Best Of 2008

Special Places

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Beautiful Cemetery
Mission Burial Park

1700 SE Military Dr.
(210) 924-4242
obit.missionparks.com


Greg Harman

I’m not one to get weepy in a cemetery. Shamefully, I even lugged off a coveted granite cross in my more expressive years. But a quiet drive past a single row of palm trees quickly put me in a meditative mood. Is it the new graveside ornaments — gently waving fabric pinwheels and baby balloons — or is it just the quietude?
Moving further back into the tomb-speckled landscape of oaks and mesquite, the names of prominent ranchers and politicians start popping up: Kokernots and Hudspeths and Paschals — even Sam Houston’s youngest, Nettie, is blocked from the sun hereabouts. Keeping the park in good appearance is a strict set of rules … Plastic flowers are allowed only in season.

2. Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
1520 Harry Wurzbach
(210) 820-3891
cem.va.gov/CEMs/nchp/ftsamhouston.asp

3. San Fernando
746 Castroville Rd
(210) 432-2303

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Nicest Shrine to the Virgin
Oblate Missions Lourdes Grotto

5722 Blanco
(210) 342-9864
oblatemissions.org

We can hear the polite but firm grumblings emanating from nunneries and rectories across the city: How are we supposed to compete with a lifesize replica of the original, for pete’s sake? (Which, to be clear, is not taking St. Peter’s name in vain.) Complete with a statue of Bernadette, the poor French girl to whom the Virgin declared herself the Immaculate Conception in a series of supernatuarl visitations that began on February 11, 1858, no less. It’s true that San Antonio is covered with beautiful shrines to the Virgin, or just as often her New World counterpart, the Guadalupana, all of them lovely and often in endearing locations (backyards, restaurants). But the Oblate grounds, consecrated in 1941, also include a Hill of Tepeyac site to commemorate La Virgen Morena, the gift shop offers religious keepsakes to sooth a large and diverse flock, and you can ask Mary to intercede for you at two masses daily at the chapel, one in Spanish, one in English.

2. “The Gloria” altar carving, representing St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and a replica of the Lisieux sepulchur, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower
1715 N. Zarzamora
littleflowerbasilica.org

3. Lourdes Grotto (also a replica of the original)
University of the Incarnate Word
4301 Broadway
uiw.edu

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Best SA Mission
Mission San Jose

6710 San Jose Dr
(210) 922-0543
nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/sanjose.htm


Greg Harman

Sure the Works Progress Administration screwed up some of the recreated elements (oversized chimneys in the ovens and cannon-muzzle openings on the ground level of the corner Bastion) when they gave it a reworking in the ’30s, but Mission San Jose is still cooler than the Alamo readers agreed by, like, two-to-one. Especially when you visit the 1700s-era fort/church on a lazy spring day with the Honey Mesquite in bud, it’s easy to image this “Queen of the Missions” bustling with quasi-convert natives working to establish Spanish culture on the South Texas plain as the Apache cast a skeptical and pox-marked eye on the whole endeavor.

2. Alamo
300 Alamo Plaza
(210) 225-1391
thealamo.org

3. Mission Espada
10040 Espada Rd
(210) 627-2021
nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/espada.htm

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Best Place to Get Married
Southwest School of Art & Craft

300 Augusta
(210) 224-1848, ext. 311
swschool.org

The Gothic lines of the limestone French chapel on the grounds of the Southwest School of Art & Craft are clean enough to pass for modern, and without all the church trappings, secular even (its deconsecrated, too). But may we recommend the landscaped lawn and flagstone courtyards overlooking the San Antonio River Walk for your matrimonial union? Especially in the springtime, when oleander, roses, and hibiscus are in bloom and the water turns that magical mosaic-tile green. Put the band in the gazebo, have your guests (up to 500 on the grounds) delivered by river barge, and get hitched under the generous spread of the trees before retiring to dinner under that magnficient chandelier and stained-glass windows.

2. San Antonio Missions, especially Mission San Jose´
nps.gov/saan

3. San Fernando Cathedral
115 Main Plaza
(210) 227-1297
sfcathedral.org

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Best Fourth of July Display
Woodlawn Lake Park

1003 Cincinnati
sanantonio.gov/sapar

A year-round attraction for runners and walkers, the approximately 30-acre Woodlawn (artificial) Lake becomes a destination for Independence Day party people who want to see fireworks reflected on the still waters. (So many pothead jokes, so little time.) It’s always near the top of local lists for fireworks-involving holidays (and our staff writer put a bird back in a tree there, an environmental god’s equivalent of blessing with holy water.)

2. Tie:
Fort Sam Houston
1210 Stanley Rd.
fshtx.army.mil

Downtown San Antonio

Randolph AFB
Randolph.af.mil

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Good Place to Get Arrested
Fiesta


File Photo


This is where you do not want a squad of blues coming down on you: At home, alone, sober, for something you didn’t do.
This is where it’s kind of funny: At the city’s biggest drunkards’ bash, surrounded by teams of admiring (drunk) friends, drunk (yourself), and using lots of profanity.
Alcohol numbs the pain of the cinch-ties strangling your wrists. Crowds keep the cops from really working you over (in public). And the number of (drunk) friends you can make on MySpace circulating that video your brother shot of them fishing your stupid ass out of the River Walk … must be in the tens or something! Viva Fiesta!

2. River Walk
3. Anywhere downtown

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Most Likely Street-Art Target
TIE
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star
(210) 227-6960
bluestarart.org

Trains

We’re not too sure how Blue Star got voted Most Likely “Street-Art” Target (unless you weigh in D. Dominick Lombardi’s recently closed show), but we’ll take it with a grain of salt. Blue Star has consistently brought in superb art, whether it’s inside or out of the premises. Trailing along to clinch second place are area trains, those slow-moving works of art that make the wait a bit more enjoyable. Another target that received much love was the building off of I-35 and San Pedro. Although it may seem vacant, with it nearly being covered in graffiti, our sleuthing efforts found that people, do, in fact, live there. One voter also named Sheila McNeil. We’re sure the District 2 Councilwoman is pleased with that nod.

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Best Public-Art Installation
"Light Channels" by Bill FitzGibbons

I-37 underpasses at Houston and Commerce Streets


File Photo

Whenever you’re near downtown at night, we urge you to make it a point to cruise down the 1-37 underpass to check out Bill FitzGibbons’ LED installation, which functions, as the artist intended, as an invitation to the oft-neglected East Side. If you happen to be coming from the East, it’s a great way to enter downtown — exit the understated beauty of St. Paul Square and enter the portal that is the Light Channels and in a blink you’re downtown. It’s a gorgeous addition to an already invigorated downtown district.

2. Central Library Chihuly sculpture
600 Soledad,
(210) 207-2500
chihuly.com/installations/public/Art/SanAntonioTowerB.html

3. Torch of Friendship
Convention Plaza downtown
Located in the roundabout at the intersection of Commerce, Alamo, and Losoya Streets

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Best place to hide from the kids
Semeneya Ballroom
2899 NE Loop 410
(210) 946-2899
semeneyaballroom.com

Semeneya Ballroom also won Suavest Dance Instructor.


Justin Parr

If you were born to bachata or crave to cumbia but never learned to put those wrinkled old toes to any better use than tapping, there is a man you can turn to, as your fellow residents have learned again and again: Lee Rios at Semeneya Ballroom. A military brat on course for the brass himself, Rios’s love of salsa dancing spoiled a perfectly good banking job and future career with the military. Rios broke ranks to start teaching Latin dance out of his home a decade ago. After getting knocked around for a season or two, Rios found his footing. Since then he has gone on to teach and perform in the international cities of Venice, Paris, London, Berlin, and Barcelona.
“It wasn’t a pretty picture all the time,” he recalls. “There’s times I was living like a king and times I was living in the studio because I couldn’t afford rent.”
Rios’s partnership with the accomplished Mario Allva and Liila Roberts is creating a tropical stir in San Antonio’s social circles, too. Maybe you’re looking to get away from the house or just hang out with some new faces for a while. Semeneya is a “huge networking tool,” Rios says. “We get people with low self-esteem and they totally do a 180 … They get to be with people they never thought in their lives they’d be hanging out with.” Which may help explain why readers also chose this hot ballroom floor as the best place to hide from the kids.
“It looks like a crazy road, but there’s a lot of great things that are happening.”

2. Doo or Dye
331 W. Mulberry
(210) 738-8089
dooordye.net

3. The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

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Best Place to Hide from Your Parents
Doo or Dye

331 W. Mulberry
(210) 738-8089
dooordye.net
Doo or Dye also won Best Hair Salon/Stylist and Best Hair Colorist.


Jeanna Goodrich

Doo or Dye’s animated architecture sticks out like a sore thumb in the Monte Vista Historic District. But the salon has been a local staple for 13 years, and says Lee, a stylist at the most popular salon in town, it brings in customers solely by word of mouth.
We went in one day to sample the place, and was greeted by Tyler (she along with the rest of the Doo or Dye crew earned themselves the best hair colorists title); she took us to the backroom to view some products while a young mom with a baby on her lap was getting a trim. We purchased Mercy, a leave-in condition (their own product, by the way), and was given helpful instructions by Lee on how to get awesomely soft hair — and let’s just say our very own arts editor has oh-so-soft hair (and at $14 it didn’t leave a dent in her wallet).
The salon is full of character. Yes, you have your typical stylist stations, but it’s also got a roomy lounge feel going on, too — ideal for hiding from your parents while you’re getting your hair dyed a funky fuchsia hue.
Lee mentioned that the salon may branch out to another location, possibly on the North Side, to “make stupid money.” We dare you to get a do or a dye, and be sure to tell ’em the Current sent ya.

2. Gigabites & Java
621 E Dewey
(210) 736-3844
gigabitesandjava.com

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Best SA Tourist Destination
San Antonio River Walk

Downtown San Antonio
thesanantonioriverwalk.com

The River Walk also won Sweetest Make-Out Spot.


Justin Parr

You’ve got to give the city props despite the many times they drained the aquifer feeding these springs or moved to pave over this river, because, taking the long view: They didn’t. No matter how many floods rushed this international city, ripping impoverished jacal-dwellers into the muck, there were champions enough through the decades that wouldn’t let go of the vision of utilizing all that Spanish acequia wisdom for something, well, European. To this day, San Antonio is known for the expanding stretch of restored “river,” lined with parks and shops.
On the flip side, we weren’t sure if two nominations for the “place where people act like slaves” should go to the River Walk or not. Barring Dick’s Last Resort, this service-sector slide of sculpted walkways and bustling restaurants (a short walk from the Alamo — doublescore!) knows how to take care of the sightseeing set. When the khaki shorts dwindle is the best time for we natives to exploit their remains and loiter along this lush passageway.

2. The Alamo
300 Alamo Plaza
thealamo.org

3. San Antonio Missions
2202 Roosevelt Avenue
nps.gov/saan


Why are there so many more readers’ picks this year?

The Current’s critics get to flip our thumbs up and down all year long. Best of SA gives you the opportunity to tell your fellow residents what you think — in a
collective, quasi-democratic fashion. Our goal is to create a fairly comprehensive guide to the best our city has to offer, based on your wisdom and biases.

Who wrote the little articles after each pick?

The Readers’ Picks stories were written by the Current’s editorial staff, with the help of regular freelancers Ron Bechtol and Mark Jones. You can tell who wrote a Critic’s Pick by the initials at the end of the item. Refer to our masthead, page 6, and add MJ=Mark Jones to that list.

You left out ice cream and head shops, dammit!

While we try to be as comprehensive as possible, there’s not enough room or time to include every possible category, and we try to mix it up a little each year, too, so this annual issue stays fresh. You can suggest categories for 2009 by emailing Elaine Wolff at [email protected]. If we use your suggested category, you’ll get an invitation to next year’s Best of SA party.

Why do some categories have second and third-place winners, and others only list first place?

In most cases it means that there were more than three winners for the second- and/or third-place spots. In many of those cases, there were four or more winners for a spot, which makes it impractical to list them all, and starts to dilute the purpose of the readers’ poll.

Who, for fuck’s sake, are the Methane Sisters?

The Sisters are rock ’n’ roll salvage/salvation from the deliciously bad ’70s. If you missed their infamous return to the stage at Jump-Start this year and last (and their Best of SA 2007 title), watch the schedule at jump-start.org. They’re sure to be back soon.


Best Massage Therapist
Michelle Jimenez, MAJR Massage Therapy
414 W. Mistletoe
(210) 508-2277
majrmassage.com

Michelle Jimenez (who also dabbles in belly-dancing) is a licensed massage therapist who has been trained in Swedish massage and can work out any muscle in need of soothing. Her specialties include deep-tissue massage, trigger-point therapy, and myofascial release. And if you’re pregnant, Michelle’s also trained in pre-natal massage. She’s also acquired the business of the Alamo City Rollergirls who can vouch for the greatness that is Michelle’s massage treatments; she’s found herself as their unofficial massage therapist and undoubtedly is kept busying during the roller-derby season.

2. Tie:
Spa D’Sante in Stone Oak (Brian & Jasmine),
Multiple locations
spadsante.com

The Synergy Studios (Carlos Matutes)
300 E. Grayson, Ste. 100
(210) 824-4225
thesynergystudio.com

4018 by Gina
4018 NW Loop 410
(210) 241-8748

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Most Pro Shoe Shine/Repair
Central Shoe Repair Co.

5026 Broadway St
(210) 824-8001

Central Shoe Repair Co. is a throwback to the old-fashion repair shops of yesteryear. You’ll be greeted with a friendly smile from Stella, who will be quite frank about the two-week turnaround time due to Fiesta. But you really can’t beat the $4.50 shoe shines that can be done in 15-30 minutes. We’ll gladly wait and shoot the breeze with our shoe shiner any day of the week (except Sundays and Mondays, when the shop is closed).

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Impeccable Alterations
(4-way tie)

Alamo Heights Tailor Shop
6714 N. New Braunfels Ave.,
(210) 826-7278

Alterations to Go
130 W. Olmos
(210) 805-9495

The Golden Needle
2267 NW Military Hwy #105
(210) 341-8080

Lennie’s Alterations
10907 Wurzbach Rd.
(210) 699-9679

The general sales pitch from the winners of the four-way tie is, “We do everything.” From taking in a wedding dress to shortening trousers, Current readers couldn’t decide on one for the best … but we don’t mind. Three of the winners are Alamo Heights/Olmos Park residents, while Lennie’s Alterations covers the Medical Center area. But be warned, if you’ll be taking in clothes to get altered the sweet lady that answered the phone over at Alamo Heights tailor shop says that recently she’s been “so busy with Fiesta,” but assured us she can fix any bodice.

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Top-Notch Personal Trainer
Micah Hartsock, Spectrum, Downtown Location

(210) 354-1900
spectrumclubs.com


Antonia Padilla

As a city that always manages to come out near the top of the nation’s five fattest or unhealthiest cities, San Antonio needs all the top-notch personal trainers we can get. Fortunately, Micah Hartsock of Spectrum Athletic Clubs is just one of many qualified trainers you can sign up for. As many trainers do, Hartsock became a personal trainer after being an athlete and continuing the weight training and exercise later in life. Heartsock has a wide range of clients, and he speaks of the importance behind adjusting training techniques to match his clients varying abilities. “My aproach is a full-body, very holistic approach, and I like to see equal amounts of weight training and cardio,” said Hartsock. “But when I think of cardio, I don’t only think about being stuck on a treadmill. I think about doing cardio with weights as well.” He says he likes waking up to come to his job every day, and the best part about it is helping people become healthier. We think the best part about his job is that personal workout time is automatically incorporated into his work schedule.

2. Danny Sanchez, Body By Danny
1884 Nacogdoches Rd.
(210) 804-2039
bodybydanny.com

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Most Gifted Makeup Artist/Counter
MAC @ North Star Mall

7400 San Pedro
(210) 375-7804 

Technically, there are several MAC counters in North Star Mall, but on a muggy Thursday morning I arrived almost as early as the elderly-walking-ladies at Dillard’s to engage the popular MAC makeup artist Erica Andrews (crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t have a The Truth About Cats and Dogs makeup-counter moment). Turns out she’s mosied on, but that wasn’t going to stop me from getting my makeover. As the kind artist on hand applied MAC’s Mineralize foundation to my cheeks, she explained that MAC is popular because it lasts so long — and of course, because “the stars” wear it. I think maybe it has something to do with MAC employees effusively liking their jobs, too.

2. Sephora @ North Star Mall
7400 San Pedro
(210) 541-0979

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Best Waxing Services
Isabelle’s European Day Spa

17851 Rogers Ranch Parkway, (210) 493-5544, isabellesdayspa.com

Isabelle’s European Day Spa website boasts, “Be a hairless wonder!” We’re not sure about getting everything waxed, but if you’re inclined to a friction-free lifestyle (a full body wax sets you back $200), Isabelle’s has you covered (er, uncovered). Isabelle Timms, owner of the Day Spa, was born and raised in Europe and is experienced in the European way of waxing. If you’re wanting a Brazilian XXX or Sphinx (the fabled landing strip), she and her team of waxing whizzes can work magic down under.

2. Aveda Institute of San Antonio
250 E. Grayson St. #101
(210) 222-0023
avedaisa.com

3. `tie` 4018 by Gina
4018 NW Loop 410
(210) 241-8748

Tyler Cummings @ Doo or Dye
331 W. Mulberry
(210) 738-8089
dooordye.net

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Most Relaxing Day Spa
Watermark hotel and spa

212 West Crockett Street
(210) 396-5800
watermarkhotel.com
The Current can report from personal experience that the level of luxury and pampering at the Watermark Spa is dangerously high. Appointments with masseuses, aesheticians, and the like give you access to a hot tub overlooking the quaintest block of Crockett street and lit by candles on little rock-wall ledges (we’re talking about the girls’ rooms here; can’t vouch for the guys’, but we hear decadent things). A soothing resting room filled with Neiman Marcus catalogs and stocked with freshly infused waters makes it hard to leave, and it’ll be weeks before you can truly enjoy your measly home shower again. Oh, and the services? Not quite the therapeutic heights of Santa Fe’s Ten Thousand Waves, but give them time.

2. Patricia’s Day Spa
3320 Oakwell Ct.
(210) 829-1969
patriciasdayspa.com

3. Woodhouse Day Spa
255 E. Basse Rd., Ste. 950
(210) 822-8800
sanantonio.woodhousespas.com

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Most Insightful Psychic

I only wish I was a psychic, so I could decipher the individuals you voted for in this category, San Antonio. The top two seem to be some approximation of Regran Bekram and Stephen Reyna, but I can’t find either soothsayer online. Will the real Best of SA psychic please stand up? Mm, creepy, maybe you heard me and you did … just now … as I’m writing this … Or maybe we’ll meet on the astral plane in my dreams tonight? If you can hear me call me now! Now! Now!

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Best Yoga Teacher/Classes
Bikram Yoga San Antonio

Multiple locations
Bikramyogasa.com
Adherents to this style of yoga, in which scantily clad disciples sweat through a set routine of demanding poses in close proximity to each other, tend to be fanatical about its benefits. And the toned instructors do seem to radiate a good-health euphoria. The Bikram Beagle, the studios’ cheerful, informative e-newsletter, makes it feel like a community. San Antonian and newish teacher ReBeca Drury’s name came up more than once in Bikram’s sweep of the Yoga category.

2. Synergy Studio
300 E. Grayson
(210) 824-4225
thesynergystudio.com

3. Hot Body Yoga
1201 Austin Hwy
(210) 829-0088
hotbodyyoga.com

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Gym
Gold’s Gym

Multiple locations,
goldsgym.com

Gold’s Gym had the Current hook, line, and sinker. It’s so easy to sign up for a membership, because at any given time they’ve got a number of specials that facilitate a pocket-friendly enrollment. They’ve got gyms around the city and membership isn’t location-specific, so there’s bound to be one close to home, work, school, your babysitter’s house, or any other place you might be frequenting. If your objective is working out and you don’t need special amenities like shampoo and conditioner, towels, and childcare, Gold’s is a good investment. Fees run about $30-40 a month, and you pay out of pocket for extras like personal training sessions. The only caveat — payment is often taken directly from your bank account every month and there’s an additional fee for cancelling your membership.

Spectrum
Multiple locations,
spectrumclubs.com

Lifetime
Multiple locations,
lifetimefitness.com

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Best Hair Salon/Stylist
Doo or Dye

331 W. Mulberry
(210) 738-8089
dooordye.net
Doo or Dye also won Best Hair Colorist and Best Place to Hide From Your Parents.


Jeanna Goodrich

Doo or Dye’s animated architecture sticks out like a sore thumb in the Monte Vista Historic District. But the salon has been a local staple for 13 years, and says Lee, a stylist at the most popular salon in town, it brings in customers solely by word of mouth.
We went in one day to sample the place, and was greeted by Tyler (she along with the rest of the Doo or Dye crew earned themselves the best hair colorists title); she took us to the backroom to view some products while a young mom with a baby on her lap was getting a trim. We purchased Mercy, a leave-in condition (their own product, by the way), and was given helpful instructions by Lee on how to get awesomely soft hair — and let’s just say our very own arts editor has oh-so-soft hair (and at $14 it didn’t leave a dent in her wallet).
The salon is full of character. Yes, you have your typical stylist stations, but it’s also got a roomy lounge feel going on, too — ideal for hiding from your parents while you’re getting your hair dyed a funky fuchsia hue.
Lee mentioned that the salon may branch out to another location, possibly on the North Side, to “make stupid money.” We dare you to get a do or a dye, and be sure to tell ’em the Current sent ya.

2. Shag the Salon
110 Warren
(210) 222-1700
shagthesalon.com

3. Visible Changes
Multiple locations
visiblechanges.com

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Best Hair Colorist
Doo or Dye

331 W. Mulberry
(210) 738-8089
dooordye.net
Doo or Dye also won Best Hair Salon/Stylist and Best Place to Hide from Your Parents.

Doo or Dye’s animated architecture sticks out like a sore thumb in the Monte Vista Historic District. But the salon has been a local staple for 13 years, and says Lee, a stylist at the most popular salon in town, it brings in customers solely by word of mouth.
We went in one day to sample the place, and was greeted by Tyler (she along with the rest of the Doo or Dye crew earned themselves the best hair colorists title); she took us to the backroom to view some products while a young mom with a baby on her lap was getting a trim. We purchased Mercy, a leave-in condition (their own product, by the way), and was given helpful instructions by Lee on how to get awesomely soft hair — and let’s just say our very own arts editor has oh-so-soft hair (and at $14 it didn’t leave a dent in her wallet).
The salon is full of character. Yes, you have your typical stylist stations, but it’s also got a roomy lounge feel going on, too — ideal for hiding from your parents while you’re getting your hair dyed a funky fuchsia hue.
Lee mentioned that the salon may branch out to another location, possibly on the North Side, to “make stupid money.” We dare you to get a do or a dye, and be sure to tell ’em the Current sent ya.

2. Chop Chop Salon
136 Ellis Bean
(210) 334-5619

3. Tie:
Shag the Salon
110 Warren
(210) 222-1700
shagthesalon.com

Kim McCammon, Visions for Hair
123 Southbridge St
(210) 826-4601

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Most Pro Manicures/Pedicures
`tie`

All About Me Day Spa
11851 Bandera Road,
(210) 372-0700
allaboutme-dayspa.com

Nails by Lynn
224 E. Olmos,
(210) 829-8905

Right off 1604, All AboutMe, the “revolutionary day spa,” offers quite the selection for manicures and pedicures … and for a reasonable price, too. A typical manicure will cost you $18 (add $5 if you want a French); for an ultimate chair pedicure you’re out $40 (but it includes a mint mask and sugar scrub). The spa also offers a tired-foot treatment. We recommend you splurge and add on that skin peel. too. Nails by Lynn is a bit pricier at $40 apiece for a manicure and a pedicure (add on an extra $3 for French).

2. Ann’s Nail Salon
5231 Broadway St.
(210) 805-8899

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Best Aesthetician
Honorary critic’s pick:
Neva Skincare & Massage
5228 Broadway
(210) 884-6382

Although many readers recommended an aesthetician or day spa, no one candidate received more than one vote. Maybe women guard gifted skin-care specialists the way the bon-vivant uncle of a A Good Year suggested men guard the name of a good tailor. In any event please consider our honorary critic’s pick, Neva Fernandez. Local designer and Gallery one9zero6 co-director Yvette Benavides recommended her after the Current noticed how great her skin was looking, motherhood and an adventurous life notwithstanding. “In my experience, she’s a very nurturing aesthetician, and she really explains your skin to you,” says Benavides. “She makes you relax, she has a very nice touch, and she doesn’t push product. People notice the results she has on her clients, and that’s how she’s built her business.”

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Most Artful Tattoo Shop
Dandyland

1821 Bandera Rd.
(210) 432-5747
dandylandtattoo.com
Dandyland also won Best Piercing Shop.


Chuck Kerr

A Current readers’ perennial favorite, it’s no surprise to see Dandyland perched atop both categories yet again. And for good reason. Lots of people don’t switch it up once they’ve found a tattoo artist or piercer they really like. Lesley Reyes is a proud Dandyland returnee who’s had both piercings and tattoos there. She entered the shop on the recommendation of a friend and will go there for any future work. “The Dandyland artists are confident and professional, yet still laid back and down to earth,” says Reyes. “Its apparent they know what they’re doing.” Reyes also speaks of the shop’s overall cleanliness, as will most anybody who’s ever stepped inside. She says she greatly values that the artists and piercers always wash tools and open sealed jewelery right in front of her. Though it should be obligatory in any shop, some of these small details will occasionally fall by the wayside. Reyes had a rook piercing done by Miro Hernandez (above, left with Paul) awhile back, and said that his calm, laid-back demeanor put her at ease. “I’m a talker when I’m nervous, and he chatted with me,” said Reyes. “It’s also calming to hear a piercer describe what he’s doing next, so you’re not surprised.”

2. Mr. Lucky’s Tattoos
2710 N. St. Mary’s,
(210) 736-6900

3. Element Tattoo Studio
4741 Fredericksburg Rd.
(210) 979-9877

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Best Piercing Shop
Dandyland

1821 Bandera Rd., (210) 432-5747, dandylandtattoo.com
Dandyland also won Most Artful Tattoo Shop.

A Current readers’ perennial favorite, it’s no surprise to see Dandyland perched atop both categories yet again. And for good reason. Lots of people don’t switch it up once they’ve found a tattoo artist or piercer they really like. Lesley Reyes is a proud Dandyland returnee who’s had both piercings and tattoos there. She entered the shop on the recommendation of a friend and will go there for any future work. “The Dandyland artists are confident and professional, yet still laid back and down to earth,” says Reyes. “Its apparent they know what they’re doing.” Reyes also speaks of the shop’s overall cleanliness, as will most anybody who’s ever stepped inside. She says she greatly values that the artists and piercers always wash tools and open sealed jewelery right in front of her. Though it should be obligatory in any shop, some of these small details will occasionally fall by the wayside. Reyes had a rook piercing done by Miro Hernandez awhile back, and said that his calm, laid-back demeanor put her at ease. “I’m a talker when I’m nervous, and he chatted with me,” said Reyes. “It’s also calming to hear a piercer describe what he’s doing next, so you’re not surprised.”

2. Platinum Piercing & Tattoos,
1706 SW Loop 410,
(210) 645-7000

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Best Self-Defense Trainer/Class
Krav Maga Worldwide—911 Self-Defense, San Antonio

7460 Callaghan Rd., Ste. 401
(210) 348-6127

If you’ve ever felt a stab of fear while walking to your car in a shadowy parking garage, listen up. For the unfamiliar, Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense technique that uses instinctive reactions against realistic attacks. It’s serious training, practiced by both men and women of all ages, and isn’t dependant on size and strength for effectiveness. In addition to the self-defense classes, Krav Maga offers extras, like an upcoming rape prevention seminar, and a full schedule of fitness classes like kickboxing, pilates, yoga, and more to get you in top form. This March, KSAT 12 ran a story about parents enrolling their kids at 911 Self Defense to help them stand up for themselves when school bullying goes too far. Parents raved about the program, called km-X, which updates the traditional approach just for kids and stresses positive thinking, confidence, and strength.

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Best Vitamin Store
GNC

Multiple locations
gnc.com

Our staff writer contends that GNC is not the place to find your herbal supplements, but rather an oasis for weightlifters looking for body-mass-building pills and powders … but he was at a Vegas location, so who knows? With 4,800 retail locations, though, they certainly are ubiquitous enough to make sure your basic needs are met wherever, whenever (as Shakira would say). Just hold off for Sun Harvest for that really hippie stuff.

2. Whole Foods
255 E Basse Rd # 130
(210) 826-4676
wholefoodsmarket.com

3. Sun Harvest
multiple locations
sun-harvest.com


Best Bookstore
Half-Price Books

Multiple locations
halfpricebooks.com

At its finest, this 36-year-old Dallas-born chain feels like a neighborhood bookstore — especially the locally beloved outpost on lower Broadway. The well-arranged combination of gently used detective novels and literary classics and bargain-priced new titles naturally blunts any corporate atmosphere, and Half-Price attracts and hires the bookstore version of John Cusack’s High Fidelity character. Half-Price, and we hesitate to say it, is our favorite source not only for obscure vinyl and vintage Playboy (the articles, people! And, fine, those pre-implant/liposuction bodies) but for gorgeous, undefiled Taschen and Phaidon art books.
p.s. Although you voted chains for your top three bookstores, San Antonio, Cheever Books, Nine Lives, The Twig, and the San Antonio Public Library Book Cellar also got lots of love.

2. Barnes & Noble
Multiple locations
Barnesandnoble.com

3. Borders
Bordersstores.com

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Best Stationery/Curio Shop
On Main Off Main

120 W. Mistletoe
(210) 737-2323
onmainoffmain.com

OK, so you’re looking for The Penis Book for your gal pal but you’d also like to get a tin propeller plane for your nephew. On Main Off Main has got you covered. The shop stocks a fine collection of bric-a-brac for any occasion, plus “the backroom” is stocked with naughty gifties for their special clientele. We’re sure you won’t be able to find that at the Hallmark store at the Quarry, but we hear they have a wide assortment of Yankee Candles.

2. Moon Mippy
Multiple locations
moonmippyonline.com

3. Hallmark Gold Crown store
Alamo Quarry Market
255 E. Basse Rd.
(210) 930-5286

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Best Place to Buy Vinyl Records
Hogwild Records, Tapes & CDs

1824 N. Main Ave.
(210 733-5354
Hogwild also won Best All-around Music Store.


Jeanna Goodrich

Hogwild is the dean of SA mom-and-pop record stores, and over the years it’s also become the place where musical miscreants in this city congregate, compare notes, promote their shows, and seek out fellow musicians.
Located across from San Antonio College, Hogwild is the closest thing San Antonio has to a hub for the local music scene. The store dutifully carries the obligatory hot new national releases, but it really stands out because of its collection of used vinyl and Texas music. Plow through Hogwild’s vinyl racks and you’re liable to find everything from a long-forgotten Boz Scaggs album to an early Gladys Knight and the Pips collection or a copy of Switched on Bach. Toward the back of their CD racks, you’ll find albums by local heroes such as Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez, Buttercup, and The Krayolas. Throw in their assortment of underground music mags and hard-to-find concert and documentary DVDs, and Hogwild is a one-stop, indie-rock shop.

2. Music Town
4714 Broadway St
(210) 826-2737

3. 180 Grams
2120 San Pedro
(210) 320-8534
180grams.com

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Best All-around Music Store
Hogwild Records, Tapes & CDs

1824 N. Main Ave.
(210 733-5354
Hogwild also won Best All-around Music Store.

Hogwild is the dean of SA mom-and-pop record stores, and over the years it’s also become the place where musical miscreants in this city congregate, compare notes, promote their shows, and seek out fellow musicians.
Located across from San Antonio College, Hogwild is the closest thing San Antonio has to a hub for the local music scene. The store dutifully carries the obligatory hot new national releases, but it really stands out because of its collection of used vinyl and Texas music. Plow through Hogwild’s vinyl racks and you’re liable to find everything from a long-forgotten Boz Scaggs album to an early Gladys Knight and the Pips collection or a copy of Switched on Bach. Toward the back of their CD racks, you’ll find albums by local heroes such as Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez, Buttercup, and The Krayolas. Throw in their assortment of underground music mags and hard-to-find concert and documentary DVDs, and Hogwild is a one-stop, indie-rock shop.

2. Music Town
4714 Broadway St
(210) 826-2737

3. CD Exchange
Multiple locations, including 6900 San Pedro, (210) 826-2662

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Best Furniture Store
Ashley Furniture

Multiple locations

It’s not that we have a problem with Ashley Furniture. Not at all. Obviously San Anto residents adore the furniture mecca, whose specialty is faux-leather upholstery. Ashley’s three San Antonio locations always have a furniture showroom stocked full of interesting finds (we’re a tad partial to the selection of bar tables). Surprisingly, IKEA made the list, although the nearest store is in Round Rock. Another shock was Motif Modern Living; the store didn’t quite get enough votes to enter the top three but they earned respectable numbers considering they just opened their local shop in late February.

2. Rooms 2 Go
707 N.W. Loop 410
(210) 979-9050
roomstogo.com

3. IKEA
Houston and Round Rock
ikea.com/us/en/

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Best Comics Shop
Atomic Comics & Gaming

4904 Broadway
(210) 826-3223
atomic-sa.com


Chuck Kerr

John Minton wants his store, Atomic Comics & Gaming, to give you that “Cheers feeling” when you walk in the door. Indeed, during a recent, minutes-long visit, two customers were greeted by name like old (Super) friends.
With racks, boxes, and cases full of comics, toys, and art, Atomic is an ideal place for true believers and newbies alike — they even host Star Wars, Star Trek, and Magic: The Gathering gatherings. There’s not much in the way of indie graphic novels (Atomic’s bread-and-butter is the superhero genre), but Minton can special-order just about anything that’s up your alley. This shop is as much about the human touch as it is the Human Torch.

2. Bob’s Comics.
11781 West Ave.
(210) 524-9821
bobscomics.com

3. Dragon’s Lair
7959 Fredericksburg #129
(210) 615-1229
dlair.net

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Best Gaming Shop
GameStop

Multiple locations
gamestop.com

Look, I know what cooks. I cohabitated with a gamer for over a year who attempted to coerce me into playing World of Warcraft. (He had to settle for Lego Star Wars and our relationship had to settle for demise, but don’t say I didn’t learn a thing or two along the way.) Many an afternoon was spent perusing the well-organized shelves and bargain bins of GameStop. Many more afternoons were spent amusing myself as my boyfriend tried to attain the sword of truth from the troll of doom, but I don’t hold it against GS.

2. Gigabytes & Java
521 E. Dewey
(210) 736-3844
gigabitesandjava.com

3. Dragon’s Lair
7959 Fredericksburg Rd # 129
(210) 615-1229
dlair.net

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Best Thrift/Vintage Shop
Goodwill

Multiple locations
goodwillsa.org

Set aside half a day when you walk into a Goodwill store (especially during their Sunday and Monday 50-percent-off-color-of-the-week sales). You’ll most likely walk out with some great find, whether it’s a slightly used household appliance or a smashing cocktail dress. Classy vintage finds and original salvage fashions earned Jive, the small Southtown shop, second place. It features an eclectic array of T-shirts, dresses, and absolutely fabulous accessories.

2. Jive
919 South Alamo
(210) 257-5132

3. Boysville
307 West Olmos
(210) 826-2195
boysvilletexas.org

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Nicest Department Store
Nordstrom

Shops at La Cantera
15900 La Cantera Parkway
(210) 332-1900
nordstrom.com

All of my most fashionable girlfriends (and their daughters) shop for shoes at Nordstrom — which totally makes sense because Nordstrom began in 1901 as a shoe store in beautiful Seattle. Today it’s a chain of 103 stores, one of which finally opened in Say-Town.
Beyond a fine, fierce selection of footwear (oh, OK, and other wearables), Nordstrom also has something in store for the foodie: Ebar, the department-store alternative to Starbucks which can be found at the entrance of most locations.

2. Macy’s
multiple locations
macys.com

3. Neiman Marcus
15900 La Cantera Pkwy # 14
(210) 558-8000
neimanmarcus.com

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Mall
Shops at La Cantera

5900 La Cantera Pkwy
(210) 582-6255
 
Two ‘A’s: Apple and Anthropologie. That’s really what it comes down to, right? If one of those stores doesn’t put wind in your sail, well then you don’t deserve to visit the Shops at La Cantera, near Fiesta Texas, Rudy’s, and my mom’s (hi!). And don’t “Ooh, aah, Nordstrom” me! Until we get a Nordstrom Rack, we’re still behind Plano.

There are other draws, of course. The ‘B’s, for example (Betsey Johnson, Burberry, Bravo). If only they could do something about the open-air mall’s temperature during the hot, hot Texas summer months. Can’t be bad for Marble Slab’s business, though.

2. North Star Mall
7400 San Pedro
(210) 342-2325
northstarmall.com

3. Ingram Park Mall
6301 NW Loop 410
(210) 684-9570
ingramparkmall.com

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Finest Jeweler
James Avery

Multiple locations
jamesavery.com

I worked as a seasonal employee at James Avery, the premiere church-mommy shopping destination outta Kerrville, for two years in a row during the holidays. And as miserable as it could be to get reamed by a customer for using the inclusive “holidays” greeting instead of “Merry Christmas,” or to tell a small girl she’d have to pay to get that charm moved to another link on her human-anchor of a bracelet, I’ve got to say, I did have some good times.

These days, my tastes lean away from the mass-produced when it comes to jewelry, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see me wearing my garnet-and-sterling non-high-school ring around.

2. Tiffany & Co.
15900 La Cantera Parkway
(210) 877-9933
tiffany.com

3. Jared’s
multiple locations
jared.com

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Best Arts & Crafts Fair
Fiesta Arts Fair @ Southwest School of Art & Craft

300 Augusta
(210) 224-1848
swschool.org

First Friday arts & crafts vendors got nothin’ on the Fiesta Arts Fair, which was recently names one of America’s “top 10 arts fairs and festivals.” Pretty impressive. The gorgeous grounds of SSAC provide a tranquil environment (and a nice escape from the usual Fiesta hysteria) for the 35-year-old fair. Nearly entering the winner’s circle was the DIY Factory, which was held for the first time in October 2007 and offered a “handmade revolution” alternative to the arts & crafts scene with an appeal to 20-somethings and punk-loving grannies.

2. First Friday
South Alamo, between Durango and Probandt

3. King William Fair
April 26, 2008
kwfair.org

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Most Fashion-forward Shoe Store
Steve Madden

Multiple locations
stevemadden.com


Jeanna Goodrich

Yes, Steve Madden although we adore your shoes ... we wish that you would make your boots capable of withholding women with thick calves. While we salivated over a pair of $139.95 boots we couldn’t quite fit into (remember, chubby calves), we didn’t hold that against you. Your collection of sandals is cute — simple flats in bold hues and sky-high wedges. Local shop Lee Lee Loves Shoes doesn’t disappoint, either; the almost four-year-old shop specializes in understated pumps and dressy heels.

2. Tie:
DSW Shoe Warehouse
Multiple locations
dswshoes.com

Nordstrom, The Shops at La Cantera
15900 La Cantera Parkway
(210) 332-1900
shop.nordstrom.com

3. Tie:
Lee Lee Loves Shoes
5932 Broadway
(210) 832-0066
leeleeshoes.com

Goodtimes Skateboards
8800 Broadway
(210) 822-4721
goodtimesskateboards.net

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Best Local Fashion Boutique
Julian Gold

4109 Mccullough Ave
(210) 824-2493
juliangold.com

With the arrival of Neiman Marcus at the Shops at La Cantera – plus a host of other notable ateliers, including Betsy Johnson, Pineda Covalin, Burberry, Anthropologie, and indie gems such as Galeana and Penny Lane – it’s remarkable that a midtown staple of San Antonio’s upper crust should hold its own with the high-fashion crowd. But when the North Side upped the fashion ante, family-owned, 63-year-old Julian Gold doffed its white gloves and stepped into the ring to fight for the evening bags of the next generation. A stylish billboard campaign reminded San Antonians that they don’t have to go to the mall to get their Escada, Etro, Nanette Lepore, and Pucci and a booked calendar of instore and community events gives shoppers a reason to be regulars. JG still features a bridal salon that feels like a throwback to an earlier era, and it’s more St. John than Prada (oh, please bring in some Prada), but it’s only old-school in the best sense of the word.

2. Cork
7959 Broadway
(210) 824-7700

3. Francesca’s Collections in the Quarry
Two locations
francescascollections.com

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Hottest Handbags and accessories
Coach

Multiple locations, coach.com

The coveted Coach bag is still a hot item these days, apparently. And with summer mere weeks away, expect ladies to flock to the nearest Coach store (or any other place that carries the expensive handbags) to get their freshly manicured hands on an item from Coach’s Soho Collection. The hip fashion boutique AnnieGogglyn carries a selection of designers worn by young celebutantes, including 1921, Ed Hardy, and Kitson. The prices are a bit steep, but if you’re a daddy’s girl, we’re sure you’ll manage a few purses on your way out the door. And if you foot your own limited budget, check Francesca’s for totally fresh, totally affordable bags of the moment.

2. Francesca’s
Multiple locations
francescascollections.com

3. AnnieGogglyn
5013 Broadway
(210) 930-7770
myspace.com/anniegogglyn  

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Most Helpful Plant Nursery
Shades of Green

334 W. Sunset Rd.
(210) 824-3772
shadesofgreensa.com

Twenty-seven-year-old Shades of Green is an oasis in the heart of near-Northside SA. The cabin-like main shop, pathways, fountains, and cedar arbors are crowded with bougainvillea, roses, tropical hibiscus, scented geranium, kitchen herbs, and what seems like every lovely blooming thing under the sun — plus the pots, plain or glazed works of art, to put them in if you’re container gardening. In fact, it would all be a bit overwhelming if the staff weren’t truly helpful, and willing to walk you all around their verdant maze to find plants that will work for your personal garden. They play matchmaker, too. Last visit, following a sentence that began with, “You know what you need on your patio … “ the Current went home with a Rangoon Creeper in addition to her bag of all-natural (that’s the standard at Shades of Green, as are natural pest-control products like corn meal and Neem Oil) potting soil.
2. Calloway’s Nursery
Multiple locations
calloways.com

3. Rainbow Gardens
Multiple locations
rainbowgardens.biz

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Most Eclectic Imports
World Market

Multiple locations
worldmarket.com


courtesy

Ya’ll readers gave the top prize to a chain, sure, but it’s not because you’re stupid (else Pier 1, which has “imports” in its proper title, would’ve snagged the prize). Nope it’s because the warehouse-like environs of WM contain not only reasonably priced, exotic looking household items. Uh-uh — it’s just practical: Where else can you purchase a bottle of wine, a coffee table, Junior Mints, and a necklace? (Where else, at least, that you don’t have to have a membership to?) For those occasions when expense is less and object (and uniqueness more of one), hit up local outposts San Angel and Sloan/Hall.

2. TIE:
San Angel Folk Art
110 Blue Star
(210) 226-6688
sanangelfolkart.com

Sloan/Hall
5922 Broadway St
(210) 828-7738
sloanhall.com

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Best Kitchen-supply Store
Williams-Sonoma

North Star Mall, (210) 384-0464
Shops at La Cantera, (210) 694-0146
williams-sonoma.com

Who can resist the polished and thoroughly accessorized charms of the culinary-gadget chain that brought gourmet to America’s kitchens? Not us, apparently, though we have our own restaurant-supply district in booming Southtown (where Ace Mart and Mission duel it out for the attention of pro and amateur chefs). But sans Williams-Sonoma’s color-coordinated lures, who knows how long the Current would have gone without a mandolin to slice her fennel bulbs, a sieve to crush her tomatoes, and a coddler to coddle her eggs?

2. Ace Mart Restaurant Supply Co.
Multiple locations
acemart.com

3. Bed Bath & Beyond
Multiple locations
bedbathandbeyond.com


Best Ladies’ Night
Cowboys Dance Hall, Thursday
s
3030 NE Loop 410 @ I35
(210) 646-5370
cowboysdancehall.com

“Ladies’ Night” sounds like cheap drinks and no cover, and that’s exactly the schtick at Cowboys, supplemented by $1,000 balloon drop for the women. But the $7 cover for gents doesn’t deter the guys — rather, the outskirts of the dance floor are lined with men just waiting to scoop up a lonesome female. The huge, circular dance floor is outlined by the racetrack-style common area, dotted with bars and tons of tables for those taking a break from two-stepping. Cowboys is a prime spot to look flashy if you want to be seen, and it’s not uncommon for guys to approach a huge table of gals in search of a dance partner. If you don’t like two-stepping, you’ll quickly find yourself sitting all alone in the packed place as your friends get picked off one by one. So get out and prowl the racetrack in search of a promising dance partner, or at least make some willing guy buy you a beer.

2. Graham Central Station, Wednesdays
4902 Fredericksburg Rd.
(210) 979-9303

3. Tie: The Industry
8021 Pinebrook Dr., (210) 366-3229
Dixie's Country Bar
8503 Broadway, (210) 930-5552
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Tastiest Margarita
Chacho’s

Multiple locations
chachos.com

Chacho’s and Chacho’s and Chalucci’s also won Best Nachos.


Jeanna Goodrich

The Life is Good philosophy purveyed by multi-category winner Chacho’s/Chacho’s & Chalucci’s is conveyed perfectly and pithily in this excerpt from Mark Jones’ February 2007 review of the latter entry in the locally grown Tex-Mex chain:
“Though they mass produce Mexican food in a fashion inspired by the Ford assembly-line technique, it is alcohol that defines C&C’s and gives it its raison d’etre.
There are so many good things to write about this enormous place — the skyscraping children’s playground that suggests a wholly different daytime family atmosphere, the after-hours shopping-mall-picnic-court atmosphere, the mysterious Chalucci whose Italian influence never materialized (as in, what happened to the pizza bar we were promised?) and, of course, the legions of workers drifting from distant corner to distant corner in various states of activity.
The place has a generally benevolent crowd mentality. People intersect constantly, and in various states of inebriation, and often with plates filled up to five, six, and seven inches deep with nachos..
Going to Chacho’s & Chalucci’s to test the bartender’s adroitness at making an Apple Martini, or even something simple like a vodka & tonic, makes very little sense. You order a margarita, perhaps top shelf if you’re feeling fancy; anything else goes against good horse sense.
The bartender is not the guy or gal in whom you’re going to confide that your wife just left you for the electrician. Such a confession would be met with a detached, existential stare; the bartender has made so many margaritas that it’s become second nature. I can just sense the repeated actions creating their own neuro-muscular memory. To do something that breaks this pattern invites ridicule and scorn from the people in line behind you. Get your margarita as quickly as possible and return to your seat to enjoy the show, because clearly there is a show going on. Early 20-somethings are all over this place text messaging, exchanging stares and numbers.
Chacho’s & Chalucci’s isn’t a melting pot in any real sense, but this is one of the few places in the city I can think of where you can find large numbers of Anglos, blacks, and Latinos all together in the same place. I’m not saying C&C’s is making strides in improving race relations, but if you can put people together with a common purpose (getting hammered at an affordable price), then yes, why can’t we all get along?
Multiple locations
chachos.com

2. La Fogata
2427 Vance Jackson Rd
(210) 340-1337
lafogata.com

3. Cha-Cha’s
two locations
cha-chas.com
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Smoothest Cocktails
Swig Martini Bar

Two locations, swigmartini.com
River Walk
111 W. Crocket

Stone Oak
18322 Sonterra Pl
(210) 476-0005

Swig also won Swankiest Lounge.

Finesilver Gallery proprietor Chris Erck pioneered the retro cocktail lounge in San Antonio with Swig, and its original, intimate River Walk outpost remains one of downtown’s finest watering holes, with quality live music serving as the backdrop for schmoozing and flirting. Management has been known to run off paparazzi on behalf of a pro baseball player, i.e., and the crowds can be positively New York at times. Also still a favored elbow-rubbing venue for the city power set. Props, too, to Swig’s website, swigmartini.com, which is navigated via the swankiest interactive menu we’ve come across in some time.

2. Broadway 5050
5050 Broadway
(210) 826-0069
broadway5050.com

3. Tie:
Azuca
713 S Alamo
(210) 225-5550
azuca.net

Liberty Bar
328 E Josephine St
(210) 227-1187
liberty-bar.com
__________________________________________________________________

Tangiest Michelada
Rosario’s Restaurant Y Cantina

910 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1806
rosariossa.com
Rosario’s also won Best Mole and Best Salsa.

Lisa Wong brought bright lights, big city to the cantina concept — aided by lots of concrete and a neon-lit faux palapa — and forged a Tex-Mex restaurant empire in Southtown that’s still frequented by the locals even as it becomes increasingly renowned among the travel and dining set. The cavernous interior pulsates with fun on busy nights, and the food ain’t bad, either, although it’s expectedly not as autentico as, say, Cascabel just down the road. Rosario’s award-winning mole is sweet and earthy, with barely a hint of spice, and the salsa is fresh, nicely roasted, and bottomless. Neither compares to the michelada, though, that margarita-bloody-mary- beer mongrel. After murmuring the ingredients back to us (tabasco, worcestershire, tomato-something, lime ... ) the bartender asks if we want salt (yes), inquires after our beer selection (Negro Modelo; unorthodox, but trust us), and shortly delivers a chilled schooner of the best summer chaser in town — mixed for you, so you can enjoy carbonated, spicy, tangy perfection all the way through.

2. Tie:
Broadway 5050
5050 Broadway
(210) 826-0069
broadway5050.com

Las Salsas
2018 San Pedro Ave.
(210) 732-5366

Mi Tierra
218 Produce Row
(210) 782-8496
mitierracafe.com
__________________________________________________________________

Coldest Beer
La Tuna

100 Probandt
(210) 224-8862
La Tuna also won Best Ice House.


Jeanna Goodrich

Any given Friday afternoon, La Tuna embodies the best of ice-house culture: what you want and what you need in one friendly, easy-access package. The picnic tables are packed with blue and white collars and plenty of real tats, the line for the diverse — and, yes, well-chilled — beer selection moves quickly, and a scattering of kids crunch around on the bottle-cap covered ground. Food from the kitchen out back is a big step above your average cantina, with white-bean chile, succulent sliders, and fresh buffalo wings hinting at its Southtown address and easing your happy-hour chill into an evening of low-key revelry.

2. The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

3. Flying Saucer
11255 Huebner Rd.
(210) 695-5080
beerknurd.com
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Best Beer Selection
Flying Saucer

11255 Huebner
(210) 696-5080
beerknurd.com
It’s a no-brainer. Any city with a Flying Saucer has a shoo-in for best beer selection — but not without reason. More than 70 drafts are on tap, showcasing some of the best brews around the world, supplemented by over 150 bottled brews. Various plates on the walls immortalize patrons in the Ring of Honor, those who have joined the “UFO Club” by trying 200 different brews. For the less sure-footed, Saucer Flights are perfect — each contains five 5-oz. samples that demonstrate the attributes of different beer styles. Waitresses help customers make informed selections, a brewmaster’s board matches food with complementary beer, and Texas Pint Night on Sundays supports local breweries.

2. The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

3. Hills & Dales Icehouse
15403 White Fawn Dr.
(210) 695-2307
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Best Handcrafted Brews
Blue Star Brewing Company

1414 S. Alamo
(210) 212-5506
bluestarbrewing.com


courtesy


Blue Star Brewery offers anywhere from five to 12 different handcrafted brews on a given visit, largely depending on the season. Staples like the Amber Ale, Golden Lager, Pale Ale, and Stout are almost always on tap, while specialty brews like the Jingle Ale and Bourbon Baltic Porter are seasonal. A Russian-style winter ale, the Porter, is often the brewery’s holiday beer, disappearing as soon as spring breezes sweep in. A good choice for warmer months is always the Pale Ale, well-balanced and highly hopped. The craft beer is big-flavored with a sharp, clean finish. Ask about current brewhouse specials — favorites include the Wheathead White, made with coriander and orange peel, and the Peach Wit, infused with peaches.

2. Flying Saucer
11255 Huebner Rd., #212
(210) 696-5080
beerknurd.com

3. Dodging Duck Brewhaus
402 River Rd., Boerne
(830) 248-3825
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Best Place To Nurse a Hangover
Home

A large number of people voted in this category, proving something we already suspected — our readers know how to have a good time. You’re not a newbie at this hangover business, are ya? The responses ranged from Mexican cafés to breakfast joints (Jim’s serves up a mean breakfast taco for under $2), but variations on home rocked the vote. Responses included “my bed,” “couch,” and even “somewhere close to pills and pot,” but the biggest laughs were generated by a lone vote for “toilet.” We have to agree.

2. Jim’s
Multiple locations, jimsrestaurants.com

3. Chacho’s
Multiple locations, chachos.com
__________________________________________________________________

Most Skilled Bartenders
Broadway 50/50 (tie)
5050 Broadway
(210) 826-0069
five0five0.com

The Mix
(tie)
2423 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 735-1313
myspace.com/themixnightclub
The Mix also won Fastest Meat Market.


Justin Parr

A beloved anchor on the St. Mary’s strip, The Mix celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year in addition to topping two categories in the Current’s 2008 Best of SA vote. Most Skilled Bartenders makes sense, though the title Best Meat Market may raise a few eyebrows. With live music spanning the rock catalog every night and never a cover, the joint is hoppin’ seven nights a week. Weekends are packed to the hilt — tables are coveted and the bar is constantly slammed. The Mix crowd is a drinking crowd, and bartenders earn their merit between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. The small, L-shaped bar isn’t particulary spacious, but the tenders are hustlers and they know their regulars, pumping out bullblasters and Jack ’n’ Coke to a line that’s five deep. During happy hour its not uncommon for them to sit and chat with regulars, but once the music starts they’re on their game. T-shirts, jeans, and Chucks are the norm for patrons, interspersed with the black-clad heavy-metal crowd hailing from the White Rabbit across the street. Friends and extended family are key words here, which leads the Current to question the aforementioned meat-market vibe. We suppose it just depends on the type of meat you’re looking for.

2. Swig Martini Bar
two locations
swigmartini.com
__________________________________________________________________

Happiest Hour
Azuca

713 S. Alamo
(210) 225-5550
azuca.net

“I haven’t yet found anyplace else that offers the same amenities for such a cheap price,” wrote Current culture critic Mark Jones in last year’s Critics’ Picks. Our readers agree (repeatedly), focusing as Jones does, we assume, on the refreshing (“fresh mint, ground into each glass by hand”) and refreshingly cheap $2.50 mojitos, with $2.50 appetizers to match: guacamole, tostones con mojo, multiple ceviches, and more. The Latin-disco vibe in the heart of Southtown only makes the twilight hour more intoxicating.

2. Kona Grill
15900 La Cantera Pkwy.
(210) 877-5355
konagrill.com

3. Broadway 5050
5050 Broadway
(210) 826-0069
broadway5050.com
__________________________________________________________________

Friendliest Card Tables
Firehouse Pub & Grill

5380 Walzem Rd
(210) 946-9600
firehousepub.com
The cards are dealt every night of the week at this Northside restaurant and bar that lives up to the latter-day pub aesthetic. The tables are big, well-lit, and, we hear, friendly. The buffalo wings are damn good, too, but don’t get the sauce on your hand. Tables start at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and Firehouse hosts tourneys, too.

2. Tie:
London’s Sub & Pub
8425 Bandera Rd
(210) 682-1070

Twenty Grand
5943 Bandera Rd
(210) 523-5544
__________________________________________________________________

Fastest Pool Tables
Fast Eddie's

Multiple locations, fasteddiesbilliards.com
This staffer was once shark-in-training, facilitated by my dad’s trusty bachelor-pad table that survived his graduation to early nights and kiddos, but was soon relegated to our garage. There’s something about lounging around your own pool table on a Saturday with no quarters stacked and glaring or a time limit burning a hole in your pocket. Sadly, the pool table was sent out the door one day, taking my childhood skills with it. But if yours need no honing, any of the five Fast Eddie’s locations are prime environs. The place is slick, the tables are fast, and the sharks mean business. It’s a destination for serious eight-ball, so give the newbie a little how-to before starting — its not the place to learn, especially when the hourly table clock is ticking.

2. Joey's
2417 N. St. Mary's
(210) 733-9573

3. Click's Billiards
Multiple locations
clicks.com
__________________________________________________________________

Finest Cigar Shop
Club Humidor

Multiple Locations
clubhumidor.com

Cigar aficionados crave choice and Club Humidor provides it with 15 cigar brands, including Avo, Butera, and La Flor Dominicana as well as seven kinds of pipes, three kinds of humidors, and accessories such as ashtrays, cutters, and lighters. For those whose cigar appreciation is a lifestyle, Club Humidor offers smoking, private lockers and $25 annual VIP memberships.

2. Cigar Club
18730 Stone Oak Pkwy
(210) 490-9340
sacigars.com

3. Finck Cigar Co.
414 Vera Cruz
(210) 226-4191
finckcigar.com
__________________________________________________________________

Finest Wine Bar
Copa Wine Bar

19141 Stone Oak Pkwy
(210) 495-2672
thecopawinebar.com
Copa also won Best Wine List.

Angie and Jeff Bridges will be the first to tell you that theirs is neither the biggest nor broadest wine list in town. There are lots of bubblies, but few sauvignon blancs, for example. But this is nit-picking, for reds reign, and Copa’s selection is appealing across several categories. Inzinerator zinfandel, perhaps? There’s a huge selection of Red Blends, including the too-honest Fruit Bomb from Washington. And cabernets and cab blends (France gets short shrift) nearly run the gamut. Spanish varietals find favor as well — a natural choice with the menu’s many tapas.

2. Tie:
20Nine Restaurant and Wine Bar
The Quarry Market
255 E. Basse Rd.
(210) 798-9463
20ninewine.com

Zinc Champagne & Wine Bar
207 N Presa St
(210) 224-2900
zincwine.com
__________________________________________________________________

Most Fun Paintball
Paintball Knights

13289 La Vernia
St. Hedwig, Texas
(210) 649-3147
paintballknights.net

Local paintballers of San Anto unite and join the Paintball Knights’ “only nighttime paintball experience.” So they claim. The top knights of the roundtable bolted the competition, Predator Paintball Park of Texas, by one vote. Now, they must fight till the death, or until someone gets hit in the head by a paintball ... then game over. Paintball Knights is a family-owned facility that hosts an array of events including tournaments (earlier this month they held their No Fooling April Fool’s tourney). Plus, it’s a great locale for private parties and office parties. What a great way to get back at that boss.

2. Predator Paintball Park of Texas
20590 Bandera Rd.
(210) 695-4030
predatorpaintballpark.com
__________________________________________________________________

Classiest Smoking Bar
Club Cohiba at the Havana Riverwalk Inn

1015 Navarro
(210) 222-2008
havanariverwalkinn.com/cohiba.html

Tucked into the basement in a restored Mediterranean Revival boutique hotel, Club Cohiba feels secret and glamorous, like the sort of place you’d expect to find the silver-screen stars of the ’30s sipping cocktails and canoodling in the candlelit nooks. The worn leather and fabric seats go best with a cigar, but you’ll find plenty of nicotine nails alight in the gloam, too, and a few low-key high-powered regulars anchoring the martini crowd. A classy hideout of the first degree.

2. Cigar Club
18730 Stone Oak Pkwy
(210) 490-9340
sacigars.com

3. Chango’s Havana Club
23535 West I-10
(210) 698-8922
changosclub.com
__________________________________________________________________

Swankiest Lounge
Swig Martini Bar

Two locations, swigmartini.com
River Walk
111 W. Crocket

Stone Oak
18322 Sonterra Pl.
(210) 476-0005

Swig also won Smoothest Cocktails.


Justin Parr

Finesilver Gallery proprietor Chris Erck pioneered the retro cocktail lounge in San Antonio with Swig, and its original, intimate River Walk outpost remains one of downtown’s finest watering holes, with quality live music serving as the backdrop for schmoozing and flirting. Management has been known to run off paparazzi on behalf of a pro baseball player, i.e., and the crowds can be positively New York at times. Also still a favored elbow-rubbing venue for the city power set. Props, too, to Swig’s website, swigmartini.com, which is navigated via the swankiest interactive menu we’ve come across in some time.

2. Vbar at the Hotel Valencia
150 E. Houston
210 227 9700
hotelvalencia.com

3. Luna
6740 San Pedro Ave
(210) 804-2433
lunalive.com
__________________________________________________________________

Hottest Nightclub
The Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham
(210) 271-3811
bonhamexchange.net
The Bonham also won Hottest Dance Floor.


Justin Parr

Located on the corner of Houston and Bonham streets downtown, the Bonham Exchange is the prime spot for a no-holds-barred, out till 3 a.m., tacos-on-the-way-home extravaganza. The line to get in snakes down the street on weekends, guaranteeing a 30-minute-minimum wait if you arrive after 11 p.m. Experienced regulars will drop by for a wristband early in the evening to avoid the queue. Once inside, the place is guaranteed to be packed. You can (and will) lose the 10 friends you came with, but sometimes getting lost is part of the fun. Drinks are cheap and specials abound, but the bars are usually slammed five deep, so order two at a time. The huge, multi-level building has plenty of character, sporting wooden floors, themed rooms, and ornate staircases, while three dance floors blare various types of dance music for sweaty, wall-to-wall crowds. One of many highlights is the huge electronica room with a balcony level overlooking the raver crowd below. Another dance room offers a wall of TV screens, alternating between lots of small versions or one giant image of the selected music video. A night at the Bonham is a night to plan for, paying tribute to a special event or someone’s birthday. It’s no place to be a wallflower — it’s the place to let it all hang out.

2. Limelight
2718 N. St. Mary’s
(210) 735-7775

3. Tie:
Club Rive
245 E Commerce
(210) 222-4700
clubrive.com

HEAT
1500 N. Main
(210) 227-2600
heatsa.com
__________________________________________________________________

Fastest Meat Market
The Mix

2423 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 735-1313
myspace.com/themixnightclub
The Mix also won Most Skilled Bartenders.

A beloved anchor on the St. Mary’s strip, The Mix celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year in addition to topping two categories in the Current’s 2008 Best of SA vote. Most Skilled Bartenders makes sense, though the title Best Meat Market may raise a few eyebrows. With live music spanning the rock catalog every night and never a cover, the joint is hoppin’ seven nights a week. Weekends are packed to the hilt — tables are coveted and the bar is constantly slammed. The Mix crowd is a drinking crowd, and bartenders earn their merit between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. The small, L-shaped bar isn’t particulary spacious, but the tenders are hustlers and they know their regulars, pumping out bullblasters and Jack ’n’ Coke to a line that’s five deep. During happy hour its not uncommon for them to sit and chat with regulars, but once the music starts they’re on their game. T-shirts, jeans, and Chucks are the norm for patrons, interspersed with the black-clad heavy-metal crowd hailing from the White Rabbit across the street. Friends and extended family are key words here, which leads the Current to question the aforementioned meat-market vibe. We suppose it just depends on the type of meat you’re looking for.

2. Revolution Room
8123 Broadway St.
(210) 320-4567
myspace.com/revroom

3. Tie:
Silo, 1133 Austin Hwy
(210) 824-8686
siloelevatedcuisine.com

Stonewerks
two locations
stonewerks.com
__________________________________________________________________

Fastest Meat Market (of the, uh, edible kind)
Culebra Meat Market
Multiple locations
culebrameatmkts.com

When we listed the category for “Meat Market” under the Vice & Virtue section of the Best Of SA ballot, we thought it pretty self-explanatory. Instead, we got a mixed bag of responses that pointed to two clear winners: Culebra Meat Markets for meat and The Mix for skin (see page TK for the latter). And we can’t disagree with you. San Antonians love their barbecue, steak, brisket, fajitas, and ribs so much we just might skip the drive to find a bar sporting numerous prime examples of the opposite sex. Either way, Culebra Meat Markets have you covered with meat deals ranging from $19.99 to $169.99, perfect for special occasions and sure to impress the barfly you took home Saturday night when you both decide to stretch it into a barbecue Sunday.

2. Central Market
4821 Broadway
(210) 368-8600
centralmarket.com

3. Tie: Bolner's
2900 S. Flores
(210) 533-5112
bolnersmeats.com

H.E.B. (PLUS)
Multiple locations
heb.com
__________________________________________________________________

Best Old-man Bar
Raffles Restaurant and Bar

8633 Crownhill
(210) 826-7118

The (one-man?) band was just rolling in the gear as I skipped out past the dress-code sign posted outside Raffles’ door (no baseball caps, for one), humming “And the sailors say, Brandy, you’re a fine girl ... ”
Time: 6:55 p.m.
Mean time to first bad pick-up line: one-half of a hastily slammed bottle beer.
“You know where you can get $2 Dos Equis?” asked the late-40-ish gent who’d peeled off from the V formation at the end of the bar for this sortie, that alcohol scrim already lowered over his eyes.
I split, despite the $3.75 tab for my dressed longneck, despite the $10 the strangely pubescent bartender almost shorted me, despite my interlocutor’s assurance that this other joint would have a good dance band. And despite the free happy-hour buffet being frequented in the corner of this haunt, behind a deep-green wall adorned with a small set of mirrors, just beyond the bar where a statue of Jack Daniels heralds a colorful faux bouquet. It suggests a feminine hand, and aspirations to a sort of classiness that a generation weaned on ’70s TV would have aspired to. “Wrinkles” it’s been baptized by more than one young buck who won’t see his middle age coming for him until it’s squeezed out his collagen like toothpaste. But it’s comforting in a way to know that the Love Boat ethos (and décor) lives in the shadow of the Magic Time Machine and the Barn Door, where lonely sailors pass the time away and talk about their homes.

2. Bar America
723 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1285

3. Dad’s Karaoke Bar
2615 Mossrock
(210) 340-3887
__________________________________________________________________

Most Hardcore Sports Bar
Fatso's Sports Garden

1704 Bandera
(210) 432-0121

15630 Henderson Pass
(210) 404-0121
fatsossportsgarden.com

Both perennial choices in regards to San Antonio sports bars, Fatso’s and Champp’s Americana always accrue high points with readers. But Fatso’s has upped the ante this year by adding a second location. While the original Bandera Road outpost still pays homage to Rattler Athletics at nearby St. Mary’s University, the new restaurant on Henderson Pass and Thousand Oaks transplants everything from the charm and extensive menu to the packed events calendar and volleyball pits to the North Side — incidentally, within walking distance of a staffer’s apartment. Check out the new digs for a change of pace.

2. Champps Americana
11075 W. IH-10,
(210) 561-2833
champps.com

3. Buffalo Wild Wings
Multiple locations
buffalowildwings.com
__________________________________________________________________

Loudest Metal Club
White Rabbit

2410 N. St. Mary’s
(210) 737-2221
myspace.com/officialwhiterabbitsa

A staple of the local music scene, the White Rabbit avows San Antonio as a definite tour stop. Beloved by scenesters and recognized by touring bands around the world, the live-music venue plays host to all genres of rock, but metal is definitely a stronghold. The Rabbit has been raising the decibel level on the St. Mary’s strip for over a decade since its relocation from Austin. There’s comfort in its familiarity — headbanging kids throw devil horns to touring bands onstage, growing up to play there with their own bands years later. The venue is 18+, unlike many others around town, and the line of black T-shirts snakes down North St. Mary’s for big shows. Successful locals pack the place, and anticipated nationals make for steamy, sold-out affairs.

2. Bond's 007
450 Soledad
(210) 225-0007
bonds007rockbar.com

3. Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar
1033 Ave. B
(210) 320-2387
myspace.com/rockbottomtattoobar
__________________________________________________________________

Sweetest Make-out Spot

San Antonio River Walk (tie)
Downtown San Antonio
thesanantonioriverwalk.com
The River Walk also won Best SA Tourist Destination.

You’ve got to give the city props despite the many times they drained the aquifer feeding these springs or moved to pave over this river, because, taking the long view: They didn’t. No matter how many floods rushed this international city, ripping impoverished jacal-dwellers into the muck, there were champions enough through the decades that wouldn’t let go of the vision of utilizing all that Spanish acequia wisdom for something, well, European. To this day, San Antonio is known for the expanding stretch of restored “river,” lined with parks and shops.
On the flip side, we weren’t sure if two nominations for the “place where people act like slaves” should go to the River Walk or not. Barring Dick’s Last Resort, this service-sector slide of sculpted walkways and bustling restaurants (a short walk from the Alamo — doublescore!) knows how to take care of the sightseeing set. When the khaki shorts dwindle is the best time for we natives to exploit their remains and loiter along this lush passageway.

Japanese Tea Gardens/Sunken Garden (tie)
3800 N. Saint Mary’s
sanantonio.gov/sapar/japanhis.asp

You no longer have to negotiate your way around construction fencing, but you will still pass the expectant glares of love-starved feral felines as you lose yourself (together) in the maze of elevated walkways that is the Japanese Tea Garden. We suggest a soft bite on the ear or a lingering tug on that front denim belt loop before making with the mouth action. Our readers can tell you where to take your target du jour, but we can’t do anything about that sedentary roommate. You have to take it from there.

2. Trinity University grounds
1 Trinity Place
trinity.edu


Nicest Lingerie Shop
Victoria’s Secret

Multiple locations, victoriassecret.com

Oh ladies, we couldn’t agree with you more on this one. As lace-loving lingerie fans ourselves, we rejoice at the store’s semi-annual sales, held each year in January and May, plus we’re addicted to the Secret Garden collection of body-care products. Shades of Love got some love, too; no wonder, with a classy line of lingerie, including our favorite: the math-tutor fantasy wear. Ruler not included.

2. Frederick’s of Hollywood
Multiple locations,
fredericks.com

3. Shades of Love
300 W. Bitters
(210) 494-3006
theshadesoflove.com
__________________________________________________________________

Best Sex Toy Shop
Adult Video Megaplexxx

Multiple locations
Sexysite.com

2008 marks the fourth consecutive year that Adult Video Megaplexxx has won the best sex toy shop title. With their specials and Wednesday ladies days (20-percent off!), they’ve successfully satisfied the needs of San Anto’s sex-craved crowds. Zebraz shows its true stripes with their plentiful selection of gay-pride merchandise and female-interest movies (including the 1999 indie flick Better Than Chocolate). Plus, you can’t go wrong with their Kama Sutra massage oils.

2. Shades of Love
300 W. Bitters
(210) 494-3006
theshadesoflove.com

3. Zebraz
1608 N. Main Ave.
(210) 472-2800
zebraz.com
__________________________________________________________________

Best Swingers Club
Players Club
8235 Vicar
(210) 691-2050
texasplayers.com

Had no idea so many San Antonians were into throwin’ their keys in the bowl, but seeing as more of you voted on this than, say, Best Local Blogger, I have to assume so. How modern, in this perceived uber-conservative, uber-Catholic town. (But then if there’s one thing conservative politicians taught us last year, it’s that conservatives aren’t necessarily so conservative when it comes to fucking.)

Players is a members-only, BYOB swingers club for couples and single ladies (What? No dudes?) whose “Staff and management are always available to ensure your experiences are always memorable and pleasant.”

2. Shennanigans
8011 N New Braunfels Ave
(210) 822-4613
__________________________________________________________________

Most Pro Strippers
Sugar’s

2731 NW Loop 410
(210) 340-1289

I know, everyone’s just dying for me to delve into a feminist/post-feminist compare-and-contrast here, or insult you for actually paying for blue balls (yeah, you love it), but weirdly, at this particular moment, I’m just curious about what constitutes a “most professional” stripper. S/he never breaks the no-touching rule? Is always on-beat? Vigilant pole-polisher?

According to the management at Sugar’s, it’s their standard of beauty and personality that makes Sugar’s’ dancers so popular with our readers. (Psh, you should meet the Current’s staff.) Says top-dog Richie Avants: “We always try to keep the party going.”

2. The Palace
2482 NE Loop 410
(210) 590-6011
thepalace-mensclub.com/

3. All Stars
multiple locations
__________________________________________________________________

Best Bowling Alley
AMF Country Lanes

13307 San Pedro Ave.
(210) 496-3811
amf.com
Bowling is the great populist sport in America, because it cuts across class, gender, and age distinctions. AMF Country Lanes is popular at least partly because of the cross section it attracts. A spacious site with 48 lanes (second only to Bandera Bowl among local alleys), it welcomes league competition during the week, with mornings dominated by women’s teams and evenings featuring mixed squads. On the weekends, Country Lanes becomes a family haven, hosting countless birthday parties and helping introduce the sport of kinpins to a new generation.

2. Bandera Bowl
6700 Huebner Rd.
(210) 523-1716

3. Oak Hills Lanes
7330 Callaghan Rd.
(210) 344-6251
__________________________________________________________________

Nicest Public Tennis Courts
McFarlin Tennis Center

1503 San Pedro Ave.
(210) 732-1223

With tennis courts, as with real estate, location counts for a lot. McFarlin Tennis Center owes at least part of its popularity to the fact that it’s centrally located, at the highly appealing San Pedro Park. But it also boasts 22 courts available for day and night play, with reasonable rental rates ($2.50/hour for adults before 5 p.m., and $3.50 after 5 p.m.; $1/hour for juniors and seniors before 5, and $1.50 after). McFarlin regularly hosts youth tournaments, and is open every day of the week, except for Sundays.
__________________________________________________________________

Hottest Public Basketball Courts
Lady Bird Johnson Park

10700 Nacogdoches
sanantonio.gov/sapar/index.asp
Lady Bird Johnson Park also won Best Skate Park.


Antonia Padilla

Ah, youth. To be an adolescent in the 21st century seems so much more cooler than it did back in the day. Over at Lady Bird Johnson Park, you can find the high-school kids (and post-college crowd) shooting hoops and the junior-high and alt-high-school guys (and girls, too) doing the usual skateboarding tricks.
The park is huge, and holds a tennis court, softball field, and of course, basketball courts (which on the day we visited weren’t nearly as crowded as the skating facility — although the b-ball courts look ideal for day-long tournaments). The skate bowl, hidden on the side of Lou Hamilton Center, is credited as being one of the first in the country “to combine a swimming pool and skate bowl to provide a multi-use facility.” The 7,000-square-foot bowl is an ideal locale for skaters to try out their hurricane grind or, for you amateurs, to perfect your ollie skills.
__________________________________________________________________

Coolest Public Swimming Hole/Pool
San Pedro Springs Pool

2200 N. Flores
(210) 732-5992
sanantonio.gov/sapar/swimming.asp
Swimming — or rather bathing, given its shallow reaches — in the cypress-ringed pool at San Pedro Springs is a bittersweet experience. It sits where a spring-fed lake once stood, and around the park’s edges you can see remnants the city’s antique acequia system. San Pedro is famously old, second only to Boston Commons in the annals of American public green space, and it’s had a hard life off and on since the Spanish government first claimed it from the natives in the 18th century. Troops were quartered, zoo animals were detained for amusement, caves were filled in, springs were tapped out – but for all that it’s still a lovely spot to sun yourself and contemplate the nearby downtown skyline (and urban renewal) from the southernmost edge of Monte Vista.

2. Woodlawn Lake Park Pool (don’t swim in the lake!)
1100 Cincinnati
(210) 732-5789
sanantonio.gov/sapar/swimming.asp

3. San Antonio Natatorium?
1430 W. Durango?
(210) 226-8541
sanantonio.gov/sapar/swimming.asp
__________________________________________________________________

Best Skateboard Shop
Goodtimes Skateboards

8800 Broadway
(210) 822-4721
goodtimesskateboards.net


Chuck Kerr

Walk into Goodtimes Skateboards and you’re met by a wall full of skateboard decks, an assortment of skate shoes, and a friendly staff of 20-something skaters (who aren’t afraid to tell their mom “I love you” over the phone.). The shop carries everything from Emerica shoes to Gnarbo shades. Goodtimes Skateboards just celebrated their 15th anniversary in October 2007 and doesn’t plan to stop doing kickflips anytime soon.

2. 1st and 10
2339 Vance Jackson
(210) 320-8147
myspace.com/1stand10skateboards
__________________________________________________________________

Best Skate Park
Lady Bird Johnson Park

10700 Nacogdoches
sanantonio.gov/sapar/index.asp
Lady Bird Johnson Park also won Hottest Public Basketball Courts.

Ah, youth. To be an adolescent in the 21st century seems so much more cooler than it did back in the day (well, with the exception of those godawful hairdo’s these youngin’ are sportin’ now ... although, we’re sure we didn’t look all too hot in junior high, either). Over at Lady Bird Johnson Park, you can find the high-school kids (and post-college crowd) shooting hoops and the junior-high and alt-high-school guys (and girls, too) doing the usual skateboarding tricks.
The park is huge, and holds a tennis court, softball field, and of course, basketball courts (which on the day we visited weren’t nearly as crowded as the skating facility — although the b-ball courts look ideal for day-long tournaments). The skate bowl, hidden on the side of Lou Hamilton Center, is credited as being one of the first in the country “to combine a swimming pool and skate bowl to provide a multi-use facility.” The 7,000-square-foot bowl is an ideal locale for skaters to try out their hurricane grind or, for you amateurs, to perfect your ollie skills.

2. San Pedro Park
1315 San Pedro
sanantonio.gov/sapar/
__________________________________________________________________

Most Challenging Public Golf Course
Pecan Valley Golf Club

4700 Pecan Valley Dr.
(210) 333-9018
pecanvalleygc.com

We could tell you that Pecan Valley is consistently acknowledged by experts as one of the best courses in the state. We could point out that its majestic design has made it a local favorite since 1963. We could mention that Pecan Valley was the locale for three Texas Open tournaments. But this should say everything that needs to be said: In 1968, Pecan Valley hosted the PGA Championship, with Julius Boros beating Arnold Palmer on the final hole. Knowing that Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and countless other greats walked these fairways in search of a major title should be a sufficient recommendation.

2. The Quarry Golf Club
444. E. Basse
(210) 824-4500
quarrygolf.com
__________________________________________________________________

Most Jammin' Jukebox
Bar America
(tie)
723 S. Alamo
(210) 223-7462
Pig Stand (tie)
1508 Broadway
(210) 222-2794

Context means everything with music, so no matter how much you may love to hear contemporary pop at a dance club, you want your neighborhood establishment’s jukebox to be loaded with vintage stuff. Bar America is a low-budget, beer-and-billiards mecca for locals, and its jukebox collection of big-band swing, classic Nashville, and regional conjunto makes you feel as if you’re still living in an era when movie double-features were a nickel. The Pig Stand, a local institution for 87 years, also brings it old-school, serving up baby-boomer favorites such as Neil Diamond, Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, and Elton John. 

2. (tie):
The Annex
330 San Pedro
(210) 223-6957

Jiggers
639 Babcock
(210) 348-2955
__________________________________________________________________

Hottest Dance Floor
The Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham
(210) 271-3811
bonhamexchange.net
The Bonham also won Hottest Nightclub.

Located on the corner of Houston and Bonham streets downtown, the Bonham Exchange is the prime spot for a no-holds-barred, out till 3 a.m., tacos-on-the-way-home extravaganza. The line to get in snakes down the street on weekends, guaranteeing a 30-minute-minimum wait if you arrive after 11 p.m. Experienced regulars will drop by for a wristband early in the evening to avoid the queue. Once inside, the place is guaranteed to be packed. You can (and will) lose the 10 friends you came with, but sometimes getting lost is part of the fun. Drinks are cheap and specials abound, but the bars are usually slammed five deep, so order two at a time. The huge, multi-level building has plenty of character, sporting wooden floors, themed rooms, and ornate staircases, while three dance floors blare various types of dance music for sweaty, wall-to-wall crowds. One of many highlights is the huge electronica room with a balcony level overlooking the raver crowd below. Another dance room offers a wall of TV screens, alternating between lots of small versions or one giant image of the selected music video. A night at the Bonham is a night to plan for, paying tribute to a special event or someone’s birthday. It’s no place to be a wallflower — it’s the place to let it all hang out.

2. Limelight
(Fuck Yeah! Thursdays)
2718 N. St. Mary’s
(210) 735-7775
myspace.com/limelightsa

3. Semenaya Ballroom
2899 NE Loop 410
(210) 946-2899
semenayaballroom.com
__________________________________________________________________

Most Talented Club DJ
Leo Torrez @ Bogart’s Cocktails

8323 Culebra Rd., (210) 521-6969
Bogart’s also won Wildest Karaoke.


Justin Parr

There are two distinct groups of people who really like karaoke: 1) Those who approach it like American Idol, honestly going for it in hopes that people turn to their friends and say, “Wow, that didn’t suck.” 2) Those who live for picking out the cheesiest ’80s songs they can find to see who racks up the most laughs. We’ve a fondness for the latter — if you’ve ever seen two guys belting out Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of The Heart,” you’ll know why. A Saturday night at Bogart’s Cocktails offered a bit of both. People were definitely there for karaoke, as tables were full and songbooks abounded. We walked in to a fairly good rendition of ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” ordered vodka tonics and scraped into the last available two-seater facing the performers. Located in a large strip-mallish shopping center off Culebra, Bogart’s is a casual lounge sporting pool tables, darts, and the like, which is transformed by House Party Karaoke every Friday and Saturday night. The mobile karaoke show is run by a rotating group of hosts, and Cynthia took over the mic on this particular Saturday. An older couple teamed up for a less serious and more fun approach to “Summer Nights” from Grease and they scored raucous applause. House Party Karaoke keeps the vibe going with songs between performers, and some of DJ Leo Torrez’s better offerings were Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and an interesting dance remix of “Back in the USSR.” The highlight of the night was a young male singer taking on Alicia Keys’ “No One” with absolutely no karaoke screen help and absolutely doing the song justice.

2. DJ Jester
DJ Jester can be found performing regularly in the basement of the Revolution Room
8123 Broadway
(210) 320-4567

3. Tie
Donnie D
Donnie D is the in-house resident DJ for San Antonio's ProSlam Poetry
Team, and be found spinning regularly Tuesdays at Atomix,
1902 McCullough, (210) 733-3855.

Daecos Omoxi
Daecos Omoxi is part of the Fuck Yeah! crew, and can be found spinning
Thursdays at Limelight, 2718 N. St. Mary's St., (210) 735-7775.
__________________________________________________________________

Funniest Comedy Club
Rivercenter Comedy Club

849 E. Commerce, (210) 229-1420, rivercentercomedyclub.com
After experiencing the brutal, yet hilarious brand of comedy found on the East Coast firsthand, it may feel as if San Antonio has a long way to go on the comedy front. But some start-up comedy nights have been cropping up recently, and hopefully they’ll play a part in the evolution of San Antonio’s scene. Rivercenter Comedy Club is still the big name as far as venues go, mixing touring A-listers like Carlos Mencia and George Lopez with the likes of San Antonio’s own Oxymorons Improv Troupe, who grace the stage every Tuesday night.
__________________________________________________________________

Wildest Karaoke
Bogart’s Cocktails

8323 Culebra Rd., (210) 521-6969
housepartykaraoke.net/saturdaybogarts.html
Bogart’s also won Most Talented Club DJ.

There are two distinct groups of people who really like karaoke: 1) Those who approach it like American Idol, honestly going for it in hopes that people turn to their friends and say, “Wow, that didn’t suck.” 2) Those who live for picking out the cheesiest ’80s songs they can find to see who racks up the most laughs. We’ve a fondness for the latter — if you’ve ever seen two guys belting out Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of The Heart,” you’ll know why. A Saturday night at Bogart’s Cocktails offered a bit of both. People were definitely there for karaoke, as tables were full and songbooks abounded. We walked in to a fairly good rendition of ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” ordered vodka tonics and scraped into the last available two-seater facing the performers. Located in a large strip-mallish shopping center off Culebra, Bogart’s is a casual lounge sporting pool tables, darts, and the like, which is transformed by House Party Karaoke every Friday and Saturday night. The mobile karaoke show is run by a rotating group of hosts, and Cynthia took over the mic on this particular Saturday. An older couple teamed up for a less serious and more fun approach to “Summer Nights” from Grease and they scored raucous applause. House Party Karaoke keeps the vibe going with songs between performers, and some of DJ Leo Torrez’s better offerings were Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and an interesting dance remix of “Back in the USSR.” The highlight of the night was a young male singer taking on Alicia Keys’ “No One” with absolutely no karaoke screen help and absolutely doing the song justice.

2. Dad’s Karaoke Bar
2615 Mossrock
(210) 340-3887

3. Bitter Karaoke w. Jay Whitecotton at:

SoHo
214 W. Crockett
(210) 444-1000

Alibi’s
1141 E. Commerce
(210) 225-5552
__________________________________________________________________

Suavest Dance Instructor
Lee Rios, Semeneya Ballroom

2899 NE Loop 410
(210) 946-2899
semeneyaballroom.com

Semeneya Ballroom also won Best Place to Hide from Your Kids.

 


Justin Parr

 

If you were born to bachata or crave to cumbia but never learned to put those wrinkled old toes to any better use than tapping, there is a man you can turn to, as your fellow residents have learned again and again: Lee Rios at Semeneya Ballroom. A military brat on course for the brass himself, Rios’s love of salsa dancing spoiled a perfectly good banking job and future career with the military. Rios broke ranks to start teaching Latin dance out of his home a decade ago. After getting knocked around for a season or two, Rios found his footing. Since then he has gone on to teach and perform in the international cities of Venice, Paris, London, Berlin, and Barcelona. “It wasn’t a pretty picture all the time,” he recalls. “There’s times I was living like a king and times I was living in the studio because I couldn’t afford rent.”Rios’s partnership with the accomplished Mario Allva and Liila Roberts is creating a tropical stir in San Antonio’s social circles, too. Maybe you’re looking to get away from the house or just hang out with some new faces for a while. Semeneya is a “huge networking tool,” Rios says. “We get people with low self-esteem and they totally do a 180 … They get to be with people they never thought in their lives they’d be hanging out with.” Which may help explain why readers also chose this hot ballroom floor as the best place to hide from the kids.“It looks like a crazy road, but there’s a lot of great things that are happening.”

 

2. Patrick McMillan
patrickmcmillan.com

3. Jack Mack
Dancing the Rainbow
5337 Glen Ridge Suite 119
(210) 396-6874
dancingtherainbow.com
__________________________________________________________________

Best Park for a Picnic
Brackenridge Park

3700 N. St. Mary’s
sanantonio.gov/sapar/
Brackenridge Park also won Kid-friendliest Park.


Jeanna Goodrich

The 344-acre inner-city haven that is Brackenridge Park recently underwent a major renovation that converted winding back roads to hike-and-bike trails, repaired and extended paths through the woods, and installed sculptures by Anne Wallace and Susan Budge. (Wallace’s “Glorieta” refers, in part, to the parks’ former subversive underside as a hookup site). The improvements have only made this century-old treasure more popular, while eliminating some of the parking spots along those former roads. To the rescue for those sunny weekends when the picnic areas and playgrounds are packed with barbecuing familia: an eco-friendly parking garage on the site of the old City nursery grounds that will serve the park, its zoo, and the adjacent Witte Museum.
The park, which got its start in 1906 with a 200-acre grant from water czar George Brackenridge, reclaimed another piece of its golden past this spring when the Japanese Sunken Gardens were reopened after extensive repairs to the pools. Although the tram is gone, never to return, the Koi are back, and from the old bathing-house jungle gym to the miniature train, Brackenridge offers a full weekend of fun. When the River Improvements project finishes its work in a few years, you’ll be able to hike or bike all the way to the Missions, too.

2. San Pedro Park
1315 San Pedro

3. Tie:
McAllister Park
13102 Jones-Maltsberger
Woodlawn Lake
1103 Cincinnati
__________________________________________________________________

Best Live Music Festival
Jazz’s Alive

September 20-21, 2008
Travis Park
saparksfoundation.org/jazzalive.html

An early-fall event produced annually by the San Antonio Parks Foundation, Jazz’SAlive has divided the jazz community over the years with its emphasis on mellowed-out instrumental pop. But this Travis Park festival has sporadically lived up to its name with performers such as Ron Wilkins, Bett Butler, and the highly percussive Henry Brun & the Latin Playerz. If it hasn’t realized its potential yet, there’s always the hope that it will.

2. OzzFest
August 4, 2007
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Ozzfest.com

3. Bob Marley Festival/Legends of Rasta Reggae
November 10-11, 2007
Sunken Garden Theatre
__________________________________________________________________

Best Live Music Venue
Limelight

2718 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 735-7775
myspace.com/limelightsa
2718 on the North St. Mary’s strip has played host to several different venues in the past few years, but it’s now the home of the Limelight and is a regular stop on the local scenester circuit. Rising from the ashes of Wacky’s a bit over two years ago, the Limelight underwent an extreme facelift that transformed it into its present state. Walk inside for a breath of fresh air — it may feel as if you’ve stepped outside of San Antonio. Indie-rockers frequently grace the stage and select DJs take to the decks on designated nights to keep the dance floor packed ’n’ sweaty.

2. White Rabbit
2410 N. St. Mary’s St, (210) 737-2221
myspace.com/officialwhiterabbitsa

3. Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson, (210) 223-2830, samsburgerjoint.com
__________________________________________________________________

Most Comfy Movie Theater
The Palladium

17703 IH-10 West
(210) 798-9949

You with your newness and IMAX screens and proximity to shopping and incompetent lobby baristas. I’m not bitter about missing the first part of I Am Legend because I was waiting for half an hour in your “we proudly serve Starbucks Coffee” line. It’s cool. Because you have gelato, and cheesy Greco-Roman decor, and super-comfy seats.

The Bijou, another property of local-moviehouse magnate Santikos, didn’t fare too badly either. And why not? Critical Darling would have been way too bummed to get through The 11th Hour without that strawberry margarita with extra salt. Wait, is that unethical?

2. The Bijou at Crossroads Cinema
4522 Fredericksburg Rd
(210) 734-4552
santikos.com/bijou.html

3. Alamo Drafthouse
1255 SW Loop 410
(210) 677-8500
drafthouse.com
__________________________________________________________________

Edgiest gallery
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center

116 Blue Star
(210) 227-6960
bluestarart.org

In keeping with its buck-the-establishment origins, 22-year-old Blue Star stirred things up in September with their Fotoseptiembre USA exhibition Photo Plus featuring Oliver Herring’s controversial photo collage of a naked man. The contemporary-art gallery later impressed crowds with Frozen Music II: The Architecture of Ricardo Legorreta, and the July schedule promises a much-anticipated one-man show by Alex Rubio (with Blue Star executive director Bill FitzGibbons curating). Fl!GHT Gallery books multifaceted artists such as Ben Judson, Vaago Weiland, and Robert Tatum. Their upcoming show featuring the works of New York-based photographer Shaun Jarvis isn’t too shabby, either.

2. FL!GHT
1906 S. Flores
(210) 872-2586
turnitoff.tv

3. Joan Grona Gallery
112 Blue Star
(210) 225-6334
joangronagallery.com
__________________________________________________________________

Classiest museum
McNay Art Museum

6000 N. New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368, mcnayart.org

Closed since December 2007 for a hotly anticipated Jean-Paul Viguier-designed addition, the McNay Art Museum snagged the top spot in this category. Although voters passed over some amazing art-institution developments to honor Marion Koogler McNay’s legacy (What? The Greek and Roman galleries at SAMA wasn’t good enough for you?!), the modern- and contemporary-art haven has acquired some pretty fantastic pieces recently, such as the Kiki Smith sculpture “Woman with Arm Raised” and Gabrielle Dumontet’s “Head of Medusa.” The museum is set to open the Jane and Arthur StierenCenter for Exhibition doors again in June with five exhibitions.

2. Witte Museum
3801 Broadway
(210) 357-1900
wittemuseum.org

3. San Antonio Museum of Art
200 W. Jones Ave.
(210) 9778-8100
samuseum.org
__________________________________________________________________

Most Fun Official Fiesta Event
NIOSA

5:30-10:30pm, April 22-25, 2008
niosa.org
NIOSA officially turns 60 this year, and while the Battle of Flowers Parade may have given birth to Fiesta, this San Antonio Conservation Society fundraiser can take credit for its popularity and endurance. Long, hot parades must be followed by long, steamy parties to endure in this age of multiple distractions. A hundred-thousand of your fellow San Antonians crowd into charming, cobblestoned La Villita each year, causing us to baptise the event Most Likely Place to be Crushed by a Crowd Outside of a European Soccer Stadium. But if you pinball around long enough, you’ll see everyone you know, and you might even stumble into food, drink, and live music.

2. King William Fair
April 26, 2008
Kwfair.org

3. Oyster Bake
April 18-19, 2008 (Damn! Plan ahead for next year.)
oysterbake.com


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Roller Derby Player
Tonya Hurting, Prim Reapers


Antonia Padilla

Readers responded passionately in this category and we applaud your support of a league that’s just 2 years old. Tonya Hurting of the Prim Reapers claimed top honors, and it seems it’s just another accolade to add to her long list. A Co-Captain of the Prim Reapers, who have jumped out to a 2-0 standing in the 2008 season, she entered the season as one of the league’s top jammers and pivots. She’s known for her speed around the track and it’s definitely reflected elsewhere — a mother of three, they’re collectively referred to as the “fast family” around the track.

__________________________________________________________________

Most Indispensable Non-profit
San Antonio Food Bank

5200 Old Highway 90 West
(210) 337-3663
safoodbank.org

Underfunded, über-noble causes abound across the city, but perhaps none get to the root of the matter as directly as the San Antonio Food Bank. With nearly one in five of us living beneath the poverty rate in SA, the Food Bank does bang-up business, delivering 1.8 million meals every month to about 40,000 area families. Named Food Bank of the Year by America’s Second Harvest, SAFB may be a stop to put on your volunteer to-do list. Heck, with the most recent economic reports on joblessness trends, they may be on your shopping list before long.

2. TIE
San Antonio River Foundation
sariverfoundation.org

Goodwill Industries
goodwill.org

__________________________________________________________________

Best Bike Mechanic
Bike World, Broadway location

5911 Broadway
(210) 828-5558
bikeworld.com
Bike World on Broadway also won Best Bike Shop.


Justin Parr

A trip to Bike World for a repair is always an educational experience. No piece of bicycle knowledge is too rare for Carlos. Nothing is too complicated that it can’t be explained. With Bike World and Carlos you know you are in good hands.  Quality service becomes the expectation. The unexpected is the conversation and exchange of ideas that transpires in the shop, often random but intriguing: a discussion of the best fajitas in town, politics, the best bike route to take to Helotes, an ode to Sandbar’s key-lime pie, a discussion of steel versus carbon frames … anything is fair game. Perhaps this is why so many cyclists are always hanging out there.

__________________________________________________________________

Best Bike Shop
Bike World, Broadway location

5911 Broadway
(210) 828-5558
bikeworld.com
Bike World on Broadway also won Best Bike Mechanic.

A trip to Bike World for a repair is always an educational experience. No piece of bicycle knowledge is too rare for Carlos. Nothing is too complicated that it can’t be explained. With Bike World and Carlos you know you are in good hands.  Quality service becomes the expectation. The unexpected is the conversation and exchange of ideas that transpires in the shop, often random but intriguing: a discussion of the best fajitas in town, politics, the best bike route to take to Helotes, an ode to Sandbar’s key-lime pie, a discussion of steel versus carbon frames … anything is fair game. Perhaps this is why so many cyclists are always hanging out there.

2. TIE:
Blue Star
1414 S Alamo St
(210) 212-5506
bluestarbrewing.com

Bicycle Heaven
20323 Huebner
(210) 494-0035
bicycle-heaven.com

Ride Away Bicycles
Multiple locations
rideawaybicycles.com

__________________________________________________________________

Finest Athlete
Manu Ginobili, guard

San Antonio Spurs

A couple of years ago, the conventional wisdom was that Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had hit the downside of his career, a case of a player who recklessly threw his body around on the court and had become old at 28. If last season didn’t convince us to re-think that position, this year left no doubt. With Tony Parker battling injuries and Tim Duncan sliding gracefully into elder-statesman mode, Ginobili took charge and brilliantly carried this team to another playoff berth. Forget his All-Star snub. Manu received the important recognition: He’s your choice as SA’s premier athlete.

__________________________________________________________________

Funniest Defensive Driving Instructor
Jay LaFarr, Comedy Speed Relief

thatstheticketdds.com

Under Texas law, the completion of a defensive-driving class allows the dismissal of one traffic ticket per year. Even if it’s better than a violation hitting your driving record, anyone who’s sat through a defensive-driving class can tell you what a drag it is. San Antonio’s Comedy Speed Relief, formerly known as That’s The Ticket, counters your doldrums by joining a rising wave of schools whose classes are taught by professional comedians. Jay LaFarr and Danny Ingle garnered slots one and two, respectively, and both are instructors at CSR. LaFarr, who said he moved to San Antonio to get away from his ex-girlfriend who lives in the comedic hotbed of New York, is a stand-up comedian who tours more than half of each year and has been teaching at CSR for four years off and on. “I try to keep things upbeat,” said LaFarr. “We have to cover all the material, but try to make it so it’s not the mind-numbing awful experience that we all know.”

2. Danny Ingle
Comedy Speed Relief
thatstheticketdds.com

3. Chuck Robinson
Funny Bone
funnyboneschools.com

__________________________________________________________________

Most tireless injustice antagonist
Amy Kastely


Antonia Padilla

Just to recap, 210er: “Whose streets? Our streets!”
I know it sunk in at the International Women’s Day march and rally, but you know how things wear down and off. Well, local attorney isn’t letting forgivable mortal lethargy hinder her contest with the City of San Antonio over the Right to March, Speak, and generally have Constitutionally-Protected Livingness an’ stuff. Representing the Free Speech Coalition and a mélange of non-profs, Kasteley got the case against SA’s parade ordinance past and present before a federal judge and on the road to a fall trial. More than a few of you wrote in to salute her for her pro-bono gift to local democracy.

2. Tie:
Roddy Stinson, late of the San Antonio Express-News

Terri Hall, Texas Toll Party, TURF

Elaine Wolff & the San Antonio Current

__________________________________________________________________

Best Cab Service
Yellow Cab
(210) 222-2222
yellowcabsanantonio.com

You’d think that touted GPS and computer-dispatch system would prevent incidents in which you watch your bright-yellow airport lift cruise by a few blocks down, while the dispatcher you’ve anxiously rung up explains that the cabbie can’t find you. OK, that happened to the Current once, but you, SA, must be having better experiences, or the number — a stroke of simplistic brilliance — is just the easiest to remember when you’re drunkies and need a cab that seats six to haul you and your five new best friends from Retama to Coyote Ugly.

__________________________________________________________________

Best Computer Repair Person/Shop
Gigabites & Java/Roman Lopez & Brandon Day

621 E. Dewey
(210) 736-3844
gigabitesandjava.com

Located on the corner of Dewey and N. St. Mary’s, Gigabites and Java is a bright-yellow building that’s more than likely caught your eye before. But the wonders it contains within! The gaming/computer repair/deli/WiFi hotspot was the first genre-bending locale of its sort, owned and run by an exceedingly friendly and knowledeable pair of brothers, Roman Lopez and Brandon Day. While Day is most often the face of the operation, Lopez is the bug-squashing computer tech. Gamers enjoy hubs for XBOX 360, Playstation 3, and high-speed PCs, while computer repair and upgrade questions are directed toward Lopez, who charges no diagnostic fee. The full-service deli caters to everyone, containing all Boars Head meats and cheeses, and a lunch package of a sandwich, soda, and one hour of gaming will run you $8.95 + tax.

__________________________________________________________________

Best Plumber
Beyer Boys Plumbing Co.

4711 Broom St.
(210) 656-9027
beyerboys.com

There really are three boys at Beyer: Perry, Pat, and Jeff. Make that four, at least. Brother-in-law Brad Dawson handles the PR. The Beyer Boys do HVAC and construction work, among other things, but the plumbing side of the business, run by Perry, has been around the longest, since 1990. “It’s kind of like being married. You choose your battles,” says Perry, the oldest of the crew.The Beyer Boys are Fed-approved, too; last year they worked on the FBI building. What makes them stand out from other pipes outfits? “I would say same-day service,” says Dawson. “Within a window of two or three hours, we can get to somebody.” They really are 24/7, too, and if those pipes burst in that surprise Thanksgiving thaw you won’t pay extra for the call. Beyer Boys flat-rate pricing also means that if that leaky beeswax ring turns out to be a cracked fitting, you pay the original estimate. “We try to do the best job we can,” adds Perry. “That’s what’s gotten us wehre we are.”

2. (TIE) Bryco Plumbing Co., Inc.
14117 Toepperwein
(210) 655-2552
brycoplumbing.com

3. Aramendia Plumbing Ltd.
5511 Brewster
(210) 654-1034
aramendiaplumbing.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Electrician
Good Electric

(210) 820-0220
goodelectricltd.com

San Antonian Larry Good’s 24-year-old electrical business prides itself on its ability to “get things in the walls” without disturbing your sheet rock or messing up your floors. Good worked as a builder previously, so he “knows how homes are built.” His firm also specializes in motor controls, complex jobs for waterworks and other major industrial operations. A master electrician, Good will cheerfully explain the origin of such arcane-sounding terms as “journeyman” (“It kind of goes back to the old feudal system ... ” Ask him; it’s interesting). His crew is background-checked and drug-tested, too.

__________________________________________________________________

Most Honest Foundation Repair
Perma-Jack San Antonio by Meinhardt Stabilizing, Inc.

1418 Bitters Road
(210) 545-3939
permajack.com
Paul Wolf lived next door to the people who patented the Perma-Jack system in St. Louis, Missouri, and in 1979 he bought the patent for San Antonio, knowing full well what he was getting himsef into in those lovely historic neighborhoods — that 22-feet high-water mark by the Quarry Market is basically the cutoff for any kind of consistent bedrock foundation, Wolf says. That’s why in these parts, the company promises that they’ll drive those steel piers down to a “load-bearing capacity strata.” It works like a charm for concrete-slab homes, even those in infamously porous Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills.

2. Arredondo Group
6004 Grissom
(210) 645-6811
arredondogroup.com

3. San Antonio House Leveling
10555 O’Connor Rd.
(210) 946-5670
sahouseleveling.com

__________________________________________________________________


Best Pest-control Service
Worldwide Pest Control

5808 IH-10W
(210) 734-0000
worldwidepest.com

I’m guessing that the red neon ant off I-10 at Vance Jackson brought in the votes for Worldwide Pest Control. Though the 20-year veteran warrior against urban nature has instituted “green” options for its customers recently, I would have liked to see more votes come in for Tom Delay (1), Mafia (1), or even a foot (1) and Jaco, the dog (1). Too fun. But before you douse that fire-ant hill with a pound of toxics, consider loosing some disappearing horny toads. Someone would eat those stinging buggers if you let them — though it may take dedicating a corner of that turf to a more natural habitat.
Kermit Bless You.

2. Spiderman Termite & Pest Control
10902 Wye
(210) 656-3721
spidermanpestcontrol.net

3. ABC Pest & Lawn
10644 IH 35 North
(210) 599-9500
abcpest.com

__________________________________________________________________

Most Honest Car Dealership
Gunn Auto

Multiple Locations
gunnauto.com

Wasn’t that long ago that Best Buy got busted for selling in-store merch at one price but offering customers online inventory access to marked-up stock. If the electronics titan hadda been a car lot, the practice would never have made the news. There’s a reason car dealers have the rep they do. But you’re not about to get taken at a Gunn lot, thanks to the “One Simple Price” mantra that eliminates haggling and manipulative sales shakedowns. By taking commissions out of the equation, you can save your copper stock for that glass-pack muffler and dizzy rims.

2. Cavender Auto Group
Multiple locations
Cavenderauto.com

3. CarMax
Multiple locations
carmax.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Auto Mechanic
The Dealer Alternative

951 E. Bitters, Suite 401
(210) 930-2300

OK, all I can say is, this Tony guy must really kick ass. For starters: his garage is way the shit out in Hill Country Village. (I didn’t even think our papers were dropped that far out of the Loop…) Number two, Tony’s suavitos of rusting radiators and gunked pistons operate out of a suite. Apparently. With my spider sense a’twangling, I was gonna check this pick out personally, but I fell back on a little MacGyver trick I know involving an eight-track motor, 17 pipe cleaners, and some glue sparkle, and my Nadine’s running like her old self again. At $3.25 a gallon, I’d hate to waste anyone’s time. Know what I’m saying? But Tony, if the sparkle don’t stick, I’m stickin’ with our readers and making the voyage north.

__________________________________________________________________

Most Dedicated Club Owner/Music Promoter
Jacob Larkey
Cigar Club

18730 Stone Oak Pkwy
(210) 490-9340
sacigars.com


Antonia Padilla

Located along the upscale Stone Oak strip, Cigar Club is a worthy destination for young professionals. The loungy atmosphere boasts a rotating crop of musical talent and a nightly drink specials up the ante, but the club’s claim to fame is still its full-service humidor. Owner Jacob Larkey could easily be one of his own patrons — in his mid-20s, Larkey relates to his target audience and imparts an energetic and youthful outlook to his growing business. Larkey’s strength lies in his involvement with the entire process, from separating cigars and booking the lineup to running the joint. A San Antonio native, Larkey was preceded in ownership by his mother and Cigar Club founder, Kandis Larkey, and it’s obvious he believes strongly in creating a unique vibe for the city’s hip set.

2. Sam Asvestas/The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

3. Tie:
Twin Productions
Myspace.com/twinproductionssa

Tony Chainsaw
These days you'll most likely find him at Rock Bottom
1033 Ave B
(210) 320-2387


Best local radio talk-show host
Lisle & Hahn

99.5 KISS FM
Morning’s talk-radio horse race kinked about on the fringes this year, but the undisputed SA-debased middle-school humorists can keep their gleaming throne (and bristled throne cleaner) for another year: Lisle & Hahn reign supreme and kiss their lucky stars and bars that Kidd Chris loiters in Philly still. Several of you also commented on the recent management decision to move Chris Duel off the news rant at KTSA into tamer waters with comments such as “RIP” and “Mistake to move him.”

2. Tie:

Joe "pags" Pagliarulo
WOAI 1200 AM
radio.woai.com

Chris Duel
formerly with KTSA 550AM
now on ESPN 1250AM

__________________________________________________________________

Best radio station, news
Texas Public Radio

89.1 FM KSTX
tpr.org

To get the best of National Public Programming interstiched with Alamo City happenings, Current readers risk almost certain gospel exposure at the dial’s low end of 89.1. But it’s all good. Intelligent (no ranting) talk and call-in shows you’ve come to love over decades of liberal indoctrination such as Diane “Polite Pause” Rehm’s show and (our favorite) the hubby-and-wife tag-teaming Texas Matters with David Martin Davies and Yvette Benavides. (True Fact: NPR listeners were less likely to believe Saddam played Anal Park with Super Terrormeister bin Laden. Tune in. Get disillusioned.)

2. 1200 AM WOAI
radio.woai.com

3. 550 AM KTSA
ktsa.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Radio Station, Music
KSYM 90.1 FM

accd.edu/sac/ksym

With its four-hour daily dose of Third Coast Network programming, KSYM delivers some of the best regional and roots-oriented music found on the SA airwaves. Throw in popular weekend shows such as Brian Parrish’s freewheeling “The Casbah,” Richard Turner’s eternally fab “Best of the Beatles,” and Hank Harrison’s time-tripping “Hillbilly Hit Parade,” and you have a consistently good reason to listen to local radio.

2. KRTU 91.7 FM
krtu.org

3. KISS 99.5 FM
kissrocks.com

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Least Trashy Evening News
KENS 5
mysanantonio.com

The dream team of local nightly news, KENS 5 offers the comedic Ron Burgundy routines of Chris Marrou, the warmth and family-oriented advice tidbits of Sarah Lucero, the lunch-pail aesthetic of Joe “Six Pack” Reinagel, and the affability of Bill “Stormy Weather” Taylor. They’re a team in the best sense, but Marrou will always be first among equals, cracking wise and puzzling us with his hairline. Stay classy, KENS 5!

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Finest local columnist
Cary Clack

San Antonio Express-News
From the legacies of our great orators — JFK and MLK — through mundanities of turn signals and being called the wrong name, to the severities of war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, Clack gathers his facts and arranges them with tasteful sprigs of neighborliness and civility. In an era of bash radio and scorched-earth blogging, it’s nice to know the voice of friendly reminders still has a place with us. Of course, we only catch him when we really spread out the paper. By the time we’re done with Metro we’re typically heading out the door. Are Clack’s coattails really wide enough to bring needed eyeballs into Features? Time will tell.

2. Carlos Guerra
San Antonio Express-News

3. Jim Beale Jr.
San Antonio Express-News

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Most Pro News Anchor
TIE
Chris Marrou
KENS 5
mysanantonio.com

Randy Beamer
WOAI News 4
woai.com

Chris Marrou is like one of those crusty soap-opera actors who hang around for about 40 years and look like kind of lost next to the young hardbodies around them, but can’t be fired, because the old-school fans would riot. In a desperate attempt to prove his sense of humor, Marrou made an ill-advised joke about the stars of Brokeback Mountain receiving “best actress awards,” and has been known to hand out cookies to rush-hour motorists. Not that he’s gimmicky or anything.
By comparison, WOAI’s Randy Beamer is a straight-ahead newscaster who likes handling the camera and has delivered eyewitness reports from places as distant as Iraq and Sri Lanka.

2. Ursula Pari
KSAT 12
ksat.com

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Most Accurate Weather(wo)man
Steve Browne

KSAT 12
ksat.com


courtesy

There are two types of weather people. One group, like the character Nicole Kidman played in To Die For, view Doppler radar and precipitation forecasts as nothing more than an easy ticket to a television career. The other group actually live to talk about meteorological issues. KSAT’s Steve Brown falls into the latter category. After all, this is a guy who read the daily weather report over his school’s PA system every morning when he was in junior high! A meteorologist with experience in Boston, Atlanta, and Cleveland, he’s been the backbone of the KSAT team for the last 16 years.

2. Jennifer Broome
WOAI 4
woai.com

3. Maclorio Perez
WOAI 4
woai.com

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Most Entertaining Sportscaster
Greg Simmons

KSAT 12
ksat.com

Greg Simmons is the silver-haired old pro of San Antonio TV sports news. An Alamo City native with a cool tone of assurance and a dry sense of humor, he can convince you that the Spurs’ latest slump is no cause for worry, and guide you through the maze of local high-school football. Best of all, his Sunday night “Instant Replay” show is the most informative 30 minutes of sports coverage to be found in SA.

2. Jennifer Reinagel
KENS 5
mysanantonio.com

3. Don Harris
WOAI 4
woai.com

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Best Local Blogger
Emvergeoning.com

Emvergeoning blew away the competition with a whopping fo … well, suffice it to say: Take that Mark Jones. The Aaron Forland-invented title, which sounds a little like a conglomeration of emerging and burgeoning and a bit more like slang for hymen-reconstruction surgery, has been providing meaningful coverage of local and national arts since mid-December ’06, by founder Ben Judson’s approximation. Judson, along with (Current contributing photographer) Justin Parr, and Emvergeoning’s most recent addition, Bunnyphonic, have created a place to spotlight the interesting discourse occurring in SA’s art community, and to act as an entryway of sorts for newbies/non-artists/artist-groupies.

2. Mark Jones
On The Street
sacurrent.com

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Best Local YouTuber
Splat Pat & Splat TV

youtube.com/user/SPLATTV2



courtesy

If the affinities of 39-year-old Pisces/male Splat TV weren’t apparent in his work, the “hobbies and interests” portion of his YouTube page, which reads: “BACKING UP THE BLAZIN' BANDITAS REBEL ROLLER DERBY TEAM!!” should make things apparent. Splat TV’s oeuvre also includes videos of More Fire and Sweet Scull. Get the big picture at myspace.com/SPLATTV.

Um, word to the wise, I wouldn’t steal this dude’s bike, or you could be the victim of “SOME KIND OF BRUCE LEE, CHUCK NORRIS FLYING SIDE KICK” as you’re called a “FUCKIN' PUSSY” many, many times.

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Best local website
Mysa.com

With video news on demand courtesy of KENS5, and a smorgasbord of news-of-the-day content from the X-News contingent, Current readers selected mysa.com as their favorite local website again this year. Sure, you can catch your weather updates, scroll used car pics and traffic updates from around the commutersphere at this confab creation, but readers also noticed the rising news, bloggin’, and chisme content, with streaming local musicians, at the Current site this year, dubbing it their second stop on the web. Keep clicking, netizens. We are being digitized.

2. sacurrent.com
3. sasports.com

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Best Hook-up site
MySpace.com

Oh, dear. Just as long as you’re hooking up with friends of friends and not random strangers, San Antonio. You know, because I hear the Murdoch-owned MySpace is actually a great place to hook up with evil moms who’re just posing as hot guys in order to destroy you. One can’t be too careful. And a word of advice: Beware the self-taken photograph. One per person folks, or we’ll be wondering exactly how much time you spend snapping pix of yourself. Just because we slap the Current’s mug onto our Space each week …

2. Craigslist.org
3. Adultfriendfinder.com


Best Korean BBQ
Ilsong Garden

6905 Blanco
(210) 366-4508

The Queen of Korean has more on her mind than that country’s sweetly saucy barbecue these days, at least from the look of the menu with its many Japanese specialties — sushi included. Islong filet mingon and Chef Young’s beef tenderloin shishkabob occupy pride of place on the menu “For the Discerning Palate,” as does a “choice” bulgogi made from marinated ribeye. But fans of basic KQ can still find three versions plus a couple of rib options — and frankly, we all know it’s the small plates of panchan/banchan that we’re there for; the entrée is just a formality.

2. Go Hyang Jib
4403 Rittiman
(210) 590-4336

3. Hsiu Yu
8338 Broadway
(210) 828-2273

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Best Sunday Brunch
Madhatters Tea House and Café

320 Beauregard
(210) 212-4832
madhatterstea.com

Playing host to both the Sunday churchgoing crowd and the bunch that lounges in bed till noon, Madhatters’ Sunday Brunch goes above and beyond the bacon and eggs buffet line. The Eggs Benedict topped with grilled artichoke or smoked salmon reigns supreme paired with the unique chipolte hollandaise sauce. We recommend swapping out with a friend and trying one artichoke, one salmon. If breakfast breads are more your style, the English French Toast is soaked, then grilled, and English Muffins are topped with bananas, strawberries, and whipped cream. If you’re going for it, bottomless mimosas are worth the extra charge and promise to jump-start a Sunday Funday. But get there around noon to obtain your money’s worth — brunch ends at 3 p.m.

2. Magnolia Pancake Haus
606 Embassy Oaks
(210) 496-0828
magnoliapancakehaus.com

3. Tie:
Le Peep
Multiple locations, lepeepsa.com

Guenther House
205 E. Guenther
(210) 227-1061
guentherhouse.com

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Best Paletería
El Paraiso Paleteria

1934 Fredericksburg Rd.
(210) 737-8101


File photo

Some folks look for the Mountain Laurel’s purple blooms, and others keep an eye out for that long Cornyation tix line at the Fiesta store. But for the Current, spring has finally sprung when we make our first 80-degree-day pilgrimage to the Deco District’s El Paraiso for a rainbow box of paletas — packed with a little dry ice for the long ride home. The dozens of flavors, made on site, include mango with chile, horchata (made from the cinnamon-seasoned rice drink), pecan, chocolate, and pickle. El Paraiso’s always on top of the trends, too, putting out, i.e., Lucas pops faster than you can say, “Hey, doesn’t that stuff rot your tooth enamel?” Grab a plastic basket, reach your hands into the freezers, and grab away — we haven’t discovered a loser yet.

2. La Palatera
Multiple locations
lapaletera.com

3. Las Nieves
4310 Blanco
(210) 735-9884

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Best 24/7 Restaurant
Jim’s

Multiple locations
Jimsrestaurants.com

Most of the restaurants in Jim Hasslocher’s homegrown empire are open late, not 24/7, but we can vouch for the central Broadway and 410 location, and you can research the rest at jimsrestaurants.com. Although SA now has a plethora of all-night eateries, from Mi Tierra to Taco Garage (weekends), maybe that homey diner feel — and the $4.99 Pioneer Breakfast (biscuits and gravy, two eggs any style, and coffee) — counts for something extra in the witching hour.

2. Mi Tierra Café & Bakery
218 Produce Row
(210) 782-8496
mitierracafe.com

3. iHop
Multiple locations
Ihop.com

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Best Barbecue
Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q

Multiple locations
Rudys.com

Rudy’s is a good reminder that behind every chain is a wo/man and a myth, and that sometimes purveyors of rustic Texana are actually hawking a reasonable facsimile. In this case, those occasional long Sunday lines outside the “country store” (quotes theirs) began in 1989 in scenic Leon Springs, when Q was added to the 60-year-old gas station and grocery. From there, the family-owned business, a direct descendant of the Leon Springs founder Max Aue, spread as far as Lubbock, El Paso, and even Albuquerque. But, shoot, we’re just reading this off the website so we can finish this writeup and head out to second-place winner and personal favorite Bob’s Smokehouse. `See our San Antonio Backyard Barbecue Issue, October 17, 2007, to find out why.`

2. Bob’s Smokehouse
6151 FM 78
(210) 661-4777

3. Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse
3709 N. St. Mary’s
(210) 735-0088
augiesbarbedwiresmokehouse.com

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Best Buffalo Wings
Wingstop

Multiple locations
wingstop.com

Yep, it’s a chain all right, but it’s a Texas chain, quarterbacked by one of the greatest ball-ferriers of all time (and we’ve seen many a sports star make a more embarrassing product-endorsement choice). So sue our readers. The Current recently completed a survey of a dozen local wing joints `see “Wings of Fire,” March 5-11`, and Wingstop came out near the very top for us, too, with its devotion to a pure, buttery hot sauce with just the right balance between tang and spice.

2. Buffalo Wild Wings
Multiple locations
buffalowildwings.com

3. Hooters
Multiple locations
hooters.com

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Best Bakery
Broadway Daily Bread

5162 Broadway
(210) 822-1621
broadwaydailybread.net/


Jennifer Herrera

About, oh, four months ago, some asshole introduced me to the egg sandwich. I don’t really do sandwiches, but I do do eggs and I definitely do cheese. As a result, I’ve become a breadoisseur. (If you think I’m going to put my fluffy, folded eggs and aged white-cheddar cheese on Mrs. Baird’s floppy white shit, you’re wrong.) Anyway, I’ve got two words for you: Nine grain. At about a buck more than a loaf of Oroweat, you can’t go wrong with Broadway Daily Bread’s fresh, chemical-free, whole-wheat loaf, textured with nine grains and adorned with oatmeal.

2. Mi Tierra
218 Produce Row
(210) 782-8496
mitierracafe.com

3. El Sol Bakery and Bistro
728 S. Presa
(210) 227-9888
elsolbakery.com

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Best Sushi
Sushi Zushi

multiple locations
sushizushi.com

Can you say, “dynasty?” For the fifth year in a row, Texas chain Sushi Zushi earned the most votes from our readers — and why not? It’s a reliably trendy, tasty way to get your fishy fix. SZ was my first real foray into the world of raw fish (trips to the coast not withstanding), and while it might not be as authentic as Niki’s, or as decadently delicious as Godai (Goro is a sushi genius), it makes up for those shortcomings with a huge menu of creative, oft-Latin-inspired rolls and Asian cuisine (plus, you gotta love those Volkswagen delivery bugs).
Like the saying goes: You never forget your first. (Oh, and to the person who voted for “Sushi Zooshi,” I think you’re onto something: Live animals + raw fish = best dining experience ever. Restaurateurs, take note!)

2. Godai Sushi Bar and Japanese Restaurant
11203 West Ave
(210) 348-6781
godaishushi.com.

3. Niki’s Tokyo Inn
819 W. Hildebrand Ave
(210) 736-5471.

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Best Thai
Tong’s Thai

1146 Austin Hwy., (210) 829-7345, tongsthai.com

As the Current learned last year, you don't come between a Thai restaurant and its customers — especially the fans of Chef Chai Ngamsomjan's Thai Chili. For those of you about to point fingers over Thai Chili’s third-place finish, remember that this is a reader's poll — and while an impassioned few were quick to jump on critic Ron Bechtol over his September 2007 Thai Chili review (he still goes out in a hat and fake beard), they weren't enough to topple Tong’s Thai from the top spot.

Tong’s is a wise choice: its superior Pad Thai is sticky-sweet and stuffed with chicken, succulent shrimp and fried tofu. Wash it down with their trademark bubble tea and you have Thai to die for.

2. Thai Dee
5307 Blanco Rd.
(210) 342-3622

3. Thai Chili Oriental Restaurant
4303 Thousand Oaks
(210) 656-8589
thaichili.net

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Best Vietnamese
Viet Nam Restaurant

3244 Broadway
(210) 822-7461

Viet Nam Restaurant is a San Antonio staple, and to become one, it has made the usual accommodations: dishes from other parts of its home continent, and an emphasis on the specialities that have made it into the American dining lexicon: richly accessorized phó and some of the most decadent spring rolls in town. Still, there are clay pots and banh xeó for the purist, the slightly worn, homey surroundings are the antithesis to the recent plague of formica-covered Asian chains, and the staff couldn’t be more helpful or pleasant.

2. Saigon Express
1626 McCullough
(210) 277-1899

3. Van’s Chinese Seafood
3214 Broadway St
(210) 828-8449
vansrestaurantonline.com

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Best Chinese
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Multiple locations
Pfchangs.com

We feel your pain: It’s really hard to find a viable, non-corporate Chinese alternative to P.F. Chang’s. Foodie faves such as Phoenix Café aren’t uniformly reliable; Chef Chan’s is best for dim sum … At least PFC is nicely decorated, it has an exceptional wine list and, er, it’s safe. The corporation also has thoughtfully provided an online menu with nutritional information for each dish, and you will never eat Kung Pao Chicken again — here or anywhere else — as a result. So, do your research, order wine, and contribute to the corporate bottom line — until a better local alternative comes along.

2. Tie:
Golden Wok
Multiple locations
golden-wok.com

China Latina
1014 S. Alamo
(210) 271-3103

3. Hsiu Yu
8338 Broadway
(210) 828-2273

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Best Deli
W.D. Deli

3123 Broadway
(210) 828-2322
wddeli.com

In two more years, Wayne Beers and Michael Bobo’s homey sandwich-and-soup haven turns 20, and while they continue to serve generously overstuffed lunch classics (don’t come between us and our pimiento-cheese sandwich) in a historic home and reputed former trannie bar (how else to explain the oversize grand staircase, put to such good use in their occasional, wildly popular drag brunches), they’re not resting on their laurels: They’ve recently started offering more vegetarian options to meet customer demand. Nor have they lost the personal touch. A February 13 visit this year netted us a special-edition W.D. Deli mix tape, a valentine to their customers.

2. Jason’s Deli
Multiple locations
jasonsdeli.com

3. Schilo’s Delicatesssen
424 E. Commerce
(210) 223-6692

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Best Sub Shop/Grinder
Subway

Multiple locations
Subwayfreshbuzz.com

Subway, founded in 1965 by a 17-year-old Connecticut college student, is way older than the Current, and as part of its mid-life crisis, it’s going green by introducing a LEED-certified eco-store concept. Something to think about next time you’re contributing to the 2,800 sandwiches and salads the company sells worldwide every 60 seconds. Their milk is 100-percent hormone-free, too, according to the website. So those man-boobs are coming from somewhere else.

2. Thundercloud
Multiple locations
Thundercloud.com

3. Quizno’s
Multiple locations
Quiznos.com

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Best River Walk Restaurant
Boudro’s

421 E. Commerce
(210) 224-8484
boudros.com


Jeanna Goodrich

The Current wasn’t wooed to SA; she came willingly, but a frequent freelancer whose day job romances employment candidates recently confirmed what we’ve long suspected: Boudro’s is one of the shiny lures used to land big fish on the banks of the San Antonio River. And no wonder, the decidedly contemporary Southwestern-style restaurant — and its nearby sibling Zinc Wine Bar — keep the busy River Bend area from feeling entirely like a Lone Star theme park. Boudro’s lives up to its “Texas bistro” tag with ambitious soups and entrees, but of course it’s most famous for its guacamole, prepared tableside with plenty of fire-roasted salsa, red onion, and freshly squeezed citrus. Wash it down with the equally renowned Prickly Pear Margarita, made with the fruit of the cactus.

2. Dick’s Last Resort
406 Navarro
(210) 224-0026
dickslastresort.com

3. Tie:
Biga on the Banks
203 S. St. Marys
(210) 225-0722
biga.com

Ácenar Comida Mexicana
146 E. Houston
(210) 222-2362
acenar.com

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Best vegetarian options
Green Vegetarian Cuisine

1017 N. Flores
(210) 320-5865
greensanantonio.com

Like their signature monster PB&J spread heavy with that jalapeño jelly and topped with homemade faux-sausagey meatstuff, the all-vegetarian Green is a taste and texture adventure. To an extent. When owner-operator chef Mike Behrend gave up the deep fryers and greater-than-face-sized cinnamon rolls at Lulu’s Bakery and Café and dropped 90 pounds on a no-meat diet, he wanted to help the rest of the city transition, too. That made the mission “delicious and affordable vegetarian comfort food.” So while you may hit some duds in the quest to convert the old familiars (like the greater-than-finger-sized logs of spiced-up tofu), you are more likely to gain with cruelty-free palette-pleasers like the chicken-fried wheat meat and a most extraordinary neatloaf.
Showing Behrend their appreciation, Current voters levitated Green not only to top pick for veggie choices by a landslide, but kicked Behrend a number two for Best Chef, to boot!

2. The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

3. Twin Sisters Bakery + Cafe
6322 N New Braunfels Ave
(210) 822-0761
twinsistersbakeryandcafe.com

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Most Talented Local Chef
Andrew Weissman

Le Rêve. Sandbar. Big’z. Sip. Contemporary Italian restaurant in the Pearl Brewery (coming soon). restaurantlereve.com
Weissman’s Le Rêve also won Best Expensive Restaurant and Best Wait Staff.


Justin Parr

Andrew Weissman is a driven man. As if it weren’t enough to have been called Best Restaurant in Texas by one publication and number six in the U.S. by another, now he’s garnered yet another James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest. But that’s not all: The chef we associate with upscale French cuisine has always had an Italian itch, and it’s about to be scratched at a new restaurant to open, by late October, in the Pearl Brewery project. Serving from breakfast through dinner, “it will be something the State of Texas has never seen,” says Weissman. “Five-star dining in a casual concept” was mentioned. We believe him. And in the meantime, we’ll be noshing at Big’z when we need a burger fix (order it dirty for a dollar), slurping oysters at Sandbar, and sipping latte at Sip, his downtown coffee shop.
Weissman doesn’t do it alone, of course. Le Rêve’s refined atmosphere is created in large part by his impeccably dressed, well-trained, polite, and politic staff, who will help you navigate the four-hour dining expedition — and the wine list (Fabian was a runner-up for Smartest Sommelier, too). It’s not for the fidgety, or those who object to reservations and dinner jackets for men, but it is divine.

2. Mike Behrend
Green Vegetarian Cuisine and Coffee
1017 N. Flores
(210) 320-5865
greensanantonio.com

3. TIE:
Damien Watel
Bistro Vatel, La Frite, Ciao Lavanderia, Ciel (coming soon). bistrovatel.com
Jason Dady, Bin 555, The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, bin555.com. thelodgerestaurant.com

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Best Expensive Restaurant
Restaurant Le Rêve

152 E. Pecan
(210) 212-2221
restaurantlereve.com
Le Rêve also won Most Pro Wait Staff and Chef Andrew Weissman won Most Talented Local Chef.

Andrew Weissman is a driven man. As if it weren’t enough to have been called Best Restaurant in Texas by one publication and number six in the U.S. by another, now he’s garnered yet another James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest. But that’s not all: The chef we associate with upscale French cuisine has always had an Italian itch, and it’s about to be scratched at a new restaurant to open, by late October, in the Pearl Brewery project. Serving from breakfast through dinner, “it will be something the State of Texas has never seen,” says Weissman. “Five-star dining in a casual concept” was mentioned. We believe him. And in the meantime, we’ll be noshing at Big’z when we need a burger fix (order it dirty for a dollar), slurping oysters at Sandbar, and sipping latte at Sip, his downtown coffee shop.
Weissman doesn’t do it alone, of course. Le Rêve’s refined atmosphere is created in large part by his impeccably dressed, well-trained, polite, and politic staff, who will help you navigate the four-hour dining expedition — and the wine list (Fabian TK was a runner-up for Smartest Sommelier, too). It’s not for the fidgety, or those who object to reservations and dinner jackets for men, but it is divine.

2. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Multiple locations
ruthschrissa.com

3. Silo Elevated Cuisine
434 N. Loop 1604 West
(210) 483-8989
siloelevatedcuisine.com

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Best AYCE Buffet
Golden Corral

Multiple locations, goldencorral.com

Golden Corral used to be old hat for me. As a sweaty 12-year old stained in red dirt and soaked in sun, I used to file in with the rest of my starving softball troupe after playing nine games in a weekend tournament. If the defining element of your restaurant is buffet-style all you can eat, my parents were the focus of your advertising campaign. Golden Corral isn’t a destination for light eaters. It’s the place you go when you want the most bang for your buck. And bang we did — I can’t otherwise remember eating so many different kinds of food that had no business being on the same plate together, topped off with an ice-cream sundae with every possible kind of sprinkle, nut, cookie, and syrup mixed in.

2. Chopsticks
4903 NW Loop 410
(210) 521-1177

3. China Harbor
Multiple locations including 3662 Fredericksburg
(210) 735-9988

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Best Indian
India Palace

8440 Fredericksburg
(210) 692-5262

15909 San Pedro
(210) 403-3688
indiapalacesa.com
India Palace’s creamy saag paneer, with its perfect cubes of firm, mild cheese, could justify its Best of SA title all by itself, but the perfectly spiced chana masala (chock full of melt-in-your-mouth chick peas) is delicious, too. The star, though, might just be the fluffy, delicately seasoned rice — tasty enough to eat on its own, not that there’s any need to do that. The original Fredericksburg location is growing out of its pink-and-red space into a larger setting in the same strip center, which also holds an Indian and Pakistani grocery.

2. India Oven, 1031 Patricia, (210) 366-1030, indiaoven.com
3. Simi’s, 4535 Fredericksburg, (210) 366-1030

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Best Local Pizza
Dough Pizzeria Napoletana

6989 Blanco
(210) 979-6565
doughpizzeria.com


File photo

In honor of this new family-owned joint’s triumph in the local pizza category, we reprint our New York critic’s first impression from our January 9 Pizza Issue: The oven, ingredients, and cooking methods are all certified by the Italian government … This is truly the real thing, and its upscale nature and impeccable service place it in a league of its own. Those not familiar with this type of pizza might be put off by the fresh mozzarella, as it does have a higher moisture content than the cheese Americans are used to. But what happens when the milkiness of the cheese meets with the sweet and tart bite of the sauce is heaven. And the crust … so crispy and savory, geez, I could bring it home with me and tuck it into bed at night.

2. Goomba’s Pizzeria
7214 Blanco
(210) 348-9090

3. Main Street Pizza & Pasta
1906 N. Main
(210) 732-8861
mainstreetsa.com

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Best Steakhouse
Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Downtown: 1170 E. Commerce (210) 227-8847
Concord Plaza: 7720 Jones-Maltsberger (210) 821-5051
ruthschrissa.com

It’s hard to begrudge the success of a single mother from New Orleans, whose creation myth has her buying the first Chris Steak House in 1965 in the Crescent City when she couldn’t make ends meet as a lab technician. Our local outposts of the chain serve properly cooked and aged beef on the signature sizzling platter, and local franchisee owner Lana Duke continues Ruth Fertel’s tradition of child-rearing through involvement with Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives residence and counseling center for kids in tough places.

2. Outback Steak House
Multiple locations
outback.com

3. Texas Roadhouse
2893 Cinema Ridge
(210) 521-2988
texasroadhouse.com

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Best Italian
Paesanos

Multiple locations, paesanos.com

Paesanos, which dates its SA arrival to no less a local legend than HemisFair, topped a long list of votes for Best Italian Food, besting local favorite Capparelli’s and national chain Olive Garden in a tight category. Sporting locations on the River Walk, 1604, and in Lincoln Heights, Paesanos is a prime destination for upscale Italian dining. The 1604 outpost boasts an impressive entry hall lined with hundreds of wine bottles guiding patrons to an extensive menu of pasta, seafood, chicken, veal, and bee. Classics like the Shrimp Paesano, lightly breaded, flavorful shrimp in a white wine lemon butter sauce, are perennial favorites, while departures like the Sesame Seared Tuna with Wasabi Potatoes and Soy Butter chart new territory.

2. Capparelli’s
Multiple locations, including:
2524 N. Main
(210) 735-5757

3. Olive Garden
Multiple locations
olivegarden.com

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Best Seafood
Sea Island Shrimp House

Multiple locations, seaislandshrimp.com
San Antonians are passionate about this homegrown chain and they’re not shy about it. This year, the beloved shrimp house won in a landslide victory, as they have for many years, but we’re down with it. This staffer had a teammate that used to eat at Sea Island with her family every Sunday after church, and it seems that many others grew up feasting there in accordance with family tradition that spans generations. We’ve a sappy love for oysters on the half-shell, and Sea Island’s are plump and flavorful. Shrimp lovers can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s namesake, quite probably its best asset. The Shrimp Feast combines fried Texas Gulf shrimp, lightly breaded charbroiled lemon-pepper shrimp, skewered grilled shrimp, and butterflied cooconut shrimp plus fries — enough to leave anyone stuffed for $10.99.

2. Pappadeaux
Multiple locations
pappadeaux.com

3. Red Lobster
Multiple locations
redlobster.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Salsa
Rosario’s

910 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1806
rosariossa.com
Rosario’s also won Best Mole and Tangiest Michelada.

Lisa Wong brought bright lights, big city to the cantina concept — aided by lots of concrete and a neon-lit faux palapa — and forged a Tex-Mex restaurant empire in Southtown that’s still frequented by the locals even as it becomes increasingly renowned among the travel and dining set. The cavernous interior pulsates with fun on busy nights, and the food ain’t bad, either, although it’s expectedly not as autentico as, say, Cascabel just down the road. Rosario’s award-winning mole is sweet and earthy, with barely a hint of spice, and the salsa is fresh, nicely roasted, and bottomless. Neither compares to the michelada, though, that margarita-bloody-mary- beer mongrel. After murmuring the ingredients back to us (tabasco, worcestershire, tomato-something, lime ... ) the bartender asks if we want salt (yes), inquires after our beer selection (Negro Modelo; unorthodox, but trust us), and shortly delivers a chilled schooner of the best summer chaser in town — mixed for you, so you can enjoy carbonated, spicy, tangy perfection all the way through.

2. Tie
La Fogata
2427 Vance Jackson Rd
(210) 340-1337
lafogata.com

The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

__________________________________________________________________

Best Nachos
Chacho’s

Multiple locations
Chachos.com
Chacho’s and Chacho’s and Chalucci’s also won Tastiest Margarita.


Jeanna Goodrich

The Life is Good philosophy purveyed by multi-category winner Chacho’s/Chacho’s & Chalucci’s is conveyed perfectly and pithily in this excerpt from Mark Jones’ February 2007 review of the latter entry in the locally grown Tex-Mex chain:
“Though they mass produce Mexican food in a fashion inspired by the Ford assembly-line technique, it is alcohol that defines C&C’s and gives it its raison d’etre.
There are so many good things to write about this enormous place — the skyscraping children’s playground that suggests a wholly different daytime family atmosphere, the after-hours shopping-mall-picnic-court atmosphere, the mysterious Chalucci whose Italian influence never materialized (as in, what happened to the pizza bar we were promised?) and, of course, the legions of workers drifting from distant corner to distant corner in various states of activity.
The place has a generally benevolent crowd mentality. People intersect constantly, and in various states of inebriation, and often with plates filled up to five, six, and seven inches deep with nachos..
Going to Chacho’s & Chalucci’s to test the bartender’s adroitness at making an Apple Martini, or even something simple like a vodka & tonic, makes very little sense. You order a margarita, perhaps top shelf if you’re feeling fancy; anything else goes against good horse sense.
The bartender is not the guy or gal in whom you’re going to confide that your wife just left you for the electrician. Such a confession would be met with a detached, existential stare; the bartender has made so many margaritas that it’s become second nature. I can just sense the repeated actions creating their own neuro-muscular memory. To do something that breaks this pattern invites ridicule and scorn from the people in line behind you. Get your margarita as quickly as possible and return to your seat to enjoy the show, because clearly there is a show going on. Early 20-somethings are all over this place text messaging, exchanging stares and numbers.
Chacho’s & Chalucci’s isn’t a melting pot in any real sense, but this is one of the few places in the city I can think of where you can find large numbers of Anglos, blacks, and Latinos all together in the same place. I’m not saying C&C’s is making strides in improving race relations, but if you can put people together with a common purpose (getting hammered at an affordable price), then yes, why can’t we all get along?

2. The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

3. Tie:
Rosario’s
910 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1806
rosariossa.com

Chris Madrid’s
1900 Blanco
(210) 735-3552
chrismadrids.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Breakfast Tacos
Taco Taco

145 E. Hildebrand
(210) 822-9533
tacotacosa.com

If you visit Taco Taco’s website before you wander into the tiny, rectangular restaurant, you might think the Food Network and Bon Appetit attention has gone to its head (“The Best Tacos in America!” it announces). But the staff are just as accomodating as ever, and San Anto’ll keep ’em honest. What are national accolades without those regulars who make it hard (read: impossible) to get a seat mid-mornings on the weekend. A recent to-go order of barbacoa on corn and papas rancheras on flour were flavorful and rich, and the only reason we don’t sit down to a breakfast plate regularly is ’cause we don’t make it to the gym often enough to compensate for that kind of indulgence.

2. Las Palapas
Multiple locations
las-palapas.net

3. Taco Cabana
Multiple locations
tacocabana.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Tamales
Delicious Tamales

Multiple locations, delicioustamales.com

There’s something about homemade tamales that make our heart swell — but if our abuelita takes a vacation, Delicious Tamales serves ’em up. Their assortment ranges from the typical pork to the sweet tamales made with coconut, raisins, and pecans — if they’re anything like Delicious’s bean tamales, we’ll be hooked. Plus, how can you not love mascots Paco and Lola?

2. Ruben’s Homemade Tamales
1807 Rigsby
(210) 333-9529

3. Téllez Tamales & Barbacoa
1737 S. General McMullen
(210) 433-1367

__________________________________________________________________

Best Barbacoa
Adelita Tamales & Tortilla Factory

1130 Fresno
(210) 733-5352
Adelita makes the Current glad for the reconquista: few things convey the sense of comfort and satisfaction offered by a sun-yellow room filled with racks of fresh tortillas and meat by the pound. Adelita’s barbacoa isn’t a bit greasy, either, but the meat is slow-cooked to tender perfection, with just enough fat between the layers to give it that backyard-cookout flavor. Grab a warm stack of Tortillas Norteñas from the cooler by the counter while you’re there, and you have a feast to go.

2. Rios Barbacoa
multiple locations including 5707 S. Zarzamora
(210) 923-8258

3. Culebra Meat Market
multiple locations, including 3017 Blanco
(210) 732-7477

__________________________________________________________________

Best Takeout Tortillas
Alamo Café

Multiple Locations
alamocafe.com/

I’ll steer clear of the main fare: My idea of Mexican food hasn’t been (what tastes like) canned chili on enchiladas filled with canned nacho cheese since I was 10. But you’ve got a point, San Antonio. It is a “Taco Factory” after all, and these are yummy — even reheated. First off, they’re fluffy. I like the way steam rose from between them as I peeled one from the stack, like one of those crazy layered biscuits. Also, they’re sizeable (that’s what she said): good for casual snacking or burrito-making. And the gentle AC waitstaff are only too happy to provide you with to-go aluminum foil.

2. Taco Cabana
multiple locations
tacocabana.com

3. Tie:
Taco Taco
145 E. Hildebrand Ave
(210) 822-9533

Las Palapas
multiple locations
las-palapas.net

__________________________________________________________________

Best Guacamole
Boudro’s

421 E. Commerce
(210) 224-8484
boudros.com

The Current wasn’t wooed to SA; she came willingly, but a frequent freelancer whose day job romances employment candidates recently confirmed what we’ve long suspected: Boudro’s is one of the shiny lures used to land big fish on the banks of the San Antonio River. And no wonder, the decidedly contemporary Southwestern-style restaurant — and its nearby sibling Zinc Wine Bar — keep the busy River Bend area from feeling entirely like a Lone Star theme park. Boudro’s lives up to its “Texas bistro” tag with ambitious soups and entrees, but of course it’s most famous for its guacamole, prepared tableside with plenty of fire-roasted salsa, red onion, and freshly squeezed citrus. Wash it down with the equally renowned Prickly Pear Margarita, made with the fruit of the cactus.

2. La Fogata
427 Vance Jackson
(210) 340-1337
lafogata.com

3. Chipotle Mexican Grill
Multiple locations
chipotle.com

__________________________________________________________________

Coolest Patio
The Cove

606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683
thecove.us

There’s no finer way to spend a relaxing afternoon than at a restaurant with a great patio. A more than worthy destination is The Cove, your one stop restaurant/laundry/car wash located just off the SAC-friendly San Pedro strip. Behind the restaurant is a huge, extended veranda that is worn and comfy, offering the vibe of your own backyard. Picnic-style tables line the shady area, supplemented by mismatched but fun tables and chairs and little picnic benches for the kiddos. The little ones romp in an outdoor playground plus basketball hoop while friendly staff serves regulars. The air was perfect on a recent relaxed Friday afternoon as were the fish tacos, the kitchen’s staple and claim to fame.

2. La Fogata
2427 Vance Jackson Rd.
(210) 340-1337
lafogata.com

3. La Hacienda De Los Barrios
18747 Redland Rd.
(210) 497-8000

__________________________________________________________________

Best Local Coffee Shop
Olmos Perk

5223 McCullough Avenue
(210) 858-2956
samuelesqueda.com/olmos/

West Elm. White Stripes. WiFi — my first impressions of furniture, tunes, and allure as I stepped into the sleek Olmos Park establishment. It’s only a short walk away from my former abode, and I was kicking myself for not having visited before. Just look at the magazine selection, I thought to myself, picking up ARTnews and waiting on my to-go cappuccino. (Just look at the patrons, I mused, peeking over the outstretched mag.) I missed all this because the logo suggests a plain-joe coffee shop where geriatrics congregate? Uugh. Turns out the goods are good. My cappuccino foam didn’t have the density of, say, Jupiter’s, but we can’t all be perfect.

2. Ruta Maya
107 E Martin St
(210) 223-6292
rutamayariverwalk.com

3. Tie:
Candlelight Coffeehouse
3011 N. St. Mary's
(210) 738-0099
candlelightsa.com

Timo’s Coffee House
2021 San Pedro
(210) 733-8049

__________________________________________________________________


Best Farmers Market
Olmos Basin Park

800 Olmos Drive E.
(210) 854-6277
texascertifiedfarmersmarkets.com

That old dude Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” At Tuesday and Saturday’s market in Olmos Park you can do both, grazing local produce and meeting fantastic folks. While an assortment of outdoor markets abound in San Anto, this is one of the city’s first, dating back to the mid-’80s. But whether you’re sniffing out ’maters, tots, or onions, getting there early helps, since the day starts at 8 a.m. and runs until the vendors run dry. Depending on the time of year (and encroaching climate uncertainties), you can find strawberries, peaches, squash, and watermelons, as well as an assortment of jellies, jams, and preserves. Save the Planet. Heal Yourself. Laugh. Eat. WIC approved.

2. Tie:
Chicho Boys Fruit Market
1631 S. Laredo
(210) 225-7557

Market Square
612 W. Commerce
(210) 207-8596

__________________________________________________________________

Favorite Go Texan/Texas Product
Chile Beach Jams
c/o Joe Saglimbeni Fine Wines & Spirits
638 W. Rhapsody Dr.
(210) 349-5149
or mail order via:
chilebeachjams.com

 

When the versatile grape has overstayed its welcome, jelly-wise that is, you may want to board the ferry and cut a course for Chile Beach Jams. San Antonio master mashers have elevated the art of jam to another tier: one where the sweeps include a variety of chiles intersected by pineapple, currants, and strawberries, and spiked with a range of spices like nutmeg and garlic. We explored the sampler box (and scared our co-workers) with dollops of each on plain table crackers, but we can see a new world unfolding (thanks to the recipe suggestions) in Bloody Mary mixes and grill chicken, hummus, and “pirate” beans. Argh!

 

2. Becker Vineyards
464 Becker Farms Road
(830) 644-2681
beckervineyards.com

 

3. Texas Grapefruit (Rio Star, Ruby Red, etc.)
Uh, the store…

__________________________________________________________________

Best Food & Wine Festival
San Antonio Wine Festival

February 20-22, 2009. sawinefest.com

This annual fundraiser for KLRN, San Antonio’s public television station, may not be as elaborate as the themed events that bracket it here at home and in the Hill Country, but it has the common touch, and without celebrity chefs and clever seminar names manages to fill the Alamodome and Hyatt Hill Country ballrooms for its trio of tastings. The accompanying competition results in a list of hundreds of quaffable wines, thoughtfully stocked by our local grocery conglomerate, and this year printed in the Current’s Flavor magazine. But we’d raise a glass to SAWF’s BoSA medal even if we weren’t a media sponsor.

2. New World Wine & Food Festival
November 5-9, 2008
nwwff.org

3. Blue Star Arts & Eats
October 23, 2008
bluestarart.org

__________________________________________________________________

Best Taco Truck
Taco Truck outside the Saint

Circa 1430 N. Main
Parking your taco truck outside a bar full of drunk men? That’s just good business sense. At four years and counting, few taco trucks can claim the stability that the Saint’s late-night purveyor of alcohol counterweights has found. While the Current’s regular taco-truck critic doesn’t claim it has his favorite, the people have spoken, and in that sense, this truck has to be doing something right. Its flash of art stardom at last year’s Olmos Famous CAM show opening adds the glow of legend.

__________________________________________________________________

Best Enchiladas
Blanco Cafe

Multiple locations, including:
1720 Blanco
(210) 732-6480

This 34-year-old paragon of low-budget, high-flavor Tex-Mex dining is owned by the San Miguel family, who keep tradition intact at their several outposts with beef enchiladas shining with just the right amount of grease, and the enormous Deluxe Mexican Dinner, a multi-plate feast for the frugal glutton. The vinyl and formica have seen better days, but then so have you when you go rollin’ in for that cures-all-ills late breakfast.

2. Tie:
Rosario’s
910 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1806
rosariossa.com

Picante Grill
3810 Broadway
(210) 822-3797
sawhost.com/picantegrill/

3. Casbeers
1719 Blanco Rd
(210) 732-3511
casbeers.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Mole
Rosario’s Restaurant Y Cantina

910 S. Alamo
(210) 223-1806
rosariossa.com
Rosario’s also won Tangiest Michelada and Best Salsa.

 

Lisa Wong brought bright lights, big city to the cantina concept — aided by lots of concrete and a neon-lit faux palapa — and forged a Tex-Mex restaurant empire in Southtown that’s still frequented by the locals even as it becomes increasingly renowned among the travel and dining set. The cavernous interior pulsates with fun on busy nights, and the food ain’t bad, either, although it’s expectedly not as autentico as, say, Cascabel just down the road. Rosario’s award-winning mole is sweet and earthy, with barely a hint of spice, and the salsa is fresh, nicely roasted, and bottomless. Neither compares to the michelada, though, that margarita-bloody-mary- beer mongrel. After murmuring the ingredients back to us (tabasco, worcestershire, tomato-something, lime ... ) the bartender asks if we want salt (yes), inquires after our beer selection (Negro Modelo; unorthodox, but trust us), and shortly delivers a chilled schooner of the best summer chaser in town — mixed for you, so you can enjoy carbonated, spicy, tangy perfection all the way through.

2. Tie:
Picante Grill
3810 Broadway
(210) 822-3797
sawhost.com

Los Barrios
4223 Blanco
(210) 732-6017

3. Piedras Negras
1701 S. Laredo
(210) 223-2512

__________________________________________________________________

Smartest Sommelier
Laz McGill
Bohanan’s Prime Steaks/Seafood

219 E. Houston
(210) 472-2600
bohanans.com

Some years ago at Bohanan’s, I was presented a bottle in a wine cradle, a lit candle was passed behind, and we all observed the wine’s clarity. “We try not to bring the candle to the table now,” says sommelier Laz McGill, who has been at the upscale steakhouse since the demise of Gladys at the Strand. “But we do decant almost everything but pinots.” McGill calls most of his customers smart enough to order from the wine list on their own, but claims “Others are even smarter than that and realize I might actually know something about `it`.” He does.
2. TIE:
James Martin
Sandbar
102 E. Pecan
(210) 222-2426

Fabian Jacob
Le Rêve
152 E. Pecan
(210) 212-2221
restaurantlereve.com

__________________________________________________________________

Finest Wine Shop
Saglimbeni Fine Wine

638 W. Rhapsody
(210) 349-5149
jsfinewine.com

There’s something about the family feeling of an independently owned business that inspires devotion, and the Saturday-afternoon tastings at Saglimbeni Fine Wine support that: They’re a gathering of the faithful. Just as with the family you can’t choose, you have to realize its quirks, of course. There’s the drive-you-crazy music; there’s Grappa the house hound … but it’s all good-spirited. Cigar aficionados will find stogies to spare, and there are gourmet goodies galore. Good advice, too. Couple that with frequent 20-percent discounts, and it’s easy to keep the faith.

2. Central Market
4821 Broadway
(210) 368-8600
centralmarket.com

3. Wine Styles
16535 Huebner
(210) 479-5955
winestyles.net

__________________________________________________________________

Best Wine List
Copa Wine Bar

19141 Stone Oak Pkwy
(210) 495-2672
thecopawinebar.com
Copa also won Finest Wine Bar.


Antonia Padilla

Angie and Jeff Bridges will be the first to tell you that theirs is neither the biggest nor broadest wine list in town. There are lots of bubblies, but few sauvignon blancs, for example. But this is nit-picking, for reds reign, and Copa’s selection is appealing across several categories. Inzinerator zinfandel, perhaps? There’s a huge selection of Red Blends, including the too-honest Fruit Bomb from Washington. And cabernets and cab blends (France gets short shrift) nearly run the gamut. Spanish varietals find favor as well — a natural choice with the menu’s many tapas.

2. Tie:
Van’s Chinese Seafood
3214 Broadway
(210) 828-8449
vansrestaurantonline.com

Bin 555
555 W. Bitters
(210) 496-0555
bin555.com

__________________________________________________________________

Most Pro Wait Staff
Restaurant Le Rêve

152 E. Pecan
(210) 212-2221
restaurantlereve.com
Le Rêve also won Best Expensive Restaurant and Chef Andrew Weissman won Most Talented Local Chef.

Andrew Weissman is a driven man. As if it weren’t enough to have been called Best Restaurant in Texas by one publication and number six in the U.S. by another, now he’s garnered yet another James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest. But that’s not all: The chef we associate with upscale French cuisine has always had an Italian itch, and it’s about to be scratched at a new restaurant to open, by late October, in the Pearl Brewery project. Serving from breakfast through dinner, “it will be something the State of Texas has never seen,” says Weissman. “Five-star dining in a casual concept” was mentioned. We believe him. And in the meantime, we’ll be noshing at Big’z when we need a burger fix (order it dirty for a dollar), slurping oysters at Sandbar, and sipping latte at Sip, his downtown coffee shop.
Weissman doesn’t do it alone, of course. Le Rêve’s refined atmosphere is created in large part by his impeccably dressed, well-trained, polite, and politic staff, who will help you navigate the four-hour dining expedition — and the wine list (Fabian TK was a runner-up for Smartest Sommelier, too). It’s not for the fidgety, or those who object to reservations and dinner jackets for men, but it is divine.

2. Cappy’s
5011 Broadway
(210) 828-9669
cappysrestaurant.com

3. Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse
3709 N. St. Mary’s
(210) 735-0088
augiesbarbedwiresmokehouse.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Ice House
La Tuna

100 Probandt
(210) 224-8862
La Tuna also won Coldest Beer.

Any given Friday afternoon, La Tuna embodies the best of ice-house culture: what you want and what you need in one friendly, easy-access package. The picnic tables are packed with blue and white collars and plenty of real tats, the line for the diverse — and, yes, well-chilled — beer selection moves quickly, and a scattering of kids crunch around on the bottle-cap covered ground. Food from the kitchen out back is a big step above your average cantina, with white-bean chile, succulent sliders, and fresh buffalo wings hinting at its Southtown address and easing your happy-hour chill into an evening of low-key revelry.

2. Hills & Dales Ice House
15403 White Fawn Dr
(210) 695-2307

3. Texas Ice House
4102 Blanco
(210) 736-4349

__________________________________________________________________

Best Empanadas
Beto's Comida Latina

8142 Broadway
(210) 930-9393
betoscomidalatina.com


Chuck Kerr

Lay off the glorious manteca for a day and visit this airy Northside location with filo-wrapped empanadas of the main-course variety: chicken poblano or beef and red chile or even the veggie spinach, potato, and cheese, just to mix things up. You will quickly realize why this healthier pastry wrap swept the Current’s Best Ofs with a bullet. Wash it all down with a desert empanada, but forget the corn-syrup-sweetened 20-pound cans of pumpkin filling. Instead, you’ll find walnut pieces and a sophisticated spice mix teasing your taste buds. (And don’t fall into my trap — shell out the extra duckets for that scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or go both feet in with a guava and cream cheese.)

2. Mi Tierra Café & Bakery
218 Produce Row
(210) 782-8496
mitierracafe.com

3. El Sol Bakery and Bistro
728 S Presa St
(210) 227-9888
elsolbakery.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Local Burgers
Chris Madrid’s

1900 Blanco
(210) 735-3552
chrismadrids.com

The first real San Antonio job (not counting a miserable pregnant summer at a Burger King on Bandera Road) for a certain Current staffer was at this 31-year-old local staple, which still serves its patties thin, well-seasoned, and larded with the goods, the bestest of all being refried beans, tortilla chips, jalapeños, and the signature melted-cheddar lava flow. That concoction, the Tostada Burger, is often imitated, but only attains its San Anto perfection in Madrid’s converted, sprawling mid-town garage — it’s a true ice house at heart, with cold longnecks rounding out the dream. Remember, it’s not about the beef at this sibling-run icon, it’s about the fun you’ll have with friends and family.

2. Chester’s
Multiple locations, including 9980 IH 10 West
(210) 699-1222

3. Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson
(210) 223-2830
samsburgerjoint.com

__________________________________________________________________

Best Sopapillas
Pancho’s Mexican Buffet

8300 Marbach
(210) 673-2930 

226 W. Bitters
(210) 494-9131
panchosmexicanbuffet.com

Sopapillas are a distinctively Southwestern dessert favorite, and Pancho’s has demonstrated its dominion over the same region, with locations in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas (to their credit, they’ve also penetrated the Bossier City, Louisiana, market). There are many approaches to sopapillas, but San Antonio consistently sweetens the deal by sprinkling these wondrous fried pastries with cinnamon sugar. Pancho’s has been a Marbach Road fixture for 25 years, and their fresh sopapillas have consistently been among its most popular items.

2. (tie) Panchito’s
multiple locations
panchitos.net

Chuy’s
18008 San Pedro
(210) 545-0300
chuys.com