Bless our oh-so-forgiving (and impeccably grounded) readers, who not only forgave architect Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis’s Evel Knievel-grade angles at our downtown library branch, but obviously revel in the whole chili-powered enchilada enough to give it Best Library Branch plaudits. They know the cellar’s bookstore, wickedly good Texana collection, and growing multimedia chamber are what matters at an urban learning station. And when reading eyes tire, we suggest creeping past the flowering esperanza bushes to enjoy the perfect setting for your very own Matchbox versus Hot Wheels death-match competition.
2. Landa Library, 233 Bushnell, (210) 732-8369
3. Brookhollow, 530 Heimer, (210) 496-6315
America’s Incredible Pizza Company
11743 West Ave.
You may feel a little disoriented by this ginormous combination of pizza, pasta, potato, and dessert buffet and game-a-teria, but your kids won’t; it is kid nirvana. Hold your wee one’s birthday fête there for either $14.99 or $19.99 per guest (the higher-priced package includes more game tickets, etc.), and revel in a party room with food, drinks, the attentions of a party hostess, a spin-for-a-prize wheel-go-round for the birthday kiddo, and claro, CAKE! Then, whoa nellie, gird your loins for the giddy chaos once the sugar rush starts. Things to look out for: Stray mini-bowling balls; raging 2-year-olds armed with either mini-golf clubs or piñata bats; bumper-car “accidents,” and overly vigorous Whac-a-Mole. We called to make extra sure they have Whac-a-Mole. They do, and apparently they get a lot of calls about it. Important to know: THEY DO NOT SERVE BEER. More important to know: You will be your child’s hero.
2. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s,sanantonio.gov/sapar/brackhistory.asp
3. Kiddie Park, 3015 Broadway, (210) 824-4351,kiddiepark.com
One spring day we bit the bullet and decided to head over to the Witte Museum for a look at the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit. After the shock of being told it would be a four-hour wait, we had the good sense to convince our intelligent, hyperactive 4-year-old that Kiddie Park, just down the lane, would be just as much fun. Our rationale was that dinosaurs had been around for millions of years, surely they can wait another week to see us. Imagine our surprise when we were right: We had a blast! I mean, really, how often does that happen?
Don’t misunderstand. If you’re looking for a high-tech, high-price, over-the-top sensory experience, don’t go here. This is all about the good old days when parks were affordable, you didn’t need a map, rides were slow, came without warnings, and made loud clacking noises as gears ground by. There is something impossibly reassuring and romantic about watching kids happily ride carousels and rides that have been around for generations. The stress fell off of us at the thought of being able to say, “Sure, you can ride anything you want.”
Kiddie Park is the oldest kids’ park in the United States. The carousel was made in 1918. Open since 1925, the park still reflects that era — intimate, slow-paced, with a limited number of rides. The favorites of the day were the runaway school bus, the boat ride (because who doesn’t like splashing water?), and the helicopter rides.
A few facts: It’s called Kiddie Park for a reason, folks. The rides are for small children — 2-10 are good ages. Don’t try sticking the older second cousin from out of town on the rides; they won’t fit. There are tables for snacks and resting, and the restrooms have been updated. The walking surface is made up of stones, so pushing a stroller is almost impossible. It’s open all week from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; you can purchase tickets for $2.16 a ride or buy the $12 all-you-can-ride wristband. Kiddie Park — it may not be what you were originally looking for, but it could turn out to be just what you needed.
2. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s , sanantonio.gov/sapar/reservations.asp
3. McAllister Park, 13101 Jones-Maltsberger,sanantonio.gov/sapar/mcallisterreservations.asp
King William Fair
10am-6pm Sat, Apr 24
While we miss the days of wandering through the barricades for free (it’s now $5 for anyone 13 and up), this is still a fantastic Fiesta family event with a charming small-town feel, provided you follow these rules: Arrive in time for the parade; leave by mid-afternoon. Set a spending budget for fried goodies and sugary drinks ahead of time, and stick to it. Do not, under any circumstances, get tipsy, because you + brewing hangover + hot-and-cranky toddlers = a call to CPS. When you’re ready for a break, head past the kiddie games by the river to the cool grass along the banks; you and yours won’t be the only ones napping under a tree while a band plays in the background.
Ed. note: This was one of three categories in which the Best of SA tally malfunctioned, so we’ve substituted a critic’s pick instead. See our FAQ for more info and watch for this category next year.
606 W. Cypress
With $5 plates of organic hotdogs and grass-raised mini burgers (organic milk included!), the Cove will feed your kids a sight better than ol’ Mickey D’s, and you get to feel like a hip adult again all the while. Delta blues over the soundsystem or live singer-songwriters onstage means that average child noise can’t be heard above the convivial din, and any of the Anchor Steam-to-Dos Equis beer selection will take the edge off of cutting things into bite-size pieces. You can wash those cotton diapers while you snack on your fish tacos, too - the one-stop Cove is still a laundromat.
2. The Friendly Spot Ice House, 943 S. Alamo, (210) 224-2337,thefriendlyspot.com
3. Big’z Burger Joint, 2303 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 408-2029,bigz-burgerjoint.com
The Witte Museum
San Antonio loves the Witte, whether it’s arty types checking out exhibitions of photography — Michael Nye’s recent portrait exploration of hunger was awe-inspiring — or Texas culture nerds brushing up on their history. However, the Witte remains first and foremost a beloved family outing place, where you can usher your kids (or grandkids, or nieces and nephews) into a fascinating world of science and culture. Their most recent family day, on Sunday April 4, included hands-on fossil activities. Although, what with their Free Tuesdays, y’all can have a weekly family day of your own. Facebook-friend the Witte or follow their Twitter feed to find out about future family days and special events.
2. The San Antonio Museum of Art , 200 W. Jones Ave., (210) 978-8100, samuseum.org
3. The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., (210) 824-5368, mcnayart.org
While we have yet to discover the joys of poop-sniffing, our dog’s enthusiasm for the endeavor suggests we’re missing out on something supreme. Thankfully, we don’t have to cut “Mutton” loose on the inner-city streets for a satisfying dose of digestive evidence; we can lead him through the hidden bluebonnet fields north of San Antonio International Airport to San Antonio’s second official dog park. For those who want to keep things natural, McAllister Park’s 1.5-acre bit of fenced-off doggie heaven has healthy piles of pre-scented mulch for impromptu play times. At the other end of the spectrum, there is honest-to-dog playground equipment for those more adventurous paws. Oh, and for the bipedal deodorizing androids who want to keep a couple feet above the odorama, there are plenty of park benches for safer sitting.
2. Pawderosa Ranch, 923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941, pawderosaranch.com
3. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s, sanantonio.gov/sapar
Humane Society SPCA of Bexar County
Good-tempered canines and cuddly kittens — rows and rows of them — just waiting for the right sucker, we mean “owner,” to come along. In many ways, the Humane Society of Bexar County is just like a bazillion shelters across the country struggling to keep pace with a tsunami of unwanted cats and dogs, kicked into the street by a collective failure to spay and neuter our pets. Humane distinguishes itself not only by its immaculate grounds, nice facilities, and caring staff, but in its innovative programs — like a partnership with prison inmates to rehabilitate emotionally troubled animals to ready them for adoption — that drive home the importance of companion animals in our lives.
2. Animal Defense League, 11300 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-1481,adltexas.org
3. Animal Care Services, COSA, 4710 State Highway 151, (210) 207-4PET, sanantonio.gov/AnimalCare/
Pawderosa Ranch Doggie Play-and-Stay
923 Clydeville Rd.
It’s a good thing these varmints ain’t aggressive, you think as you stroll past the weathered clapboard of the Lucky Dog Hotel at Pawderosa Ranch. By the caterwauling inside, you half expect a pile of woolly beasts to come wheeling out of the swinging “saloon” doors in a rump-and-tail-biting stew. But, no dice. That’s simply the sound of free-roaming canines enjoying time away from the folks. They’ve all been screened for aggression and kennel cough and stripped of their sidearms before being grouped by size and turned out. Don’t believe me? Just slap your mouse and check the “wag-cam” yourself. And if you’re looking for a place your Rey Fido can blow off some steam while you’re at work, Pawderosa does doggie daycare, too.
2. Lucy’s Doggie Daycare and Spa (tie), 2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 495-3647, lucysdoggydaycare.com
2. Cowboy Kennels (tie), 5207 McCullough, (210) 822-1166,cowboykennels.com
2. Rob Cary Pet Resort (tie), 14824 Bulverde, (210) 494-7787,robcary.com
Sabrina Frugia of Classy Canines Grooming
5123 N. Loop 1604 West
For a jittery bichon frise, squirms are second nature. And nothing sets ’em to vibrate more quickly than a trip to the scissor shop. But San Antonio dog owners swear that 10-year coat adjuster Sabrina Frugia, who launched Classy Canines Grooming last January, has the patience vibes and heavy petting to put even the jumpiest lap warmer into chill mode. In fact, it’s these undersized companions she enjoys serving the most: difficult cuts for (sometimes) picky owners add that welcome element of challenge to her experienced scissor hand. Think about that next time your designer accessory’s eyes disappear behind a wave of booger-crusted curls.
2. Lucy’s Doggy Day Care & Spa, 2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 495-3647, lucysdoggydaycare.com
3. South Bark (tie), 1115 S. Alamo, (210) 557.3747,southbarkpetgrooming.com
3. Pawderosa Ranch (tie), 923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941,pawderosaranch.com
Mini Me (for mommy and daddy's little darlings)
You Turn Me On ( and sometimes off)
You've Been Served (order up!)
Vice and Virtue (round up the usual suspects!)
Shop Till You Drop (bagging the best bargains)
Working-Class Heroes (we salute you)
Your fellow San Antonians, dear reader, who voted online at sacurrent.com between March 3 and March 30. Don’t like what you see? Watch for next year’s ballot in early March, and vote!
The capsules and mini profiles honoring this year’s winners were written by staff, with the assistance of freelancer E. Bailey (Kiddie Park) and regular Current theater critic Ashley Lindstrom (The Overtime Theater).
Very observant of you! This year, we specified that if you voted for a business with multiple locations (e.g. Barnes & Noble) in a category that didn’t already specify “local,” you had to indicate which location you were voting for in order for that vote to count. We totally believe you when you say you love Bill Miller’s breakfast tacos, but we want to know which Bill Miller’s location serves the best ones. As expected, this leveled the playing field between single-location mom-and-pop shops and chains in several categories (although e.g. Pappadeaux, part of a chain out of Houston, may have benefitted by having only a single shop here, while Sea Island, long dominant in the fried-food category, lost votes because of this). As readers catch on to the new system, and remember to read the instructions, we think it’ll have the intended result across the board: Reward the businesses and restaurants you really love, not just the ones whose names come most readily to mind when you’re two categories away from your 20-vote minimum.
In most cases, it means that more than two winners tied for the second- and/or third-place slots. In a few of those instances, there were four or more winners for a slot, which makes it impractical to list all of them, and dilutes the purpose of a readers’ poll.
SNAFU: A note about the Puffy Taco, Paleta, and family-friendly Fiesta Event categories
These were new categories this year, like Cupcakes and Romantic Restaurant. In the process of setting up the online poll, some digital synapses didn’t get wired, and the tallying system didn’t register the votes for those categories. In place of your wisdom, we humbly submit our prejudices, and the promise to bring back these categories next year.
April 20-23, 2010
NIOSA stands for A Night In Old San Antonio, but it’s highly unlikely that you hear that phrase pass any locals’ lips. Instead, you hear “Nye-Oh-Suh” referred to as the number-one Fiesta destination. The San Antonio Conservation Society fundraiser takes place over four evenings, transforming La Villita into a boozy Epcot Center. We pay tribute to the cultures that made our city great by frying up their favorite delicacies and enjoying live music performances. Try tapas in Villa España, grab a famous Maria’s tortilla from a Chili Queen, watch Ballet Folklorico in the Mexican Market, and wash it down with a Wahooz, a malted beer beverage from Froggy Bottom, the African-American section.
2. King William Fair, April 24, 2010, kwfair.org
3. Fiesta Oyster Bake, April 16-17, 2010, (catch it next year, kids!),oysterbake.com
Fiesta Oyster Bake
April 16-17, 2010 (catch it next year, kids!)
As more than one astute reader used their vote to point out, we don’t have South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, or a festival of comparable size and scope in the Alamo City, but the festivals we do have are truly our own. Accordions, jazz, and the luminous give and take between local artists and musicians rounded out your top picks, but your favorite is the bivalve mollusk celebration that embodies the dominant trait of SA’s music scene: baffling variety. This year’s Oyster Bake line-up included Puddle of Mudd, Loverboy, Cory Morrow, and the St. Mary’s Jazz Orchestra featuring Ken Slavin. And we’d be willing to bet some of you wound up going to most if not all of those. And that’s why we love you.
2. International Accordion Festival, October 15-17, 2010,internationalaccordionfestival.org
3. Jazz’SAlive (tie), September 18-19, 2010, saparksfoundation.org/jazzsalive.html
3. Luminaria (tie), March 201, luminariasa.org
Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club
Park North Plaza
618 NW Loop 410
Looking to impress the hell out of a date, or to alter your usual beer, tacos, and hangin’-type evening out to include (somewhat-overpriced) well drinks, cushy surroundings, and (no joke) the deliciously infectious laughter of a hundred or more of your fellow San Antonians? Laugh Out Loud, the spankin’-new chuckle hut in the Park North shopping center (which also includes a Target, Alamo Drafthouse, and hip hotel outpost Aloft, part of the W chain) ain’t cheap, but it’s fun. LOL attracts A-list comics; Richard Lewis was the club’s opener, and the names of Tom Rhodes, Maryellen Hooper, and Last Comic Standing’s Alonzo Bodden will all be familiar to comedy nerds like us. Jade Esteban Estrada, charming local raconteur and boa enthusiast, often emcees. Frequent open-mic nights, too: You too skeered to take the stage, funny lady?
2. Rivercenter Comedy Club, 849 E. Commerce, (210) 229-1420,rivercentercomedyclub.com
3. The Overtime Theater, 1414 S. Alamo, (210) 557-7562, theovertimetheater.net
The Overtime Theater
1414 S. Alamo, (210) 557-7562
The Overtime Theater has been making magic since 2006. Founded by John Poole, who once told the Current the OT’s beginnings were “in a closet next to a morgue,” the theater’s present Blue Star location is at once warm and gallery-like. For San Antonians, it’s a destination for original, local, consistently entertaining contemporary theater. Rep performers, writers, and directors are always game to bring one another’s wild ideas to life. Ticket prices are reasonable, drinks and snacks are by donation, and if it’s not theater you’re in the mood for, OT also screens (great) films and hosts the Denials improv comedy troupe on Saturdays. And good news, charitable ones: OT is now a non-profit org, so donate and deduct away.
2. Jump-Start Performance Co., 108 Blue Star, (210) 227-5867,jump-start.org
3. The Magik Children’s Theatre, 420 S. Alamo, (210) 227-2751,magiktheatre.org
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star
Arguably the Southtown art aquifer from which newer exhibition spaces sprang, the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center can be counted on for motley crews of emerging and established local artists hangin’ side-by-side, both in-person and on the walls (the annual Red Dot fundraiser is an awesome way to get a lay of the land, art-scene-wise), travelling shows (skewed, happily, towards the regional), and engrossing exhibitions/events with ingenious curation — Hills Snyder’s Lonely Are the Brave was the showstopper of the last July Contemporary Art Month. Its Gallery 4 nook is usually occupied by smaller-scale works by locals, while the Project Space is ideal for immersive video experiences or solo installations. A San Antonio landmark (and hot party central, if, um, that’s your scene).
2. Artpace, 445 N. Main, (210) 212-4900,artpace.org
3. FL!GHT, 1906 S. Flores, (210) 872-2586,Turnitoff.tv
Donald Lipski’s F.I.S.H.
River Walk Museum Reach
Under the I-35 overpass near Camden Street
This one won by a land- (…water?) slide, you guys. Todo San Anto seems to have fallen for this art school (haw!), and we love ’em, too. Donald Lipski’s fishies are funny and winsome and beautiful all at the same time, and a reminder that while it might flow through a man-sculpted channel, the San Antonio river — our city’s very mama — is still water, people. With fish in it. These fish! Long-eared sunfish, to be exact (Lipski was going to go with goldfish, but found out we’ve got these native beauties). Best viewed of an evening from Carlos Cortes’s lovely faux-bois palapa at the corner of Camden and Newell streets, another fun public-art anchor of the nearly year-old Museum Reach.
2. Museum Reach River Walk Extension, From Lexington Ave. to the Pearl Brewery
3. Blue Star Arts Complex, 116 Blue Star, (210) 225-6742,bluestarartscomplex.com
The Witte Museum
If you’re a grownup native San Antonian, chances are you’re well familiar with the Witte’s stable of ancient taxidermized animals in their vintage dioramas. Which is your favorite? The mountain lion lording it over his freshly killed antelope on a West Texas cliffside, the black bear in the Big Piney with his porcupine buddy, or the coyote chasing a jackrabbit at the beach? Maybe you’re more of a bison-standing-alone guy. But nostalgia aside, the Witte’s evolved into a multifaceted education destination, whether you and your youngsters wanna learn about the ever-popular dinosaurs, the history and culture of the circus, or mess around with the forces of physics and ecology in the little-kid-friendly Treehouse. It’s a warm and friendly place full of fascinating stuff on beautiful grounds (be sure to explore the Onderdonk studio out back!). Our oldest museum, and for our voters, the best by far.
2. The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368,mcnayart.org
3. The San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., (210) 978-8100, samuseum.org
San Pedro Springs
1315 San Pedro
The springs that still flow from the low cave-pocked hills in the nation’s second-oldest public park were first named by Europeans more than 300 years ago, and they well as clear and pretty as antique glass, oblivious to the man-made pool beyond where you can bathe and splash but not dive (it maxes out at 5 feet). The gracefully irregular bowl, guarded by a regiment of reassuring bald cypresses, makes up for a lot, though, even the ugly fence the city insists on erecting during our criminally short “swimming season.”
2. Landa Park, New Braunfels, (830) 221-4370,nbtexas.org/index.aspx?NID=156
3. Roosevelt Park, 331 Roosevelt,sanantonio.gov/sapar/roosevelthis.asp
3700 N. St. Mary’s
If one needed evidence (beyond Best Of votes, of course!) of San Antonio’s love for Brackenridge, just check how quickly the chains and padlocks are slapped down on its park benches as Easter Camp Out nears and San Antonians pile in for their annual (legal) chance to pitch their tents overnight. Rickety train rides, shadowy walking trails, and a gradually less fecal-soaked river … What’s not to like about San Antonio’s own Central Park? Though, for the safety of your little ones, may we suggest catch-and-release? That’s still the Zoo (and its many full-time campers) draining above you.
2. McAllister Park, 13102 Jones-Maltsberger,sanantonio.gov/sapar
2. San Pedro Park, 1315 San Pedro,sanantonio.gov/sapar
17703 IH-10 West
The opening of a new Alamo Drafthouse split the vote that in years past went solely to the Westlakes branch of the Austin dinner-and-a-movie franchise, but support was pretty solid for the snazziest of the Santikos properties. What the Palladium lacks in quirk — no Rocky Horror nights, Weird Wednesdays, or pancake breakfasts paired with ’80 kitsch-fests here — is compensated for with state-of-the-art technology and amenities. In addition to the first-run movies shown in digital projection on 19 screens with the now-requisite stadium seating, the Palladium has a full bar, onsite Starbucks and gelato stands, a video arcade to rival Chuck E. Cheese, and one of the best IMAX screens in town — moving the movie-going experience several steps closer to a day at Fiesta Texas across the highway.
2. Alamo Drafthouse Park North, 618 NW Loop 410, (210) 677-8500,drafthouse.com/parknorth
3. Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes, 1255 SW Loop 410, San Antonio, (210) 677-8500,drafthouse.com/westlakes
Sole Sneaker Boutique
In addition to the hyper-color sneaks sold at Sole, proprietors Julio and Fabby Rodriguez carry street-smart clothing lines, too. For the ladies, there are super-skinny jeans by Married to the Mob, adorable tees from Tokidoki, and sweet dresses by Heavy Rotation. Guys can stock up on New Era caps and graphic shirts from LA-based Heist & Co. and cult fave Kid Robot. We recently admired our pharmacist’s neon digital watch, commenting that it looked like the upscale Nooka watches carried at Sole. “That’s where I shop!” beamed the pharmacist. “Man, those guys are cool.” The cool factor extends to the recent concert Sole organized on the grounds of the Witte Museum — a tradition they hope to continue annually — all part of their plan to bring hipper hip-hop style to the city.
We found it fitting that Kanye West’s 808 and Heartbreaks pumped throughout this store on our last upscale athletic shoe-shopping excursion. West could be Sole’s style inspiration; like the rapper, the boutique specializes in urbane urban, slick style-mixing, and a serious shoe obsession. Brands for b-boys and -girls include Adidas, PF Flyers, Puma, and Saucony. We saw neon polka-dot high tops, tassles, tooled leather, and a color range far outside our natural rainbow. No Auto-Tune-singing sneakers yet, but if they ever exist, we’ll know where to find them.
2. Robertson Blvd., 18730 Stone Oak Pkwy., (210) 494-3230,robertsonblvdboutique.com
3. Julian Gold, 4109 McCullough, (210) 824-2493,juliangold.com
2. LeeLee (Loves Shoes), 5932 Broadway, (210) 832-0066, leeleeshoes.com
3. Whole Earth Provision Co., 255 E. Basse Road, (210) 829-8888,wholeearthprovision.com
1817 S. Presa
We’re lucky enough to have witnessed the fashion circus Angelina Mata’s atelier becomes when she’s juggling orders for wedding attire (often including the bride, the bridesmaids, and the mother of the bride), cocktail dresses, and alterations that put a new spin on cherished treasures. Last fall, Mata blew the lid off SA’s first-ever Fashion Week, showing a darkly sophisticated collection in an industrial space. What some may not know about Mata is that she’s also an incredible hairstylist (some of her fans are still crying because she can’t find time to do hair) who apprenticed under Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, and also makes one-of-a-kind accessories (jewelry, handbags, bowties). Pieces from her Reinvintage Collection will appear in the May issue of Austin Monthly.
2. Kathleen Sommers, 2417 N. Main, (210) 732-8437, kathleensommers.com
3. Agosto Cuellar, 919 S. Alamo, (210) 257-5132,jiverefried.com
The Jive Refried Vintage and Originals
919 S. Alamo
Designer Agosto Cuellar stuffs his downtown spot with vintage picks from a massive warehouse he keeps full of thrifty finds. This is not the place to score the kind of deals one finds at charity thrift centers; Cuellar’s eye is too refined to let a vintage designer name slip by unnoticed. On the other hand, shoppers don’t have to wade through a sea of pit-stained T-shirts, ripped hems, and Old Navy dresses circa 2003 to find gems. Like Cuellar’s own designs, much of the clothing here is colorful, feminine, and fabulous.
2. Thrift Town San Antoni,12247 Nacogdoches, (210) 656-8696,thrifttown.com
3. Boysville Thrift Shop, 307 W. Olmos Drive, (210) 826-2195,boysvilletexas.org
Shades of Love
300 W. Bitters #150
A family-owned enterprise run by three sisters, Shades of Love is more than a lingerie store; it’s a cheerful and efficient one-stop-shopping oasis for amorous couples of whatever gender or interest. You can find sexy books, awesome toys, silly games, saucy films, good advice from a friendly and unembarrassable staff (no, really — the stellar Rosemary Benitez, in particular, knows and has seen everything, and can answer just about any question). But lingerie? Oh yes, they’ve got lingerie for every shape and style and inclination, from pretty-dainty to deliciously sleazy. Plus, you’ll be supporting a true-blue homegrown local biz, so get your fanny over there and dress it up.
2. Victoria’s Secret, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 694-5905
3. Frederick’s of Hollywood, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 877-5211,fredericks.com
The Twig Book Shop
200 E. Grayson St.
Here’s one independent bookseller who’s actually upgraded their store in the age of economic recession and death-of-print paranoia. The Twig’s new digs at the Pearl Brewery trade cozy cramped aisles for airy room in an area guaranteed plenty of foot traffic every Saturday thanks to the nearby farmers market. The ever-helpful Twig staff prominently display books by local authors, and mercifully place the Twilight books on a shelf too high for most ’tweens to reach. If the book you’re looking for isn’t in the aisles, don’t give up: The Twig can order most texts within five-to-seven business days. Take that, Kindle.
2. Half Price Books, 3207 Broadway, (210) 822-4597, Also: Two additional locations,halfpricebooks.com
3. Nine Lives Books, 4919 NW Loop 410, (210) 647-5656,ninelivesbooks.com
The Shops at La Cantera
15900 La Cantera Pkwy.
Say what you want about this enormous exalted temple to high-end consumerism on the far north edge of town, but we all want stuff. Nice stuff! And boy howdy, they’ve got it there, providing a pleasant and upscale venue for such brands as Brooks Brothers, Zara, Anthropologie, Tiffany & Co., Stuart Weitzman, and Lilly Pulitzer, whose shops might not otherwise find a home in San Antonio. The appealing landscaping and public outdoor space, children’s play area, and diverse food options make spending an afternoon (and some dough) at La Cantera a pleasant experience. There’s even (optional) valet service to take the stress out of parking. And you can sit at Mariposa at Neiman’s with a glass of Côtes de Provence and watch the Rattler wooden rollercoaster at Fiesta Texas. That’s pretty great, c’mon.
2. North Star Mall, 7400 San Pedro, (210) 340-6627,northstarmall.com
3. South Park Mall, 2310 SW Military Dr., (210) 921-0534,
MAC, North Star Mall
900 North Star Mall
MAC’s North Star location is truly a fine specimen of MAC’s particular genius: They sell useful and beautiful tools (can you say guilt-free all-natural hair brushes? Yes, MAC uses silky goat and Japanese hair gathered up cruelty-free! Qué milagro!), fashion-forward, intensely pigmented, high-quality, not-for-the-wallflower makeup, and the full range of the Viva Glam line, which has raised millions for PWAs. What endears the North Star location to us, though, is the wonderful staff: Beautifully maquillaged (both boys and girls), friendly, cheery, extremely skilled, non-pushy, and always ready to conduct a very precise ad-hoc eyeliner demo or dish out priceless good foundation advice (Michael Gill is our perennial fave artist there). Ignore their wisdom at your peril.
1. Bare Escentuals, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 798-0236, bareescentuals.com
2. Sephora, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 694-4448, sephora.com
1534 SE Military Dr
After talking to store owner Mario Delgado, it seems Collectors Authority might have managed to edge out the competition in this hard-fought category because of the lack of an ampersand in its name. There’s no fantasy gaming to be found at CA, just comics — boxes and boxes of boarded and bagged back issues and store-length shelves lined with new releases. Either that, or it’s the 4-feet-tall Witchblade statue that greets customers when they walk inside. A few smaller plastic action heroes sit for sale in glass cases, but even most of those are for display only. That goes double for the KISS figures on the wall, we presume, but before you accuse Delgado of straying from his mission statement by branching out into rock-’n’-roll fanboydom, check out his small collection of KISS Psycho Circus comics. We couldn’t find the issue with their blood in the ink, though.
2. Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy, 7959 Fredericksburg, (210) 615-1229, dlair.net
3. Atomic Comics & Gaming , 204904 Broadway, (210) 826-3223,atomicsa.com
Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy
The fact that more of you guys voted for a comic-book-and-gaming store over video-game suppliers indicates you’re more interested in games of the pretend-to-be-a-warlock variety than the murdering-pixilated-representations-of-foreign-nationals kind. And good for you. Some orc-ish fundamentalists have fretted that kids who play Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade in the basement will wind up corrupted by an introduction to witchcraft, and to those worrywarts may we introduce: every other activity a group of teenagers could be doing in the basement.
Now that you’re frantic to buy your sons and daughters handfuls of 12-sided die, get thee (sorry) to Dragon’s Lair, where not only can you obtain the best and latest books, supplies, etc. for Forces of the War Machine, Shadowrun, and Legend of the Five Rings (in which it’s possible to play as a noncombatant), you can also play them, plus HeroClix, Magic: The Gathering, and good- old-fashioned Go!) right there in the store (see the website for schedules and information on reserving game rooms). That’s right, we said you could play them, too. You didn’t think these were just for kids did you?
2. Purple Cactus Comics (tie), 8180 Tezel, (210) 681-4977
2. Propaganda Palace Video Games (tie), (inside Eisenhauer Road Flea Market), 3903 Eisenhauer, (210) 653-7592,myspace.com/propagandapalace
1824 N. Main
Y’all still love Hogwild, the venerable, locally owned, new-and-used record and CD store closing in on its 30th birthday. Great taste — we love the hard-rocking outfit, too. But may we please address the irony of your third-place picks for a moment? Yes, know-it-all music nerds, we know eBay is probably the best place to find that rare Japanese edition of the Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. But it’s not the easiest place to browse for music, to oggle the cutie poring over “Used Funk” EPs, or to discuss, with a real person face-to-face, your excitement over the upcoming Hacienda/Heartless Bastards show. You can do all that in an independent record store. You can probably convince the kindly clerks to order a copy of Fear of Music, too. And you should, unless you want your first and second picks to end up like the store that’s tied with eBay, which closed for business last October.
2. Flip Side Record Parlor, 840 SW Military Dr., (210) 923-7811, myspace.com/flipsiderecord
3. eBay (tie) , Ebay.com
3. Music Town (tie), Out of Business
Shades of Green (tie)
334 W. Sunset, (210) 824-3772, shadesofgreensa.com
Milburger’s Landscaping and Nursury (tie)
3920 N. Loop 1604 East, (210) 497-3760, milbergernursery.com
There is a reason you can’t find that quick-growing shade tree known as chinaberry at Milburger Nursery or Shades of Green. The sultanas of lantanas know the thing is verdant evil when loosed on South Texas ecosystems, choking out beneficial trees and shrubs and the innumerable pest-consuming critters that feed on them. Shades of Green has even sworn off pesticides completely, offering regular classes in organic gardening techniques to make the fritillaries frolic. And if you’re still doing the traditional lawn thing, Milburger’s boasts the largest selection of turf-grass sod in South Texas. Get growing!
2. Fanick’s Garden Center, 1025 Holmgreen, (210) 648-1303,fanicknursery.com
3. Schulz Nursery, 3700 Broadway, (210) 804-0600,schulznursery.net
Blue Star Bike Shop
1414 S. Alamo
Blue Star Bike Shop sits right next door to Best Hand-Crafted Brews winner Blue Star Brewery, which gives us a freaking brilliant idea, you guys: The cops can’t cite you for a DWI if you’re riding a bike, right? So just get ripped at the brewery and then buy a … actually let me just run this by our common-sense checker before … Ouch! She just slapped me in the back of the head! WTF? Apparently that’s “like the worst idea ever,” so either limit your drink intake (you know, like you would if you’re driving a car) or content yourself with perusing Blue Star’s selection of wonderfully stylish Electra bicycles, high-quality Brooks bags and saddles, fancy-pants Cinelli Road Bicycles, and their own Blue Star line of single-speeders, none of which should be operated under the influence of anything but a love of fitness and the environment.
2. Bike World, 418 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 892-0123,bikeworld.com
3. Performance Bikes, 16648 San Pedro, (210) 764-6672 ,performancebike.com
Bussey’s Flea Market
18738 I.H. 35 North, Schertz, (210) 651-6830
Whether it’s a plastic optical trompe l’oeil “painting” of Jesus opening and closing his eyes, “hand-dipped” Blue Bell ice cream, a wiiiiide array of Elvis memorabilia, a kickass $15 T-shirt of Lightnin’ Hopkins, or a corn dog, this everything-o-rama up I-35 has you covered for all your bric-a-brac, used-record, and costume-jewelry needs. Bussey’s Flea Market is like the garage sale of an entire nation, with a whole lot of knives in it sold by dudes who look like extras from Deadwood. It’s a friendly scene, though, and full of surprises: A recent Saturday trip led us into a surprisingly well-kept live-bird emporium, where we fell in love with a Lilac Crown Amazonian Parrot ($495). We might go back and get it; we’re sure it only screams at dawn. And parking is only $1!
2. Eisenhauer Road Flea Market, 3903 Eisenhauer Rd., (210) 653-7592,eisenhauermarket.com
3. Poteet Flea Market, 12280 Poteet Jourdanton Fwy., (210) 624-2666
2235 Thousand Oaks
When you graduate past the It’s a Boy brand (RIP, Mitch Hedberg) and gas-station Swisher Sweets, C.I.G.A.R. is there to fulfill your fantasies of becoming a stogie-chomping bigshot. There’s a lot more to cigars, it turns out, than accessorizing them with the right tommy gun or ending every sentence with a menacing “see?” But here’s what you gotta do, see? Head out to C.I.G.A.R., where the knowledgeable staff will walk you through your first higher-end smokeable purchase, and initiate you into the mysteries of concepts like ring gauge, blooming, and priming, so you’ll find the cigar that suits your particular puffing needs. Once you’re hooked, C.I.G.A.R. is also the place to get the humidor you’ll need to store all those cigars you accumulate and save for special occasions. And if you get depressed lighting up on the fire escape of your efficiency apartment, grab a day pass to the Habana Club, featuring Tuscan stained floors, Italian leather furniture, and a billiard room — just the sort of place where the tough guys smoke their cigars in old movies, see?
2. Cigar Pointe, 19186 Blanco, (210) 888-2933 , cigarpointe.com
3. Finck Cigar Co., 414 Vera Cruz, (210) 226-4191, finckcigar.com
Central Market accomplishes in five tightly stacked aisles (embedded in the always-busy dry-goods section) what many a wine shop cannot: makes it easy to find wines by region or style, and un-intimidating to ask if you’ll be just as happy with the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc as with the twice-as-expensive Cloudy Bay. (Heidi steered us to the always reliable Kim Crawford, priced in between.) We like the case and Texas-wine discounts, too, and the helpful staff picks (Heidi, again, seems most in key with the Current’s taste and pocketbook, but we keep an eye out for Enrique’s notes, too), and since we’re part of a mixed marriage, we appreciate the proximity of CM’s equally outstanding globetrotting beer section.
2. Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods, 14623 IH 35 N, Live Oak, (210) 651-1911,specsonline.com
3. Joe Saglimbeni’s Fine Wine, 638 W. Rhapsody Dr., (210) 349-5149, jsfinewine.com
Bolner’s Meat Market
2900 S. Flores, (210) 533-5112
You must love the tinted family portrait by the entrance, and the cases full of go-with basics and fancy prepared sides (creamed spinach is just the beginning), and you probably like the slightly cocky way the meat-tender slaps the price tag on the bill of his camo cap while he swiftly wraps a porterhouse the size of your head (approximately $12.99/lb.) and a pair of the ever-popular bacon-and-beef pinwheels ($11.08). He’ll also season your steak with the Fiesta spices that made the family name famous, cut your cow to order, and sell you a box of tripas if you’ve got drinking company in town or ultra-pricey Akaushi if you’re “heart-conscious” with a red-meat hard-on. What else won you over? The cafeteria-style lunch counter and small-Texas-town dining room, maybe, and the extremely friendly staff.
2. Central Market, 4821 Broadway, (210) 368-8600
3. Cooper’s Meat Market, 6002 Broadway, (210) 820-3838
2423 N. Saint Mary’s
The top three finishers in this category were all within a vote of one another, which we like to think indicates Current readers are getting action everywhere they go, but the Mix once again was your favorite one-stop-shop for scoring some sweet, sweet tail meat. We know better than to argue. On a good night, the Mix seems to pack every 20-something hipster in Bexar County into a single smoky, lit-just-enough spot, so your odds of winning are greatly improved, statistically at least, even if you’ve got some hideous social handicap like cilantro stuck in your teeth or a Palin-Beck 2012 T-shirt. Crowded in with the in crowd, everyone becomes a little more popular — unless, of course, you’re a fire marshal. On a related note: condoms. Just throwing that out there.
2. Midnight Rodeo, 12260 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-0040
3. Retox, 1031 Patricia, (210) 775-2886
10127 Coachlight, (210) 342-2276
There’s nothing wrong with rallying your compatriots and launching a campaign to win a Best of SA category. Possibly knowing they’d easily win Best Lesbian Bar, the gals over at Bermuda Triangle campaigned to win Best Puffy Taco. And, no, they don’t serve food. What they do serve is bargain drinks in a sparkling playground for women who love women. Having visited lesbian bars across the U.S., we can assure you with authority that Bermuda is one of the most welcoming watering holes of its kind — even if you’re not, well, into girls. A few things for guys to consider (regardless of orientation): On weekend nights (and especially during the legendary foam parties) women move through the line more quickly than men, and owner Jill Gapinski can spot a “guy-creep” from a mile away.
2. The Saint (tie), 1430 N. Main, (210) 225-7330, thesaint-satx.com
2. Lava Lounge (tie) 1515 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 320-1740, myspace.com/lavaloungesanantonio
The Bonham Exchange
Does anyone out there have a time machine they’re not using? Dear reader, please throw on something slutty and climb into the front seat with me. Let’s visit SA’s best gay bar, nightclub, and dance floor circa 1984. Here we are; it’s such a cool building. Let’s go inside, girl. I’ve been saving up all week just for this. Not long ago, Bette Midler blew through here with three drag queens in tow all dressed as Bette Midler. The B-52s, the Ramones, Debbie Harry — everybody plays here. And tonight, dear time traveler, Tina Turner is in the house to kick off her Private Dancer tour! Omigod, look! There she is, and she’s totally wasted. Maybe someone slipped her some ecstasy! You can grab one from that fishbowl over there if you’re feeling naughty and adventurous. Since you’re allegedly straight, stay here while I run downstairs to the secret room under the stairs. Yes, the one with the sound of zippers unzipping in the dark. Meet me in exactly 9 minutes on the downstairs dance floor. Yes, the former gymnasium that was voted SA’s Best dance floor back in 2010. Let’s dance to one song there before running upstairs to slide around on the slippery metal dance floor in the Alamo bar. Then we’ll be in position to see Tina getting dragged out of this historic building after (collapsing onstage during) a raucous rendition of “Proud Mary.”
2. Sparky’s Pub, 1416 N. Main Ave., (210) 320-5111, sparkyssa.com
3. The Saint, 1430 N. Main Ave., (210) 225-7330,thesaint-satx.com
2. Midnight Rodeo, 12260 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-0040, midnightrodeosanantonio.com
3. Cowboys Dancehall, 3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378, cowboysdancehall.com
2. Industry, 8021 Pinebrook Dr., (210) 366-3229, myspace.com/theindustrynightclub
3. Midnight Rodeo, 12260 Nacogdoches Rd., (210) 655-0040, midnightrodeosanantonio.com
The White Rabbit
2410 N. Saint Mary’s,
Most towns, this wouldn’t have been much of a contest, but our scene’s big enough to support several viable options. The biggest and best remains the White Rabbit, however, for its multiple stages and open mind. If you can, fight your way out from a jam-packed all-ages hardcore show on the small outdoor stage to a bigger-name local act on the larger outdoor stage to a national death-metal show on the inside, then (if you can pry your hands out of the devil-horn position they’re no doubt involuntarily curled into at this point) top it off with a slice of pizza next door.
2. Bond’s 007 Rock Bar (tie), 450 Soledad, (210) 225-0007,myspace.com/sa_bonds007
2. Zombie’s (tie), 12285 Nacogdoches, (210) 590-7757,zombiesliveinsa.com
3. Scout Bar, 19314 U.S. Hwy. 281 North, (210) 494-7700,scoutbarsa.com
DJ Eddie Lopez
8021 Pinebrook Dr.
It takes some serious mastery and huevos to mix up AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” without anyone leaving the dancefloor. Eddie Lopez’s genre-spanning DJ sets attract all walks of life, evidenced by a seemingly endless request list, which is actually a computer positioned at the entrance to his elevated DJ booth at Industry. On a recent Saturday night, typed demands ranged from “Shakira’s ‘She-Wolf.’ Ladies will dance!” to “’My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult,’ pretty please!” Although we didn’t hear either of those songs while we were there, we did hear a seamless mix of danceable party music that was anything but predictable. Accompanied by a projected montage blending new and old music videos, Eddie’s schizophrenic repertoire aptly represents a loyal following of barely legal emo club kids, Gen X-ers, and rug-cutting cougars on the prowl.
2. Daecos (AKA Daecosomoxi),myspace.com/daecos
3. Adrian Rivera, Adrian's Facebook Page
Dandyland Custom Tattoo
Located in a nondescript strip center, Dandyland eschews decorative frills to concentrate on talented tattoo artists with an eye for customer service. Their staff tats each have their own thing going on: Miles goes for voluptuous cartoons, Hoss specializes in portraits, Per Simmons is a vibrant colorist, and Ray Wallace creates inventive Asian-style dragons. In case you can’t smell the antiseptic when you walk through the door, these guys are CLEAN and their caution extends to your creative choices, too. Don’t be surprised if the first time you visit, you walk out with an appointment to discuss the desired body art further instead of fresh ink.
And when considering paying someone to jam a needle through various parts of your cartilage and/or flesh, safety should be a primary concern. Most of you hole-happy kids have your priorities in the right place, judging from Dandyland’s overwhelming victory here. Hopefully, every operational piercing parlor has a satisfying degree of cleanliness and care, but Dandyland prides itself particularly on its safety record. The knowledgeable staff don’t use piercing guns (hard to sterilize and traumatic to earlobes), or externally threaded jewelry for initial piercings (can also wound or infect newly pierced skin), but they do have a gorgeous array of steel, stone, and wooden jewelry no doubt approved by the Association of Professional Piercers, of which the Dandyland studio is a member.
2. Tattoo Innerprize, 2407 Thousand Oaks Dr,. (210) 688-5230,Tattooinnerprize.com
3. Rings of Fire, 110 Jefferson, (210) 354-4347, myspace.com/ringsoffiredt2 Also: 6864 Ingram Road, myspace.com/ringsoffireone
2. Element Tattoo Studio, 4741 Fredericksburg Rd., (210) 979-9877, elementtattoo.com
3. Tattoo Innerprize, 2407 Thousand Oaks Dr., (210) 688-5230,tattooinnerprize.com
Geeks Who Drink at the Lion & Rose, Broadway
8pm Tuesdays & Thursdays
We were goaded by a friend and promised set-up access to a cute boy, so we launched ourselves into this smoky Alamo Heights hangout despite the weird hauteur of the bartenders and goofy get-ups of the waitresses. Then we had what can only be described as … fun. Lots and lots of fun! Even if ritualized demi-competition ain’t your thang, you and your teammates, after coming up with some ridiculous name, will relish fightin’ those other silly-monikered teams over questions of such gravitas as FDR’s secretary of state, the fifth Beatle, or the name of Arnold’s pet fish on Diff’rent Strokes (psst: Abraham). The cute guy ended up being not for us, and the smoke in there is still pretty lung-saturating, but the emcees keep the triviarama a-rollin,’ the beer selection is awesome, and the crowd is vociferous and funny. If you can’t have fun here, you should go on medication.
2. Flying Saucer Trivia Night, 7:30pm Tuesdays, 11255 Huebner, (210) 647-746, beerknurd.com
3. Geeks Who Drink at the Lion & Rose, Sonterra, 8pm Tuesdays, 700 E. Sonterra Blvd., (210), 798-5466,thelionandrose.com
2417 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 733-9573
It may not have the most pool tables in town, but the old-fashioned neighborhood bar puts a respectable nine in their spacious gameroom. Seven of those are tournament tables that serious billiards players rent for $7 an hour. Two are smaller quarters tables that go for $1 a pop, though only one of those worked on our last visit. The vibe is more Cheers than The Hustler, so sharks of all skill levels feel comfortable and dust-ups between tables are rare. A decent beer selection and sports games on the big screen make Joey’s the St. Mary’s Strip spot for a laid-back hang with pool cues.
2. Bananas Billiard Bar and Grill, 2003 San Pedro, (210) 226-2627
3. Dave and Buster’s (tie), 440 Crossroads Blvd.,(210) 515-1515,Daveandbusters.com
3. Fox & Hound English Pub (tie), 12651 Vance Jackson Road, (210) 696-1356, foxandhound.com
Sidle over to Dad’s to belt out your favorite tunes to a room full of strangers seven days a week. As Natalia Ciolko pointed out in a recent review, weeknights at Dad’s are popular but not packed, while weekends are slammed with would-be Johnnys, Neils, Taylors, and Sir Mix-a-Lots. If you get bored by the endless renditions of “Sweet Caroline,” flip through a tome from Dad’s funky bookshelves or take a (nicely priced) shot with one of the many eccentric regulars whose life stories are almost as good as their “Don’t Stop Believin’” covers.
2. Me and C.A., 8373 Perrin Beitel Road, (210) 590-6322,meandca.com
3. London Sub and Pub, 8425 Bandera Road, (210) 682-1070, Myspace.com/londonpubrocks
Bandera Super Bowl
As the name implies, Bandera Super Bowl is a normal alley on steroids. It’s bigger, open later, and takes itself more seriously, but that plays well for diehard bowlers. More than 50 lanes mean little wait time, and superlate hours mean that you won’t be rushed to finish a game unless you’re satisfying a bowling jones at 2 a.m. on a Friday. (Let’s face it, a real possibility.) A generous bar, classic fried-food canteen, and evening hours enhanced by disco lights and an ABBA-friendly DJ quite make up for the dour staff and eerie police presence.
2. University Bowl, 12332 I-10 West, (210) 699-6235,ubbowl.com
3. AMF Country Lanes, 13307 San Pedro, (210) 496-381, amf.com
15900 La Cantera Pkwy.
Not even shitty weather can keep Kona Grill from getting packed to the gills with practically every afternoon drinker in La Cantera. On a recent Thursday during happy hour, we couldn’t get a seat at the bar or on the patio, so we stood around for a while before grabbing an order of ahi wonton crisps and a fizzy sake bomb, to be enjoyed from the standing position under Kona’s coolest design element — a massive saltwater aquarium. With amusement, the exotic school behind the glass surveys countless Secretaries Gone Wild as they snack on sushi and drink like fish.
2. Azuca Nuevo Latino, 713 S. Alamo, (210) 225-5550, azuca.net
3. Houlihan’s, 938 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 494-3371,houlihans.com
The last time we went to the Flying Saucer, we sat right next to Beer Across Texas blogger Travis Poling, a good sign that we were in the right place to quench our thirst for weird and wonderful brews. A menu of nearly 300, including 81 on a rotating tap basis, never fails to pique our curiosity. Friendly staff, from managers to servers, all know their ales from their IPAs and can help patrons pick one pint from the 100 they’re pondering. A particular bonus is the Saucer’s free Wi-Fi, which makes working “from home” much more fun.
2. Yard House, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 691-003, yardhouse.com
3. Hills & Dales Ice House,15403 White Fawn Dr., (210) 695-2307
Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina
910 S. Alamo
Our waitress said that Rosario’s uses V-8 juice in their handmade micheladas, but one of the reasons we agree it’s among the best in town is that you can’t taste or see the tomato. The Rosario’s model has a nice, bright tang, and just the right amount of sting, making them easy to slurp down on a hot summer day, and extra good with those award-winning super nachos.
2. Mi Tierra’s Mariachi Bar, 218 Produce Row, (210) 225-1262, mitierracafe.com
3. The Friendly Spot (tie), 943 S. Alamo, (210) 224-2337, thefriendlyspot.com
3. Frio Saloon (tie),801 S. Frio, (210) 227-FRIO,friosaloon.com
Mon Ami Lounge
4901 Broadway, (210) 822-3253
The Current has been singing the praises of Mon Ami bartender Olaf Harmel and the sophisticated, eclectic cocktail menu he helped create for months now, and our fandom is happily not solo. The small watering hole behind Mon Thai has cozied up, adding more sink-in furniture and a full wall between it and the restaurant, and playing up its Francophile assets (narrow wooden casement windows) with deep burgundy walls and pleasantly worn Belle Époque décor. It’s a perfectly grownup casual spot for bohemians and business types to sip something more inventive than a martini (although Olaf makes a mean Vesper): say, a Kanzler — bourbon, Cointreau, lemon, and Champagne, garnished with a fragrant, foot-long orange curl. But what makes Mon Ami’s cocktails really special? The bartender still tastes each one with a straw before sending it out, and we even spied him sniffing the glassware and each ingredient as he worked. That’s the kind of hands-on OCD we adore.
2. Bohanan’s Bar, 221 E. Houston, (210) 472-2202,bohanans.com
3. SoHo Wine & Martini Bar (tie), 214 W. Crockett, (210) 444-1000,sohomartinibar.com
3. Retox (tie), 1031 Patricia, (210) 775-2886, retoxbar.net
Blue Star Brewing Company
1414 S. Alamo
We all love Lone Star, but it doesn’t really taste like much of anything other than a cheap drunk. Blue Star’s moderately priced brews (most around $4.50 a glass; $20 a growler), on the other hand, are too flavorful to chug. The Pale Ale is just bitter enough, the Texican leaves traces of sweetness mercifully milder than Blue Moon’s Fruit Loop finish, and the King William Barley Wine (warning: higher alcohol content) comes on like apple juice and leaves you with a hint of fresh-cut grass. The only catch: Last call comes at 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends), so arrive early, because, unlike those ever-understanding red-and-gold cans, Blue Star’s brews get insulted if you pound them two at a time.
2. Freetail Brewing Company, 4035 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 395-4974,freetailbrewing.com
3. BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, 22410 U.S. 281 North, (210) 497-6070, bjsbrewhouse.com
The Ticket Sports Pub
420 E. Houston, (210) 222-9722
Sports bars, like sports themselves, are mostly about the fundamentals. So while the Ticket’s razzle-dazzle — tasty appetizers and entrees, great downtown location, and even a $500 VIP balcony package that offers up to a dozen well-dressed people a party with a case of beer, a bottle of whatever, and private security — may have helped it pull out ahead of its competitors, the contest really comes down to three things: TVs, TVs, TVs. The Ticket has more high-def screens than you could shake a stick at without being asked to leave, tuned to every conceivable sports channel. If it’s a competition and it’s currently being broadcast anywhere in Earth’s atmosphere, odds are it’s being reassembled in 1080p for a group of fans huddled around $4 Jaeger shots somewhere inside the Ticket, where there’s no fine for excessive celebration.
2. Mulligans Sports Pub & Grub, 19314 Hwy 281 N, (210) 277-1800, mulliganbar.com
3. Retox Bar, 1031 Patricia, (210) 775-2886, retoxbar.net
723 S. Alamo
It’s quality over quantity as Bar America once again takes home top honors for its teeny ol’ record-spinner. We recommend going in on a quiet night to get the full effect of the limited, yet eclectic, list. Where else ya gonna find Billy Ocean, Selena, and Roger Miller on the same ‘box? For cheap, too. A cool four quarters buys 10 plays, which is almost one-fifth of the catalogue, pumping gently out of an elegant old-school machine. Regional favorites get plenty of room, a quality that should be appreciated in the increasing age of soulless internet rip-off jukeboxes, a fate that recently befell even beloved second-place Tucker’s. Don’t ever change, Bar America.
2. Tucker’s Kozy Korner, 1338 E. Houston, (210) 320-2192,tuckerskozykorner.com
3. Retox, 1031 Patricia, (210) 775-2886,retoxbar.net
3030 NE Loop 410
Cowboys’ massive building near the I-35/Loop 410/Austin Highway convergence provides a mecca for all things country and western. Two floors, each with a full bar, make for fast drinks and good views of acts like regional faves Jason Boland and the Stragglers and big Nashville names. On non-concert nights, the Wranglers set enjoys country line dancing (lessons provided most Saturday nights) or professional bull riding in Cowboys’ in-house (!) rodeo ring. Cowpokes looking to rustle up a little action of their own should seriously look into Ladies Night on Thursday, when the mechanical bull rides are free and the necessary liquid courage comes cheap. Cowboy up!
2. John T. Floore Country Store, 14492 Old Bandera Road, (210) 695-8827,liveatfloores.com
3. Midnight Rodeo,12260 Nacogdoches Rd., (210) 665-04040,midnightrodeosanantonio.com
100 Probandt, (210) 212-5727
Nothing much has changed at La Tuna since they began sweeping this category back when, oh, we introduced it. The family-run business, brought to you by some of the geniuses behind the original Broadway 50-50 and Rosario’s and the long-gone Beauregard, isn’t the oldest or most traditional ice house in town, but it does have broad appeal: beer high-and-low near-and-far at couch-change prices, bar-friendly food that’s crunchy enough to snag the alt crowd, and an ideal yard, littered with an ever-deepening layer of bottle caps and well-worn picnic tables around which many a friendship and romance has been sealed.
2. The Friendly Spot, 943 S. Alamo, (210) 224-2337,thefriendlyspot.com
3. Hills & Dales, 15403 White Fawn Dr., (210) 695-2307
Azuca Nuevo Latino
713 S. Alamo
Although Azuca Nuevo Latino is perhaps better known as one of Southtown’s hippest happy-hour destinations, according to Current readers it’s also SA’s best salsa club. On Friday and Saturday nights, Azuca’s bar tables get pushed aside to make way for a spicy, homegrown version of Bailando con las Estrellas. While other places in town might favor a younger, more modern version of the genre, Azuca keeps it real by focusing on traditional salsa and merengue. On a recent First Friday, an already crowded Azuca was invaded by Running a Tab’s Pub Run, providing a picture-worthy melange of seasoned professionals in cha-cha gear and tipsy hipsters in jogging shorts, all grooving to the sounds of the nine-piece Orchesta Tropicante. If you’re intimidated by all the fancy footwork, consider attending one of Azuca’s Saturday-afternoon classes (4-6 p.m.), and remember: Everything’s easier after a few mojitos.
2. Arjon’s International Club, 8736 Tesoro Dr., (210) 804-1419, arjonsclub.com
3. Coco Chocolate Bar and Bistro (Fridays), 18402 US Hwy 281, (210) 491-4480, sa-coco.com
218 Produce Row
Apologies to all of you who voted for “at home in bed” as your favorite hangover nursing station, but that’s no place for real recovery — just a temporary stopgap on the way to the inevitable bathroom nightmare. If you actually want to stop the hurting, we suggest a couple of ibuprofen and a Topo Chico. Then put on your darkest sunglasses and head over to Mi Tierra for their Barbacoa Campesino Special: two eggs, pico, refried beans, and melt-in-your-mouth barbacoa that will coat your poor stomach with a thin layer of god’s own grease. Several places around town have excellent barbacoa, but Mi Tierra serves it up 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because hangovers aren’t just for Sunday-morning breakfast anymore.
2. Taco Haven, 1032 South Presa Street, (210) 533-2171, tacohaven.info
3. El Mirador,722 S. St. Mary’s, (210) 225-9444,elmiradorrestaurant.com
Adult Video Megaplexxx
11827 Hwy. 281 North
You want to shop for grownup tickly delights in an atmosphere that isn’t dark, gross, or scary, but light, friendly, and airy (in a Spanish-colonial-esque rehabbed Ninfa’s, mayhaps!), the trenchcoated pervs eradicated by a smiling, casual staff who behave pretty much just like their counterparts at the Bed Bath and Beyond. Keeping it simple and giving you exactly what you need, just like the Hitachi Magic Wand (Rimshot! Amirite ladies?). But seriously folks, you will not be skeeved or scared in here. And if you run into a co-worker picking out leopard-print restraints or your former algebra teacher picking up a DVD copy of Hot Buttered Cop Porn, let ’em be. (Oh, and we called — they’ve got the Magic Wand in stock. $84.99)
2. Shades of Love, 300 W. Bitters #150, (210) 494-3006, theshadesoflove.com
3. Adam & Eve, 6957 San Pedro, (210) 348-6902, adameve.com
Coco Chocolate Bar and Bistro
18402 U.S. Hwy. 281 North
Remember in Season 3 of The Simpsons when Homer daydreams about the Land of Chocolate during an interview with the two German investors who want to buy the power plant? Yes? No? Coco does not exactly sport edible lampposts, but it’s the closest thing to Homer’s fantasy in city limits. Catering expertly to a clientele of Northside women of a certain age (free plastic surgery consultation for all Coco customers!), Coco provides sweet martinis, French wines, and upscale bistro noshes. Specialty drinks like the Chocolate Sin have been known to convert the staunchest beer-swilling American male into a connoisseur of imported chocolate liqueur. Soft music and comfy couches make Coco’s cozy digs at the Legacy Shopping Plaza San Antonio’s premier spot to indulge all your cocoa-bean fantasies, minus the lamppost one.
2. Luna, 6740 San Pedro, (210) 804-2433,lunalive.com
3. Mon Ami Lounge, 4901 Broadway, (210) 822-3253,monsthai.com
San Antonio, unlike an increasing number of big cities these days, hasn’t yet bent to the whims of the clean-breather movement and its pile of inconclusive evidence about the ills caused by second-hand nicotine, so most bars are still smoker-friendly (knock on yellow-stained wood). Best smoking bar, therefore, requires more than just that welcoming “smoking permitted” sign hanging in the doorway. Namely it needs some stuff for you to do to distract you from all those pesky surgeon general’s warnings while sucking on that butt — activities that look cooler with cigarette in hand, and that don’t require a lot of lung capacity. Rookies obliges with Spurs on the TV, shuffleboard tournaments, and a closet full of board games and such. Plus, they’ve got Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. It’s not the best beer in the world, but it’s only $2.25 a glass, and odds are your taste buds died screaming decades ago.
2. Chango’s Havana Club (tie), 23535 I-10 W, (210) 698-8922,changosclub.com
2. The Mix (tie), 2423 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 735-1313
3. C.I.G.A.R., 2235 Thousand Oaks, (210) 404-2626
The night we went to check out your favorite old-man bar, our drinking companion wore an incredibly cute newsboy cap (it’s important to note, for legal reasons, that our companion was not an actual newsboy) and we were almost thrown out for it. Our waitress balked at the bill, referring to it as a “ball cap,” but we’re pretty sure the real issue was our ages, or lack thereof. A comment on our “baby faces” while she stared a hole through our IDs, followed by the observation that they didn’t get many of our kind around there translated pretty easily to “don’t let the door hit you in your taut young ass on the way out.” Designation as “best old man bar” would be an insult to many establishments, but here it’s more of a warning. The Raffles regulars didn’t spend years patronizing this place to see it taken over by Jell-o-shooting whippersnappers in search of a kitschy good time. Best old-man bar means the real Raffles experience requires decades of dues-paying to obtain. We’ll see you in about 40 years.
2. Bar America,723 S. Alamo,myspace.com/bar_america
3. Dad’s Karaoke, 2615 Mossrock Drive, (210) 240-3887, myspace.com/dadskaraoke
Vbar in the Hotel Valencia
150 E. Houston
What do the townie denizens of tourist destinations want from their hotel bars? A happy-hour staycation, a reliable place to find some out-of-town strange, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Item three seals Vbar’s top honors, although it also delivers on the other two reliably (we’re told), without ever stooping to reality-TV trashiness. Its shimmery yet earthy bar still feels swank, and the outdoor veranda overlooks one of the more romantic bends in the river, but it also outdoes its many new and old competitors by hosting monthly events that mix fashion and philanthropy with cocktails.
2. WXYZ Bar in Aloft, 838 NW Loop 410, (210) 541-888, starwoodhotels.com
3. The Menger Hotel Ba, r204 Alamo Plaza, (210) 223-4361, mengerhotel.com
Copa Wine Bar
19141 Stone Oak Pkwy.
2010’s turning out to be a good year to be named Jeff Bridges. While Hollywood’s Jeff Bridges just won his first Oscar, SA’s Jeff Bridges is the proud owner of Copa Wine Bar, which, according to y’all, is the best place in town to pull a cork out and drink till you’ve got purple teeth. What makes Copa so special? For one, it’s probably the most laid-back watering hole on the North Side. Copa’s living-room atmosphere lends itself to sipping slowly on a glass of something you’ve never tried before, which brings up another good point: Not only is Bridges eager to share a wealth of knowledge about wine (speaking in a way non-oenophiles can relate to), he’s got a knack for guessing what your palate’s longing for. The dude knows his grapes.
2. Zinc Champagne & Wine Bar, 207 N. Presa, (210) 224-2900, zincwine.com
3. Vela at Paloma Blanc, 5800 Broadway, (210) 822-7120,velawinebar.com
Lanny Sinkin, Solar San Antonio
Lanny Sinkin swept back into San Antonio as something of a wild card. He was one of the area’s most effective — and by that we mean “only” — activists who fought back in the day against construction of the first two nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project outside Bay City. Over the past couple years, he’d become a valuable part of the resistance to the proposed two-unit expansion before finances forced the city to punt the nuclear football. Last year, Lanny was named to replace one of the city’s most beloved environmental leaders - his daddy and Solar San Antonio founder Bill Sinkin — as the director of SSA. The spryer Sinkin has effectively lathered up with some of his poppa’s most effective social charms and kept key elements of the city talking about pollution-free solutions. Que radical.
2. Annalisa Peace , Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, aquiferalliance.org
3. Terri Hall (tie), San Antonio Toll Party, TURF,satollparty.com
3. John Stanford (tie), Communist Party, USA,cpusa.org
Solar San Antonio
118 Broadway, Ste. 621, (210) 354-0236
Survival-minded Earthlings (sometimes denigrated as “flower children”) have been insisting for decades that the era of sun power is upon us. And yet the tech has been hindered by über-oil-focused federal policies. With the Bush oil-garchy finally deposed, those failures may be behind us, at last. Last year, SA was named a Solar America City by the U.S. Department of Energy. The City-owned utility, CPS Energy, after some missteps, rolled out a strong set of rebates for residential and business owners, and solar companies are on the prowl in South Texas. Working largely behind the scenes, Solar San Antonio is making sure local and state policy decisions keep the clean-tech wave cresting.
2. Build San Antonio Green, 118 Broadway, Ste. 232, (210) 224-7278 ,buildsagreen.org
3. San Anto Cultural Arts (tie), 1300 Chihuahua St., (210) 226-7466,sananto.org
3. San Antonio Aids Foundation (tie), 818 E. Grayson, (210) 225-4715,txsaaf.org
Greg Maitland , Bike World
418 N. Loop 1604 West
“These days, car mechanics they can hook a car up to a computer to diagnose what’s wrong with it,” says Maitland, “but bikes are a little bit more finicky. Sometimes talking to a customer, they’ll point you in one direction, but when you actually ride the bike you’ll discover the problem is coming from somewhere else entirely.” Maitland’s honed his chops at the precise skill set (“critical thinking” being chief among them) required to repair your bicycle working in bike shops over the past decade, and though he says he’s a pretty “well-rounded” guy, he lists his areas of expertise as suspension and mountain bikes. Maybe we don’t live in the Monty Python sketch in which bicycle repairmen are revered as superheroes, but you’ll appreciate Maitland’s critical-thinking skills when your high-end 10-speed starts making a weird grinding noise.
2. Rick Avalos, Bicycle Heaven, 20323 Huebner, (210) 494-0035
3. Matt Hamlin , Bicycle Heaven, 20323 Huebner, (210) 494-0035
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
We counted the vote for “the dude who won the bobsled” (Olympic gold medalist Justin Olsen, we presume), and Ginobili came surprisingly close, but who else could’ve won this, honestly? Four-time champion, three-time NBA MVP, Spurs team captain, number-one draft pick, philanthropist, and all-around nice guy (we assume, though he won’t answer our constant emails) Tim Duncan has been the face of the franchise since David Robinson retired in 2003. This power forward and sometimes center has been dubbed “The Big Fundamental” because his playing is so consistent he sometimes seems to be boring himself on the court. But we love that quality so much we’re starting a rumor that he’s the real inspiration behind Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
2. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs, nba.com/spurs
3. Josh Davis, Olympic swimmer,joshdavis.com
Mayor of San Antonio
San Antonio’s Mayor was wet-nursed on local politics. Son of revered local activist Rosie Castro, as a child he was often found in tow at important community meetings. He assumed national import — at least in Democratic Party circles, where some whispered “Hispanic Obama” in his wake — after winning the mayorship on a second bid in 2009. One part San Antonio, one part Harvard polishing, and one part plotting politician, Castro came into office in the midst of a heated nuclear debate (siding with the nukes, but working to bring the city’s share in the partnership down), and has since been able to move on to less cantankerous issues, like spreading federal funds to fight childhood obesity.
2. Nelson Wolff , King of Bexar County,co.bexar.tx.us/commct/cj/county.judge.htm
3. Mike Villarreal, State Representative,leaderslisten.org
Kimmy Cervantes at Tonic (tie)
Omega Treviño at Alamo Drafthouse Park North (tie)
Alamo Drafthouse Park North
618 NW Loop 410, (210) 677-8500
Unlikely, but true, bartenders Omega Teviño and Kimmy Cervantes have the exact same number of drunken fans. Now girls, there’s no need to fight over this, because you couldn’t possibly be more different from each other. When we dropped in on “the Omega-tron,” she was quietly winding down the shift at Alamo Drafthouse Park North, dressed as some sort of new-wave super hero (for a Kick Ass-themed costume contest) and was almost too shy to remind us she’s also the lead singer of local punk band So Unloved (myspace.com/theunloved). Kimmy “don’t sass the sasser” Cervantes, on the other hand, specializes in shameless self-promotion, and the girl’s got plenty to, um, promote. “Here, help me, are my boobs even?” she asked before allowing us to snap a picture of her concocting a round of shots. The Kerrville-born temptress commands the bar at newly redesigned Tonic when she isn’t “putting a sexy new spin on nightlife” with her company Eye Kandy Promotions (myspace.com/eyekandypromos).
2. Danielle at Retox, 1031 Patricia, (210) 775-2886,retoxbar.net
Joseph Duce at Olmos Perk
Apparently, guys with facial hair, tattoos, and earplugs get the coffee-guzzling horndogs of Olmos Park all hot and bothered. Dallas-born Olmos Perk barista (and soon-to-be nursing student) Joseph Duce is officially SA’s hottest busboy. Although he won by a landslide thanks to a “campaign” one of his co-workers launched, we did get a lot of wildcard responses in this category, such as “My son,” and “Do the cops at NIOSA count?” Although Joseph posed for a few dreamy pictures that we will never ever delete, he asked us ever so politely to not publish them, citing religious beliefs and marital status as reasons. All we can say, is that’s one lucky biatch, and those tats must look awfully hot in church. Olmos Perk also won Best Coffee House, and we have to agree. It’s privately owned, and the vibe is simultaneously focused and relaxed, making it an ideal place to do homework. Ladies and gentlemen, go for the coffee, but stay for the view.
2. Shawn Knapp at Midnight Rodeo, 12260 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-0040,midnightrodeosanantonio.com
3. The busboys at Barbaresco Italian Restaurant, 9175 San Pedro, (210) 231-0989, barbaresco.net
Drunken Monkey Promotions
Maybe it’s the name that makes this local concert promoter so popular. Who wouldn’t want to vote for a bourbon-chugging chimpanzee, whatever office it’s running for? (Insert incredibly untimely W. joke here, you hack.) More likely, though, it’s the tireless promotion of all things local and musical: the regularly held and ridiculously deep-rostered Drunken Monkey Fests, the commitment to free and $5 shows, and the unflinching honesty. Under the “About Me” section of its MySpace page, DM comes out and says what everybody was thinking: “All bands must bust their ass to promote and spread the word of their shows. Otherwise your show is going to suck and your pay will reflect that.” For struggling local artists, that’s more than a guideline — it’s a tattoo suggestion. Though, we admit, that bourbon-chugging chimp would look cooler.
2. Roland Fuentes , Nightrocker Live, 605 San Pedro, (210) 650-2243,myspace.com/nightrockerlive
3. Jennifer Holt , White Rabbit , 2410 N. Saint Mary’s, (210) 737-2221,sawhiterabbit.com
The cabbie doesn’t care about the scuff marks on your knees or the lipstick smudge running down your neck. He doesn’t even check you out in the rearview as you take your sunrise toot. There is no judgment in a Yellow Cab. Maybe it’s that you’re paying for this time by the mile. Maybe it’s cabbie etiquette. Sure, the online fare estimator and fleet of 500 is nice, but not nearly as nice as a sober ride home at 5 in the morning from someone who has obviously seen it all before. Is it the security of being in a Yellow or the driver’s smoky hotness that inspired you to offer the wrong address? “Woodlawn? Did I say Woodlawn? I meant Lion’s Park.” It’s gonna be a long ride.
2. River City Pedicabs, (210) 542-1324,
3. AAA Taxi, (210) 599-1111, aaataxi.com
Joshua Ramirez, Alamo Drafthouse
618 NW Loop 410
What beer goes best with the preternatural preteen violence of Kick Ass? Which suds and grub are the most period-authentic to Hot Tub Machine? And what’s this gooey stuff stuck on my seat? To answer such cinephilic musings, Alamo Drafthouse’s Josh Ramirez is your man. Not only does he know the many turbulent alcoholic mutations between Rogue Dead Guy Ale (Kick Ass) and Coors Light (Hot Tub, we’re thinking) on the menu, but he can present your dining options while weaving in bits of humorous back story from his life and the world of film. He may even have some off-menu knowledge to share, colleagues suggest, but we’re not asking too many questions. Want a bit of Josh with your blood-red corn-syrup twists? Hit the new release theater at Alamo’s Park North location on any given Friday. And come thirsty.
2. Paula Garcia, Midnight Rodeo, 12260 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-0040, midnightrodeo.com
3. Jon Smith, Gianni’s Italian Cuisine, 2602 North Loop 1604, (210) 233-9240, giannisitaliancuisine.com
According to weatherman Steve Browne’s bio, he became interested in meteorology when he was in the first grade because he was curious about the snowstorms in his hometown of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Sorry to disappoint you with all the sunshine, Steve, but Browne’s lifelong fascination with his area of expertise is typical of the KSAT news team. Sportscaster Greg Simmons has been casting sports since his days at Jefferson High School, and though they don’t look it, anchors Ursula Pari and Steve Spriester have decades of experience between them. KSAT broadcasts the news with a seasoned voice and chiseled good looks five times daily at 5 a.m., noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.
2. KENS 5,kens5.com
3. WOAI 4,woai.com
San Antonio native Greg Simmons went from a studio-run radio-station broadcast on the Jefferson High School loudspeaker to the sports desk on the nightly network news, but he’s still covering high-school sports. Lots and lots of high-school sports. During football season, he heads an eight-person anchor team as they scramble to cover the dozens of games taking place around town; he reportedly tries to squeeze highlights from at least 15 of them into the broadcast, and he follows the Dallas Cowboys everywhere — like if they didn’t know he was there it would be considered stalking. He leads, in short, exactly the sort of life that sports fanatics wish they could, then he chats about it on TV, both on the news and on his Sunday-night half-hour show Instant Replay. We live vicariously through you, Mr. Simmons, but now that you know of San Antonio’s love, you can’t consider us stalkers.
2. Don Harris, WOAI,woai.com
3. Joe Reinagel, KENS,kens5.com
What happened, WOAI? We were all set to write another glowing tribute to San Antonio’s favorite meteorologist when news of Broome’s looming May 7 departure rained on our parade. The ultra-fit, youthful, blond Southern belle could have got on television by looks alone, but she proved her passion with dual bachelor degrees in geosciences and journalism, and spent nearly a decade in San Antonio, becoming the city’s first female chief meteorologist. The rumor mill blames budget cuts and bad ratings at WOAI, the same forces thought to be behind the departure of Broome’s colleague Tanji Patton. Like Patton, Broome has already rolled out her own web endeavor, the travel site Swept Away with Jennifer Broome
2. Steve Browne, KSAT 12,ksat.com
3. Shaun Stevens, KABB 29,foxsanantonio.com
Many voters know him simply as “Beamer,” and maybe that’s why they put him in first place for news anchor year after year. People like feeling that they’re on a nickname basis with a dude who wins regional Emmys and statewide professional recognition, reports from Iraq, has heart-to-hearts with death row inmates, and harvests his own bluebonnet seeds. He’s also handy with a camera, both video and still. San Antonio remains Beamer’s world; we just live in it.
2. Ursula Pari, KSAT 12,ksat.com
3. Steve Spriester, KSAT 12,ksat.com
Enough SA folks have their dial turned to 90.1 FM to rank KSYM as an overwhelming fan favorite, perhaps because it’s the local station most dedicated to showcasing indie rock and pop 24/7. The stellar programming susses out local college students’ aural needs at every hour. Techno on Friday 11-midnight while we party hop. Alt country on Saturday afternoons while we drink beers on the porch. Laid-back tunes on Sunday evening while we prepare for Monday’s exams.
2. KISS 99.5 FM,kissrocks.com
3. MIXX 96.1 FM, mix961.com
Like many of you, we suspect, 89.1FM provides the soundtrack to our work-week commutes. Listeners like us enjoy public radio’s broad-reaching news coverage from Kyrgyzstan in upheaval to West Virginia in mourning, and tuning in just in time to hear Marketplace’s musical bars tell us whether the Dow is up, down, or flat. KSTX works particularly hard to highlight local news, too, whether through Terry Gildea’s Monday lunch-hour journalism gabfest The Source or husband and wife David Martin Davies and Yvette Benavides’s insightful Texas Matters. And, of course, what would our local NPR affiliate be without Jim Cullum’s Riverwalk Jazz every Sunday? We hope all y’all who voted for them also took a moment to pledge during this spring’s just-completed drive, but if you didn’t, they do sign up new members all year ’round.
2. WOAI 1200, woai.com
3. KTSA 550,ktsa.com
Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo
We understand not all of our readers enjoy the Current’s urban sensitivity. Or understand our insistence on covering the news from the perspective of the perennially disadvantaged. Or “get” our reverence for all things multicultural. We know this because you overwhelmingly voted for Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo for best talk radio. Now we know where you run every third time we decry the abuse of marine mammals or huff over the mistreatment of Bexar County inmates: straight into the arms of right-of-center, suburban, white anger. We’re just honored to have you the other two-thirds of the time.
2. Chris Duel, ESPN 1250AM,chrisduel.com
3. Jack Riccardi (tie), KTSA 550AM,ktsa.com
3. Trey Ware (tie), KTSA 550AM,ktsa.com
O’Neill’s online video portfolio reveals professional videography and post-production work particularly in the vein of ecological and socially progressive concerns, including PSAs for San Antonio Solarfest, the San Antonio Area Foundation, and Healthy Futures Alliance. In addition to his video work, he acts as a multimedia and social-networking consultant, and has founded an alternative workspace project (c4workspace.com). Furthermore, he directed the short film The Healer, in which the parents of a seriously ill girl grow to accept the help of a curandero, for the 48-Hour Dramatic Film project, and which you can check out on the busy man’s website.
2. Brandon Faucett,brandonfaucett.blogspot.com
3. Team Perspectives,facebook.com/jerrodkingery
Alleged blogmeister Ben “Lucky-ass” Olivo of the (SURPRISE!) San Antonio Express-News writes something called … what is it? Oh, yes. The Downtown Blog. How obvious. As cruel Fate (and, fine, A LOT OF VOTES) would have it, the Downtown Blog is the fave online travelogue of all manner of downtown stuff, including but not limited to watering holes, special events, the constant nitelife switcheroos in downtown club spaces, as well as Fiesta happenings (did you know that the former Alaskan Palace site will be part of NIOSA this year? Well, Mister Smarty Pants did), all related in Olivo’s reliably smart and funny prose (may he get a rash). Olivo also helms a podcast featuring interviews with such local luminaries as Mayor Julián Castro. Oh, big stinkin’ deal. Note: The Downtown Blog’s on a kind of Fiesta hiatus, so check the mysanantonio.com’s Fiesta page (mysanantonio.com/fiesta) for your Olivo fix, if he’s so freaking special.
2. Sarah Fisch, Curblog,sacurrent.com
3. Missions Unknown,missionsunknown.com
San Antonio Express-News
The author of last year’s column collection Clowns and Rats Scare Me (don’t hold the title against him) rose quickly through the ranks at the Express-News to become the weekly columnist and editorial board member he is today. Clack’s columns run the gamut from earnest musings on racism, poverty, and tolerance (Clack spent time at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change before becoming a journalist) to gently chastising political nimwits to family-friendly observational humor. In reference to his recent “It’s Cary, with a ‘C’” column, had the Current not counted all votes for “Gary Clack,” our own Greg Harman might be in this issue’s top seat.
2. Greg Harman, San Antonio Current,sacurrent.com
3. Michael O’Rourke, San Antonio Express-News,mysanantonio.com
700 Division Ave
The mini-tacos — savory/tart al pastor, rich carnitas — generous handmade tortas both con-carne and veggie, and even Tex Mex staples such as quesadillas and cheese enchiladas — are far superior to anything you’ll get out of any wheeled vehicle anywhere: truck, car, biplane, sailboat, submarine, hovercraft, pedicab, UFO, tuk-tuk. But, amazingly, it’s the impeccably fresh seafood that’ll get you hooked (What? Too obvious?). The shrimp tostada will haunt your dreams until you can get your mitts on another one … and another. All the salsas and fixin’s (minced cebolla, cilantro, lime) are fresh, too. The best way to enjoy this delicious bounty is on the Artpace porch every Friday from noon-2 p.m., where in good weather you can stuff your taco-lovin’ face while hangin’ with art peeps and enjoying an ice-cold Mexican Coke or Topo Chico.
2. Chela’s,Corner of UTSA and UTEX Blvd
3. Taqueria Datapoint, (yes, there’s still a truck, too), 4063 Medical Dr. (210) 615-3644
El Milagrito Café
521 E. Woodlawn
After sating ourselves one morning, we brought some tortilla-wrapped love from El Milagrito into the office. Sometimes uppity reporters turn up their noses at leftovers, but these foil-wrapped treasures were devoured in minutes. Our art director, upon sampling the chorizo y papa, exclaimed, “It’s even good lukewarm!” Our vegetarian newswriters loved the crunchy-soft migas (“ … in a taco? Mmm!”) and the pico-spiked huevos a la Mexicana, and a certain associate editor was cured of his hangover by half a chorizo and egg. The elements are all first-rate: Fresh huevos neither slimy nor rubbery; perfectly cooked potatoes, not mushy or too al dente; just enough chorizo to impart deep, bright flavor but not so much as to stain the tortilla, your clothing (or your innards) with orange grease; the country sausage isn’t of the substandard ground-beef variety. And everything nestled in floury homemade tortillas strong enough to stand up to fillings but soft enough to accommodate gobbling ’em up. The velvety–smooth green and red salsas aren’t kidding around, either, whoa. Hurts so good.
2. Taco Haven, 1032 S. Presa, (210) 533-2171, tacohaven.info
3. Los Roberto’s Taco Sho, 2216 W. Bitters, (210) 494-9131
Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse
3709 N. St. Mary’s
Augie’s tender but firm brisket has a considerable vinegar bite that will linger in your mouth with the smoky flavor long after your meal’s over. The cook leaves on the fat, which melts into a sauce of its own, no extra needed. While it’s fine on the plate, it achieves nirvana when it’s chopped on the toasted bun, and that fat runs into the bottom half to create a palm-size dumpling. Wear a white dress shirt at your own peril. Eat in the picturesque honky-tonk front room overlooking the park, or enjoy the covered patio out back, which feels as much like the Hill Country as an urban pit can.
2. The Barbecue Station,1610 NE Loop 410, (210) 824-9191, thebarbecuestation.com
3. Two Bros. BBQ Market, 12656 West Ave., (210) 496-0222,twobrosbbqmarket.com
Apetito’s Mexican Restaurant
The weekend barbacoa (only time to get it, as with many local restaurants) at Apetito’s is baby-teeth tender and not in the least greasy, all the better for stuffing into the pillowy flour tortillas with a giant spoonful of fresh pico de gallo. The $10 Barbacoa & Eggs Plate comes with three huevos, cooked as you like (over-easy goes awfully well with the meat), a lake of earthy refried beans that taste like the pintos they are, and some OK fried potatoes (child, on behalf of your cholesterol, may we suggest: leave them on the plate). Dine in this 20-year-old Westside staple’s cheery, Santa Fe-meets-Mexico garden room, attended to by the very professional and cheery waitstaff, and your spirits will lift on even the gloomiest day.
2. Rachel’s Barbacoa & Tortillas (tie), 1702 Pinn, (210) 674-4325
2. Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa (tie),1737 S. General McMullen Dr., (210) 433-1367
10501 I-10 W
One of the stranger votes we came across in this year’s Best of ballots read “Pappasitas `sic` (I HATE to admit it). “We’re not exactly sure where the shame in that statement comes from; it’s not like the fajitas come wrapped in pornography (though if someone’s offering that, let us know about it), but we can still appreciate why a San Antonio reader might have a hard time copping to the fact they enjoy fajitas from the San Antonio location of this Houston-based chain when so many local options are available, including, apparently, a few of our voters’ backyards. Pappasito’s tasty, tender, mucho Americanized fajitas have at least two points in their favor: portions and price. Dig the Pappasito’s grill option, which offers a skewer of beef, chicken, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and pineapple, plus the requisite cheese, sour cream, grilled onions, and charro beans, and their half-price fajita Wednesdays, which offer sizzling beef and chicken for two at a bargain price of $16.25.
2. Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina, 910 S. Alamo, (210) 223-1806,rosariossa.com
3. La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland, (210) 497-8000, lhdlb.com
Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina
910 S. Alamo
What makes Rosario’s enchiladas stand out from the cheese-and-grease-laden morass? Well, they’re not as Tex-Mex as the classic SA model: Not as slickery, nor as overtly artery-hardening. They come filled with healthy chicken, if you like, slathered in a sweet and nutty mole or a tangy verde. And almost anyone can actually eat the entire plate in one sitting, especially if you skip the non-earth-shattering beans and sturdy rice.
Rosario’s nachos will not change your life, but the supers — each chip schmeared with refried beans, graced with chicken or beef fajita meat, and covered in a shell of melted yellow cheese — are dependable and comforting, and no one will be stuck with sad, undecorated crumbs at plate’s end. The basic bean-and-cheese model do their job admirably: convey a fat slice of jalapeño and a dollop of salsa safely to your lips.
Current readers, why do you love Rosario’s salsa — a smooth, almost sweet, roasted model with little bite — above all others? We assume it’s because you can eat a gallon of it without fear of the morning revenge, and without driving your bar tab to unmanageable heights. Visiting relatives from the Midwest and other milder cuisine climes will likewise find it a manageable introduction to our food version of oxygen, and double bonus, while y’all are snacking away in the crowded dining room, the din will deter any detailed personal questions.
2. Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant,8030 IH 10 West, (210) 341-5424,mamacitas.com
3. Guajillo’s, 1001 NW Loop 410, (210) 344-4119, guajillos.net
2. Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurantv 8030 IH-10 West, (210) 341-5424,mamacitas.com
3. Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine, 5800 Broadway, (210) 822-615,palomablanca.net
2. Chris Madrid’s, 1900 Blanco, (210) 735-3552,chrismadrids.com
3. Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant, 8030 IH-10 West (210) 341-5424, mamacitas.com
Boudro’s Texas Bistro on the River Walk
421 E. Commerce St., (210) 224-8484
As far as River Walk restaurants go, Boudro’s takes the pastel by attracting throngs of deep-pocketed tourists without losing the attention or respect of SA’s fine-dining set. Although the riverfront patio can feel cramped at times, you’ll fail to notice after a shocking-pink prickly-pear margarita. Specializing in Gulf Coast seafood (the jumbo-shrimp cocktail with Padre Island dressing is worth the visit), Texas Angus beef, and American Southwest specialties, Boudro’s is best known for its meticulously prepared guacamole. During his days as a Boudro’s server, manager Richie Britton calculated making 30,000 orders of the stuff. “We sell about 1,000 orders a week,” he told us. Now, you could try making a batch at home (visit boudros.com for the recipe), but then you’d be missing the gorgeous view, amusing people-watching, and charming visits from friendly ducks that seem to have developed a taste for tortilla chips.
2. Ácenar Mexican Restaurant, 146 E. Houston, (210) 222-2362,acenar.com
3. Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant (tie), 8030 IH 10 West, (210) 341-5424,mamacitas.com
3. Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina (tie), 910 S. Alamo, (210) 223-1806,rosariossa.com
2. Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s, (210) 225-0722,biga.com
3. Paesanos Riverwalk Restaurant, 111 W. Crockett, (210) 227-2782,paesanosriverwalk.com
Beethoven Maennerchor Halle
We love to sit in the biergarten at Beethoven of an evening, drink lots of cold Deutsche Bier and, when the tummy-rumbling mood takes us, avail ourselves of a bratwurst. Savory, full-flavored, and perfectly textured (not too coarse, mealy, or dense) with a strong skin “snap,” Maennerchor’s wurst is the love child of the world’s best frankfurter and a kielbasa, on steroids. Possibly the world’s most suitable beer companion besides, maybe … well, we can’t think of anything. Note: Hallowe’en at Beethoven, eating a bratwurst and drinking cerveza alemán whilst wearing an FLDS sisterwife costume and flirting with somebody dressed as Hank Williams Jr. is pretty much the best thing ever.
2. Schilo’s Delicatessen,424 E. Commerce, (210) 223-6692
3. Old World German Restaurant, 1546 Babcock, (210) 366-9523,oldworldgermanrestaurant.com
722 S. Saint Mary’s
Interesting reader choice, given that El Mirador doesn’t ( at least, ordinarily, that we’ve seen) serve the traditional caldo de res, which contains tender braised beef, half-corncobs, and coarse-cut carrots and cabbage. However, if you translate the term caldo loosely, meaning any kind of soup in which foods are suspended in broth, this is a home run. El Mirador’s is called Caldo Xochitl, and it’s a bowlful of wholesome riqueza: chicken in a childhood-memory-inducing broth, each bite heaped with tender chickpeas, zucchini, tomato, avocado, cilantro, and magic. All of El Mirador’s soups are legendary, though. Sopa de Lima, Sopa Tarasca, and Sopa Azteca garner such a devoted following that on any given Saturday (when they’re on special), if you don’t hop to it, they’re liable to run out. So, you: run out there.
2. Paloma Blanca, 5800 Broadway, (210) 822-615, palomablanca.net
3. Panchito’s, McCullough, 4100 McCullough, (210) 821-5338,panchitos.net
2518 N. Main
Kate-Frost Feild’s SA-grown shop is as homey as it is sweet to smell, which makes those elegantly coiffed confections in the display case less intimidating. That one topped like a geisha with a chopstick length of cinnamon? Mexican chocolate, one of the day’s two specialties. The other is tres leches, which dissolves on contact with our tongue. We’ll take a half-dozen of the mini red-velvet slippers, too, because the sugar-coated cherry on top is like a rainbow after a storm.
2. Cupcake Couture., 4710 Broadway, (210) 595-6375,cupcakecouturesa.com
3. SAweet Cupcakes, mobile cupcake vendors, (210) 215-0121, Track them at saweetcupcakes.com
Amy’s Ice Cream
255 E. Basse
The beloved Austin import, located in the Quarry shopping center, tickles tasters’ palates with a wacky chalkboard full of rotating flavors. A recent visit served up a perfect Hill Country Sunday afternoon in a cone with choices of Texas BBQ (sweet and smoky), Shiner (yes, as in beer), and White Chocolate Pecan (excellent bread-pudding topper). The seasonal experiments sit alongside standard Mexican Vanilla, Belgian Chocolate, and Sweet Cream for 30 flavors in all, and servers mix in additions from Gummi Bears to ginger snaps to Grape-nuts. Fruit ices are available for those watching their waistlines, but we’d rather get our vitamins from the Fredericksburg peach ice cream, coming soon!
2. Brindles Awesome Ice Creams, 11255 Huebner, (210) 641-5222
3. Justin’s on the Riverwalk, 245 E. Commerce,myspace.com/justinsonmain
El Paraiso Ice Cream
1934 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 737-8101
It’s a cheery and reassuring sight in the summertime to watch the El Paraiso paleta carts, with their mouthwatering visual encyclopedia pasted on the sides, loading up and heading out from the retro blue-and-white Deco District shop: Cold relief is on its way to frollicking children and industrious outdoor laborers across the city. While the prices at this San Anto staple have remained old-school (a dozen for $5; 25 for $10, and so on), El Paraiso continues to add flavors that will appeal to total gringos (cheesecake, cappuccino) as well as Texicans (pineapple, mango, and tamarind, all available with chili, too).
Ed. note: This was one of three categories in which the Best of SA tally malfunctioned, so we’ve substituted a critic’s pick instead. See our FAQ, page 4, for more info and watch for this category next year.
Broadway Daily Bread
It starts with a hangover. Mr. Fridge holds no eggs. Souring milk. So you scrub your finger across your teeth and hop in the auto till you see a “bakery” sign and get in line. As you’re inspecting the rows of radiant baked goods moving from the kitchen and into the paper bags, a server slices the banana-chocolate sample on the plate. You taste. Then it’s the date-nut. Next, blueberry. The queue at Broadway Daily Bread keeps moving, but you’re hanging on the counter glass, crumbs piling before you. A sound you later realize is whole wheat being stone-ground onsite means the rustic breads on the racks are doubly fresh. The air-filled sandwich sleeves you’ve been eating all your life, you realize, are not, in fact, bread. The scales fall from your eyes. The staff of life rises kundalini-like. Your gut is free at last.
2. Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, 218 Produce Row, (210) 225-1262, mitierracafe.com
3. Joseph’s Storehouse Restaurant & Bakery, 3420 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 737-3430, josephs-storehouse.net
The Cheesecake Factory
7400 San Pedro
For your cream-cheese and graham-cracker-crust needs, 12 hours a day (13 on Saturday!), seven days a week, look to this decadent outpost at North Star Mall. The opulent setting of trompe l’oeil walls and wide-bottomed seats is far from factory-like, but they do crank out the cheesecake in as many makes as your sugar-fevered brain can conjure. We particularly fancy the tart lemon-rasberry variety as a restrained option, but there’s 30 other flavors for those who prefer the diabetic-coma route.
2. Madhatters Tea House and Café, 320 Beauregard, (210) 212-4832,madhatterstea.com
3. Central Market, 4821 Broadway, (210) 368-8600,centralmarket.com
W.D. takes all the guilt out of paying someone else to make a sandwich for you by selling sandwiches you wouldn’t have thought to make yourself paired with soups that couldn’t possibly have come from cans. Try the Southwest Roast Beef (with jalapeño cream cheese) with the Tomato Chipotle Bisque (only available Tuesdays) if you’re feeling spicy, or the crisp-tender Spinach Chicken Salad with the savory Chicken Tortilla soup if you’ve got a beef with poultry. And if you’d rather veg out, they’ve got a few viable options for you, too, that make the PBJ and Ramen lunch you were planning seem as sad as it is.
2. The Filling Station (tie), 701 S. St. Mary’s, (210) 444-2200
2. Madhatters Tea House & café (tie), 320 Beauregard, (210) 212-4832,madhatterstea.com
Serene and sunny, Olmos Perk attracts not just the upper-class denizens of its surrounding neighborhood, but caffeine appreciators from all over San Antonio. They have an ample menu of espresso and coffee drinks, plus excellent chai tea and yummy biscotti, but the coffeeshop’s laidback attitude and central location are what place it above its peers. You’ll always find a seat, either on the clean, modern couches, the outside patio chairs or at the indoor computer carrels. Rare is the place that puts as much emphasis on the need to work (free wi-fi, those awesome computer carrels) as the need to chat (comfy chairs and quiet music). Superfast staff make lingering for coffee a choice, not a necessity.
2. Local Coffee, 700 E. Sonterra Blvd., (210) 530-8740,localcoffeesa.com
3. Candlelight, 3011 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 738-0099,candlelightsa.com
Madhatters Tea House and Café
For Sunday mornings wherein you’re not snarfing up potato-and-egg tacos in your car during a “drive of shame,” but rather want to gather with friends and loved ones for a Sunday treat before the inevitable pre-Monday blues, there’s Madhatters. They have an impressive brunch menu of salads, sandwiches, burritos, and granola specials. But if it’s just you and a friend, go for afternoon tea. It’s $18, but you get excellent, light but fortifying smoked-salmon or cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, petits fours, and scones (and tea), fer Chrissake! Perfect afternoon bike-ride fuel. Or if you’d rather go all decadent, luxuriate in the Honey Ham Benny (aka eggs Benedict) with a bottomless “fishbowl” mimosa, then get the hiccups and take a nap afterwards.
2. Candlelight Coffeehouse, 3011 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 738-0099,candlelightsa.com
3. Guenther House Restaurant, 205 E. Guenther, (210) 227-1061,guentherhouse.com
Godai Sushi Bar & Restaurant
11203 West Ave.
When the friendly face of Chef William “Goro” Pitchford is behind the sushi bar, all’s right with the sea. The Current orders our black-diamond run: tuna nigiri, hamachi sashimi, and ikura with a quail’s egg, and Godai makes quick work of it. The hamachi tastes so fresh it’s like taking in a mouthful of clear ocean air and water. The tuna is tender and draped like a swath of velvet over the rice ball, and the dainty golden quail yolk melts into the salmon roe for dessert. The saltillo floor and wood siding remind us of an upscale Bill Miller, but you won’t be thinking barbecue when you leave. Weekday sushi happy hours make the otherwise (justifiably) rich prices very easy to swallow.
2. Goro’s Sushi, 2619 Mossrock, (210) 349-8117
3. Niki’s Tokyo Inn, 819 W. Hildebrand, (210) 736-5471
When the human experiment streamed into the Indus Valley, half of the hairy apes took to the hills and built ashrams to study the drunken monkey that is consciousness. The other half took to the garden, developing some of the most complex and satisfying fare known to the planet. We’re not sure which has proved more beneficial to humanity. At India Palace, those who conquer a buffet line of seamlessly spiced steaming vegetable somosas, saag (you’d never know it was spinach) paneer, classic naan breads, and a variety of curries may actually achieve enlightened levels of bliss. Our readers know it wouldn’t be the first time.
2. India Oven, 1031 Patricia, (210) 366-1030
3. Simi’s India Cuisine, 4535 Fredericksburg, (210) 737-3166
Forget everything you ever knew about pita bread, that misbegotten supermarket second cousin of the packaged flour torilla; tired and tough, or clammy and too-doughy, an unloved staple used for food-wrapping exigency. At Pasha, this fresh, fragrant flatbread is delivered to your table hot, cloud-fluffy, and faintly carbon-kissed from a busy oven, alongside a small dish of EVOO infused with Arabian spices. Tear bits of pita to scoop up dollops of creamy, smoky baba ghannouj, or wrap it around tender morsels of Joojeh Kabob (marinated, grilled cornish game hen). Veggie folk and their animal-vore loved ones will both find something to rave about, whether it’s the falafel wrap studded with pink, crunchy pickled turnips, superior stuffed dolmas, the parsley burst of tabbouleh salad (only speckled with bulghur), or the baklava (two varieties — tasty cream-filled turnover or the traditional, honey-sweet and topped with ground pistachio).
2. Shiraz, 4230 McCullough, (210) 829-5050,dineatshiraz.com
3. Jerusalem Grill, 3259 Wurzbach, (210) 680-8400,jerusalemgrill.net
Green Vegetarian Cuisine and Coffee
1017 N. Flores
Beans and rice are still nice mis amigos vegetarianos, but a sprouts-an’-hummus wrap con carrot juice are earth-rageously delish — especially when found in our border-fare-overloaded San Antonio. Owner/Chef Mike Behrend, a former deep-fried heavy at Lulu’s Bakery and Café, has become a living-foods marathoner and an ideal poster child for the power of sprouts. The deep fryer may have been retired, but there are still plenty of comfort foods on the menu: chopped barbecue, Philly cheesesteaks, and the heavier “Neat” loaf plate may cause you to fidget with your waistband, but those greens, smoothies, and less-processed dishes stand ready for a voyage to cellular repair. All veggie and kosher?! We’ve got God and Gaia covered.
Book-ended by a housemade bun baked with garlic and herbes de provence (we had to know), the three shades of Green Cuisine’s veggie burgers (two of which were added this year) prove that the hockey-puck offerings at our many beef-leaning restaurants desperately need to up their game. The patty: a soy-garbanzo blend that crisps nicely on the edges. Coverings range from mashed avocado and cashew-derived vegan cheese to super-thin sliced tomato and red onion, field greens, and fried onions. And that bun! Watch for its alter ego on Sundays when it surfaces in biscuit form with aromatic fennel baked in.
2. The Cove, 606 W. Cypress, (210) 227-2683, thecove.us
3. Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe, 124 Broadway, (210) 354-1559, Also: 6322 N. New Braunfels,twinsistersbakeryandcafe.com
2. Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe, 124 Broadway, (210) 354-1559, Also: 6322 N. New Braunfels,twinsistersbakeryandcafe.com
3. Adelante Mexican Food, 21 Brees Boulevard, (210) 822-7681
1011 NE Loop 410
Any restaurant that has survived these past few years within a 5-mile radius of the construction nightmare that is the 410-281 interchange deserves mention for its tenacity alone. Formosa Garden has not only weathered poor roadside assistance, but a rash of smash-and-grabs in the parking lot. Diners are greeted with a large sign in the foyer urging them to bring their valuables into the restaurant. The doubly daring fare ensures the venture will be rewarded: Hunan lobster, Peking duck, and sautéed lamb are just a few of the location’s specialities. This is no box-store buffet, so prevalent along SA’s feeder roads; this is sophisticated Chinese dining, complete with sushi bar, in a nicely detailed romantic setting. And all MSG-free.
2. Hung Fong, 3624 Broadway, (210) 822-9211
3. Ding How , 4531 NW Loop 410, (210) 340-7944
Il Song Garden
The Current ignored our columnist Gillian Fassel’s advice for months, ordering the smoky, sweet, and spicy pork bulgogi, the delicious shrimp pancake, the delectable yaki mandu. But when we finally gave in and tried the comforting bi bim bap we understood why you vote Il Song Garden the best Korean restaurant time and again. The generous bowl of savory and fermented vegetables, tofu (meat is available, too), and rice is topped with an over-easy egg, comes with an assertive full-body hot sauce, and is, unbelievably, made even better by the array of pickles and excellent kimchi. And when proprietrix Young Cacy is running the dining room, service is friendly, efficient, and helpful.
2. Korea House, 4453 Walzem, (210) 599-9210
3. Kiku Garden, 4527 Goldfield, (210) 662-6699,kikugarden.com
1146 Austin Hwy.
Something powerful good landed on Austin Highway several years ago — an out-of-towner taste worthy of the drive-in-era décor of the drag’s aging motel signage and landmark Bun ’N’ Barrel neighbor: tone-perfect Thai food served up in an impeccably exotic setting. Amid towering palm trees and numerous well-fed Buddhas, Tong’s offers spa treatment for the eyes and mouth. The oft-recognized eatery also offers an efficient sushi bar, Chinese dishes, and Saturday-night jazz. Oh, and if you’re enjoying the local bubble-tea explosion, you can thank Tong’s for that, too.
2. Thai Taste, 5520 Evers, (210) 520-6800
3. Mon Thai Bistro and Sushi, 4901 Broadway, (210) 822-3253,monsthai.com
Viet Nam Restaurant
Viet Nam Restaurant sits on a little frozen-in-time stretch of Broadway and aptly hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1976. With both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine on the menu, you can come up with some interesting meal options. A clear crowd favorite, the spring rolls are a delightful combination of glass noodles, pork, onion, and mushrooms. According to owner Quan Tang, “Some people come just for the crab claws. They get mad if we run out.” The highlight of our most recent visit, however, was a refreshingly cold, crisp cucumber salad, costing a whopping $1.50.
2. Pho Sure / Saatea Lounge (tie), 741 W. Ashby, (210) 773-8473,saatea.com
2. Pho Cong Ly (tie), 300 West Bitters Rd., (210) 499-5572
La Frite Belgian Bistro
728 S. Alamo
The popularity of this dressy-casual Southtown hotspot hasn’t suffered under new ownership, perhaps because owner Icy Donnelly and son Miles have left the warm, cozy atmosphere and bistro menu basics untouched from the days of Damien Watel. The food, although a bit rocky after the handover, has steadily improved, and the warm and detail-oriented Stephen Warner is still running the front of the house: The Current most recently chanced steak tartare, and it was perfectly fresh and expertly dressed.
2. Pavil Restaurant & Bar, 1818 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 479-5000,brasseriepavil.com
3. Bistro Vatel, 218 E. Olmos Dr. (210) 828-3141
200 E. Grayson
Andrew Weissman didn’t start the non-red-sauce Italian dining movement in SA, but he’s lodged its top achievement to date: his upscale-casual airy box of light in the Pearl Brewery, which serve dishes like orzo with squid ink and fresh peas, an opulent roast chicken so worth its extended wait, wild-boar ragout, and a mouthwatering array of antipasti. The service is among the most pro in town, and head chef Luca Dellacasa turns out plates that are rustic in spirit but finished with the polish we’ve come to expect from a Weissman endeavor. A wait for dinner? Check for seating on the patio and enjoy a glass (or bottle) of prosecco. And when you’re all done, finish your meal with an energizing affogato al caffé and stroll down the River Walk’s Museum Reach for a glimpse of this year’s Best of SA Public Art winner: Donald Lipski’s F.I.S.H.
2. La Focaccia Italian Grill (tie), 800 S. Alamo, (210) 223 5353,lafocaccia-italian-grill.com
2. Maggiano’s Little Italy, 17603 IH 10 West, (210) 451-6000,maggianos.com
Mi Tierra Café & Bakery
218 Produce Row
Like a Vegas casino, Mi Tierra’s tourist-trap décor, chipper staff, and piles of chips trick visitors into believing the evening is still young even as the sun rises. Powered by alcohol-absorbing cheese enchiladas and coffee as refreshing as a slap in the face, Mi Tierra has the power to revivify the drunkest downtown bar-hoppers, sending them on their merry, quasi-sober way $25 poorer, with a bag full of impulse-purchased pan dulce, and howling “Cielito Lindo.” Opinions aside on food, ambience, prices, and service, Mi Tierra excels at being 24/7/365 in our sleepy city. And that really is something to write home about.
2. Lulu’s Bakery & Café, 918 N. Main, (210) 222-9422,luluscafeinsa.com
3. Las Salsas, 2018 San Pedro, (210) 732-5366
2427 Vance Jackson
Like the U.S. Postal Service, La Fogata’s patio delivers during almost all types of weather extremes. Thanks to the large covered outdoor area and ample fans and heat lamps, diners stay pleasant through rain showers, summertime lunches, and chilly evenings. Vibrant tiles, lush greenery, fountains, and the occasional avian visitor make it even easier to forget La Fogata’s location on a busy section of Vance Jackson. Their famous margaritas, which contribute to the restaurant’s “I Forgata” nickname, nonetheless make the outdoor experience a memorable one.
2. La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road, (210) 497-8000,lhdlb.com
3. La Tuna Grill, 100 Probandt St., (210) 212-5727,latunagrill.com
LuLu’s Bakery and Café
918 N. Main
If Morrissey’s right and meat is murder, Lulu’s chicken-fried steak is out-and-out genocide. In South Texas, it’s not a real meal unless something warm-blooded has ceased to be, but you tofu chewers can rest assured that, much like the Native Americans we yanked this land out from under, Lulu’s seems to use every part of the animal — in a single steak. But despite its being the size of a wagon wheel, this CFS is a surprisingly lean, quality cut of meat, just chewy enough to complement the batter’s crispy crunch, free of the damp greasy mush many lesser steaks quickly become. May we all reincarnate as something so tasty.
2. DeWese’s Tip Top café, 2814 Fredericksburg Rd., (210) 732-0191,tiptopcafe.com
3. Good Time Charlie’s Bar & Café, 2922 Broadway, (210) 828-5392,gtcsatx.com
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
76 NE Loop 410
Pappadeaux drops several sorts of sea critters into their deep-fryers for crunchable consumption — catfish, Gulf shrimp, clams — but the Cajun-style crawfish are the standout. They’re spicy enough to get your attention, but not enough to make your eyes water or turn lunchtime into an endurance exercise. Not to mention the added benefit of frying your crawdads — you don’t have to look the mutant-silverfish buggers in their beady little eyes before biting into them or tear their faces off to get to the meat. Sure, some people like to suck the juice out of the heads, zombie-style, but who wants to take a lunch with them?
2. Rudy’s Seafood, 4122 S. Flores, (210) 532-1315,myspace.com/rudysseafood
3. Landry’s Seafood House, 517 N. Presa, (210) 229-1010 ,landrysseafoodhouse.com
For all the readers who voted Whataburger best local burger, it’s time for an intervention. You might argue the orange A-frame offers San Antonio’s best burger at 3 a.m. on a Sunday night, but until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday it’s Madrid’s Tostada Burger — a quarter-pound (half-pound if you’re “macho”) of beef slathered with refried beans, onions, tortilla chips, and a melty wedge of cheddar at least a half-inch thick. Not only is it perfect for those times when you can’t decide between nachos and a burger, it’s the only burger we need a knife and fork for. The meat on the plain-old Porky’s Delight bacon burger is delicious as well, just the right amount of salty and slick, soaking into but not through the glistening, pillowy bun. But we miss those beans all the same. And what are we, health-food freaks?
2. Big’z Burger Joint , 2303 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 408-2029,bigz-burgerjoint.com
3. Sam’s Burger Joint, 330 E. Grayson, (210) 223-2830, samsburgerjoint.com
Ray’s Drive Inn
822 SW 19th St.
A San Antonio treasure and one of two contenders for the “official home of the puffy taco,” Ray’s Drive Inn wins in the décor department (1880s saloon filled with decades of memorabilia, is how it struck Travels With Frenchie author Mark Jones), and the “delectably” crumbly brisket tacos are delish. Generous portions and the movie-set atmosphere also make this a good family destination.
Ed. note: This was one of three categories in which the Best of SA tally malfunctioned, so we’ve substituted a critic’s pick instead. See our FAQ, page 4, for more info and watch for this category next year.
Dough Pizzeria Napoletana
6989 Blanco Rd.
The best pizza margherita this side of New York City … or maybe even Naples. That’s where the oven comes from, anyway, a fiery behemoth from whose hellish depths emerge light, chewy-tender crusts with perfect touches of char, an ideal platform for the soupy heaven of tomato and melted cheese. Their “STG” model ( stands for “Specialita Traditionale Garantita,” which means, essentially, “Italy sez: oficially awesome”) boasts ethereal Mozzarella di Bufala.
2. Main Street Pizza and Pasta, 1906 N. Main, (210) 732-8861,mainstreetsa.com
3. Goomba’s Pizzeria, 7214 Blanco Rd., (210) 348-9090,goombaspizza.com
Ruben’s Homemade Tamales
1807 Rigsby Ave.,
Sequestered in a small, green-painted former convenience store, Ruben’s is the ne plus ultra of tamaleras. We don’t mean to knock its competitors, and Lord knows we’ve resorted to an H-E-B tamal or two when we’ve had to, but there’s a reason why Ruben’s won Best Of by a fragrant, masa-rich landslide (and it’s not for the gruff service, a formality we endure in order to get our mitts on the goods, kinda like the Seinfeld crew with that soup guy). At Christmastime, the line of slavering customers heads out the door and into the parking lot, buying them by la docena until no hay más(a?). Porky goodness is the classic, but we hear tell of bean and cheese, too.
2. Tamahli, 10905 Wurzbach Rd., (210) 877-9949, tamahli.com
3. Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa, 1737 S. Gen. McMullen Dr., (210) 433-1367
200 E. Grayson,
The appeal of Andrew Weissman’s seafood restaurant has (appropriately) always been the very fresh fish, whether it’s sauced, served whole pan-fried Asian-style, or as some of the finest sashimi in town. It’s also the premier place to get a platter of oysters and just the right chablis to wash them down. You can’t quite see the river from the Pearl Brewery location, but some water-generated negative ions must generate a happy buzz in the air around the entrance, and the interior ambience is upmarket but downhome. The lunch menu features a shrimp roll now, and there have been more frequent lobster-roll sitings, but you might also bite into the new oyster po’boy and save room for Chef Chris Carlson’s Tahitian vanilla and lemon cheesecake, which is rolled in candied walnuts when it’s on the menu, which the Current fervently hopes will happen on our birthday or possibly every day. Also home to some of SA’s finest restaurant personnel.
2. Wildfish Seafood Grille, 1834 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 493-1600
3. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 76 NE Loop 410, (210) 340-7143,pappas.com
Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood
219 E. Houston
The lighting in Bohanan’s busy main dining room is anything but romantic, but perhaps the 85 percent of the clientele who come from out of town are on expense accounts rather than second honeymoons. Everyone, though, is here for the multi-award-winning beef, served thick-cut and largely unadorned, with more side-dish options than many steakhouses (lobster cream corn, wild-rice patties ... ). Start with the Spinach Salad — which one recent traveler called “the best salad I’ve ever had” — or inventive appetizers such as the richly coated “French-grilled” oysters and the Eastern-leaning Duck Confit Egg Rolls, and you won’t even have room for dessert (which, FYI, do include “flaming table-side” options; go easy on the hairspray). A suggestion: If you are there for l’amour, dine in the window overlooking the small courtyard in the room adjacent to the bar.
2. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, 255 E. Basse, (210) 824-9463,flemingssteakhouse.com
3. Morton’s the Steakhouse, 300 E. Crockett, (210) 228-0700,mortons.com
The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills
1446 Lockhill Selma Rd.
According to its website, the tranquil midcentury nabe of Castle Hills derived its name from this lovingly restored 1930s stonework home, called “the castle on the hill” for its live-oak-graced, sprawling-manse grounds. Dine in original-owner Chester A. Simp’s graceful bohemian vision: His wife Helen was an artist, and her painting studio has transmogrified into one of the Lodge’s intimate (and highly recommended) private dining rooms. The rustic beauty, warm lighting, and the fantasy-inducing prelude to your dinner experience (you drive up a winding driveway through trees and relinquish your car to a valet) all set a dreamy mood, fo sho. Keep the l-u-v going with a bottle of 2000 Haut Medoc from Chateau d’ Arcins while you address your attention to the menu: at $50 a pop for the four-course tasting menu or $110 for Chef Jason Dady’s signature tasting menu (with wine pairings) it’s no small investment, but dinner entrees are masterfully prepared and seasonally based. Really, it’s a sure thing at the Lodge, especially if you order duck (or any game fowl), sea scallops, pork belly, beets, blue cheese … sigh. Ah, l’amour, l’amour.
2. Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s, (210) 225-0722,biga.com
3. Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, 219 E. Houston, (210) 472-2600,bohanans.com