


Best Security Guards

1. The McNay Art Museum
      6000 N. New Braunfels, 824-5368,
      Mcnayart.org
2. San Antonio Museum of Art
       200 W. Jones, 978-8100, Samuseum.org
3. The Witte Museum
       3801 Broadway, 357-1866, Wittemuseum.org

Security guards and docents don’t have the fancy, endowed titles, and in the docents’ case it’s purely a labor of love, but these two groups of dedicated individuals are the museums’ daily public face. Although they don’t always smile when they firmly shoo you out at closing time, the McNay’s floor staff took top honors, with a special mention for Sal DiGiacamo, who’s no longer with the museum.



Hometown Artist's Rodeo at The Cove
Best Public Art

1. Hometown Artist’s Rodeo at The Cove
    606 W. Cypress, 227-2683, Thecove.us
2. The Torch of Friendship
       S. Alamo traffic island
3. Clogged Caps mural
       Train underpass at Nolan and Cherry

Multimedia sculptor, UTSA prof, and rockabilly Ken Little struck performance-art gold with the Hometown Artists’ Rodeo, a monthly revolving door of otherwise-hidden talents. Usually held the first Tuesday of the month. Check the schedule at Thecove.us. The Clogged Caps Mural, created by a team of street artists during CAM 2006, made the issue a second time for another reason: it’s been partially obliterated by upset neighborhood residents.


Best Art Classes

1. Southwest School of Art & Craft
      300 Augusta, 271-3374, Swschool.org
2. Stoli Playhouse Kreative Kids
       11838 Wurzbach, 408-0116, Stolientertainment.com
3. San Antonio College
       1300 San Pedro Ave., Accd.edu

Our readers thoughtfully chose something for everyone in this category, beginning with perennial winner Southwest School, which offers a dizzying array of classes for adults and children taught by artists and craftspeople whose work you regularly admire in galleries and museums. Stoli meets your child star’s needs with stage and movie camps, and San Antonio College is recommended for those embarking on a degree.


Best Cultural Event

1. Texas Folklife Festival
       June 8-10, 2007, Texancultures.utsa.edu
2. Fiesta
       April 20-29, 2007, Fiesta-sa.org
3. Asian Festival
       Feb 9, 2008, Texancultures.utsa.edu

A three-day cultural extravaganza steeped 36 years in tradition, the Texas Folklife Festival showcases the food, music, dance, arts, and crafts of the ethnic groups that comprise Texas. Learn to clog, get a henna tattoo, listen to storytellers weave tales, test your cowboy skills, and try everything from Belgian waffles to Indian sag paneer. Over 150 authentic foods are served, as well as a variety of beers and wines from around the world.


Best Popcorn

1. Blockbuster Video
       Blockbuster.com
2. Hollywood Video
       Hollywoodvideo.com
3. Adult Video Megaplex
       9405 N IH 35, 657-9999

This category was originally suggested after a run-in with some particularly stale popcorn from a theater that shall go unnamed. But your votes tell us if you want something done right, you have to buy it at a video store, pop it yourself, and sneak it in. However, the third-place winner makes us wonder about a potential typo in the ballot. There’s an “opc” in there …


Best Movie Theater

1. The Bijou
       Santikos.com/sites/crossroads
2. AMC Heubner Oaks
       Amctheatres.com
3. Palladium
       Santikos.com/sites/palladium

There’s something charming about the Bijou — not just because it regularly (often exclusively) showcases foreign and indie fare, or because one can order an in-movie meal, or because there’s art for sale on its walls. All of that is integral to the experience, but there’s something emotionally, architecturally special about walking down the entrance steps after buying a ticket, as though entering some literally and figuratively underground cine-club.


Best Local Filmmaker

1. Kerry Valderrama
      Garrison
2. Matthew Cockrell
      Case for a Killer (Lone Star Emmy-nominated TV news promo)
3. (Tie) Jim Mendiola
      Speeder Kills
    Samuel Lerma
      Shortchanged

San Antonio’s best local filmmaker (sorry folks, Robert Rodriguez was disqualified), actor-turned-director Kerry Valderrama, has wrapped his feature-length film Garrison. Kerry previously starred in The Water’s Edge and short film Judas: One of Twelve.



The Methane Sisters’
Best Play

1. As Filthy As it Gets
      Jump-Start Performance Co.
2. Bus Stop
      Harlequin Dinner Theatre
3. Fences
       Jump-Start Performance Co.

San Antonio has chosen to honor an original, contemporary piece in the “best play” category — we only hope Say-Town’s theatrical venues will take notice. Our critic called the Methane Sisters’ ode to filth “a superbly constructed play with each scene carefully placed and trimmed down perfectly.” And August Wilson’s Fences males third-place honors for the Renaissance Guild.


Best Dance Performance

1. Unifyd Soul
       Myspace.com/unifydsoul
2. Ballet Folklorico de
    San Antonio
       Sadu.org/dance_companies
3. Footnotes
       Sametballet.org/footnotes

The overwhelming winners of this category, hip-hop dance group Unifyd Soul, work prominently with Best Of SA Hip-Hop Performance winners Varcity Squad. In December, both Varcity and Unifyd performed at the Venue for “Celebrity Status: A Black Carpet Event.” Their MySpace page touts, “We have no limits.” Clearly — they’re number one!


Best Musical

1. Honky Tonk Angel and Her Cowboy
       Steven Stoli Playhouse
2. Blue Man Group
3. (Tie) Songs for a New World
    High School Musical
    Rent

With a title like Honky Tonk Angel and Her Cowboy, how could the tale of a down-on-her-luck singer and musician not fare well in these parts? It was perhaps the Scrubs and Arrested Development-related hype, or maybe the “blissful party atmosphere” that catapulted the Blue Man Group, who brought their latest show to San Antonio in the fall, to the number-two position.
Sometimes the Best Of SA critic is a spider, spinning a web of pretty but ephemeral words, hoping to snag at least one butterfly that she can show off to readers: See, this bug is a truly spectacular bug, and it grew from larval form right here in the Alamo City! Never you mind the empty blue sky around it.

These past 12 months (give or take 6) I’ve felt more like a semi grill catching nutritional, crunchy, glittery art creatures wherever I turn (critics of the critic may put the pedal to the metal on that metaphor; thank me later). Our readers thought so, too, turning in close calls in a number of categories. Many of the winners were also our favorites: Ken Little’s Hometown Artists’ Rodeo, founded at seasoned campaigner the Cove last fall; Bettie Ward’s one-woman exhibition at the Southwest School of Art & Craft; As Filthy As it Gets at Jump-Start.

Our critics’ picks in turn try to acknowledge notable people and events that experience has taught us don’t submit easily to the vote: The most egregious example of censorship; the most striking graffiti; our favorite new art and theater faces.

Even then, we’ve neglected significant developments that deserve your and our approbation: The City’s Cultural Collaborative initiative has completed or begun more than 70 percent of its plans, including a forthcoming study for a performing-arts complex; the San Antonio Museum of Art hired a full-time curator for its contemporary and modern collections. David Rubin has wasted no time reaching out to the local artist community; and the McNay Art Museum has begun construction on a 45,000-square-foot addition that will hold its own with any swanky Houston or DFW monument.

So, in many ways, the Best of San Antonio cultural awards this year belong to the people, who have made the commitment to create a nurturing habitat for creative butterflies of every breed, and are realizing a more beautiful, enriching, and diverse city because of it.

— Elaine Wolff



Leslie Raymond, one half of Potter-Belmar Labs and Assistant Professor of New Media at UTSA.
Best Fresh Face
Leslie Raymond
FutureWorkergirl.blogspot.com, Potterbelmar.org

Any successful art scene runs on a combination of fossil fuel and renewable resources. The former in this case is represented by Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center, Sala Diaz, and other mainstays of SA’s creative community. The latter analogy applies to the fresh faces that pop up every year, straight out of the UTSA MFA program or returning home after years abroad, and begin throwing new ideas and enthusiasm into the collective art generator. In the past couple of years, the Current has tipped its hat to Triangle Project Space and Unit B Gallery, which consistently produce shows of museum caliber and street sensibility.

This year, the Best Fresh Face honor goes to Leslie Raymond, who moved to San Antonio in 2005 with husband and collaborator Jason-Jay Stevens to take a position as Assistant Professor of New Media at UTSA. In that short year-and-a-half, Raymond and Stevens have catalyzed the local video-art scene with Potter-Belmar Labs’ improvised symbiosis of sound and image. Raymond has used her UTSA connections to support public lectures such as this month’s “Art at the Intersection of Art and Technology” by Patricia Olnyk, and co-produced the first Green Eggs and CAM Awards and the Video Lounge during last year’s Contemporary Art Month. P-B remains available for public actions, too, jerry-rigging a show at the Josephine Street river pocket park for last month’s Bike Gang Summit. You can catch their work in installation form at Three Walls through the end of the month (212-7185 to arrange a viewing), and appreciate Raymond’s aesthetic at Sacurrent.com, where she is curating semi-monthly video-art clips.

— Elaine Wolff


Most Egregious Attempt at Art Censorship
Nettie Hinton,
Nolan Street Clogged Caps mural
Train underpass at corner of Nolan and Cherry

Far better this category didn’t exist, but far duller, too, I suppose. Art labeled controversial was attacked with a gusto and ingenuity seldom seen in these parts, and not a single censor seemed to be cynically building political bona fides — not even State Representative Boris Miles (Democrat from Houston), who absconded with two paintings critical of the death penalty on display in the Capitol Annex and locked them in his office. It was all about passion.

Centro Cultural Aztlan took a page from Bush & Co., and stood firm in the face of a National Coalition Against Censorship petition asking the Westside cultural-arts organization to restore Anna-Marie Lopez’s pagan “Virgin” to the annual Virgen de Guadalupe show.

But Eastside community lion Nettie Hinton put rhetoric-minded oppressors to shame when she conned City-sponsored work crews into painting over portions of the Nolan Street Clogged Caps mural, created by a team of national artists during last summer’s Contemporary Art Month festival. Nobody got the neighborhood association’s permission, claimed Hinton. Did too, said Councilwoman Sheila McNeil, who then sort-of-maybe left it up to the association to negotiate a replacement mural. Hinton took the ensuing confusion as an opportunity to practice active leadership; the result is that the mural is now partially painted over and taggers have accepted the Kilz-covered open invitation. The new ersatz collaborative work could be titled “Public artifice.”

— Elaine Wolff


Best First Friday/Blue Star Spin-off
The So-Flo (sometimes Second Saturday) Crew: Fl!ght, one9zero6, Gallista, Salon Mijangos

Take the relatively smaller crowds as a good sign — after all, FL!GHT Gallery Director Justin Parr (full disclosure: freelance photog for the Current since January) moved out of the Blue Star Art Silos in part to get away from the party atmosphere. His shows are still punky in the best way, though, beholden to no hot-new-thing mania or aesthetic but his own. Count on the neighboring one9zero6, operated by Benavides Framing proprietors Andy and wife Yvette, to offer a more-narrative visual counterpoint, and together they sponsor live music for many of the openings. Salon Mijangos next door doesn’t open every Second Saturday; it operates according to the whims of renowned abstract painter and instructor Alberto Mijangos, whose predelictions thankfully include experimental music and art collaborations. For yet another aesthetic tangent, step across the street to the legendary Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery, where the shows usually have a Chicano perspective, and the artist studios out back — including Burro Artist L.A. David’s, the closest you’ll come to a true psychedelic experience in this bourgeois age — maintain a steady, laidback buzz throughout the evening.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Theater Event
AtticRep
Trinity University, Atticrep.org

OK, it’s no secret that the Current has a big hard-on for AtticRep, Trinity University’s resident theater company reborn last spring under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Roberto Prestigiacomo and Executive Director Timothy Hedgepeth.

San Antonio’s theater community is bedeviled by its audience’s apparently boundless appetite for feel-good endings and catchy tunes. Companies with electrical bills and aging buildings to maintain either do their best to pimp responsibly (I Am My Own Wife one month, Enchanted April the next) or become codependent enablers indulging a personal weakness for quasi-historical jukebox musicals (I believe we’re now into the ’70s at the Josephine).

Our local colleges and universities fill some of the void, dabbling in experimental stage design and controversial playwrights, but AtticRep is unique in that it marries some of academia’s best assets (institutional support for overhead, facilities) with a proactive mission to engage professional actors and audiences in the pursuit of theater that matters. It’s been an intense ride so far, beginning with Harold Pinter’s searing critique of state-sponsored terrorism, One for the Road, followed by Adly Guirgis’s encyclopedically ambitious dark comedy The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and now, equal-opportunity sadist Neil Labute’s Fat Pig. In case viewers were unwilling or unable to ferret out Pinter’s analogies, each One for the Road performance was followed by a presentation and discussion of curent human-rights horrors such as Abu Ghraib.

OK, there was a little musical tribute to Irving Berlin last fall, written by Hedgepeth and performed at the McNay. But in the context of AtticRep’s inaugural season, it looks like a well-placed reminder that not all human beings are sociopaths.

— Elaine Wolff

 



Tricycle Girl
Best Anonymous Public Art
Tricycle Girl(s) by Scotch!
Various locations

Considering Imus just got fired, I’m not sure if this statement’s appropriate or not:

Of all the world’s babies, Asian toddlers, generally speaking, are the most adorable. There, I said it. I’m a racist. I’m sorry.

But just look at “Tricycle Girl.” (Aren’t you cute? Aren’t you? Yesh, yesh, you are!) When we found her, and her mirror-image twin, stenciled almost life-size on the side of our building, we all fell in love. And we all mourned when Jesse, our maintenance master, had to paint them over.

“Tricycle Girl” is one of the more recent works by Scotch!, the stencilist who brought San Antonio the crotch-grabbing Star Wars stormtrooper, the pantsless Laurel & Hardy, and Ron Burgundy’s torso. Here’s how Scotch! explained it when we tracked him down via Myspace (Myspace.com/el_scotcho):

“I got the tricycle girl from a photograph. I think the tricycle girl is just about innocence since you really don’t see that in street art in this town. Also, it seems to be the only large stencil `I have` still in perfect shape, considering all the use i put on it!”

— Dave Maass


Best Impresario
Henry R. Muñoz

Yes, it took 10 years of sweat, tears, and nailbiting. And if I hear Henry Muñoz say one more time “It’s the second time Mexicans pitched a tent at the Alamo … and won!” I’ll pinch his rosy cheeks. But you have to give the founding chairman of the Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture his due: he had the cojones to buttonhole the Smithsonian at the right time. You’ve ignored Latino America too long, he told them (with the backing of a Smithsonian
-commissioned study), and San Antonio has the perfect mea-culpa opportunity for you. And so began a long decade of renovating the Mexican business building on Houston, studying the historic black-light murals at the Alameda Theatre, and scraping together the cash to recreate a corner of El Mercado as a glistening pink-and-silver tribute to MeChicano past, present, and future.

We should probably thank tireless Executive Director Ruth Medellin, and Toyota, too, for helping Museo major funder Ford see the light, but today we’re tipping our hat to Muñoz: The Museo Alameda may not have been the first Smithsonian Affiliate to open its doors, but it is the first one on record, and we look forward to future distinction for our branch of the country’s museum and the Kennedy Performing Arts Center-affiliated Alameda Theatre.

— Elaine Wolff

 


Best Literary Breakout
Gregg Barrios, Rancho Pancho

San Antonio’s theater scene crackled this year, due in no small part to original work such as Annele Specter and Monessa Esquivel’s As Filthy As it Gets (a Readers’ Pick) and John Poole’s The Taming of the Shrew — and while they realized their ultimate form as stage productions, like our honoree in this category, they began life as a written work (OK, maybe not As Filthy As it Gets). Gregg Barrios isn’t the only local playwright to give voices to actors in other cities, either, but his newest script, Rancho Pancho, received a particularly noteworthy honor: It was the main event at the 21st Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, where it was introduced by John Waters and reviewed well by local critics. Fabulous enough that the festival  hosted Barrios and cast, but it was a spirtual homecoming for the play, which is about the stormy relationship between Williams and his Mexican-American lover and muse Pancho Rodriguez, and is set in part in the Crescent City where the two men lived for a while.

— Elaine Wolff


Art Full Text
Sometimes the Best Of SA critic is a spider, spinning a web of pretty but ephemeral words, hoping to snag at least one butterfly that she can show off to readers: See, this bug is a truly spectacular bug, and it grew from larval form right here in the Alamo City! Never you mind the empty blue sky around it.

These past 12 months (give or take 6) I’ve felt more like a semi grill catching nutritional, crunchy, glittery art creatures wherever I turn (critics of the critic may put the pedal to the metal on that metaphor; thank me later). Our readers thought so, too, turning in close calls in a number of categories. Many of the winners were also our favorites: Ken Little’s Hometown Artists’ Rodeo, founded at seasoned campaigner the Cove last fall; Bettie Ward’s one-woman exhibition at the Southwest School of Art & Craft; As Filthy As it Gets at Jump-Start.

Our critics’ picks in turn try to acknowledge notable people and events that experience has taught us don’t submit easily to the vote: The most egregious example of censorship; the most striking graffiti; our favorite new art and theater faces.

Even then, we’ve neglected significant developments that deserve your and our approbation: The City’s Cultural Collaborative initiative has completed or begun more than 70 percent of its plans, including a forthcoming study for a performing-arts complex; the San Antonio Museum of Art hired a full-time curator for its contemporary and modern collections. David Rubin has wasted no time reaching out to the local artist community; and the McNay Art Museum has begun construction on a 45,000-square-foot addition that will hold its own with any swanky Houston or DFW monument.

So, in many ways, the Best of San Antonio cultural awards this year belong to the people, who have made the commitment to create a nurturing habitat for creative butterflies of every breed, and are realizing a more beautiful, enriching, and diverse city because of it.

— Elaine Wolff



Leslie Raymond, one half of Potter-Belmar Labs and Assistant Professor of New Media at UTSA.
Best Fresh Face
Leslie Raymond
FutureWorkergirl.blogspot.com, Potterbelmar.org

Any successful art scene runs on a combination of fossil fuel and renewable resources. The former in this case is represented by Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center, Sala Diaz, and other mainstays of SA’s creative community. The latter analogy applies to the fresh faces that pop up every year, straight out of the UTSA MFA program or returning home after years abroad, and begin throwing new ideas and enthusiasm into the collective art generator. In the past couple of years, the Current has tipped its hat to Triangle Project Space and Unit B Gallery, which consistently produce shows of museum caliber and street sensibility.

This year, the Best Fresh Face honor goes to Leslie Raymond, who moved to San Antonio in 2005 with husband and collaborator Jason-Jay Stevens to take a position as Assistant Professor of New Media at UTSA. In that short year-and-a-half, Raymond and Stevens have catalyzed the local video-art scene with Potter-Belmar Labs’ improvised symbiosis of sound and image. Raymond has used her UTSA connections to support public lectures such as this month’s “Art at the Intersection of Art and Technology” by Patricia Olnyk, and co-produced the first Green Eggs and CAM Awards and the Video Lounge during last year’s Contemporary Art Month. P-B remains available for public actions, too, jerry-rigging a show at the Josephine Street river pocket park for last month’s Bike Gang Summit. You can catch their work in installation form at Three Walls through the end of the month (212-7185 to arrange a viewing), and appreciate Raymond’s aesthetic at Sacurrent.com, where she is curating semi-monthly video-art clips.

— Elaine Wolff


Most Egregious Attempt at Art Censorship
Nettie Hinton,
Nolan Street Clogged Caps mural
Train underpass at corner of Nolan and Cherry

Far better this category didn’t exist, but far duller, too, I suppose. Art labeled controversial was attacked with a gusto and ingenuity seldom seen in these parts, and not a single censor seemed to be cynically building political bona fides — not even State Representative Boris Miles (Democrat from Houston), who absconded with two paintings critical of the death penalty on display in the Capitol Annex and locked them in his office. It was all about passion.

Centro Cultural Aztlan took a page from Bush & Co., and stood firm in the face of a National Coalition Against Censorship petition asking the Westside cultural-arts organization to restore Anna-Marie Lopez’s pagan “Virgin” to the annual Virgen de Guadalupe show.

But Eastside community lion Nettie Hinton put rhetoric-minded oppressors to shame when she conned City-sponsored work crews into painting over portions of the Nolan Street Clogged Caps mural, created by a team of national artists during last summer’s Contemporary Art Month festival. Nobody got the neighborhood association’s permission, claimed Hinton. Did too, said Councilwoman Sheila McNeil, who then sort-of-maybe left it up to the association to negotiate a replacement mural. Hinton took the ensuing confusion as an opportunity to practice active leadership; the result is that the mural is now partially painted over and taggers have accepted the Kilz-covered open invitation. The new ersatz collaborative work could be titled “Public artifice.”

— Elaine Wolff


Best First Friday/Blue Star Spin-off
The So-Flo (sometimes Second Saturday) Crew: Fl!ght, one9zero6, Gallista, Salon Mijangos

Take the relatively smaller crowds as a good sign — after all, FL!GHT Gallery Director Justin Parr (full disclosure: freelance photog for the Current since January) moved out of the Blue Star Art Silos in part to get away from the party atmosphere. His shows are still punky in the best way, though, beholden to no hot-new-thing mania or aesthetic but his own. Count on the neighboring one9zero6, operated by Benavides Framing proprietors Andy and wife Yvette, to offer a more-narrative visual counterpoint, and together they sponsor live music for many of the openings. Salon Mijangos next door doesn’t open every Second Saturday; it operates according to the whims of renowned abstract painter and instructor Alberto Mijangos, whose predelictions thankfully include experimental music and art collaborations. For yet another aesthetic tangent, step across the street to the legendary Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery, where the shows usually have a Chicano perspective, and the artist studios out back — including Burro Artist L.A. David’s, the closest you’ll come to a true psychedelic experience in this bourgeois age — maintain a steady, laidback buzz throughout the evening.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Theater Event
AtticRep
Trinity University, Atticrep.org

OK, it’s no secret that the Current has a big hard-on for AtticRep, Trinity University’s resident theater company reborn last spring under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Roberto Prestigiacomo and Executive Director Timothy Hedgepeth.

San Antonio’s theater community is bedeviled by its audience’s apparently boundless appetite for feel-good endings and catchy tunes. Companies with electrical bills and aging buildings to maintain either do their best to pimp responsibly (I Am My Own Wife one month, Enchanted April the next) or become codependent enablers indulging a personal weakness for quasi-historical jukebox musicals (I believe we’re now into the ’70s at the Josephine).

Our local colleges and universities fill some of the void, dabbling in experimental stage design and controversial playwrights, but AtticRep is unique in that it marries some of academia’s best assets (institutional support for overhead, facilities) with a proactive mission to engage professional actors and audiences in the pursuit of theater that matters. It’s been an intense ride so far, beginning with Harold Pinter’s searing critique of state-sponsored terrorism, One for the Road, followed by Adly Guirgis’s encyclopedically ambitious dark comedy The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and now, equal-opportunity sadist Neil Labute’s Fat Pig. In case viewers were unwilling or unable to ferret out Pinter’s analogies, each One for the Road performance was followed by a presentation and discussion of curent human-rights horrors such as Abu Ghraib.

OK, there was a little musical tribute to Irving Berlin last fall, written by Hedgepeth and performed at the McNay. But in the context of AtticRep’s inaugural season, it looks like a well-placed reminder that not all human beings are sociopaths.

— Elaine Wolff

 


Tricycle Girl
Best Anonymous Public Art
Tricycle Girl(s) by Scotch!
Various locations

Considering Imus just got fired, I’m not sure if this statement’s appropriate or not:

Of all the world’s babies, Asian toddlers, generally speaking, are the most adorable. There, I said it. I’m a racist. I’m sorry.

But just look at “Tricycle Girl.” (Aren’t you cute? Aren’t you? Yesh, yesh, you are!) When we found her, and her mirror-image twin, stenciled almost life-size on the side of our building, we all fell in love. And we all mourned when Jesse, our maintenance master, had to paint them over.

“Tricycle Girl” is one of the more recent works by Scotch!, the stencilist who brought San Antonio the crotch-grabbing Star Wars stormtrooper, the pantsless Laurel & Hardy, and Ron Burgundy’s torso. Here’s how Scotch! explained it when we tracked him down via Myspace (Myspace.com/el_scotcho):

“I got the tricycle girl from a photograph. I think the tricycle girl is just about innocence since you really don’t see that in street art in this town. Also, it seems to be the only large stencil `I have` still in perfect shape, considering all the use i put on it!”

— Dave Maass


Best Impresario
Henry R. Muñoz

Yes, it took 10 years of sweat, tears, and nailbiting. And if I hear Henry Muñoz say one more time “It’s the second time Mexicans pitched a tent at the Alamo … and won!” I’ll pinch his rosy cheeks. But you have to give the founding chairman of the Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture his due: he had the cojones to buttonhole the Smithsonian at the right time. You’ve ignored Latino America too long, he told them (with the backing of a Smithsonian
-commissioned study), and San Antonio has the perfect mea-culpa opportunity for you. And so began a long decade of renovating the Mexican business building on Houston, studying the historic black-light murals at the Alameda Theatre, and scraping together the cash to recreate a corner of El Mercado as a glistening pink-and-silver tribute to MeChicano past, present, and future.

We should probably thank tireless Executive Director Ruth Medellin, and Toyota, too, for helping Museo major funder Ford see the light, but today we’re tipping our hat to Muñoz: The Museo Alameda may not have been the first Smithsonian Affiliate to open its doors, but it is the first one on record, and we look forward to future distinction for our branch of the country’s museum and the Kennedy Performing Arts Center-affiliated Alameda Theatre.

— Elaine Wolff

 


Best Literary Breakout
Gregg Barrios, Rancho Pancho

San Antonio’s theater scene crackled this year, due in no small part to original work such as Annele Specter and Monessa Esquivel’s As Filthy As it Gets (a Readers’ Pick) and John Poole’s The Taming of the Shrew — and while they realized their ultimate form as stage productions, like our honoree in this category, they began life as a written work (OK, maybe not As Filthy As it Gets). Gregg Barrios isn’t the only local playwright to give voices to actors in other cities, either, but his newest script, Rancho Pancho, received a particularly noteworthy honor: It was the main event at the 21st Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, where it was introduced by John Waters and reviewed well by local critics. Fabulous enough that the festival  hosted Barrios and cast, but it was a spirtual homecoming for the play, which is about the stormy relationship between Williams and his Mexican-American lover and muse Pancho Rodriguez, and is set in part in the Crescent City where the two men lived for a while.

— Elaine Wolff


Full Media Text
As a wee, round-faced pipsqueak growing up in San Antonio, I had a strange conception of media. It wasn’t until I was embarrassingly old that I grasped that newspaper and magazine articles weren’t conjured out of binary code by some room-sized, Hitchhiker’s Guide-worthy super-computer (although sometimes it would seem so). Even as a writer for my middle-school newspaper — which printed once every four months — I was oblivious grown-ups held such splendid jobs as reporters and editors. My 11- and 12-year-old colleagues and I simply did the task manually because our school couldn’t afford a journalistic dream-machine.

Worse, perhaps, was that phase wherein I believed the actors and news anchors on television could look out through the screen to see me. (No, Mom, I didn’t watch The NeverEnding Story II non-stop because I liked the theme song — remember Atreyu?) I surmise the confusion may have had something to do with Poltergeist, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, I used to sit through the entirety of the local news each day due to an inexplicable crush on a news anchor who shall not be named (but who, for the sake of your speculating pleasure, I will admit is listed within these sacred Best Of pages). Like, had-to-go-to-the-bathroom, rocking-back-and-forth, I-WILL-NOT-MOVE-FROM-THIS-SPOT devotion. Someday, I thought, he’s going to stop reading from a prompter and tell me how nice my hair looks.

These days my perspective on media is a pinch more realistic, even if I can’t block the image of weatherperson Jennifer Broome zooming through the night sky, side-saddled on a sweeper, creating the weather she’ll predict. It’s a good thing I’ve got your quantitative stats on SA’s best local media (from print to internet-age), readers, to keep my feet firmly on the ground.

— Ashley Lindstrom



Film School of San Antonio Director George Ozuna goes the extra mile for his students.
Best Film Teacher
George Ozuna and the Sundance Kids

It’s not every day a group of San Antonio students are invited to a world-renowned film festival — and I’m sure it’s not every day a teacher pushes as hard as George Ozuna, Director of the Film School of San Antonio and its lead filmmaking instructor, to make dreams reality. Although Sundance Film Festival passes were complimentary for 12 students, Ozuna sought to bring 12 more, estimating total costs, including travel, at about $22,500.

Ozuna says he did “every kind of push you can imagine,” including an email campaign, to raise the funds. “I just decided it was one of those necessary things to go out there,” says Ozuna, who solicited donations personally from banks and car dealerships.

But it was individuals from the community who made the most substantial dent (a big Best Of high-five to you, too, SA!), and eventually airline tickets were donated by Southwest. And so, the Film School students were able to attend the festival after all — you can read their stories here: Filmschoolsa.journalspace.com.

—Ashley Lindstrom


Best SA/Hollywood Scandal
Vince Vaughn/Laura Mallory Lane

I shook Julie Delpy’s hand in Austin once. It obviously wasn’t sex and it wasn’t “just as good,” but it was a special moment for me and I feel a little self-invasive mentioning it here. I suppose the real casualty of our favorite San Antonio/Hollywood/Budapest Vinnifer Vaughniston scandal of ’06 is the way celebrity has warped our sense of intimacy. There’s no second-guessing what someone will do with Vince Vaughn in Budapest, or George Clooney in Venice, or Mary Louise Parker in Prague. And the enduring appeal of studying abroad is linked with the possibility of all kinds of adventure that you might not get in Galloping Gulch, New Mexico — which is one reason why nobody does a semester abroad in a Benedictine monastery. But it’s one thing to hook up with a fellow expatriate in Berlin or with a charming townie in Lyons, and quite another to count coup with a celebrity — that changes the whole equation.  Because when I send an email to my 78 best friends in the whole wide world or post a blog on the world-wide web about what I may or may not have done in Helsinki with Fran Drescher, that’s not privacy, that’s broadcasting — and while it may be sex, it isn’t intimate at all.

— Willy Razavi


Best Food to Sneak Into the Movies
Crystallized pineapple

If you read Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Prince as lovingly as I did, perhaps you noted the existence of an all-too-unfortunately fictional wizardly treat called Crystallized Pineapple. In the same way I longed to know what butterbeer tasted like, I craved this magical tropical delight. Then, one day, while writing an article about a Mr. K. Costner, and in need of sustenance, I came upon a trail-mix containing dried pineapple. I’m not sure if this is what Rowling had in mind, but I like to imagine it is (just like I like to imagine that my apartment resembles, in appearance and odor, Professor Trelawney’s tower).

Dried pineapple has become my food of choice to sneak into the movies (although, I sneaked tacos into Norbit to make it bearable) — particularly because my favorite dried-pineapple vendor, Whole Foods, is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Alamo Quarry cinema, the nearest theater to my humble abode.

The trick, as those plastic bulk-baggies can be loud, is to rip it open during a particularly Dolby-enhanced preview, so as not to disturb other patrons. Position opened bag in cup holder and enjoy!

— Ashley Lindstrom


Best Video-Store Privy
Blockbuster Video
3910 McCullough Ave, 930-2190

I think I’ve shown my loyalty to Current readers with this critic’s pick. The category was both inspired by a journalism mentor’s one-time assignment (which I believe was more a punishment), and what is only appropriate to call “an emergency” I experienced a few month’s back at the Hollywood Video in Sunset Ridge shopping center on N. New Braunfels.

You notice video-store employees are never very happy to give you the keys to their bathroom. At least I notice that. (All right, who warned everyone about this category?). But I braved the wrath of Laura and that un-nametagged-Blockbuster drone (with exposed Dorals in his shirt-pocket) and countless others for you. Because I care. Because I know there’s nothing worse than a flash of irritable bowel syndrome as your significant other peruses the Kung Fu section. There’s no way you’ll make it home, and the last thing you want to walk into (after getting hassled) is a bathroom with a hairy sink, a toilet that won’t flush, and the inevitable fear of God-knows-what washing over your special places with that dreaded backsplash. Gross.

On my quest I discovered that bathroom cleanliness seems to have a direct correlation with video selection: The better the selection, the worse the bathroom. So the grand prize goes to the Blockbuster on McCullough and Hildebrand: Down a hallway decorated with framed inspirational posters, I was greeted by a sparkling ivory throne, a spotless sink, plenty of TP and paper towels, soap, and … do you smell that? Me either!

— Ashley Lindstrom


Best Non-Theater Movie Theater
Blue Star Brewing Company
1414 S. Alamo, Ste. 105, 212-5506
Bluestarbrewing.com

San Antonio is home to many inventive and fabulous movie-screening spaces that aren’t just theaters. The Slab, for example (and, I’m told, Kevin Cacy’s place on a good night). Food-and-drink freedom, I think, is a big part of the desire for unconventional, un-Regal film venues. The Alamo Drafthouse, the reborn Bijou, the Rialto Piccolo, and Santikos’s newest SA addition, the Palladium, have made the meal (and/or alcohol) + big-screen movie taboo a thing of the past. But those multiplexes don’t fit in this category. A good alternative movie theater allows you to prop up your legs however you like, and doesn’t put a cup-holder between you and your lover. (Plus, it’s just got to have that college film club feel.)

With that, my favorite makeshift movie theater of last year was in the back room of Blue Star Brewery during the ¡Adelante! Film Forum, where I saw the documentary Morristown. A patron played the piano in the corner before the show, and I was able to participate in a Q&A with director Anne Lewis after the film played. And, no matter how you slice it, country-fried mushrooms beat the batter off the Bijou’s recently-defrosted-tasting mozzarella sticks any day. And a foamy stout to boot? Hallelujah, I have seen the light.

—Ashley Lindstrom

 


Best Webcam
AlamoCam
Mysanantonio.com/multimedia/webcams/

As loath as we may be to direct traffic to Mysa.com, we must admit our fascination with its live webcams, which are placed at University of Incarnate Word, SeaWorld, and a segment of the River Walk. But the Alamo is really where the action is at. The cam’s refreshed every 30 seconds (and easily embedded into your personal website) so you can watch the tourists ambling by, the cyclists circling, and if you stay tuned late into the night, when the cobbled courtyard takes on the texture of a misted pond, you might just catch SAPD bouncing a bum.

— Dave Maass

 


Little Robert
Best Local TV Mascot
Ancira’s “Little Robert”

Little Robert, the omnipresent (at least on basic Time-Warner cable) face of Ancira Chrysler-Jeep, saved my wretched soul.

Imagine me during my first holiday season in San Antonio: alone, friendless, sinking into an old Archie-Bunker chair in front of a flat-panel television in my unfurnished apartment. Perhaps I would’ve thrown in the poncho and abandoned Say-Town if it hadn’t been for that pint-sized zoot-suiter, who kept reminding me, with a double thumbs-up, that I’m in a place “Where the people are cool, and little prices rule!”

Despite the ramblings on AOL’s Spurs Blog, Little Robert isn’t actually the son of Robert Horry, but 13-year-old Nathanael Sherrod, a seventh-grade actor attending San Antonio Academy (he also played Travis in Renaissance Guild’s 2006 production of A Raisin in the Sun). The slick zoot-suit style is his own, Sherrod says, carried over from his primary performance passion, gospel singing with Maranatha Bible Church and the San Antonio Boys & Girls Club. He’s repped Ancira for three years, and looks forward to three more, even if he is putting on the inches; one day he hopes the “Little” is ironic, like  “Little John” of Sherwood Forest.

God bless you, Little Robert.

(Note to Jackie, the Ancira Nissan Mechanic Girl: Love the smile, those swoon-worthy Zellweger cheeks, but baby, you gotta lose the cap. And puhlease, stop with the “Oh, yeah!”)

— Dave Maass


Best Ron Burgundy Imitator
Chris Marrou

As anyone who’s seen the comedy classic Anchorman will recall, the film’s protagonist, Ron Burgundy, was so dependent on cue cards that when his co-anchor altered the cards on him, he thought nothing of signing off with a jovial “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!”

Like Burgundy, KENS 5 evening-news anchor Chris Marrou is a product of the ’70s, and also like Burgundy, Marrou is most entertaining when forced to ad-lib. Separated from his cue cards, Marrou is like a nearsighted, novice trapeze artist operating without a net. You know you’re liable to witness something gruesome, but you can’t avert your eyes.

Marrou proved his comedic skills last year when he suggested during an evening newscast that one of the male stars of the gay-cowboy film Brokeback Mountain should be nominated for a “best actress” Oscar. Get it?: An actor who plays a guy who likes another guy, that sort of makes him like a girl; a real Tootsie, a serious Victor/Victoria.

Not yet convinced of Marrou’s genius? Then scroll through the archives of your mind and recall his 2006 sweeps-week search for Big Foot, or the time that he planted himself along the side of a road and offered cookies to SA rush-hour drivers. They looked pretty tasty too (the cookies, not the drivers).

Marrou is so friggin' cool he could save us from global warming by exhaling in the general direction of the sun. He’s just one big, groundbreaking story — a panda-bear birth, a hot-dog eating contest, a ballet-dancing Chihuahua — away from reaching the heights of Burgundy. Stay classy, Chris Marrou.

— Gilbert Garcia


Full Music Text
Saustex Media impresario and local punk legend Jeff Smith recently made the valid point that for all the sadness accompanying the 2005 murder of Taco Land owner Ram Ayala, the tragic loss spurred the music community to develop.

The brutal circumstances surrounding Ayala’s death merely drove home the point that the local music scene could never go back, could never again have the kind of nurturing environment that Taco Land provided. The only recourse was for musicians to fend for themselves, and as Smith argues, to work a bit harder to connect.

In SA’s second post-Taco-Land year, we saw evidence of such resourcefulness in a variety of places. Delphine Gunning, owner of singer-songwriter haven the Red Room, moved her establishment to North Broadway’s Taco Garage, and proceeded to create a San Antonio answer to SXSW with the seven-day SA Indie Fest. The event brought 150 under-the-radar performers to three locations and provided echoes of SXSW circa 1987, before it became a cold, efficient, tourist-attracting, money-making machine.

Limelight built on its promising beginning to become the venue of choice for local underground-rock bands and White Rabbit stepped up its game by booking the likes of Spoon, Of Montreal, and Gym Class Heroes. During a month-long stretch last fall, SA hosted Kings of Leon, Spoon, and Wilco, with the last show attracting a major Austin contingent. And wasn’t that a nice switch on the established pattern.

Best of all, San Antonio artists such as Sexto Sol, Marcus Rubio, Druggist, Question, Buttercup, Snowbyrd, DJ Jester the Filipino Fist, Fin Del Mar, and José Rubén De León  released outstanding new music in the last year, with the Blackheart Records debut from Girl in a Coma an imminent attraction.

There were setbacks to be sure — the closing of The Davenport and TABC hassles for The Sanctuary — but the last year felt like a period when SA music truly began to explore the full range of its potential.

— Gilbert Garcia



A palate pleaser from the green heart of Thailand — a spicy salad of shrimp, grapefruit, and coconut. Photo By Chef Boy Ari
Best Tribute to a Recently Deceased Legend
Suzy Bravo and the Soul Revue

When James Brown passed away last Christmas, Suzy Bravo knew someone had to organize a proper San Antonio send-off for the Godfather of Soul. After a few days passed, she realized that she was that person.

Bravo, a singer with roots in both classic soul (it’s the music her mother played for her when she was a child) and the Taco Land punk scene, rightly viewed Brown as a monumental innovator whose fingerprints can be found on practically every note of contemporary pop music (with the possible exception of that last Jessica Simpson album). She assembled her Soul Revue (a local supergroup with a Tuesday night residency at The Mix), added some special guests, recruited the mood-setting DJ skills of JJ Lopez, and brought in Shek and Robert Tatum to curate a collection of local art. The resulting tribute show at Limelight  was a raucous celebration of Brown’s eternal groove, performed with just the right touch of punk irreverence.

— Gilbert Garcia



Best Album
Buttercup’s Hot Love

Some bands work better under pressure. For San Antonio’s brainy pop quartet Buttercup, the pressure is all self-imposed. The band has publicly promised that if they ever fail to adhere to the highest standards of music-making, they will wear their clothes inside-out for a full year. For my money, that’s a ballsier bet than Muhammad Ali promising to crawl across the ring if Joe Frazier beat him (a promise that Ali conveniently forgot after losing the fight).

Buttercup won’t have to be inverting their garments anytime soon, based on the song-rich wonder that is their 2006 album, Big Love. Every bit as smart and eccentric as their debut release, Sick Yellow Flower, Big Love added loads of time-tested pop candy: lush harmonies, bossa-nova flutes, and chiming guitar overdubs. It captured the group’s deadpan sense of humor and made even its darkest ruminations feel inviting.

Hot Love’s title song was chosen as NPR’s Song of the Day last June, and NPR contributing writer David Brown nailed the band’s artistic intent when he observed that “Buttercup is out to tickle the left side of listeners’ brains.” With Hot Love, they consistently succeeded.

— Gilbert Garcia


Best Busker
Russell Hoke

When it comes to buskers, San Antonio can hardly compare with the London Underground or Boston’s Government Center. But however deficient we are in quantity, Russell Hoke more than compensates with sheer originality, commitment, and creative spirit.

The 42-year-old Hoke faithfully blows bagpipes in downtown’s Convention Plaza, in a manner that he compares to the sound of “one hand clapping,” “rain on train tracks,” and “scissors on carpet.” Hoke’s willingness to serenade tourists with a loud, piercing instrument beloved in Scotland and reviled in most of the rest of the world simply demonstrates that commercial inclinations don’t interfere with his love of music.

A folk musician (the banjo was his first musical obsession), poet, and earnest bagpipe historian, Hoke and his pipe cohort Michael Santos add a touch of joyful surrealism to the downtown walking experience, and probably make a few tourists briefly wonder if they’ve landed in the right city.

— Gilbert Garcia

 


Best Radio Show
“Lunch Feature”
KRTU 91.7 FM, 11am-1pm, Weekdays

When I was in college, the one enjoyable part about end-of-the-semester reading periods was knowing that our campus radio station would devote those weeks to long “orgies” celebrating the work of a particular artist: everyone from Frank Zappa to the Velvet Underground to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Listening to Aaron Prado’s “Lunch Feature” on KRTU every weekday provides a similar high, without the specter of all-night cramming sessions. Prado, KRTU’s brilliant music director, has designed “Lunch Feature” as a week-long tribute (in two-hour daily installments) to the greats of jazz, and the results are like highly entertaining undergraduate courses. Whether the week’s subject is Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, Joe Zawinul, or another jazz titan, Prado unearths obscure gems from their catalogs, and spikes the listening-party punch with fascinating anecdotes about each artist’s creative process. If you’re stuck in traffic on the way to your favorite restaurant, “Lunch Feature” guarantees that at least you’ll have good company.

— Gilbert Garcia

 


Best Music Store
Krazy Kat Music
3020 N. St. Mary’s, 737-0523

If you measure music stores by the quantity of their inventory or the sleekness of their presentation, Krazy Kat couldn’t hope to compete with the chain-store likes of Sam Ash and Guitar Center. But Krazy Kat has the feel of a real local, indie music shop, where shopping is much like rummaging through an antique store for a timeworn gem.

At Krazy Kat, you can find Flying V ukuleles, lutes, double basses, Cry Baby guitar pedals, and a peerless selection of wondrous tube amplifiers. Just as importantly, at Krazy Kat you consistently encounter a helpful, relaxed staff. If they can’t help you with a problem, they’ll recommend someone who can, even if it’s someone at a competing store. That’s a mindset you don’t get from the chains.

— Gilbert Garcia    

 


Best Recording Studio
(Tie) Salmon Peak Recording Studio
25802 Hazy Hollow, 378-3304
Blue Cat Studios
1311 S. Presa, 532-8300

Located in a gated, residential community in North San Antonio, Salmon Peak Recording Studio offers the casual, comfortable ambience of home recording, but with considerably more technological firepower than any home-studio Pro Tools setup could hope to muster.

The studio’s sonic architect, RB Blackstone, is known for having the best ears in Bexar County, and in addition to his engineering acumen, he’s also a skilled keyboard player who brings a musician’s sensitivity to his engineering work. (Full disclosure: I had some mixing and mastering work done last year at Salmon Peak.) Salmon Peak has a grand piano, superlative tracking room, five isolation booths, a vintage 24-track Neve console, and a vaunted Elvis Presley vocal mic that Buttercup used during its Hot Love sessions.

Blue Cat Studios has demonstrated a remarkable versatility over the years, building its name on high-profile Tejano projects, but also recording heavy metal, blues, pop, and various forms of alternative rock. The studio, run by Grammy-winning producer Joe Trevino, is also appealing because it meets so many needs of fledgling bands, including analog-digital transfers, polishing of home demos, and CD pressing, duplication, and manufacturing. Among the recent projects to emerge from Blue Cat was Augie Meyers’s Tex-Mex collaboration with The Texmaniacs, My Freeholies Ain’t Free Anymore.

— Gilbert Garcia     

 


Most Ubiquitous Song of 2006
“El Baile Del Gorila”
(Gorilla Dance)

If I told you there was a more pheromone-inducing song than “SexyBack,” sung by a mere child, that was about gorillas dancing and grunting in their heavy-knuckled way (“uh-uh-uh-uh”), would you think I was a trembling pervert of the Texas Youth Commission variety?

Because the one song that spoke to my ovaries with its calls to dance “como las gorilas” was “El Baile Del Gorila” — played to damn near gonadial death in San Antonio last year. Which is notable, because the “Gorilla Dance” was originally a rumba sung in 2000 by a 10-year-old Spanish pop squeak named Melody. In 2001 it was made into a Mexican cumbia by the Lone Star’s Grupo Massore, whose singer is an 11-or-so-year-old boy.

Other than being an insta-heat maker, I have no idea why Massore’s version was resurrected and played at the Halloween party off Broadway hosted by David Van Os’s daughter, in Traxx’s bar on Hildebrand (OK, I requested it), at a fall wedding at Lackland for my ex’s family, and at Ciro Rodriguez’s congressional victory party December 12 at the Harlandale Civic Center. (Where a four-person “more cowbell” contingent  accompanied the CD with arrhythmic percussive fervor to celebrate the end of District 23 Republican Henry Bonilla. Which reminds me: Bonilla played Pat Benatar’s taunting “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” at his November 7 election event, which set him up for an eventual runoff loss. Who’s got the notch in his lipstick case now, Henry?)

My favorite “Gorilla Dance” last year came courtesy of Grupo Geno (Myspace.com/grupogeno), who performed it live at Rosario’s one First Friday. The lead singer, a grown-ass woman, brings a Deep Purple “Child in Time” feel to gritas meant to get us dancing like primates.

—Keli Dailey


DJ Tech-Neek
Best Niche DJ

DJ Tech-Neek

It’s tough to pick against perennial powerhouse DJ Donnie D in this category. His skills and song selections are always improving, and this year Donnie has been educating the local masses with his weekday, old-school lunch set on Power 106.7. Still, this year’s nod has to go to DJ Tech-Neek, who orchestrated, executed, and followed through on his plan to release the free mix-tape Lord Meems: Episode 1 and keep his name on your mind.

Tech-Neek started off the year rocking the underground (and First Friday crowds) with his infectious blend of soulful hip-hop. He followed that up with the solid Lord Meems disc, which is still being distributed at gigs and record shops across the city. An appearance on 98.5 The Beat opened Tech-Neek up to even more listeners, and these days you are just as likely to catch him opening up for a national touring act as spinning at a South Side sports bar. Regardless of the venue, Tech-Neek keeps it right.

— M. Solis

 


Best Show
Spoon
September 29, 2006, White Rabbit

Seven years had passed between Spoon shows in San Antonio, and Britt Daniel decided to put his foot down. The band’s frontman adamantly told his reps that he wanted to include an SA stop on Spoon’s short fall, 2006 tour. The resulting, jam-packed gig at White Rabbit on Friday, September 29, had a euphoric feeling even before the group hit the stage.

Local heroes the Sons of Hercules (one of Daniel’s all-time favorite Texas bands) opened the show by creating a proper sense of mayhem, and Spoon tore through highlights from its last three masterworks, with tantalizing samples of their forthcoming release. With new bassist Rob Pope locking into Spoon’s off-kilter rhythms, Daniel looked positively giddy to be back in SA. And the feeling was clearly mutual.

— Gilbert Garcia


Full People + Politics Text
There’s a joke about cities in Texas that comes courtesy of environmental lawyer Enrique Valdivia (president of the two big Edwards Aquifer protection groups in town, as well as other nice-guy distinctions).

“Dallas is the Little New York, Houston is the Little LA, and San Antonio is the Big Poteet.”

(The Current would like to add that it’s fitting we pay tribute to our town’s politics and people in our annual Best Of issue, the same month Poteet goes big with its yearly bhangra to the strawberry harvest.)

Where else but the Big Poteet, err, San Antonio, can Cornerstone Pastor John Hagee and Missions baseball co-mascot Henry the Puffy Taco lead us in such different acts of faith and devotion, yet be held in equally high esteem? (Puffy, we pre-apologize for the comparison to the televangelist who rejects climate change.)

Where else can extended families partake in the American pastime of running for political office by invoking teflon surnames (resistant to sex and bribery scandals), or by adding a Spanish surname only when it’s time to appear on a ballot (in order to assume one’s rightful place among Mexican-American Princes and Princesses)?    

Where else can you find plentiful autographed copies of a former mayor and current county judge’s insider take on local governance (Nelson Wolff’s Mayor: An Inside View of San Antonio Politics, 1981-1995, published in 1997 and referenced as recently as this month in our daily paper) and yet, be SOL trying to find a bookstore copy of the seminal outsider’s take on the Hispanic majority being governed? (What, you’ve never read Rodolfo Rosales’s The Illusion of Inclusion: the Untold Political Story of San Antonio, “the first in-depth history of the Chicano community’s struggle”?)

It’s a character-driven city, with the feeling of a parish. And your best chance at understanding the culture here is taking a look at the people.

— Keli Dailey



Henry Bonilla
Best Voter Smackdown

The People vs. Henry Bonilla
Platform: Playstation
Product Review: Bonilla Smackdown!
The Amazing Smackdown of Henry Bonilla!

Elections are a ritual attack on those in power and finally, after 14 years in the House of Reps, Republican and San Antonio native Henry Bonilla got rimrocked!

And if last November’s congressional district 23 race were a Playstation game, here’s how I’d describe it.

“Those refs on the Supreme Court declared Bonilla’s district unconstitutionally designed in June, dropkicked the CD-23 primaries, and called for a multi-player open election, unleashing a cast of beta-stars — six Democrats and one independent — to grapple with the incumbent in a handicap match. Together the challengers kept Bonilla in a semi-chokehold on November 7 and sent him to a runoff survival match with a brawler redistricted out of CD-28, Ciro Rodriguez. This is where the true showmanship came in. Bonilla bounced off the turnbuckle and started pounding through campaign cash ($3 million at its peak). But he chose a fighting style unappealing to voters (framing Rodriguez as a terrorist sympathizer in attack ads). Rodriguez’s finishing move was a surprise visit from former President Bill Clinton, making Bonilla’s tag-team with the Latino George P. Bush (nephew of W) seem totally candy-assed. The outcome of the match was pretty much determined by GOP apathy, ‘cause the runoff happened in December, after the Democratic tsunami gave Republican domination over Washington the three-count.”

— Keli Dailey


Best Place to Rub Elbows with City-rati
Mama’s Café 5
100 N. Main Ave., 354-2233, Mamascafe.net

There’s the handsome deputy city manager, Jelynne LeBlanc Burley, the highest ranking African American on City staff. (Remember back in October when all the fuss was about Sheryl Sculley not having enough diversity within her executive staff, even though 22 of her 38 top appointments at the time were minorities?) There’s Greg Rothe, director of San Antonio River Authority. And me, catching a bite with District 8’s Art Hall, to see if the term-limited councilman who led the prayer at last year’s Texas Democratic Convention has a lead on a new political office.

Lawyers, judges, sheriffs, and the rest of the City Hall glitterati come through Mama’s Café number 5 on Main, diagonal from Council Chambers, at some point, Hall says. This particular arm of the San Antonio-based restaurants keeps straight-edge hours — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. And despite having a TV tuned to FOX News recently, the place has a homey, checkered-tablecloth-and-old-scuffed-wooden-floors folksy feel.

“It’s low-key and you don’t have to feel fancy,” says Hall, who has the entire suit ensemble on, except for the coat. “I’m a hole-in-the-wall guy.”

Known for its fried mushrooms … but Hall recommends the extra-glazey chocolate cake: “They’ll heat it up for you.” Also check out China Latina on South Alamo if you want to stalk San Quilmas stars.

—Keli Dailey


Hungriest Texas Death-Row Inmate
Steve Woods, #999427

Line up all 200-plus inmates on Texas death row and you can pick out Steve Woods immediately: he’s the 27-year-old punk rocker with the mohawk, the one who looks like he’s about to faint from starvation.

According to his Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate profile, Steven Woods and a co-defendant were convicted of an especially brutal drug-related double murder in Denton County in 2001, nicknamed the “Colony Slayings.” Sources close to Woods say he’s currently in a crucial point in his appeals, and therefore they’ve been asked not to speak about his innocence claim.

While the crime is deplorable, Woods has turned himself into a world-class hunger-striker, fighting for human rights and dignity in the form of better conditions on the row, which currently houses 38 offenders from Bexar County.

Slate.com’s Explainer says history’s most famous hunger-striker, Mahatma Gandhi, never lasted beyond three weeks. In the last six months, Woods topped him twice, first fasting for 27 days (82 meals missed) in October and November, and then for at least another 22 days (details are sketchy) in January. All the while, Woods kept a candid, and surprisingly lucid, journal, published online at AnarchyinChains.com.

Other hunger-strikers included Reginald Blanton, Patrick Knight, Ryan Dickson, Daryl Wheatfall, Justen Hall, Richard Cobb, Travis Runnels, and Kevin Watts. Many are members of the Death Row Inner-communalist Vanguard Movement, or D.R.I.V.E. (Drivemovement.org), “a group of passionate prisoner activists who have put aside all minor barriers of ethnicity, creed, color, and beliefs, to focus on the injustices forced upon us by this system.”

— Dave Maass


Best City Hall Clown Show
(Tie) Jack Finger
James Myart

Our first nominee was Jack Finger, whose bigotry is unappealing, but he’s still just so damned funny. Besides breaking up the back-patting with his public-comment outbursts, Finger, we admit, is also a damned fine paperchaser.

But we couldn’t find out enough about Finger on the internet to profile him, and Lord knows it’s just not right to interview a guy for the “Best Clown Show” prize. He oughta be allowed to plead the Fifth. That’s our constitutional justification; mostly we’re just worried we’ll burst into unholy flames under his righteous glare if we spoke face-to-face.

So we decided to declare a tie, as previewed in the April 11 crossword puzzle:

Hella hilarious, anti-abortion, gay-hating clown Jack “Christ’s Suckerpunch” Finger.

Hella hilarious, pro-black, cop-hating, attorney clown James “Avenging Disco Godfather” Myart.

We know Myart can give as good as he gets, so we don’t mind bringing up, yet again, his spill down the City Hall steps last December, while cuffed for overdoing an anti-police-brutality press stunt. If we can ever get Myart and Finger within 10 feet of one another, we’ll give them a prize to share: our leftover gubernatorial Kinky Friedman talking doll, as close to a political-clown trophy as it gets.

— Dave Maass


Worst Public Project
Forced on San Antonio
(Tie) Main Plaza Redevelopment Project
Trans-Texas Corridor

There’s an idea guy at work who’s always selling the boss on these big, cumbersome projects (building a fire pond for whirligig beetles! Widening every city alley by 2 feet for Mini Cooper traffic!) that you get no say in, that end up on your bloated work calendar, and that pose as many challenges for you as pulling a goat on a rope. Damn that idea guy!

In the case of the $10-million Main Plaza makeover that will close two major downtown streets, that idea guy is Mayor Phil Hardberger (or Father David Garcia of San Fernando Cathedral, who’s been pushing for a nice front yard since 1995). Poet and Southtown resident Naomi Shihab Nye says the project will “savag`e` the flow of downtown,” adding that “It’s a huge ego trip for San Fernando Cathedral and I don’t think it’s beneficial.”

In the case of the $184-billion (by conservative TxDOT estimates) Trans-Texas Corridor, a leg of which will go through San Antonio as an alternate to I-35, it’s more of a cabal of Republican idea guys (Perry, Krusee, Williamson, Goldman Sachs) who try and distract Texas drivers (look at the congestion monkey!) from the fact that privatizing toll roads is going to make someone (not taxpayers) a lot of money.

SA Toll Party’s Terri Hall, who describes herself as a conservative Republican, says she’s at war with the Rockefeller wing of her own party. The TTC only perpetuates the stereotype that the GOP only looks out for the fat cats, she said.

— Keli Dailey

 


Senator Leticia Van de Putte
Best Attorney General Stop-gap
Senator Leticia Van de Putte

Stop-gap n. That which closes or fills up an opening or gap

Democratic Senator Leticia Van de Putte presides over District 26, an area of San Antonio that includes our Current office and 221,542 households across Bexar County (2000 Census figures).

She’s an advocate for consumers, vets, and kids when it comes to forcing our lethargic attorney general to clarify the law. See her request for an AG opinion last year on whether Texas veterans could get education benefits if they weren’t yet U.S. citizens when they joined the military (Greg Abbott said no: Van de Putte recently filed SB 89 to undo citizen-only military support); whether your driver’s license can be recorded every time you buy Sudafed or other over-the-counter drugs used for meth (Abbott said yes); whether an auto dealership that sent out car keys to 10,000 people, promising one would start a “prize vehicle” — though none did, but hey! While you’re down here folks, take a look at our used cars — was legal (Abbott said yes).

We like that she keeps the AG a generalist (he’d prefer to focus only on cyber crimes). We also like that back in 1997, when she was a state representative, Van de Putte led the attack to strip child-support collection duties from the AG’s office. They’re still collecting, and more efficiently than in the old days, when more than a million Texas kids were shunned by their deadbeat child-support evaders.

— Keli Dailey


Full Places Text
Stand in the place where you live ... Now I hop on my moped. The scooter isn’t supposed to go above 35 mph, so usually I stay off the highways. Unless I make a wrong turn, and in that case I hang on real tight and try to keep it steady. (My front column is warped from dropping the bike once on Hildebrand. I grabbed the wrong grip, and the scooter accelerated out of my hands into the middle of the street. That screwed up my rear mirrors, too.)

Think about direction ... I live near Fort Sam Houston, and I’ve only been as far north as the Quarry, northeast to the Austin Highway Wal-Mart, and south, through downtown, past the Alamo, to Blue Star.

Wonder why you haven’t before ... You know what? I can’t stand that song. R.E.M.’s too damn idealistic sometimes. Do you have any idea how often I’ve been stuck in the rain on that Korean moped? Try every day this winter. Point is, I moved here six months ago and haven’t been able to explore beyond a few square miles of downtown.

Now that spring’s here, I can putter farther out into San Antonio, and readers, with this Best Of issue, you’ve provided me with a long list of destinations: Fast Eddie’s Pool Hall, Rebar, and Bob’s Comics, just to start. Now I can roam where I want to, all around this SA world.

Great. If there’s anything more irritating than R.E.M., it’s the B-52s, ¿qué no?

— Dave Maass




Hop the train to Brackenridge Park — a treat for kids; a respite for parents.
Best Place to Have a Kids’ Party
Brackenridge Park
3910 N. St. Mary’s, Sanantonio.gov/sapark

Show me an adult who actually enjoys children’s birthday parties and I’ll show you an adult with a secret stash of Xanax. Which is why it’s especially puzzling when the (usually) mom organizers go out of their way to complicate matters: hotdogs at the house, then off to the Jymboree for running, cake, and ice-screaming, then back to the house for presents and relatives! Least-favorite location: those claustrophobic, AC-free “party rooms” they cram 30 people into at the various family-entertainment emporiums — which nonetheless seem like a respite from the bedlam outside, where 20 other birthday parties are working off their sugar highs.

Solution: Go old-school at a city park, where you can barbecue, hang a piñata from the nearest tree, and let the kids go gagoozy in a wide expanse of green grass and blue sky. If your guest list is afflicted with ADHD, Brackenridge Park is an especially good choice, allowing you to build an agenda that approximates Kid XTC: Fly kites, ride the Brackenridge Eagle choo-choo, throw rocks in the river (but not at the geese!), go to the award-winning San Antonio Zoo, play kickball at the softball diamond, go home. Bonus: Your tax dollars already paid the rent.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Place for a Hangover Cure
Mi Tierra on Produce Row or Mi Casa in Alta Vista
Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia, 218 Produce Row,
225-1262, Mitierracafe.com

Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia touts its $7.95 menudo as your liver’s friend, right on the menu.

“Hot, comforting, homemade Beef Tripe Stew `traditionally, a hangover  cure ... `” it says. Sometimes a 24-hour operation like Mi Tierra has to spell it out to the post-binge clientele. I’m not big on organ meats, and that includes offal taken from any of the cow’s four stomachs. (Tripe got into my mouth via a spoon just once: there it squiggled until all the flavoring and juice had been drained from both the chow and my chops.) So I’ll have to admit that I go to Mi Tierra for the mariachis and tequila, all the ingredients you need to increase blood-alcohol content; I haven’t tried their morning-after medicine. But I’ve read that theirs and Los Apaches Café on Commerce will set you right.

Personally, I rely on the homemade “encholado,” as my friend Alex from Bolivia calls it: Beer mixed with coke.

(The only definition I’ve been able to find for encholado is “choloized,” in an essay about the marginalized Bolivian Indian. What that has to do with undoing the wrath of grapes, whiskey, and beer is beyond me.)

—Keli Dailey

 


Best Quiet Serene Spot
Brackenridge Park
3910 N. St. Mary’s, Sanantoniocvb.com/brackenridge_park.asp

Parents losing disciplinary battles with litters of howling children; newly introduced dogs, yapping and snarling and tangling their leashes; the honks and squeals of Broadway traffic, and worse, the beep-beep/alarm-armed of the recently parked; the grating bells of the mini-railroad crossing; the Landcruisers bass-woofering gangsta rap and the portable boomboxes blaring trebly Spanish radio: By no stretch of the imagination could Brackenridge be described as quiet.

However, if you stray off the paths, wander through the pseudo-woods, you may find a patch of peacefulness, particulary on sunny days after a rain. The tinkling flush of the San Antonio River, the turtle belly-flops, the glee of the geese and ducks will drown all the human din. I won’t divulge the specific location of my Brackenridge serene spot because that would undermine the point. It’s my serene spot, and there are plenty of serene spots to go around.

The muffled roar of the city is a small price to pay for convenience. And I measure convenience by the distance between serenity and the nearest Taco Cabana. According to Google Maps: 289 feet between the Broadway restaurant and Lions Field.

Oh yes, placid Brackenridge. You’re riddled with secret alcoves, where a tired soul can ponder philosophical dualities, absorb the magnificence of nature, and nap after a shrimp quesadilla.

— Dave Maass


Best Magazine Selection
Broadway News
2202 Broadway, 223-2034

This review, much like Broadway News, the magazine shop it details, is only half appropriate for the young, the prude, and the easily offended.

Family-Friendly Review

Writers pay close attention to magazine selections, whether it’s the pathetic rack at the Valero or the rows of wasted rainforest at Borders. If you see a person loitering at the stand, notepad in hand, copying mastheads, know that you’re witnessing a freelancer performing the equivalent of skimming the classifieds. If you see the same sort of individual smile and grab 30 of the same magazine issue off the shelf, know that he’s just found his byline.

In my case, when I found a copy of Diplo magazine, a hard-to-find foreign-affairs magazine published in Britain that once commissioned a piece from me on Liberian refugees, sitting top-tier at Broadway News, I fell in love. They care.

Warning: Adult Content

Then, I fell in lust. Flash an ID card, prove your age, and you gain entrance to a moderate yet diverse pornography selection: videos, magazines, but best of all the bundled-together value packs covering everything from black booty to barely legal to Bulgarian amateurs. The clerks won’t blush or judge, not even when you, as a precaution against running into a colleague on the way out, slap a back issue of the now defunct (but still available at Broadway News) Global Journalist on top of Graham Crackers (the content of which I’ll leave to your imagination).

— Dave Maass

 


Motorcycle Shop owner Jason Trott
Best Scooter Shop

The Motorcycle Shop
2423 Austin Hwy, 654-0211, Themotorcycleshopsa.com

The word on the street, assuming you can hear it over the chugging of endangered  two-stroke engines, is that the new Vespa dealership off Broadway is fantastic. That said, they’re too new to make this year’s Best Of; one must be mindful to discern between what’s good because it’s new and what’s actually of time-tested superior quality. That’s why I’m picking the Motorcycle Shop off Austin Highway, which specializes in used scooters, custom jobs (see the rocket out front of Blue Star Brewery), and Kymco and Genuine Scooter Company brands.

Full disclosure: the Shop’s Jason Trott sold me my powder-blue Kymco People 50 — not that I need to point it out, I’m as inconspicuous on the streets of San Antonio as a juggler in drag at a Lutheran nursing home. I may have paid more than I oughta, but as far as I’m concerned it was two grand well spent. The reasons — patience and personal attention: But most of all because, the Kymmie being my first two-wheeler, Jason took me out to the Rialto parking lot for a `how-not-to` crash course before handing over the keys.

An enthusiast community, whether it’s Magic: The Gathering or obscure Kung Fu weaponry, usually revolves around the retailer. For scooterers in San Antonio, that’s the Motorcycle Shop, a must-stop on the annual Third Coast Scooter Rally schedule, and also sponsor and organizer of its own “Spring Fling Scooter Ride.” (The 6th Annual was a week and a half ago.)

— Dave Maass

 


Best Bus Stop
VIA bus stop 88167 on Broadway and Patterson Avenue

It looks a bit like a giant mushroom garden from afar, but up close it is revealed to be three faux-bois trees topped with a Swiss Family Robinson-worthy thatched roof that shades the trunk-encircling benches below. The station is planted on a concrete island next to the intersection, and enjoys increased height from its plateaued base of “roots” and “rock” — wonderful during a Texas flood; no deep-and-wide puddles in which to accidentally slosh.

This treasure of a bus stop is not only pleasing for its beauty, but its proximity to two of my favorite indulgences — Mons Thai Bistro (for curry) and Central Market (for cheaper Pacifica candles). It’s a nice place to sit and eat a piece of fruit, or sip an extra-early-morning cup of coffee, whether you plan to catch the bus or not.

Even if public trans isn’t a part of your everyday life, you can certainly appreciate this special piece of public art (and that the crosswalk where our chosen bus stop sits takes for-ev-er. We need a gorgeous place to pass the time).

— Ashley Lindstrom


Best Tobacconist
Club Humidor
The Quarry, 255 E. Basse, 828-1261, Clubhumidor.com

By the time this runs, the Texas Legislature may have voted on a statewide smoking ban. The air in the newsroom has been thick with tension; I, the sole smoker, against the healthy-lung fascists. But even as a smoker, I would support some form of limitation on public smoking, as long as the legislation allows for certain exceptions to the rule. In other words, I have no problem with curbing chain-smoking in bars, as long as we cut businesses catering to aficionados some slack.

For example, Club Humidor, the tobacconist of choice for us last torch-carriers at the Current. The club’s humidor area, housing hundreds of cigars of varying brands and sizes, is a magical place and the clincher against the tobacco opponent’s argument that smoke stinks. Club Humidor smells sweeter than a florist, and the consultants are twice as lovely. The shop is like a jewelry store for men: engraved flasks, golden cigarette lighters, carved ashtrays, futuristic cigar cutters, and an assortment of non-tobacco lifestyle enhancements such as imported chess sets, and precious business-card holders.

The real charm is that Club Humidor, cornered at the Quarry, offers a guilt-free smoking lounge with complimentary coffee, flat-panel cable television, and chess sets, perfect for patrons whiling away the time before their film starts at Regal Alamo 14. The club’s also ideal for a post-P.F. Chang’s breather. Ban smoking, and the only other option will be the student-and-screaming-kid-infested Starbucks across the lot.

— Dave Maass

 


Best Reason(s) to Live Downtown
Downtown needs you

I live downtown, sure, and I’m a fan of the sidewalks and public spaces forsaken by so many Loopland developments, so I’m relentlessly biased. But when I was trying to calculate the single-best argument to justify my prejudice, I ran into this logjam:

1. The River Walk North extension, breaking ground this year, and promising more foliage-buffered walkways along our placid river and more quiet spots — like the faux-bois courtship bench just off of Augusta — to rest your pooch.

2. The Museo Alameda, a Smithsonian-affiliated cultural-arts center dedicated to the Latino-American experience, which opened in Market Square this month.

3. Sandbar, Le Rêve chef Andrew Weissman’s Asian-accented, New-York-style seafood café, serving the the freshest fish in Central Texas, save for the Gulf Coast.

4. Tito’s Southtown taqueria. The service might move at a glacial pace, but it’s exactly the right distance from downtown to walk off the Chella’s Special.

How to choose? But then I remembered a Slate story from a while back that said the reason digital pets are popular, even though they do not keep your feet warm at night, is because people need to feel needed. So here’s my advice for improving self-esteem, lowering stress, and tightening your gluteal muscles without a gym membership: Ditch that keeping-up-with-the-Joneses subdivision or the historical neighborhood with the shrubbery Nazi and move to a ’hood that needs you to work to preserve the character of the River Walk from encroaching chain restaurants and bars; that appreciates your business at its fledgling indie groceries, such as Main Plaza Market and the forthcoming Hippo’s; that wants you to walk around in broad daylight so that the tourists remember we’re a real city and not just a leftover soundstage from John Wayne’s heyday. When they ask where the Rainforest Café is, you can say, “I’m not sure … but have you tried Schilo’s Delicatessen? They have the most delicious homemade root beer!”

— Elaine Wolff


Best Fashion Bet
Francesca’s
Quarry Market, 255 E. Basse, 822-1598

Complain about this selection if you want, readers (why not a local boutique, like Galeana? Or Kathleen Sommers? Or LeeLee Loves Shoes?!), but you essentially voted for Francesca’s every time you enviously fingered the collar of my Ellsworth Kelly-esque op-art T-shirt dress, overlooked my brand-new Ferragamos to exclaim about the gloriously kitschy plastic cornucopia necklace, or stared for an uncomfortably long spell at the flocked filigree on my turquoise velvet riding jacket — each and every one purchased for what amounts to a song in the high-fashion world, yet not quite as flimsy-feeling as the “wool” on those H&M A-line skirts. The Quarry boutique is stuffed with a well-edited set of trendy seasonal sportswear, a handful of unusual dressy dresses, jeans of the moment, a treasure chest of fool’s gold and other costume jewelry, and handbags for every occasion. Think Nanette Lepore on a SuperTarget budget. Shop discerningly, and you’ll never have to defend your receipt.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Trainer
Greg Bell
Bodies by Bell, 744-1779

The term “body sculpting” is thrown about in fitness circles these days like javelins at a track & field meet, but based on observation and rave reviews, one local personal trainer lives up to the action verb.

Triathlete Greg Bell has been steadily ratcheting up SA’s workouts since the ’80s, first as a Gym Coordinator at the Y while the fitness craze was still nascent, and later as the city’s first Boot Camp drill sergeant at the Colonnade. These days he operates a private home studio, where some of the city’s most famous faces tuck their tummies the natural way with a tailored combo of pilates, bikes, treadmills, and Bell’s latest innovation — the basa, a training tool for swimmers, which he’s adapted to replace bulk-building traditional weights, resulting in lean, firm physiques with good posture. One of his customers, a well-known restaurateur, “at age 55 has the body of a 28-year-old” says Bell, a claim seconded by every client of my acquaintance, from handsome velvet gentlemen to society matrons to near-immortal party girls.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Hotel for Guests
Bullis House Inn/San Antonio International Hostel
621 Pierce Street, 877-477-4100

When I first moved to San Antonio from Seattle six months ago to take this job at the Current, I was homeless. For a full week I stayed in the damp, dank, and pitch-black dungeon of the Bullis House, a colonial home built at the turn of the century for Brigadier General John Lapham Bullis, aka “The Thunderbolt of the Texas Frontier.” The basement is actually the San Antonio International Hostel male dorm, a steal at $25 per night, considering it’s one of the few youth hostels in the region.

A steal yes, but also extremely motivating for finding permanent accommodations. The windowless dorm smells wet, like Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The compact bathroom would’ve fit nicely in an aircraft. And the drifters who crash the night always seem capable of starring in a variety of horror-film sequels. They’re usually harmless, except they may steal your soap.

Each night, however, I dreamed of moving into a full suite in the main Bullis House, which runs between $65 and $95 per night. Full-service kitchen, free cable and local calls, air conditioning and fireplaces: it doesn’t sound so luxurious, but to me it was a chandeliered heaven.

— Dave Maass


Liberty Bar: Home away from home for discriminating barflies and epicureans alike. 
Best Place

Liberty Bar
328 E. Josephine, 227-1187, Liberty-bar.com

This category was supposed to be Best Place for Redevelopment, or something like that, but it just doesn’t seem right to have a Best of San Antonio issue that doesn’t mention one of the all-around finest features of the city. Liberty Bar, the 22-year-old eating and drinking establishment founded by Dwight Hobart and the late Drew Allen, is our Balthazar: so full of authentic and manufactured history and good liquor that locals bring their out-of-town visitors to show them “the real San Antonio,” yet so efficient at turning out eclectic dishes such as Chicken Breast in Hoja Santa and the city’s best Chile en Nogada, that the natives will never cede it entirely to tourists. First-time visitors are duty-bound to exclaim over the kaddywampus century-old building — a survivor of the 1921 flood and decades of hard use as a dry-goods store and saloon — but the personality-rich service and house-made pastries (creamy coconut custard, e.g.) leave an equally indelible impression.

— Elaine Wolff


Full Sports Text

Fox Tech tangles with Lanier in the 2006 Chili Bowl.
Best Sports Event
Chili Bowl

If we rated San Antonio sporting events by their athletic brilliance, we’d start by looking at post-season Spurs action. In 2006, that meant a heart-stopping, heartbreaking seven-game duel with the Dallas Mavericks that ranks with the greatest Chamberlain vs. Russell and Bird vs. Magic epics. In particular, if you consider the high stakes, Game Seven might be the most exciting NBA game of this young century.

You’d also have a good case if you argued for the NCAA South Regional basketball tourney, which saw Ohio State make an astounding comeback and Memphis destroy the Final Four dreams of Aggie hoop loyalists.

But a sporting event is about more than athletics, and no sporting event captures the cultural specifics, the neighborhood loyalties, and the deep-seated passions of San Antonio like the Chili Bowl. The city’s oldest high-school football rivalry at 64 years and counting, the Chili Bowl pits the Lanier Voks (pride of the West Side) against the Fox Tech Buffs (team of choice for downtown SA) in a matchup that transcends concerns about district titles and playoff berths.       

Attend a Chili Bowl and you’ll see a rocking, overflowing Alamo Bowl; hear a fair bit of trash talking; and possibly (no guarantees) learn what a Vok is. Fox Tech won bragging rights in 2006, which means that Lanier has only seven more months of quiet suffering to endure before the schools meet again on the gridiron.

— Gilbert Garcia

 


Rattlerman
Best Mascot
Rattlerman

I’d imagine the job of a college mascot is a hard to one to procure, though it isn’t one I’d be clamoring for. Being a furry appeals to people for many, er, different reasons, but I never got off on the idea of entertaining some fresh-faced undergrads by turning cartwheels in a sweltering get-up. Nevertheless, our hats are off to mascots, once voted #10 on USA Today’s list of 10 Worst Jobs in Sports. Our local favorite: the St. Mary’s University Rattler. Perusing university publications, I learned that the origin of the school’s mascot is still somewhat of a mystery. The university began a monthly publication in the early 1900s called The Rattler, but legend holds that the football practice field had to be cleared of diamondback rattlesnakes on a regular basis. There’s no official confirmation, but either makes for a plausible story. Though the identity of Rattlerman is supposed to be top-secret, sightings leak out from time to time and we’ve gathered that the blue-and-gold streaked Rattlerman has been female in the past. Heft has also been a variable — Current design director and fellow STMU alum Chuck Kerr notes that Rattlerman looked like he was packin’ a herd of bunnies one season. But the most astonishing factor, by far, is the fact that Rattlerman’s a snake that stands upright on two legs. Our only question is, do you have to be a parseltongue to apply?

— Nicole Chavez



Best College Sports Team
UTSA Women’s Soccer

By any reckoning, San Antonio is a professional-sports town. With no Division I football program and only modest successes in other sports, college athletics in SA usually get bumped to the back of the local sports section, and earn much less attention from nightly newscasts than high-school gridiron contests.

One positive development in 2006, however, came from the UTSA women’s soccer team. In only their first season, with 10 freshmen in their starting lineup, the Roadrunners were widely expected to occupy the basement of the Southland Conference. To everyone’s amazement, however, the inexperienced squad jelled quickly and posted a 5-1-2 regular-season conference record. That mark was good enough for second place in the SLC and earned a first-round bye in the league tournament. In addition, Roadrunners midfielder Chelsea Zimmerman won SLC Freshmen of the Year honors.

Given this auspicious debut against a formidable schedule, it’ll be intriguing to see what coach Steve Ballard and his team are able to achieve in 2007.

— Gilbert Garcia

   


Best Sports/Music Connection
Tony Parker

Unlike other aspects in his seemingly charmed life — quarterbacking the Spurs in the playoffs, being engaged to Eva Longoria — Tony Parker is in a pretty unenviable position when it comes to his fledgling music career. He’s an easy target for overzealous stateside critics because he’s an aspiring rapper who happens to play professional basketball and flow in French. Whether or not people actually understand his rhymes, they are usually more apt to unfairly criticize him and his music.

Luckily for Parker, he’s doing this for the people back home, at least for now.  He’s already reached the music charts in France, and is slated to go supernova there this summer in a tour supporting his debut album. It’s too bad the Spurs haven’t fully embraced the hip-hop influence in their locker room and hired an official DJ, in the same way that the Miami Heat signed on DJ Irie. Stan Kelly would be a lot more bearable if say, Donnie D were backing him up.

— M. Solis


Oh, you should hear the gnashing of teeth, the wailing and moaning, when Best of San Antonio time rolls around. The source of pain: to chain or not to chain? No one seems happy, least of all the voters, when Pizza Hut wins “Best Pizza.” But there it is: If we don’t specify “local,” inevitably formula restaurants rank in the top three in several categories. This year’s most irritating example: “Best Sandwich.”

To be fair, some of the fastest-growing areas of town have had precious little choice except for the Saltgrass Steak Houses and Chili’s that obligingly pop up on every major thoroughfare the moment the asphalt’s laid. But all that’s changing. Best Of repeat winner Jason Dady is based on the northern side of town, and Paesanos 1604 is only the newest of the high-profile outposts planned by the city’s culinary captains of industry. For now, however, many of your hometown favorites are still located inside Loop 410, from La Fogata to Chris Madrid’s to Boardwalk Bistro to the Cove.

Speaking of chains, this year the Current experimented with neutralizing two juggernauts, H-E-B and Starbucks, by giving them their own categories, which provoked flames  from some voters — even though we also offered a category for Best Local Coffee Shop (a title nabbed by a homegrown formula restaurant) — and even though, if we understand economics correctly, many of your glove compartments and purses are stuffed with receipts from you-know-who.

Lucky for all of us, we’re still spending at mom-and-pop eateries, too, and as restaurant sales continue to increase (an estimated 6.9 percent in Texas in 2007 according to the National Restaurant Association), they should prosper along with the corporations. This year, keep an eye on City Council, which may field a proposal to create a new commission that would have jurisdiction over an issue that sticks in a lot of people’s craws: chains on the River Walk.

— Elaine Wolff



The creamy scallops almost cool the fire below in Yokonyu’s decadent Toreado Roll.
Best Toreado Roll
Yokonyu Sushi Bar
301 E. Houston, 222-0757, Yokonyu-sushi.com

“Toreado roll?” the Google browser suggested helpfully as I tried to research the surely New-World origins of this Nippon-Azteca love child. And eating Yokonyu’s burn-out-your-nose-hairs version is not unlike dancing with a bull — a gracefully employed napkin all that stands between you and sudden etiquette death by drippy nose and streaming eyes. (The sushi chef warned me, too.) I finally poked out most of the seared serrano peppers with my chopsticks because the creamy scallop sauce was not modulating the burn in the least. Still delicious; still hot enough to stop a conversation in its tracks. Apply cold sake liberally.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Taco-truck Taco
Taquitos el Guero’s Tacos al Pastor
El West Side

Trying to bring order and hierarchy to the elusive world of taco trucks seems counterintuitive (or insane). But it’s an important pursuit, and from my experience, I think the best taco-truck taco is to be had at Taquitos el Guero. Now, try finding it.

It’s not as difficult as one might think. For now, Taquitos el Guero is located in the West Side on Commerce Street, one block west of Murry Street, in front of a house next to a dirt parking lot. The truck is jacked up on cinder blocks and doesn’t appear to be moving anytime soon. Their popularity and success seem to have demanded it.

The al Pastor is Guero’s specialty. The pork is well-marinated with a good amount of spice, but not overpowering. And, the tacos are extremely fresh. The tacos (like all taco-truck tacos) are served minimally dressed on corn tortillas with a trace of chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. I find them to be quite elegant. In fact, after first tasting these I found it difficult to return to the standard restaurant variety.

— Mark Jones


Best Food Festival
Hatch Chile Festival
Central Market, 4821 Broadway, 368-8600, August

It’s a common Texan misconception that “Hatch chiles” are a specific type of pepper, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are hundreds of types of chiles — all with varying shapes, sizes, and degree of kick — but Hatch chiles are labeled as such because they are grown by the Mesilla Valley farmers of Hatch, New Mexico. Having grown up just south of Albuquerque in Belen, New Mexico, I’m quite familiar with Hatch, the self-professed “Chile Capital of the World.” Every Labor Day weekend the town hosts the Hatch Chile Festival, an event that beckons to a steady throng of loyal devotees and new converts alike. My tongue got used to the fiery pepper early on in life, as both the green and red variety are incorporated in almost every New Mexican dish. My family would make an annual trek to local farms for truckloads of fresh produce and enough chiles to last us until the next fall; my grandmother has a separate freezer for chiles alone, a common practice.

Fortunately for those living outside the Land of Enchantment, Hatch has introduced its signature brand of pepper to consumers across the U.S. and around the world, one recipient being our very own Central Market. Sample fantastic dishes flavored with chiles, pick up recipes from Foodies, and stock up with enough peppers to get you through the winter months. Central Market fires up roasters for two weekends in August for on-site roasting. The peppers are purchased by the pound and carried home in plastic sacks after roasting so they can “sweat,” facilitating peeling. Look for the fresh crop’s arrival sometime in August at Centralmarket.com.

— Nicole Chavez


Best Noodle Bowls
Taste of Asia
300 W. Bitters, Ste. 120, 496-6266

When I say I’m a fan of noodles, I mean it to the utmost degree. I would eat them in a box, I would eat them with a fox … I’ve even got a boyfriend who’s been nicknamed Noodles since childhood, truly. Among the best noodle bowls I’ve found are Taste of Asia’s. The restaurant specializes in both Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine — some dishes named rather intimidatingly — but all you’ve got to remember is P32. The rice vermicelli bowls are stacked with noodles, bean sprouts, cucumber, and shredded lettuce; the P32 tops the aforementioned with wok-fried pork slices, roasted peanuts, and a sliced spring roll. If you’re eating with a buddy, split the bowl and get an extra order of spring rolls for the perfect amount. Or, plan on leftovers, as the dish microwaves well. The rolls are stuffed with vegetables and pork, wrapped in rice paper, and fried lightly to a golden brown. They’re surprisingly light and crispy, perfect when wrapped in lettuce with a sprig of cilantro and dipped in the right balance of fish sauce and chili sauce. And the price? We both leave full for under $10.

— Nicole Chavez

 


Best Martini
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
The Quarry, 255 E. Basse, 824-9463, Flemingsprime.com

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend that you go in for a $200 full-on dining experience at Fleming’s Prime, the steakhouse chain sprung from the loins of P.F. Chang’s pioneer. But sit at the bar and sip the signature martini while splitting a strip with your knee-knocker of choice? Divine. It’s a real grown-up cocktail, not a frou-frou frock designed to disguise alcohol intake, but it’ll still seduce drinkers who think they don’t like it straight up. The key (and I can’t emphasize this enough) is to say “light on the vermouth,” in which case the bartender will add just enough to give your martini an appealing and mysterious sweetness. After I recommended Fleming’s house cocktail when I first reviewed the restaurant, I’ve made it a point to try martinis plain and dressed hither and yon. The only variation I’ve preferred is the Mott Street, a sake-and-lemon-juice-altered affair available at the Iroquois in New York. But if you’re stuck in town, stick with the Fleming’s. Once you snack on the blue-cheese-stuffed olives that are pickling in your brine, you may never do the twist again.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Local Brew
Blue Star Brewing Co
1414 S. Alamo, 212-5506, Bluestarbrewing.com

Before my editor could get the words “best brew” out, I piped up and volunteered myself. Cold homebrew in hand, the wooden wraparound porch of the Blue Star Brewery is a great evening destination, and I’m working? Can’t beat it. Office-mate-turned-drinking-buddy and I don hoodies, cozy up to the breeze, and start off with the sampler, a generous shot-sized taster of the seven brews currently available, so we can compare notes. I’m no virgin to Blue Star’s brews, having been the second person in all of SA to take home the newly instituted beer pig. The Pale Ale’s always been my Blue Star favorite, but tonight it tastes uncommonly bitter; I pass it along to my cohort and he scowls as well. So the Pale’s ruled out in the elimination process, as is the Golden (It’s like beer-flavored water) and the Amber (Almost like Heineken. I could drink it forever, but it’s nothing exceptional.)

It’s no secret we favor darker beers. Aside from our understandable fondness for the stout, we like the Cask brew and have suddenly developed a strange interest in the King William Ale, a barleywine ale with a sweeter taste that we’re informed is brewed with wine yeast. To clarify a perceived mix-up of two similar looking samples, we order pints of the Cask and the King William and are surprised to discover that the King William is served in a goblet — the higher alcohol content necessitates servings of 12 oz. rather than 16 oz. After a few sips we’re turned off by it, and reaffirm the Cask as our favorite.

Our sociable waitress Morgan brings out a sample of the IPA — it’s only available seasonally — and enlightens us with information about the Cask. It isn’t a brew of its own, it’s just a different style of pumping; instead of carbonating the brew, it sits in an English firkin (a wooden barrel) and is hand-pumped. The brewery switches out the type of brew regularly. Well, this changes everything! Morgan informs us that today’s Cask brew is … the Pale Ale! Maybe I wasn’t far off with my initial pick, but we both agree that the uncarbonated Pale is far superior. Next time you’re in, ask for a taster of the brew in the Cask and take your order from there.

— Nicole Chavez



Green’s vegetarian delights, clockwise from left: Sweet-potato gnocchi, an appetizer sampler, and portabella steak.
Best Vegetarian Eatin’

Green
1017 N. Flores, 320-5865, Greensanantonio.com

The best vegetarian restaurant in San Antonio is also the only vegetarian restaurant in San Antonio. Though it has been open only since January, Green has already become a local landmark, an airy place for inexpensive food that pleases the palate and salves the conscience. No animal is harmed in the making of Green’s entrées, but no carnivore who enters the doorway is likely to go away hungry or angry. The culinary style is American diner, and about half the menu is not just vegetarian but vegan, including such delicacies as portabello steak, sweet-potato gnocchi, and wheat-meat fajitas. Other restaurants in town — especially the Asian ones and Gini’s, Adelante, the Cove, La Fiesta/Patio, and Twin Sisters — offer meatless options, but to a purist wary of hidden lard and broth the only true rival to Green is a moveable feast: an evening with the San Antonio Vegetarian Society. On the fourth Tuesday of each month, restaurants of varying styles and ethnicities alternate in providing the group ([email protected]) with a prix-fixe vegan repast. For the rest of the month, go Green and wish that its healthy reception will encourage other chefs to bypass butchers.

— Steven G. Kellman



A dash of celery salt puts Nick’s All-American Dog over the top.
Best Hot Dogs

Nick’s Authentic Chicago Style Hot Dogs
2417 Thousand Oaks, 403-3311

Sometime last year, Nick’s Authentic Chicago Style Hot Dogs turned into a conquest of sorts, an elusive, mysterious place that we’d pass by only to be disappointed because it was closed. Either we were operating on some ungodly schedule or the hours changed, because now the hotspot for specialty dogs is open on weekends and until 8 p.m. on weeknights. It’s tucked away behind the Walgreens on the corner of Thousand Oaks and Henderson Pass, but once you drive into the parking lot you’ll see it; look for the green and orange lawn signs heralding the fact that it’s open.

The walls are cheery bright green and yellow, conveying the bustling nature of hot-dog vendors on the streets of Chicago and New York. And the hot dogs? Outstanding. On my first visit I opted for the Chicago Style — yellow mustard, bright-green relish, fresh chopped onions, two tomato wedges, crisp pickle spear, two sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; and the Coney Island Style, yellow mustard, fresh chopped onions, and chili. My boyfriend chose the same, adding a New York City Style (yellow mustard and sauerkraut) to the order for a total of five hot dogs, one shared bag of jalapeño chips, and grape Crush in a glass bottle — it reminds me of raspas when I was little, served with too much syrup.

If you visit in the evening, you’ll probably be served by Joseph James, the charming and talkative owner of Nick’s Chicago Dogs. Each dog is made to order, so you order at the counter, sit down, wait about five minutes, and James brings everything to you. He asks how many lines of mustard you’d like and squirts it at the table, also adding the dash of celery salt to the Chicago Style dog in front of you. “First bite’s on us” is the motto, and you pay upon leaving. “Thanks. I’ll see you in two weeks,” says James. I can guarantee it’ll be sooner rather than later.

— Nicole Chavez

 


Best Kim Chee
Niki’s Tokyo Inn
819 W. Hildebrand, 736-5471
Ilsong Garden
6905 Blanco, 366-4508

A Korean national treasure, kim chee’s stink rivals that of a Halliburton DoD contract — no surprise given that it’s a fermented dish from pre-refrigerator times traditionally made with cabbage, garlic, salt, and red pepper. I prefer it basic and traditional, because that’s how I first had it, homemade by a friend’s Korean mother. If we stayed out late enough, when we rolled in she would she would still be in her night-shift hospital scrubs, steaming rice to go with her powerfully tangy and spicy kim chee. We’d eat it quietly together standing in the kitchen.

I used to buy a dead ringer from a quaint Asian store near Fort Sam Houston — when the owner’s wife was well enough to make it — that would make my tongue tingle and funked up the apartment for days. Since that shop disappeared, I haven’t found a good take-home substitute, but two local restaurants serve consistently good batches: Niki’s Tokyo Inn’s is sometimes not fermented as long as I like, but it’s plenty spicy. Go Hyang Jib, the popular Korean barbecue joint, served a kim chee as sharp as it was hot, but the restaurant recently changed hands, and while it’s still on the menu I can’t vouch yet for the new owners. To get the exact stuff, head over to Ilsong Gardens, where former GHJ proprietrix Young Cacy serves it as a side dish. Either version will briefly turn you into a fire-breathing dragon.

— Elaine Wolff

 


Best Happy Hour
Azuca
713 S. Alamo, 225-5550

As a past winner of happy-hour awards, Azuca may seem too obvious a choice, but I haven’t yet found anyplace else that offers the same amenities for such a cheap price.  Though some happy hours feature a wider beer selection (the Flying Saucer), and others a more regal setting (V Bar), consider what Azuca brings to the (bar) table: excellent, distinctive food and drinks at the low price of $2.50/each.

In my opinion Azuca makes the best mojito in town. They use fresh mint, ground into each glass by hand. I always stick with the traditional but they offer popular alternatives such as the mango mojito, too.

Another factor is the excellent finger food, also priced at $2.50: fresh, abundant guacamole, tostones con mojo (fried plantains), moros y cristianos (black beans and rice, which go well with the tostones), and three varieties of ceviche (shrimp, scallop, and fish.)

Azuca’s convenient Southtown location is a great launching pad into any of the other wonderful bars or restaurants in the neighborhood. What other happy hour can offer all this?

— Mark Jones

 


Best Buffalo Wings
Wing Stop
9 San Antonio locations, Wingstop.com

Finding the perfect batch of Buffalo wings in San Antonio took some time and several trips to Wings & More, Wings & Things, Buffalo Wild Wings, Blue Star Brewing Company, Wing Stop, and even Hooter’s. Hands down, Wing Stop serves the best Buffalo Wings. Wing Stop’s “#1 Fan, spokesperson, and Hall of Famer” Troy Aikman refers to them as “The Best Wings I’ve Ever Had in My Life!” What he said! Their original hot recipe is the best for those who like it spicy, but tolerable. Can’t take the heat? You can downgrade to a more buttery version (Mild). Want sweat on your upper lip? Then upgrade to the heat-packin’ level (Atomic). What?? You don’t like Buffalo Wings? No worries my friend: Wing Stop offers an array of wussy flavors to please any sensitive tongue: Cajun, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian Barbeque, Garlic Parmesan, and Hickory Smoked BBQ. The biggest dilemma you will face is deciding whether 10 is enough or 50 is too many. Order a side of their fresh-cut seasoned fries with Velveeta-like cheddar, bourbon baked beans, your favorite domestic beer, and you’ve got a meal. So ditch your principle utensils of fork, knife, and napkin and let your fingers do the work. Your reward: finger-lickin’ bliss! But do grab some of the complimentary moist towelettes as your fingers will be stained for several hours after winging.

— Kimberly Aubuchon

 


Best Grocery Store
Whole Foods
255 E. Basse, 826-4676, Wholefoodsmarket.com

While many voters happily typed or scribbled in “Central Market” for this year’s Best H-E-B category, others were pissed at the narrowed options. “fuck them all” wrote one. “no … monopoly,” suggested another. Still another simply asked, “what about Whole Foods?” C’mon readers, who’s your pro-organic, pro-local-farmer paper? You might have guessed we were holding out for our favorite lobster-saving, foie-gras-banning outpost … a monopoly of a different color that’s virtually cornered the market on conscience-salving grocery -shopping nationwide. While the grain-fed, free-range meats will set you back a pretty penny (the market rewards vegetarianism at WF), the 365 store brand is an economical way to eat organic, and the yellow arrows helpfully point the way to Texas products. The bakery’s bread selection is not as encyclopedic as CM’s, but in this case it’s quality over quantity when you’re looking for basic batards and sandwich loaves.

— Elaine Wolff

 


Best Restaurateur
Andrew Weissman
Le Rêve, Sandbar, Big’z, Sip

This one’s a close call: Damien Watel serves hands-down the city’s best fries (and when the market permits, death-by-butter escargot nestled in toasted bread) at his Southtown Belgian bistro La Frite — a welcome casual alternative to his pricier Olmos Park cornerstone, Bistro Vatel. Chef Jason Dady has made being a wine snob a reputable, enviable, and fun pursuit with his sipping-friendly tapas at Bin 555.

But who can hold a candle to Le Rêve’s Andrew Weissman, who builds establishments to fill empty niches just as we’re noticing the gap? Consequently, despite a nearby Starbucks, his downtown Sip café, nestled at the corner of the Valencia, bustles with business folk and tourists; following a rave review by the late New York Times critic R.W. Apple it’s hard to get a date at “the dream”; and please don’t expect peace and quiet at the family’s Northside burger emporium and playground, Big’z. Sandbar sadly no longer serves lunch, but if you’re looking for briny oysters and succulent, tastes-like-summer shrimp rolls, there is no comparable restaurant in town. Which is true of each of Weissman’s ventures.

— Elaine Wolff


Best Wine List
Bin 555
555 W. Bitters, 496-0555, Bin555.com

Prove me wrong, please, but I tend to think that best-of lists are a crock. Wine lists are an especially good example: is the best the biggest, the most varied, the most advantageously priced? Do I have to factor in a wine-savvy sommelier or servers that know a petit syrah from a pinot noir?

So you won’t be surprised if I’m slightly perverse in my obligatory selection — passing over such obvious choices as Grey Moss Inn, The Little Rhein and Fig Tree … and wine bars such as Drink, 20nine, and Copa — in favor of a list that has only 55 selections.

Jason Dady’s Bin 555 has become a hangout for wine-trade pros and wonkish wannabes alike, and there are two basic reasons: The food is designed to be wine-friendly, and the two-part wine list encourages experimentation. There is a primary list that is better than workaday, but the most action is on the selection of 55 wines for 55 bucks —and, yes, I rarely spend that much on a bottle of restaurant wine. But this is a list that does two things: it removes the problem of nit-picking by price, and it creates a challenge — which are the real bargains? And these are wines you really want to try.

The selection ranges from a Campanian greco di tufo to Duckhorn sauvignon blanc, from (relatively) austere Alsatian offerings to an opulent Jordan chardonnay on the white side, and from Siduri and Belle Glos Clark & Telephone (a personal fave and a real steal) pinots to bigger-than-life cabernets such as Spain’s Torres Mas La Plana and Napa’s Darioush Caravan — both also big-time bargains. Order a small plate of grilled bobwhite quail, Texas lump crab with avocado aioli or baked chevre with rosemary and caraway olives, and pick your own bests. Please.

— Ron Bechtol


Best Burger

1. Chris Madrid’s
       1900 Blanco, 735-3552
2. Chester’s Hamburger Co.
       Multiple locations
3. The Cove
      606 W. Cypress, 227-2683, Thecove.us

It isn’t the beef — standard-issue, pounded flat, heavily salted and peppered — that makes this family-run hometown eatery a fixture on best-burger lists, but the toppings: a slow-moving lava flow of cheddar cheese, smoky refried beans, tostada chips, and/or jalapeños. The final combo of your choice can be ordered in ridiculously large or inhumanly gargantuan and consumed with a cold beer in the Jimmy Buffet-esque surroundings.


Best Local Pizza

1. Rome’s Pizza
       Multiple locations, Romespizza.com
2. Capparelli’s
       Multiple locations, 735-5757
3. Goomba’s
       7214 Blanco Rd., 348-9090

Since circa 1986, Rome’s has appeased the hungry appetites of many, serving everything from gourmet pizza to salads to pastas. Try their Mediterranean Greek Pizza which features a taste-tantalizing combination of mozzarella and feta cheeses, gyro strips, pepperoncini, and tomatoes – all topped off with fresh oregano.



I'll take the top self, with salt 
Best Margarita

1. Chacho’s & Chalucci’s
       8614 Perrin Beitel, 892-1400
2. La Fogata
       2427 Vance Jackson, 340-1337, Lafogata.com
3. Chili’s Grill & Bar
       Multiple locations, Chilis.com

The margaritas at Chacho’s (and Chalucci’s) come strong, fast, cheap, and out of control. And the problem is? If you want to really enjoy yourself, then upgrade to the top-shelf frozen margarita for $4.99. It’s worth the price to fully enjoy the amazing people-watching at this 24-hour zoo.


Best Bistro

1. Boardwalk Bistro
       4011 Broadway, 824-0100,
       Boardwalkbistro.net
2. Bistro Vatel
       218 E. Olmos, 828-3141, Bistrovatel.com
3. La Frite Belgian Bistro
       728 S. Alamo, 224-7555

Sadly, gone are the days that the Current had time to while away evenings at longtime SA favorite Boardwalk Bistro, eating paella and listening to a friend’s Irish band (jazz is more the thing nowadays, but the menu’s still eclectic Mediterranean). Locals also love Damien Watel’s French and Belgian outlets in Olmos Park and Southtown.


Best Seafood

1. Sea Island Shrimp House
       Multiple locations, Shrimphouse.com
2. Red Lobster
       Multiple locations, Redlobster.com
3. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
       76 NE Loop 410, 340-7413, Pappadeaux.com

Local chain Sea Island’s obvious claim to fame is its shrimp, but it’s also a favored destination for plump, flavorful raw oysters on the half shell. The shrimp feast may be the best bet for an empty stomach. A combination of fried Texas Gulf shrimp, charbroiled lemon-pepper shrimp, skewered grilled shrimp, and butterflied coconut shrimp plus sides, the feast is a generous sampling of the restaurant’s best fare and leaves you stuffed for under $12.


Best Chicken-Fried Steak

1. Lulu’s Bakery and Café
       918 N. Main, 222-9422, Lulusbakeryandcafe.com
2. De Wese’s Tip Top Café
      2418 Fredericksburg, 732-0191, Tiptopcafe.com
3. Barn Door Restaurant
       8400 N. New Braunfels, 824-0116,    
       Sawhost.com/bandoor

Located at the southern hub of the North Main strip, Lulu’s is one of the city’s best bets for late-night eats in large quantities. The menu has a special section for chicken-fried steaks; the standard is topped with cream gravy and called the Deputy Special, while the SAPD Mexican Chicken-Fried Steak is topped with chili con queso. The remainder of the chicken-fried menu is devoted to larger portions of the above, guaranteed to hang off the sides of your plate.


Best Beer Selection

1. Flying Saucer
      11255 Huebner, 696-5080,
       Beerknurd.com
2. Chester’s Hamburger Co.
       Multiple locations
3. The Cove
       606 W. Cypress, 227-2683, Thecove.us

“Flying saucer best … worst atmosphere,” opined one voter, echoing a Current critic’s estimation a few month’s back. But real beer drinkers care more about the hundred-odd brews, chilled (or not) to the correct temp and available for drinking, than the sometimes frat-party atmosphere. Or maybe they love that, too, and the buffalo-wings wrap, a brilliant bit of American engineering.


Best Chinese Takeout

1. Pei Wei
       Multiple locations, Peiwei.com
2. China Sea
      Multiple locations, 946-7777
3. (Tie) PF Chang’s
       Multiple locations, Pfchangs.com
    Formosa Garden
       1011 NE Loop 410, 828-9988, Formosagarden.com

If you’re looking for the best Chinese takeout outside of San Antonio, one reader suggests “New York.” Considering that New York is probably not an economically efficient destination the next time you’re craving Chinese, our readers suggest Pei Wei, China Sea, or any of the heaping platters from PF Chang’s.


Best Sandwich

1. Subway
      Multiple locations, Subway.com
2. Jason’s Deli
      Multiple locations, Jasonsdeli.com
3. Quizno’s
      Multiple locations, Quiznos.com

Hard times for the sandwich, this globalized century, in which it must compete with wraps, summer rolls, and salads for lunchtime attention. If a few more locals spent their bread allowance on the pimento-cheese or chicken-and spinach-salad sandwiches at the homey and hometown W.D. Deli, which just missed a slot in the top three, its legacy as America’s favorite finger food woud be secure.


Best Sushi

1. Sushi Zushi
      Multiple locations, Sushizushi.com
2. Koi Kawa
       4501 Broadway, 805-8111
3. Godai Sushi Bar & Japanese Restaurant
       11203 West Ave., 348-6781, Godaisushi.com

The ever-expanding empire of swank, Latin-inflected Sushi Zushi (latest outpost: Lincoln Heights) heralds an era of cream-cheese-enveloped, often-cooked sushi, but they also serve less-ubiquitous treats such as Musubi-Zushi, rice baked around Japanese pickles or smoked salmon. And they deliver. Still, if you like it more traditional, it’s easier to navigate Koi Kawa’s or Godai’s menus.


Best Indian Cuisine

1. India Oven
       1031 Patricia, 366-1030,
      Indiaoven.com
2. India Palace
       8440 Fredericksburg, 692-5262,   
       Indiapalacesa.com
3. Simi’s India Cuisine
       4535 Fredericksburg, 737-3166

Surveying the office for opinions on our second place winner India Palace turned up the following soundbytes: “comfy,” “cozy,” “awesome naan,” and “great service.” The Palace has opened up a second restaurant on the US-281 and they’ll need the votes if they’re going to win over India Oven next year, which beat them out three to one.


Best Sunday Brunch

1. India Oven
       1031 Patricia, 366-1030,
      indiaoven.com
2. Los Patios
       2015 NE Loop 410, 655-6171
3. St. Anthony’s
       300 E. Travis, 227-4392

Who would’ve thunk that a churchgoing city like San Antonio would follow their psalms with anything other than chicken-fried redemption? No, Say-Town likes its brunches as spicy as it likes its selection wide. On India Oven’s Sunday buffet table: lamb sikh kebab, chicken makhani, meatball curry, vegetable curry, sagbaneer, vegetable samosa, vegetable pakora, rice, naan, garlic naan, rice pudding, tomato soup and salad. Sundays, 11am – 3pm, $8.95


Best Starbucks

1. Alamo Quarry Market
      255 E. Basse
2. Hear Music Café
      111 W. Crockett Street
3. Alamo Heights
      5321 Broadway

Deep in the shadows of the Current’s secret Best Of SA lab, our resident evil genius proposed we just embrace the fact that most people frequent a Starbucks. Little did we know “the best” would not be determined by foam quality, but for the sake of being a wee-hours refueling station. The Quarry is open 24 hours.


Best Tamales

1. Delicious Tamales
      Multiple locations,
      Delicioustamales.com
2. Ruben’s Homemade Tamales
       1807 Rigsby Ave., 333-9529
3. Rudy’s Tamales
       3421 S. Flores, 533-5436

Tamales have always been a staple during the local holiday season, but, hey, you live in San Antonio — you can have the masa-encased treats year-round! Founded locally by the Lopez family and cooking daily for the past 30 years, Delicious is the go-to spot for tamales in town. Don’t want to drive? They’ll deliver them hot and fresh to your house. Word on the street is that Ruben’s pork tamales are a fan-favorite, as well.


Best Barbacoa

1. Rolando’s Super Tacos #1
      919 W. Hildebrand, 732-6713,   
       Rolandssupertacos.com
2. Ruthie’s
       11423 West Ave., 308-0253
3. Taco Kitchen
       1027 Rittiman, 824-6630

We asked our readers to school us on the best place to pick up the wonderfully rich and greasy cow’s-head (or in Mexico, more likely cabrito) meat that’s almost as good a hangover cure as menudo. Lots of folks still associate barbacoa with Sundays, but many places, including second-place winner Ruthie’s, serve it every day: $9.99/lb. includes eight tortillas.


Best Local Coffee

1. Jim’s
       Multiple locations, Jimsrestaurants.com
2. Ruta Maya Riverwalk
       107 E. Martin, 223-9292, Rutamayariverwalk.com
3. Candlelight Coffee House and Wine Bar
       3011 N. St. Mary’s, 738-0099, Candlelightsa.com


Honorable Mentions:
    Jupiter Java & Jazz
       726 S. Alamo, 476-8800,    
       Myspace.com/jupiter_java
    Sip Coffee & Espresso Bar
       160 E. Houston, 222-0149

Our working theory behind how Jim’s won the election isn’t so much that their espresso’s extraordinary, but that San Antonio is lacking when it comes to all-night coffee shops. Fans of traditional Jim’s had a good five more hours per day to vote than Ruta Maya customers, and a full 16 more hours than Candlelight patrons. Jupiter and Sip both narrowly missed percolating into the top three, not for lack of trying.


Best 24-hour Restaurant

1. Jim’s
      Multiple locations, Jimsrestaurants.com
2. Ihop
      Multiple locations, Ihop.com
3. Taco Cabana
      Multiple locations, Tacocabana.com

Hours vary at these chains’ many locations, although the majority of the traditional Jim’s (as opposed to those newfangled Café & Coffee Bars) are open 24 hours — you’ll have to track down your round-the-hour haunt on the website, but the Current can recommend the central Broadway and 410 Jim’s, and the Ihop at 3820 Broadway is always open to catch the students from nearby Trinity and UIW campuses.


Best Michelada

1. Rosario’s Mexican Café
      910 S. Alamo, 223-1806, Rosariossa.com
2. Salsalito’s Cantina
      Multiple locations, Salsalito-sa.com
3. Mi Tierra, Café & Panaderia
      218 Produce Row, 225-1262, Mitierracafe.com

If you take a huge mug, add Dos Equis beer and a wonderfully spicy mixture you have the popular michelada at Rosario’s. Some may not be ready for the high heat, but our readers find it a welcome difference from many of the more modest versions around town.


Best Smoking Joint

1. Cigar Club
       18730 Stone Oak Pkwy, 490-9340
2. The Mix
       2423 N. St. Mary’s, 735-1313, 
       Myspace.com/themixnightclub
3. Club Cohiba
    (Havana Riverwalk Inn)
       1015 Navarro, 222-2008, Havanariverwalkinn.com

Second-place winner the Mix leads the defense against HB 9, the proposed bill that would ban smoking within 15 feet of public places. But they needn’t worry about losing business. From what we hear, many of the bar’s hardest-line fans are secretly sick of the stink on their clothes, not to mention the burn holes. They merely put up with it out of unconditional love (for alcohol).



Adam & Stephanie, Best Bartenders
The Cove

Best Bartenders

1. Adam & Stephanie
      The Cove, 606 W. Cypress, 227-2683
2. Tori Manley
      Joe’s Crab Shack, 212 College St., 271-9981
3. Richard Ramos
    Vbar, 150 E. Houston, 227-9700

Adam and Stephanie’s only demerit is due to the fact that the duo bartends for an establishment that’s been accused of stuffing the ballot box before, `see, “And now, the nominee for Best Place in the Universe,” Apr 14-20, 2005`. Maybe the Cove’s patrons just love their bar/restaurant/car wash/laundromat/playground. Regardless, remember to tip your bartenders.


Best Outdoor

1. La Fogata
       2427 Vance Jackson, 340-1337,
       Lafogata.com
2. The Cove
       606 W. Cypress, 227-2683, Thecove.us
3. Los Patios
       2015 NE Loop 410, 655-6171, Lospatios.com

La Fogata perfectly melds neon, foliage, and fountains for that super-Mexico effect, making it a favorite for out-of-town guests (plus there’s that I-Forgota margarita …). The Cove is flip-flop-friendly, beer-drinking fun, while Los Patios provides more refined dining in a little woods just off Loop 410.