Best Of 2011

2011 Best Of San Antonio

For, like, forever it seems San Antonians have been collaborating to select their favorite things about the place they call home. Such favoritism started well before there was a city, with Spanish missionaries selecting the San Antonio River’s headwaters as Best Day Spa (and the natives already enjoying the spot, Best Cheap Labor). With the influx of westward hoeing Americans and large number of German émigrés, the town’s leaders began to wrestle over categories like: Best Hat Style, Best (Rowdiest) Local Festival, Best Pit Latrine Design, and Best Way to Skirt Mexican Laws Against Slavery. Later, we saw Best Place to Hide Confederate Kinfolk (“the attic” was a popular pick, along with the occasional “Alamo basement” and “on town council”).

But for more than an enlightened decade you’ve been doing this difficult work with us as part of our annual Best of San Antonio experience. Those of you who took the time to vote on our website between March 9 and March 30 are to thank for this year’s crop of delights. (Best of San Antonio party planning — moving from the Witte to Historic Sunset Station, reverentially avoiding a Good Friday orgy — cut our traditional four weeks of voting short. We hope party attendees are not too disappointed!) Among the winners, we spotted a few new faces this year and are excited to get out into the city and sample everything we now know we’ve been so wrongly denying ourselves. COCO Chocolate Lounge, best start shaking our “Sexual” now.


Location, location

Last year’s policy of requiring voters to list specific locations for chain establishments remained in effect this year, though few of you heeded the instruction when tapping in nominations for chain bookstores, hot dog shops, and taco stands. Failing to list unique locations for chains inevitably skewed results to the single-store-ownin’ mom-and-pops out there. On behalf of all those moms and pops, we offer lazy voters our thanks.


MIA: Best Happy Hour

Astute readers will also recall that programming SNAFU last year that failed to record the results for Puffy Tacos (as well as Best Paleta, and Best Family-Friendly Fiesta Event). We’re proud to report that the taco wiring was patched up this round, but lament the fact that HAL spit the much-coveted Best Happy Hour and newbie category Best Political Fiasco results back in our face. Rather than rush into the breach and pontificate for yet another week about what we like, we decided to let the matter sit until next year. After all, Best Of is supposed to be a communal experience. You hear from us enough all those other 51 weeks of the year.


Second Most Awesome

In determining second- and third-place winners, there were many ties. These are listed with the parenthetical (Tie). However, when faced with more than two winners tied for a second- or third-place position, we cut the ranking altogether.


That’s not my Best Wurst!

Two categories did not receive enough votes to merit listing any winners: these categories were Best Wurst and Best (Pedi)Cabbie. We’ll be debating whether to give them another shot for our End-of-Life-as-We-Know-It Best Of issue in 2012 as we continue to strive to keep things fresh. Let us know what you think on the category front as we move forward. After all, it’s gonna be the End of Life as You Know It soon enough, too.






Best Museum

1. Witte Museum

3801 Broadway, (210) 357-1900,

The Witte was founded 80 years ago as SA’s first museum. Today it contains dinosaurs and art, mummies and live piranhas — a mix as peculiar as San Anto itself. We take many institutions for granted now, but back in 1924 the mayor is reported to have asked, “What is a museum?” Some people still don’t know (for evidence of this, check the lousy support in the new state budget). The Witte’s forays into local history and regional ecology are a great opportunity to discover where it is we really live. It’s likely more interesting than you ever imagined.

2. McNay Art Museum

6000 N New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368,

3. San Antonio Museum of Art

200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,




Best Alternative Art Space

1. Blue Star Arts Complex

1400 S Alamo

Anchored by the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and Blue Star Brewery, the six-acre complex is a success story of adaptive re-use. The warehouses of the old MKT Railroad have turned into shops, photography studios, restaurants, and housing. Art galleries like the Joan Grona Gallery, San Angel Folk Art, Cactus Bra Space, Three Walls, and the UTSA Satellite Space are kept company by nonprofit arts-education centers StoneMetal Press and Jump-Start Performance Co. Not everyone’s open for business everyday, but the place comes alive for First Friday.

2. Artpace

445 N Main, (210) 212-4900,

3. SAY Sí

1518 S Alamo, (210) 212-8666,




Best Art Gallery

1. The McNay Art Museum

6000 N New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368,

Being a museum, the McNay of course houses a number of galleries. Some contain the Museum’s permanent collections of Southwestern art, Medieval and Reniassance art, and the like, but our attention is usually grabbed by contemporary shows like New Image Sculpture, assembled by the McNay’s own René Paul Barilleaux, chief curator and curator of art after 1945. If you haven’t visited yet, get a move on — this new show closes May 8. But stay tuned, as there are always new shows in the works.

2. Blue Star Contemporary Art Center

116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960,

3. San Antonio Museum of Art

200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,




Best Local Curator

1. David S. Rubin

San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,

Museum curators come in several different breeds: The Administrator sets the house in order, rationalizing the collections; The Politician tempts corporate and private support with high-profile traveling shows; The Scholar is a master of art history, and a writer, too. Not often seen is The Artist, who logs his own studio time. David S. Rubin, The Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at SAMA, is a rare hybrid of all the above. Yet if the subtle nuances of all those Rubin-esque qualities are lost on many of us, locals know Rubin first and foremost as a tireless champion of San Antonio artists.

2. Alex Rubio

R Gallery, 110 E LaChapelle, (210) 300-3442




Best Art in Public

1. First Friday

The First Friday art walk is an institution that, in various permutations, is held monthly in many cities across the country. In SA we have two versions — Second Saturday in the Lone Star Arts District, and First Friday, the big monthly art event held all over town. The biggest crowds congregate around the Blue Star Arts Complex, but you can find art across the city on these magical evenings, including shop fronts on South Alamo all the way to St. Mary’s. We were a bit perplexed to see First Friday take a public art category, but we decided that you gentle readers may have been referring to social sculpture, not plop art, as the best and most typico art in public in our city. And we tend to agree with you.

2. Riverwalk - Museum Reach




Best Mural

1. The Spirit of Healing by Jesse Treviño

Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, 333 N Santa Rosa

Any day of the week you can see San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño’s works gracing the buildings of San Antonio. But Spirit of Healing, completed in 1997 on commission for Christus Santa Rosa, is the largest by far. At nine stories high you can’t miss spotting the three-year project, especially from I-35. But a close-up view from Milam Park downtown highlights the more than 150,00 pieces of hand-cut tile used — 100,000 tiles cut by Treviño himself. The artist modeled the broken-winged angel, seen watching over a young boy holding a dove, on his late sister Eva. The boy is modeled after Treviño’s son Jesse.

Though he lost his right hand in Vietnam (earning him a Purple Heart and citizenship), Treviño taught himself to paint with his left hand and used the GI Bill to study art at SAC and Our Lady of the Lake. He is one of the few Chicano artists whose work has been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, and two of his paintings are on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Another prominent work is La Veladora of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a 40-foot veladora at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (1300 Guadalupe) honoring those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.




Best Local Theater Company

1. The Overtime Theater

1414 S Alamo, Ste. 103, (210) 557-7562,

The Overtime Theater has settled nicely into their new digs in the Blue Star Arts complex, and continues to work — OK, we’ll say it — overtime to bring original musicals, plays, and adaptations to San Antonio. With offerings that are consistently offbeat and low-priced, the Overtime is the closest thing that San Antonio has to a theater with a fringe sensibility. The current season features premieres by local educator-playwrights Sharon Argo and James Venhaus, as well as the prolific Scott McDowell. A funky, art-strewn lobby and fresh popcorn give you a taste of what the Overtime’s all about.

2. Woodlawn Theatre

1920 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 738-1117,

3. Jump-Start Performance Co. (Tie)

108 Blue Star, (210) 227-5867,

The Magik Theatre (Tie)

420 S Alamo, (210) 227-2751,




Best Movie Theater

1. Santikos Palladium IMAX

17703 IH-10 W, (210) 496-2221,

The Palladium is the one movie theater that’ll make us venture outside the warm, comforting safety blanket that is Loop 1604. But it’s more than just a typical movie theater — this two-time Best of SA winner boasts VIP auditoriums (18-and-up only means no toddlers were tortured in the screening of Black Swan), the well-stocked, well-serviced Agora Bar (to, um, take the edge off while watching Black Swan), and even a gelato stand in the lobby (to try and fill the gaping hole left inside misguided souls upon finishing Black Swan). But those are just trailers for the feature presentation: a state-of-the-art IMAX screen that plays first-run 2D and 3D films with a beautiful digital picture and superior sound. Just don’t forget where you parked — the Palladium’s lot is also IMAX-sized by necessity.

2. Alamo Drafthouse Park North

618 NW Loop 410 Frontage Rd, (210) 677-8500,

3. AMC Huebner Oaks 24 (Tie)

11075 IH-10 W, (888) 262-4386,

Regal Alamo Quarry Stadium 16 (Tie)

255 E Basse, (210) 930-6576




Best Special Event

1. Luminaria

March 12, 2011 in HemisFair Park, (210) 271-2842,

Not that it was ever a small undertaking, but the sheer size of this year’s Luminaria: Arts Come to Light was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Following a spreading trend of night-long festivals that celebrate the illuminating power of art, Luminaria gained major momentum in 2011 and delivered on its promise to highlight the city’s most exciting visual artists, musicians, and performers. Leading up to the 4th annual event, Mayor Julián Castro delivered a public service announcement from Taco Haven’s sidewalk — lying on his back next to a pressure-washed Luminaria logo. Other authoritative voices around town touted the festival as one that will inevitably become San Antonio’s version of South by Southwest. One can always dream.

2. First Friday

3. Fiesta




Best Fiesta Event


La Villita National Historic District,

A Night in Old San Antonio has been part of Fiesta since 1948. Its sponsor, the San Antonio Conservation Society, puts on a great party in downtown’s historic enclave of La Villita, with over 16,000 volunteers toiling (and partying) away to throw this fest for at least 80,000 visitors each year. Hundreds of food booths, mucho entertainment, parades, and barrels of drink let you party like it’s 1899. A local fave, NIOSA is also the biggest historic fest in the country.

2. Fiesta Oyster Bake

St. Mary’s University,

3. King William Fair & Parade




Best Live Music Festival

1. Jazz’SAlive

Travis Park, 300 E Travis,

Write it down now: on September 24 and 25, 2011, from noon to 11 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively, the 2011 edition of this annual two-day jazz event takes place. This is a free showcase of local, regional, and international jazz stars that, unlike most free fests, has the real goodies (previous years featured Dianne Reeves, Eddie Palmieri, and Chuck Mangione, among others). If you have money to spare, don’t miss the Starlight Salute to Jazz’SAlive Gala on Friday, September 23, and the Champagne Brunch on Sunday, September 25, both at the St. Anthony Hotel.

2. Fiesta Oyster Bake

St. Mary’s University,

3. Luminaria




Best Comedy Club

1. Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club

618 NW Loop 410, Ste. 312, (210) 541-8805,

Laugh Out Loud (or, as the kids these days call it, LOL) is the new kid on the comedy block, but it’s quickly become a hotspot for local comedians and touring funnypeople alike. The club features two stages — a more intimate room where local pro and aspiring comics test new material at Tuesday night open mics (the two-drink minimum helps here), and a larger showroom that has hosted regional and nationally renowned comics like Richard Lewis. With LOL’s help, San Antonio comedy is finally being taken seriously.

2. Rivercenter Comedy Club

849 E Commerce, (210) 229-1420,

3. The Rose Theatre Co.

11838 Wurzbach, (210) 360-0004,




Best Bowling

1. Bandera Super Bowl

6700 Huebner, (210) 523-1716,

Since Bandera Super Bowl went 24/7 last May, we wondered who was going on bowling binges in the wee hours of the morning. VIA drivers? Hospital workers? Gas station attendants? Perhaps all of the above. And why not? This alley caters to all types. There are specials for seniors, those 18 and younger (free on Sundays 9 a.m.-noon), and even college students ($9 unlimited games on Mondays). With more than 50 lanes, food, DJs, karaoke, and loads more, Bandera Bowl is a catch-all for bowling enthusiasts — even the closeted enthusiasts who haven’t come to terms with their 10-pin affections yet. Bowling at 3 a.m. is one (albeit extreme) way to keep that secret safe.

2. University Bowl

12332 IH-10 West at De Zavala, (210) 699-6235,

3. Brunswick Thousand Oaks Bowl

4330 Thousand Oaks, (210) 654-0031,




Best Library Branch

1. Central Library

600 Soledad, (210) 207-2500,

A recent facelift has made the controversially enchilada-red structure even more vibrant — and the contrast against a blue Texas sky is undeniably lovely. But most important is what’s inside, and we’re not talking about the slice of downtown’s transient population or the teenagers making out in the stacks. What impresses us is the excellent Teen Services program (book jackets off to Jennifer Velasquez, Teen Services Coordinator), the Book Cellar selling withdrawn books and more for super-cheap prices (a book-hoarders dream), and the remarkable Texana collection for local history buffs. Oh, and did we mention the artwork? Check out the newly installed Days in memory of Linda Pace, Fiesta Tower by Dale Chihuly, Caballo Tamaño Grande by Fernando Botero, and a mural by Jesse Treviño (artist of this year’s Best Mural). Just a reminder: reading is sexy. So read on, San Antonians, read on. It’s starting to show.

2. Hannah Landa Memorial Library

233 Bushnell, (210) 732-8369,

3. Great Northwest Library (Tie)

9050 Wellwood, (210) 684-5251,

Brook Hollow Library (Tie)

530 Heimer, (210) 496-6315,




Best City Park

1. Brackenridge Park

3700 N St. Mary’s, (210) 207-7275,

Boy, Brackenridge sure has a lot of ducks. And they look like happy and content little (er, mostly fat) things. And why wouldn’t they be? Green spaces, cool waters, food from picnickers … any duck’s dream. It’s great for humans, too. The park boasts paved, tree-lined paths suitable for bicycling and walking, rentable pavilions, the Japanese Tea Garden (also winner for Best Makeout Spot), the San Antonio Zoo, Sunken Garden Theatre, a playscape and train for the kiddos, Lambert Beach, and a ball field. The park has been a family destination for over 100 years, and is a lush, picturesque local spot to take the fam, enjoy a walk, or, um, makeout. Just keep your lusty mitts off the ducks, please.

2. McAllister Park

13102 Jones Maltsberger, (210) 207-7275,

3. San Pedro Springs Park

1315 San Pedro Ave, (210) 207-7275,




Best Public Swimming Pool

1. San Pedro Springs Park

1315 San Pedro, (210) 207-PARK (7275)

Near the headwaters of the San Antonio River, the swimming hole at San Pedro Springs Park (the second oldest city park in the U.S.) was restored to keep the feeling of a natural lake. It is finished out in dark plaster and surrounded by a broad limestone walkway, towering cypress, and unique historic markers detailing the ritual significance of this site to the earliest-known inhabitants. Although swim time is officially our scorching summer months, the pool is not closed off in any way, so locals may soak their feet anytime throughout the year. The openness of the pool’s location and design creates the inviting feeling that everyone is welcome. No wonder it was voted the best.

2. The Pool in Alamo Heights

250 Viesca, (210) 824-2595,




Best Dog Park

1. McAllister Park

13102 Jones Maltsberger, (210) 207-7275,

Tucked back in McAllister Park is a little bit of doggie heaven — an acre and a half of doggie heaven to be exact. While there’s no separate area for smaller dogs (as our second-placer has), that didn’t seem to be an issue the day we stopped by. Canines of all sizes were happily coexisting, even sharing the doggie water fountains. There’s a large area shaded by trees, and no shortage of canine “playground” equipment, either. Dog parents can enjoy a paved walking trail, picnic tables, and benches to relax on and bond with other dog parents. With the amount of social sniffin’ going on here, you might even land yourself a date — for the dog, of course.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

 13203 Blanco, (210) 207-7275,

3. Madison Square Park

400 Lexington, (210) 207-7275,




Best Pet Boarding

1. Pawderosa Ranch Doggie Play-and-Stay

923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941,

While some of the dogs boarding at Pawderosa Ranch have muzzles only their peoples could love, there are no bad dogs here. In fact, to board your tail-wagger for a night — or weeks if need be — they must be non-aggressive. And the staff won’t take your word for it — your pooch will have to pass a temperament evaluation. Small dogs have their own run, while the larger dudes on the ranch enjoy a free-range area to frolic about as they please. Owners are even given a login to the “WagCAM” so they can check up on their brood, although a recent viewing of a runners-up webcam showed some “extracurricular” goings-on between two canine boarders. (Thank goodness for spay and neutering!) And if you just want your best friend to have some company during the day while you’re working, Pawderosa offers daycare at very reasonable prices.

2. Lucy’s Doggy Day Care & Spa

2250 Thousand Oaks, Ste. 200, (210) 495-3647,

3. Rob Carey Pet Resort

14824 Bulverde, (210) 494-7787,




Best Place to Adopt a Pet

1. San Antonio Humane Society

4804 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 226-7461,

The San Antonio Humane Society is like the Taj Mahal of adoption centers: well-manicured grounds, a beautiful facility, and multiple buildings for potential adoptees to browse the recently abused, neglected, and abandoned dogs and cats. Staff and volunteers are super helpful with questions and obviously dedicated to caring for our city’s lost souls (minus the salvation literature). The Society even offers rehabilitation assistance for emotionally troubled animals that need extra attention to ready them for home life, plus reduced-cost spay and neuter services to help cut down on the overwhelming problem of strays on our streets. While we commend all of San Antonio’s no-kill shelters, we recommend potential adopters also consider the city’s Animal Care Services when considering a new pet. Those sad furry faces have an expiration date hanging over their heads.

2. Animal Defense League

11300 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-1481,


(210) 237-9400,




Best Makeout Spot

1. Japanese Tea Garden (aka Sunken Gardens)

3800 N St. Mary’s

Brides to be and hopeful fashion models strike poses in front of the waterfall. Footbridges connect trails snaking through verdant manicured gardens. A pagoda sits above it all, peering down on a wealth of secret hiding places and ponds filled with koi blowing underwater kisses. These are but a few things inspiring our readers to suck face in the Japanese Tea Garden, developed on land donated to the city by George W. Brackenridge in 1899. But Japanese artist Kimi Eizo Jingu is who you horndogs should thank. In 1919, Eizo, his wife Miyoshi (a nationally recognized tea expert), and their children moved into the onsite Jingu House and beautified the gardens until 1941, when anti-Japanese sentiment led to their eviction and a (temporary) name change to “Chinese Sunken Garden.”

2. My house

3. Your mom’s house




Best Impromptu Urinal

1. The Alamo

300 Alamo Plaza, (210) 225-1391,

Had the same tattooed, cowboy-hatted hunk of an Alamo Guard (who kindly told us with a smile, “The nearest public bathrooms are in the Menger Hotel and Rivercenter Mall”) been on duty that fateful night in 1982, when Ozzy Osbourne threw the tinkle tantrum that resulted in a decade-long ban from the River City, The Alamo probably wouldn’t have been voted Best Impromptu Urinal in our 2011 reader’s poll. We wiped with a wad of newsprint, shook said hunk’s hand gratefully, and staggered back to the Menger to pick a fight with a moose.

2. Downtown

3. The River Walk






Best Live Music Venue

1. Sam’s Burger Joint

330 E Grayson, (210) 223-2830,

Ask a cross-section of local musicians what their favorite place to play in San Antonio is, and the name “Sam’s” comes up more than almost any other. That’s because Sam’s Burger Joint knows that the key to success isn’t who’s the hippest (acts that grace Sam’s stage tend to skew older and bluesier), or who’s the loudest (I think Jack’s Bar cornered the market on that one), but who’s got the best sound quality. It seems simple, but few have perfected their venue’s acoustic delivery as well as Sam’s. From the monitor mix onstage to the padded back row, Sam’s just sounds good. And nothing boosts a band’s performance like hearing themselves through a world-class sound system run by a staff that knows their stuff. For the non-musicians out there, be sure to check out Sam’s newly renovated and expanded bar area — and don’t forget to suck down a cheeseburger or two between sets.

2. Nightrocker Live

605 San Pedro, (210) 265-3573,

3. White Rabbit

2410 N St. Mary’s, (210) 737-2221,




Best Wine Bar

1. Max’s Wine Dive

340 E Basse, Ste. 101, (210) 444-9547,

Don’t be fooled, this place is a dive in name only. Max’s isn’t your average stuffy, pretentious vino hufffers’ hideout filled with the well-to-do willing to shell out big bucks to whet their “refined” palates. Max’s atmosphere is warm and comfortable, and the wait staff is incredibly patient, walking you through their kick-ass wine menu, which is modestly priced and diverse. While the kitchen also serves “upscale comfort food” that certainly hits the spot, the wine is the real draw here.

2. Copa Wine Bar

19141 Stone Oak Pkwy, (210) 495-2672,

3. Vela Wine Bar

5800 Broadway, (210) 822-7120




Best Head Shop

1. Planet K

East: 2138 Austin Hwy., (210) 654-8536; Central: 1015 E Mulberry, (210) 822-7767; Evers: 5619 Evers, (210) 521-5213; Military: 2803 Goliad, (210) 333-3043; West: 11202 West Ave., (210) 525-0708

Although Planet K’s been around since 1990, nobody really remembers which San Antonio location opened up first. (Not that we’d hold that against anyone — our brainpan is just as aromatically foggy.) This eclectic gift shop carries enough erotica, underground books, body jewelry, incense, and titillating glassware goodies to keep the entire city pleasantly insulated from the affronts of the passing years. What we do know is that a new-ish location (with awesome Yellow Submarine-style artwork on the building) opened up about three years ago on West Avenue, assuring us that there is a Planet K on pretty much every side of town. And that’s a great thing! Who knows when you’ll need a hand-carved cigar store Indian, an old-school Pink Floyd metal lunchbox, or info on hydroponic gardening systems.

2. Lazy Daze Counterculture

3333 West Ave. #10, (210) 541-0420; 502 Embassy Oaks, (210) 494-4420




Best Cigar Bar

1. Chango’s Havana Club

23535 W IH-10, Ste 1101, (210) 698-8922,

Back when men wore hats and stogie-chomping editors pushed out the morning edition, a dash to the local chophouse could reward a harried reporter with a shot and chaser, and a cigar to savor later. A good joint might have a few boxes of panetelas on hand. This ain’t that kind of place. Chango’s humidor holds dozens of top brands, while the bar provides a tasty drink selection, too. Live music nightly.

2. Club Humidor – Quarry Market

255 E Basse, Ste. 546, (210) 828-1261,

3. SoHo Wine & Martini Bar

214 Crockett, (210) 444-1000,




Best Sports Bar

1. Fatso’s Sports Garden

1704 Bandera Rd, (210) 432-0121,

Whether you settle inside or out on the patio, you’re safely ensconced in San Antonio’s mecca of big-screen sports bars here. Ask anyone who has seen a Manny Pacquiao fight or a Super Bowl at Fatso’s, and you’ll be hooked just hearing about it. Or pass on the big screens and star in your own game of sand volleyball. Call Fatso’s and ask about the grudge matches played out on any of the six courts located in the back of the building.

2. The Ticket Sports Pub

420 E Houston, (210) 222-9722,

3. High Velocity at JW Marriott (Tie)

23808 Resort Pkwy, (210) 276-2500,

Ojos Locos Sports Cantina (Tie)

5809 NW Loop 410, (210) 448-LOCO (5626),




Best Hotel Bar

1. Hotel Valencia Riverwalk: Vbar

150 East Houston, (210) 227-9700,

It’s a long bar, of course, perched upstairs above the hotel’s main entrance. No blaring music here, just professional drinking — the sort of spot a private dick might use for his unofficial office. The specialty drink list is extensive, but don’t hesitate to order a classic. Hotel bars are where cocktail culture was invented, after all, and this bartender’s afternoon sidecar won’t disappoint. That blonde he’s talking to is a regular — enter the conversation at your peril.

2. Hotel Havana

1015 Navarro, (210) 222-2008,

3. The Menger Hotel

204 Alamo Plaza, (210) 223-4361,




Best Lounge, Best Salsa Club

1. COCO Chocolate Lounge & Bistro

18402 US 281 N, (210) 491-4480,

COCO is sexy and delicious, in a crazy way. Where else in the world can you enjoy a chocolate martini and dance salsa (two of the sexiest things you can do) and have a free plastic surgery consultation? Only at COCO (actually the doctor isn’t in-house, but still …). Besides the eclectic selection of chocolatey stuff (anything from martinis to fondues, and everything is made from scratch in-house), the place becomes a salsa haven on Friday nights. If you’re already a salsero/a familiar with the music’s aphrodisiacal properties, imagine this scenario: you just ate a slice of “The Addiction” (semifreddo white chocolate mousse, creamy dark chocolate crèmeux, crispy dark chocolate pearls, Oreo crumbles, white chocolate ring) and drank “The Sexual” (SXUL chocolate vodka, chipotle, and chocolate), and the deejay is blasting Marc Anthony’s version of Juan Gabriel’s “Hasta que te conocí” (early Marc, before he became J.Lo-ish). If you don’t get laid after that, there’s something seriously wrong with you. But COCO knows where to stop: The stone-baked thin crust pizza and pasta have no chocolate in them.


Best Lounge

2. Studio 13 (Tie)

7218 Blanco Rd, (210) 390-1402

Evil Olive Elixir Lounge (Tie)

2950 Thousand Oaks Dr # 5, (210) 495-0970


Best Salsa Club

2. Arjon’s International Club (Tie)

8736 Tesoro Drive, (210) 804-1419

Azúca Nuevo Latino Restaurant (Tie)

713 S Alamo, (210) 225-5550,




Best Gay Bar

1. Sparky’s Pub

1416 N Main, (210) 320-5111,

Big gay dollars continue to build this refreshingly mixed (smoke-free!) English-style pub, where Gayrish is the language of choice, and cocktails served in pint glasses are downed at two inside bars and a third on the West Hollywood-style patio. Proprietors Randy Cunniff and Peter Becker, who also own neighboring Heat (easily the most “with it” gay nightclub in town) and Luther’s Cafe (where you can get a satisfying bite until 3 a.m. or later), have upped the ante on the Main Strip with Sparky’s as the new kid on the block. The duo recently opened Coffee Wine & Tapas Bar, which functions as an independent entity within two-year-old Sparky’s, boasts a sizeable wine list (from $19 bottles of Vertikal Riesling to $225 bottles of Dom Perignon) and serves a variety of toasty paninis and coffee drinks. When we met Cunniff and Becker to photograph Sparky’s as a contender for Best Gay Bar, Cunniff said, “Oh, we forgot about that! Is it too late for us to vote?” No need boys, your fans did it for you.

2. Heat

1500 N Main, (210) 227-2600,

3. Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham, (210) 271-3811,




Best Lesbian Bar

1. Bermuda Triangle

10127 Coachlight, (210) 342-2276,

On July 8, Bermuda Triangle will host its 10th Anniversary Foam Party. At these much-hyped events, which routinely reach and remain at capacity while an endless line wraps around the building, two DJs spin, foam sprays from the ceiling, steam rises, and inevitably, guys and girls start losing layers. “You should see the pile of wet clothes that gets left behind,” our bartender said. “The next day, people are lined up for the lost and found.” As some might remember reading last year, what owner Jill Gapinski really wants to win is Best Puffy Tacos. But until her perennial Best Lesbian Bar in SA starts serving them, she’ll have to settle for the usual.

2. Wax Lounge (Tie)

2211 San Pedro, (210) 379-4788,

The Bar at Hotel Havana (Tie)

1015 Navarro, (210) 222-2008,




Best Dive Bar, Best Bartender

1. Rookie’s Bar, Dave Brake

6402 Callaghan Rd, (210) 377-0909,

First off, we want to thank you, Current readers, for letting us know about Rookie’s Bar. Though we lived in the area years ago, we’d somehow never happened upon Rookie’s, and that’s a shame. Located just off 410 on Callaghan, Rookie’s is far from our side of town these days. (For us, “favorite dive” is synonymous with “down the street from my house.” But we digress.) Seeing as how Rookie’s swept two Best Of categories this year, we trekked out on a Monday night to have some drinks in front of Dave Brake’s bar.

Brake picks up shifts throughout the week at the casual neighborhood joint, but Mondays are his and his alone. A respectable Monday crowd of about 30 had already gathered at 9:30 p.m., but a steady throng of regulars streamed in and packed the place within an hour. Brake remained cool and calm through it all, expertly concocting shots, serving up cocktails, pouring drafts, and even picking up glasses solo. He broke away to slide over a Fat Bastard (Crown, Cuervo, Razzmatazz, grenadine, Sprite, and Red Bull), a drop shot he said is a house specialty. Even though the liquor combo sounds like a bit much, we can assure you that it’s surprisingly tasty.

We chatted with the friendly mixed crowd in between watching Brake hustle out drinks — some patrons were watching UCONN spank Butler in a brutal NCAA national championship game, while the rest were clustered around the bar’s lone shuffleboard. “This is the best place to play shuffleboard, or learn to play, in San Antonio. It’s a shuffleboard mecca,” remarked a regular. We’d unwittingly stumbled upon Rookie’s extremely popular Monday Night League, and promised that we’d spread the word about SA’s burgeoning shuffleboard scene.


Best Dive Bar

2. Dixie’s Country Bar (Tie)

8503 Broadway, (210) 930-5552,

The Mix (Tie)

2423 N St. Mary’s, (210) 735-1313,


Best Bartender

2. Omega Treviño, Alamo Drafthouse Park North

618 NW Loop 410, (210) 677-8500,




Best Cocktails

1. SoHo Wine & Martini Bar

214 W Crockett, (210) 444-1000,

Almost anyone could fit in with the shaken-and-stirred mix of tourists and locals that frequents SoHo, a stylish bar in the 1890s-era San Antonio Loan and Trust Bank building. Though it shoots for the stars, describing itself as “NYC in San Antonio,” SoHo lacks the snootiness of its namesake Manhattan ’hood. On a recent Sunday, two strangers politely debated cigar etiquette (an eclectic variety can be purchased and smoked at the bar) while others sipped refreshing Cucumber Tinis (one of many $9 concoctions advertised on the chalkboard). Also known for imaginative infusions (Brisket Bourbon, Candy Cane Tequila, Sweet Corn Rum, and Bubble Gum Vodka among them), SoHo can get a little cramped on weekend nights, but what do you expect from the home of the Best Cocktails in San Antonio?

2. COCO Chocolate Lounge and Bistro

18402 US 281 N, (210) 491-4480,

3. The Bar at Bohanan’s

219 E Houston, (210) 472-2600,




Best Handcrafted/Micro Brews

1. Freetail Brewing Co.

4035 N Loop 1604 W, Ste. 105, (210) 395-4974,

Freetail Brewing Co. became a household name for area microbrew enthusiasts immediately after the brewpub hit the scene on Black Friday, 2008. And for good reason — their taps feature several rotating in-house craft brews (usually around 10), but also serve up guest beers from other microbreweries around the state. One of our current favorites is the Rye Interloper, a thick, chocolaty stout with notes of coffee. Also good: the EXXXtra Pale Ale. Growlers are $5 for those who want Freetail to go (final price depends on brew choice), but founder and owner Scott Metzger has taken distribution efforts a step further by helping lead the fight for HB 660 and 602 in the name of Texas Beer Freedom. Don’t know about this? Google “brewed not battered” and you’ll stumble upon Metzger’s blog.

2. Blue Star Brewing Company

1414 S Alamo, Ste. 105, (210) 212-5506,

3. The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

11255 Huebner #212 (@ I-10), (210) 696-5080,




Best Beer Selection

1. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

11255 Huebner #212 (@ IH-10), (210) 696-5080,

We’re suckers for Flying Saucer’s umbrella-topped wooden patio tables — the varied brews tear us away from our traditional downtown haunts, but the shade keeps us lounging even though we’re far from home. Definitely worth a taste from the taps are the powerful and pleasing Green Flash Double Stout and the Samuel Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale, a medium-bodied ale known for its reddish hue and balance of sweet and spicy flavors. Adventurous souls should try Great Divide’s Espresso Yeti Imperial Stout, a beast of a brew that contains rich notes of caramel and toffee. Don’t forget Flying Saucer’s Texas Pint Night on Sundays when locally brewed beers are just $3.

2. The Friendly Spot

943 S Alamo, (210) 224-BEER (2337)

3. Hills & Dales Ice House

15403 White Fawn, (210) 695-2307




Best Pool Tables

1. Joey’s

2417 N St. Mary’s, (210) 733-9573

With nine recently re-felted tables and ample elbow room, Joey’s pool hall is a somewhat underutilized destination on the Saint Mary’s strip for those seeking a relaxing night of bar games without the hassles of a cramped bar or overbearing music. Dedicated dart and shuffleboard areas also provide entertainment for more than just the pool sharks in your group. Joey’s has 19 beers on tap including up to five rotating seasonal drafts. The 22-year-old establishment gets the most out of its restricted bar space by utilizing a unique balcony area and patio. Regulars suggest taking advantage of Joey’s kitchen and ordering up some gourmet pizza to enjoy while you scratch on the 8-ball for the second straight game. Table rates are $7 per hour.

2. Bananas Billiard Bar & Grill

2003 San Pedro, (210) 226-2627

3. Nice Rack (Tie)

9518 Console Dr, (210) 614-5200

Fast Eddies (Tie)

9910 W Loop 1604 N, Ste. 113, (210) 680-6800,




Best Jukebox

1. Bar America

723 S Alamo,

The glorious jukebox at Bar America has been in place for nearly 65 years, boasting the most eclectic, cool, and surreal selection of music you can imagine. Where else can you find Freddy Fender next to Woody Herman, Vicente Fernández next to Etta James, and Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington next to George Strait, Alabama, and Trío Los Panchos? This is a time capsule to hipsterdom across the ages.

2. Bond’s 007 Rock Bar

450 Soledad, (210) 225-0007,




Best Karaoke

1. Dad’s Karaoke

2615 Mossrock, (210) 340-3887

How popular is three-time Best of SA winner Dad’s Karaoke (aka Dad’s Sing -Along Club)? Well, here’s a tip for first-timers: If you want to get up onstage and do your best (or worst) rendition of TLC’s “Waterfalls,” you better get there early or risk being at the end of a long, long line of would-be superstars. But even if you end up in a lengthy queue, the onstage talent (or, occasionally, lack thereof) will keep you entertained. Dad’s is home base for many of SA’s hardcore karaoke-ists, and they don’t mess around when it comes to belting out other people’s jams. Dad’s KJs (that’s “karaoke jockey,” noob) have an almost-bottomless playlist and are impossible to stump.

2. Bitter Karaoke

Multiple locations,

3. Me and C.A. Karaoke Bar

8373 Perrin Beitel, (210) 590-6322




Best Game Night

1. Geeks Who Drink at Firehouse Pub & Grill

5380 Walzem Rd, (210) 946-9600,

Q: Which pub quiz crew dominated the Current’s 2011 Best of San Antonio readers’ poll? A: The Geeks Who Drink team presiding over Firehouse Pub and Grill every Wednesday. Sure, the GWD franchise has several outposts at bars around town (including all four Lion & Rose locations), but Firehouse hosts unbelievably cool events like last Wednesday’s Arrested Development-themed quiz, where 23 teams (including the Army Half-Days, Hot Cops, and Steve Holt*) pitted their obsessive-compulsive knowledge of all things Bluth against each other. Quizzes can get pretty intense, but whether you’re wallowing in defeat or toasting sweet, sweet victory, Firehouse’s waitresses are always quick with a refill.

2. Trivia Nite at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

11255 Huebner Rd #212, (210) 696-5080,

3. Fiasco Cocktails

2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 490-2651




Best Ice House

1. The Friendly Spot

943 S Alamo, (210) 224-BEER (2337),

Cooped up in the office, planning your escape? This is the perfect place to land after a long workday. Friendly to the whole familia, the kiddies can attack the playground while you kick back with something of the adult variety off the Friendly Spot’s stacked beer menu. The Spot’s widely known for their ever-rotating draught selection, from international IPAs to a variety of lagers — just show an interest and the bar will happily let you sample whatever you like. The (awesome) beer, bar food, fresh air, and relaxed vibe are the perfect backdrop for drinking in the diverse Southtown crowd.

2. La Tuna Grill

100 Probandt, (210) 212-5727,

3. Hills & Dales Ice House

15403 White Fawn Dr, (210) 695-2307




Best Dance Floor

1. Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham, (210) 271-3811,

There’s nothing quite like peering down from the wraparound balcony onto all the pan-sexual bumping, grinding, and glow-stick waving in the pulsating weekend crowd at the Bonham Exchange. Shirtless twinks gyrate atop risers, drag queens rub elbows with butch queens, and even when it’s tightly packed, everything seems to fit together swimmingly. And this is but one of three floors on which you can dance in this 1892-era palace of pleasure. When it’s open, the upper level is a perfect spot to steal away with a new friend or refresh your centipede skills on a much less competitive dance floor. But our personal favorite is the smallest of the three: In the main bar (which some call the Alamo bar), retro music videos make us feel 17 again and the slippery metal dance floor has the magical power to make cheesy moves look a little bit slicker.

2. Midnight Rodeo

12260 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-0040,

3. Cowboys Dancehall

3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378,




Best Metal Club

1. Bond’s 007 Rock Bar

450 Soledad, (210) 225-0007

Oblivious to the rotating cast of characters it has shared an adjoining downtown parking lot with (now music-scene hangout Korova, previously Ruta Maya Coffee House), Bond’s 007 has kept rockin’ through it all. We got our first taste of San Antonio’s underground metal scene at the club’s upstairs stage, and the bar’s notorious Big Ass Beers still draw a crowd of regulars at street-level. Look for three-time Rammy Award-winners Deadpool on the Bond’s calendar — they were named Best Metal Band in the Current from 2008-2010 and play the club regularly.

2. White Rabbit

2410 N St. Mary’s, (210) 737-2221,

3. Nightrocker Live

605 San Pedro, (210) 265-3573,




Best Honky Tonk/Country Bar, Best Meat Market (Tail), and Best Ladies Night

Cowboys Dancehall

3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378,

This massive honky-tonk complex has again taken the lead this year for being the go-to spot for all things country in San Antonio. Cowboys has two massive floors, each with a full bar for easy and quick drink service as you get your country on. In addition to regularly booking national acts, like an REO Speedwagon gig next month, country line dancing is also a main fixture, with lessons provided most Saturdays. Cowboys also won for its Ladies Nights every Thursday with no cover (for gals) and dirt-cheap drinks sure to provide fodder for the mechanical bull all night long. As if this place needed anything else to convince you of its country bona fides, did we also mention this place holds actual professional bull-riding events?

Cowboys also surfaced this year as one of SA’s Best Meat Markets — a category where the top finishers were all within a vote of one another, proving people in this city like to get it wherever they can. (Another candidate this year: “Your mom’s house”.) Midnight Rodeo, San Antonio’s country-western staple for over a quarter-century, tied with Cowboys this year for Saytown’s best place to find action, and looking at Midnight’s super low drink prices, it’s easy to see why.


Best Honky Tonk/Country Bar

2. Midnight Rodeo

12260 Nacogdoches Rd., (210) 665-04040,

3. Thirsty Horse Saloon

2335 NW Military Hwy, (210) 348-1513,


Best Meat Market (Tail)

1. Cowboys Dancehall (Tie)

3030 NE Loop 410, (210) 646-9378,

Midnight Rodeo (Tie)

12260 Nacogdoches Rd., (210) 665-04040,

2. Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub (Tie)

16620 US 281 N, (210) 572-9307,

Heat (Tie)

1500 N Main Ave, (210) 227-2600,


Best Ladies Night

2. Wild West

21025 US 281 North,




Best Club DJ

1. Pete Anderberg at Midnight Rodeo

12260 Nacogdoches Rd, (210) 655-0040,

Get ready to boot-scoot-and-boogie in your Apple Bottom jeans with Pete Anderberg as he plays countless country favorites as well as Top 40 hits. Everything is bigger in Texas — including some of that blue-jean filling. But that’s how Anderberg keeps the dance floor packed each night as he spins the most rockin’ tunes in the West. This rodeo won’t begin ’till midnight, so there’s plenty of time to pull on those boots and head out to the dance floor.

2. DJ Tonyc




Best Gentlemen's Club

1. The Palace Mens Club

2482 NE Loop 410, (210) 599-6011,

According to manager Juan Vega, the Palace has over 200 dancers on their roster (it is said that if they slithered ’n’ shook all at once, they have the power to summon sheer nipplicious anarchy). Seriously, they’re said to all be quite lovely girls, and while we weren’t exactly looking over Vega’s shoulder when he handpicked them, we trust our critical readers wouldn’t be tolerating any stretch-marked bellies and such. Catering to the suit-and-tie crowd, Palace has to be selective. With slightly higher drink prices, the riff-raff quotient is kept low. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bargains to be had. We stopped by at lunchtime (no cover!) and enjoyed a $3.99 rib eye (11a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays). We’ve heard there are even couples who frequent the place, so bring your lady along if you want.

2. Sugar’s

2731 NW Loop 410, (210) 340-1289,

3. Perfect 10

111 NW Loop 410, (210) 344-6601,




Best Place to Nurse a Hangover

1. At Home

Every year we ask you this question, readers, and every year the answer is the same. All you want to do when you’re hung over is lie on your couch. And we can’t blame you — if your hangovers are like ours, the mere thought of exiting your cave is downright frightening. Downing an Emergen-C before going out and ordering a water in between every drink is our favorite way to ward off a hangover, but we’ve found that ice on pressure points (like wrists) works wonders the morning after. Also good: charcoal tablets, BC powder, and Pedialyte. And if you’re into that whole hair of the dog thing, we’ll meet you at The Friendly Spot.

2. The Friendly Spot

943 S Alamo, (210) 224-BEER (2337)

3. Mi Tierra

218 Produce Row, (210) 225-1262,



2011 Best Of San Antonio: Your votes, your winners


Best of San Antonio: Food


Best of San Antonio: Shopping


Best of San Antonio: Local Heroes


Best of San Antonio: Around Town




Best Late Night Restaurant, Best Bakery/Panadería, Best Menudo

1. Mi Tierra Café y Panadería

218 Produce Row, (210) 225-1262,

“OK, let’s meet at Mi Tierra, then … ” How many wee-morning-hour phone calls resolve this way every year? We don’t recall every one of our bleary-eyed planning sessions, but whenever two or more frustrated persons discuss where to eat in San Antonio at 3 a.m. you can bet they frequently move in this direction. But you could be having a similar conversation any time of the day. No matter what time it is, Mi Tierra has something for you. Besides being a first-class Mexican restaurant (which serves breakfast 24 hours a day, and that includes its award-winning menudo; yeah, menudo for breakfast, gotta problem with that?), the bakery and bar are truly remarkable. The panadería has a variety of 28 panes (breads) and pastries, and the full bar offers strong margaritas in three sizes: grande, jumbo, and liter. I don’t know if it’s the colorful decorations on the ceiling or the mariachis moving from table to table or what, but getting drunk at Mi Tierra makes one feel like Harrison Ford circa Blade Runner getting lost in Guadalajara. For that alone, Mi Tierra is worth a visit. If you’ve been once, you know why this place has grown into a San Antonio institution since Pete and Cruz Cortez first opened in 1941. Enjoying Mi Tierra today is like visiting an Alamo City museum, one with tables, food, and a tantalizing air of pan-cultural possibility.


Best Late Night Restaurant

2. Los Robertos Taco Shop

226 W Bitters Rd #118, (210) 494-9131

3. Lulu’s Bakery and Café

918 N Main, (210) 222-9422,


Best Bakery/Panadería

2. Broadway Daily Bread

5001 Broadway, (210) 822-1621,

3. Panera Bread

999 E Basse Rd, (210) 822-7000,


Best Menudo

2. Taco Haven

1032 S Presa, (210) 533-2171,

3. Pico de Gallo Mexican Restaurant

111 S Leona, (210) 225-6060,




Best Barbecue

1. Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

3709 N St. Mary’s, (210) 735-0088,

Augie’s brands itself as a “Hill Country setting in the heart of San Antonio,” and they’re not kidding around. Just five minutes from downtown, Augie’s looks more authentic than even the most rustic outpost beyond 1604. Inside, customers can belly up to the wooden counter and order thick cuts of brisket (on a plate, or in a sandwich), down-home sides like potato salad, beans, or mac and cheese, and wash it down with iced tea or lemonade. Try the sausage sandwich (a Current favorite), topped with crisp onions, pickles, and drizzled in Baby Augie’s barbecue sauce. Out back is Augie’s famous beer garden, outfitted with a 12-foot screen relaying sports action and Hollywood drama. To recap: barbecue, beer, and movies? Let’s see the Hill Country try and top that one.

2. Texas Pride Barbecue

2980 E Loop 1604, Adkins, Texas, (210) 649-3730,

3. Two Bros. BBQ Market

12656 West Ave, (210) 496-0222,




Best Barbacoa

1. Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa

1737 S Gen. McMullen, (210) 433-1367

Barbacoa is a weekend tradition in SA, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the week. You can pick up some of the city’s best Wednesday through Sunday at Tellez. By the pound to go, or plated in the restaurant, it’s never greasy and comes in three varieties, including lengua. The cafeteria opens at 5 a.m. and does a brisk business till 2 p.m., but don’t wait until the last minute to order — the barbacoa is a neighborhood fave and sells out early.

2. El Milagrito Café Mexican Restaurant (Tie)

521 E Woodlawn, (210) 737-8646,

Rachel’s Barbacoa & Tortillas (Tie)

1702 Pinn, (210) 674-4325




Best Local Burgers, Best Nachos

1. Chris Madrid’s

1900 Blanco Rd, (210) 735-3552,

This well-known gathering place for real burger lovers touts a short-but-sweet menu that packs a mean punch. The standout is the Tostada Burger, Chris Madrid’s hallmark. This monster — a beef patty topped with refried beans, chips, onions, and cheddar cheese — comes in “regular” or “macho” sizes and requires a serious stomach and an equally serious stack of napkins. Consider bringing a friend to share (seriously, the thing is huge). A colossal plate of nachos topped with a healthy heap of Chris Madrid’s homemade salsa is also recommended. The atmosphere here is as laid back and unassuming as the menu. And past the large, open dining room, you’ll find a nice, dimly lit cantina with a full-service bar and a decent
beer list.


Best Local Burgers

2. Chester’s Hamburger Co.

9980 IH-10 W (@ Wurzbach), (210) 699-1222

3. Big’z Burger Joint

2303 N Loop 1604 W, (210) 408-2029,


Best Nachos

1. Chris Madrid’s (Tie)

1900 Blanco Rd, (210) 735-3552,

Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina (Tie)

910 S Alamo, (210) 223-1806,

2. Chacho’s

7870 Callaghan, (210) 366-2023,




Best Breakfast Tacos

1. Taco Taco

145 E Hildebrand, (210) 822-9533,

In 2007, when Taco Taco joined world-renowned restaurants such as Peter Luger Steakhouse (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Wolfgang Puck’s CUT (Beverly Hills, Calif.) on Bon Appétit and Food Network’s collaborative list of Top American Restaurants (the award: Best Tacos in America), owner Helen Velesiotis was visiting her native Greece and missed their visit. But when WOAI showed up a few weeks ago — unannounced, with a camera crew — to present her with another Best Breakfast Taco award for her growing collection, Velesiotis was there in her bustling kitchen. “I cried for an hour and a half,” she told us. “But that’s OK. People saw how much I care.” In a city where breakfast tacos can be found on nearly every corner, the ones served at Taco Taco stand out as a hands-down favorite for all walks of life.

2. Taco Haven

1032 S Presa, (210) 533-2171,

3. El Milagrito

521 E Woodlawn, (210) 737-8646,




Best Local Coffee House

1. Olmos Perk

5223 McCullough, (210) 858-2956,

It’s hard to compete with Olmos Perk. The cozy coffee house offers the best of both worlds — quick and painless takeout for the on-the-go/late-for-work set and a quiet, focused atmosphere that’s perfect for dates with your laptop. If you’ve got time to stay, by all means, order a latte. Baristas here pride themselves on leaving a delicate, lasting impression on your foamy pick-me-up. If you know another locally owned establishment with killer cappuccinos, comfy furniture, free internet, a breezy patio, shared reading material (The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and more), fruit smoothies, yogurt parfaits, ample parking, and a friendly, good-looking staff, by all means, go there (and vote for them in next year’s poll). But for now, Olmos Perk is still the Best Local Coffee House in San Antonio.

2. Candlelight Coffeehouse

3011 N St. Mary’s, (210) 738-0099,

3. The Foundry

2720 McCullough, (210) 785-8208,




Best Chicken-Fried Steak

1. Lulu’s Bakery and Café

918 N Main, (210) 222-9422,

Though we’re no fans of eating challenges, there’s always an exception to the rule. A San Antonio dish that absolutely deserves the airtime it received on Man v. Food is Lulu’s chicken-fried steak, if only for the fact that it shockingly hangs off the edges of an enormous platter. Lulu’s steak is actually thick — surprising for one so huge — and though the batter honorably retains its crispness against the pool of gravy, it yields right when it needs to. The menu offers a version smothered in queso (read: heart attack) but we trend toward the traditional version.

2. DeWese’s Tip Top Café

2814 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 732-0191,

3. Bud Jones Restaurant

1440 SW Military, (210) 977-9161,




Best Local Chinese Food

1. Formosa Garden

1011 NE Loop 410, (210) 828-9988,

One pessimistic voter responded to this category with the worn-out cliché “There is no good Chinese food in SA.” They’ve obviously never been to Formosa Garden. For the second year in a row, Current readers have dubbed them tops in Chinese cuisine, adding another honor to an already impressive wall of awards and critical acclaim (now might be a good time to start on a new wall, guys). The Formosa formula is simple: They offer up both “traditional” (as in “safe and comfortable”) dishes like teriyaki chicken and beef and broccoli, as well as more adventurous fare like Hunan style-sauteed lamb and Formosa Island Duck. They even offer up sushi and Thai options if you feel like getting all Pan-Asian with your night out. And you allergy sufferers can rest easy knowing Formosa’s food is 100-percent MSG-free.

2. Golden Wok

8822 Wurzbach, (210) 615-8282,

3. Hung Fong

3624 Broadway, (210) 822-9211




Best Cupcakes

1. Kate’s Frosting

2518 N Main, (210) 248-9809,

Upon entering Kate’s quaint confectionary factory, one might mistake the bakery for a modest antique shop nestled in the heart of Monte Vista. Still, knickknacks and handmade jewelry can’t distract a sweet tooth for long, not when it’s aching for the velvety frosting artfully placed atop each cupcake’s crown. Several classic flavors (like vanilla chocolate, red velvet, and pumpkin spice) are available every day, but the rotating cast of specials get downright artsy. Indulge your inner (and maybe outer) borracha with La Margarita. Or opt for Horchata, a concoction that’s so silken you’ll be shuttled back to childhood memories of weekends with Abuelita. A glance at the complete flavor list (found in-store or online) will leave you amazed at the possibilities the cupcake craze has inspired.

2. Cupcake Couture

16535 Huebner Rd, (210) 272-0192,

3. Gigi’s Cupcakes

434 N Loop 1604 W, (210) 481-2300,




Best French Restaurant/Bistro

1. Bistro Vatel

218 E Olmos, (210) 828-3141,

At the top of chef Damien Watel’s (above) many marks on the San Antonio culinary scene is this Olmos neighborhood bistro (you’ll find another one of his spots at the bottom of this category). The menu, which Watel tinkers with on a regular basis depending on the season and availability of local ingredients, boasts authentic French favorites like coq au vin, escargots, and duck confit, along with the kind of desserts (think tarts and crème brûlée) you’d expect from any bona fide French restaurant.

2. COCO Chocolate Lounge & Bistro (Tie)

18402 US 281 N, (210) 491-4480,

Frederick’s Bistro (Tie)

14439 NW Military Hwy, (210) 888-1500,

3. Bistro Bakery

4300 McCullough, (210) 824-3884,




Best Hot Dogs

1. King’s Court Frankfurter Express

111 King’s Court, (210) 737-7774,

With specialty hot dogs all the rage (even a ubiquitous national chain known for free white-and-red mints has them now!), Frankfurter Express has upped the ante with 24 variations on the standard dog and eight veggie versions that’ll have you primed for summer. Thankfully, this locally owned and operated joint also has a patio that we absolutely love. For us, the Chicago Dog is the barometer, and King’s Court delivers. The all-beef dog is decked out with tomato slices, fresh chopped onions, a crisp pickle spear, sport peppers, mustard, and a dash of celery salt — they’ve gotten the neon-green relish and poppy seed bun right too. The foot-long New Yorker (red-onion sauce, sauerkraut, French’s) is über messy, but perfectly evokes the Big Apple.

2. Nick’s Chicago Hot Dogs (now JK’s)

2417 Thousand Oaks, (210) 403-3311




Best Riverwalk Restaurant, Best Guacamole

1. Boudro’s Texas Bistro on the Riverwalk

421 E Commerce, (210) 224-8484,

Live in San Antonio long enough and you come to dread out-of-town guests for their programmed River Walk obsession. Once a hellhole of chain restaurants and overhyped Mexican food, the River Walk has been partially delivered by Boudro’s, where you can drink a prickly pear margarita and laugh at the sad saps dining at lesser establishments. This place is known for stellar Cajun and Mexican food and an array of margaritas. Many restaurants offer tableside guacamole, but few offer it next to seared ahi salads and duck enchiladas. The steaks are stellar, but their forte is seafood — lobster, shrimp, fish, crab, and more. But back up a sec. If it’s true that a Mexican restaurant can be reliably judged on its guacamole alone, Mexican restaurants all over town should thank God that seafood-oriented Boudro’s hasn’t limited itself to traditional Tex-Mex. Made on a cart by your table, Boudro’s recipe consists of fresh avocados, fresh-squeezed orange and lime juices, roasted and charred Roma tomatoes, Serrano peppers, red onions, and cilantro. You’ve got to see it (and taste it) to believe it.


Best Riverwalk Restaurant

2. Dick’s Last Resort

406 Navarro, (210) 224-0026,

3. Ácenar

146 E Houston, (210) 222-2362,


Best Guacamole

2. Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina

910 S Alamo, (210) 223-1806,

 3. Chacho’s

7870 Callaghan Rd, (210) 366-2023,




Best Ice Cream/Gelato

1. Amy’s Ice Creams

255 E Basse Rd #430, (210) 832-8886,

Where else can you find an ice cream called Guinness that actually has the beer mixed in? Amy’s, nestled in the upscale Alamo Quarry, boasts over 300 recipes made from the seven different ice cream flavors the shop rotates daily. Try some of their offbeat concoctions if you’re feeling adventurous: names like Mexican Heath, Blueberry Muffin, Coconut Chocolate Rum, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Jamaican Coffee, and Lemon Cheesecake captured our imagination. Is your mouth watering yet? Or have names like Chipotle Peanut Butter boggled your noggin, instead? Don’t worry, the pleasantly eccentric staff is eager to dish out generous samples. If there is any justice in this life, the powers-that-be at your office/school/parish will make frequent use of Amy’s catering service.

2. DaVinci’s Gelato & Caffe

18720 Stone Oak Pkwy, Ste. 152, (210) 545-6686,

3. Paciugo

999 E Basse Rd, Ste. 196, (210) 832-8820,




Best Indian Restaurant

1. India Palace

8474 Fredericksburg Rd #100, (210) 692-5262,

In a city of great Indian restaurants, India Palace is second to none. The chutneys are so spicy you can hardly eat them (and so tasty you can hardly stop); the well-stocked buffet can be enjoyed at lunch or dinner; and the a la carte dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) are mouth-watering. If you forgo AYCE, try the vegetarian dinner ($13.95), the chicken-based Indian dinner ($15.95), or the mammoth royal dinner ($32.95). Top it off with an excellent spiced chai or refreshing mango lassi.

2. India Oven

1031 Patricia, (210) 366-1030,

3. Mela Indian Bar & Grill

4987 NW Loop 410, (210) 682-1234,




Best Middle-Eastern Food

1. Pasha Mediterranean Grill

9339 Wurzbach, (210) 561-5858

This brightly arranged Middle Eastern oasis on Wurzbach dishes out some of the best falafel this city has to offer. While friendly to the meat eaters among us, kudos to Pasha for its generous offering of vegetarian plates — including standards like baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, falafel, and the restaurant’s signature seasoned potatoes. If your reasonably priced feast from the East leaves you wanting more, stroll on over to the Ali Baba International Food Market, which sits just across the parking lot from Pasha.

2. Jerusalem Grill

3259 Wurzbach, (210) 680-8400,

3. Turquoise Grill

3720 NW Loop 410, (210) 736-2887,




Best Local Sandwiches/Deli

1. W.D. Deli

3123 Broadway, (210) 828-2322,

For 20 years W.D. Deli has been serving up some of the freshest, tastiest sandwiches in town — every day but Sunday. For lunch try the combination specials — a half sandwich of your choosing with soup (cup or bowl) and/or a small Caesar salad. Combo prices start at $6.75; sandwich upgrades or additional items will cost you a bit more. The delicious Foccaccia Supreme has always been a Current favorite: the hearty sandwich layers turkey, avocado, Swiss, and alfalfa sprouts, and the spicy tomato-basil soup (which is one of four soups served daily) pairs perfectly. Fine baked goods, like the corn-flake-secreting Ranger cookie, are perfect take-along snacks to keep your hands busy until you reach the car.

2. Madhatters Tea House and Café (Tie)

320 Beauregard, (210) 212-4832,

Zito’s Deli & Sandwich Shop (Tie)

8800 Broadway #108, (210) 826-4793,

3. The Filling Station

701 S St. Mary’s, (210) 444-2200




Best Meat Market

1. Bolner’s Meat Market

2900 S Flores, (210) 533-5112,

A cross between a butcher shop and a barbeque joint, Bolner’s isn’t the prettiest meat market, but it’s the best. You can find any cut of cow, pig, or chicken, as well as other breeds of dissected animal. Whether you want menudo or akaushi beef, you’ll find it here. Plus, the people here know their meat. When the Current went to Bolner’s for bones to make stock (don’t ask who we were boiling), we got an earful about the best way to brown the bones, get the marrow out, and how long to simmer our meat water. Aside from raw meat, you can order standard barbeque plates, too — grilled and smoked meats (with sides) are ready to be lovingly consumed on the spot.

2. Central Market

4821 Broadway, (210) 368-8600,

3. Cooper’s Meat Market

6002 Broadway, (210) 820-3838,




Best Enchiladas, Fajitas, Salsa, Michelada

1. Rosario’s Mexican Cafe y Cantina

910 S Alamo, (210) 223-1806,

Rosario’s isn’t your usual Tex-Mex restaurant, offering instead a more contemporary, lighter take on traditional fare that won’t break your belly. Their enchiladas come with a variety of stuffings; we like the chicken topped with mole sauce or the Enchiladas Mexicanas, which are covered with a sauce made of guajillos and pasilla chiles and filled with queso fresco. The beef or chicken fajitas are just some of the parrillas (grilled foods) on the menu. For more adventure, skip the common fare and try “Poquito de Todo,” a little of everything: sweet breads, tripas, and chicharrones, topped with guacamole. The salsa is dark and smoky, with the earthy tang of roasted tomatoes and the gentle bite of a Mexican hairless. Nowadays, every place pours their own version of the michelada, a hot-day thirst quencher that pairs perfectly with savory dishes.

Rosario’s version is delivered in a salt-rimmed glass, packed with lots of spice and a choice of beers. Dos Equis Amber proved a nice variant on the traditional mix of Clamato juice and lager. If the dining room is busy the bar can set you up with chips or apps on the quick while you quaff a glass of red, cold delight. Rosario’s food and drink, as popular as they are in SA, is only half of the restaurant’s appeal. Located a few blocks east of the Blue Star Complex, this is a people-watching spot in the King William District, the view heats up on weekends when the real salsa in the house is delivered by live music.


Best Enchiladas

2. Blanco Café

1720 Blanco Rd, (210) 732-6480,

3. Los Barrios

4223 Blanco, (210) 732-6017,


Best Fajitas

2. La Fonda on Main

2415 N Main, 210) 733-0621,

3. La Fogata

2427 Vance Jackson, (210) 340-1337,


Best Salsa

2. Salsalito Cantina Mexican Restaurant

14535 Nacogdoches, (210) 646-8088,

3. La Fogata

2427 Vance Jackson, (210) 340-1337,


Best Michelada

2. The Friendly Spot

943 S Alamo, (210) 224-2337,

3. Ácenar Mexican Restaurant (Tie)

146 E Houston, (210) 222-2362,

Guajillo’s: The Shortcut to Mexico (Tie)

1001 NW Loop 410, (210) 344-4119




Best Local Desserts

1. Madhatters Tea House & Café

320 Beauregard, (210) 212-4832,

The desserts here come from local bakeries Janie’s Pie Factory and Le Cake, but the loving is all Madhatters. You can eat chocolate cake, yes, but when they ask you whether you want that same piece of cake warmed up and served with some ice cream on it … don’t be embarrassed when you’re caught vacant-eyed and drooling. You wouldn’t be the first. Madhatters is family- and friend-friendly, but to be honest, these desserts are meant to be eaten by you and you alone.

2. COCO Chocolate Lounge & Bistro

18402 US Hwy 281, Ste 114, (210) 491-4480,

3. Green Vegetarian Cuisine & Coffee

1017 N Flores, (210) 320-5865,




Best Veggie Burgers, Best Vegetarian Options

1. Green Vegetarian Cuisine

1017 N Flores, (210) 320-5865,

Almost anyone who’s tried making veggie burgers from scratch will tell you it’s no easy task. Unless you’re an Iron Chef, you could easily end up with a tasteless, crumbling pile of mush. But Green Vegetarian Cuisine knows the secrets to this and other meatless conundrums. Vegetarian options abound at this kosher restaurant, where a rabbi inspects and blesses all that goes into healthy dishes like the protein-rich Monk’s Bowl (a satisfying $6 mixture of quinoa, tabouli, black beans, kale, and chipotle aioli) and not quite as healthy ones like Buffalo Fingers (breaded and fried tofu with your choice of either BBQ or buffalo sauce, $9). Although they didn’t exactly share the recipe for the Green Burger (which is also sold at Sam’s Burger Joint and one other undisclosed local restaurant), sibling co-owners Chris and Michael Behrend were kind enough to give us some big hints. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try your hand at making something similar to the Best Veggie Burger in San Antonio, you’ll need white beans, black beans, lentils, olive oil, garlic, and two secret ingredients (get creative). As for the hearty fennel-seeded bun (which gets spread with house-made chipotle mayo and mashed avocado), you’re on your own — that’s Mom’s secret recipe.


Best Veggie Burgers

2. The Cove

606 W Cypress, (210) 227-2683,

3. La Tuna Grill (Tie)

100 Probandt, (210) 212-5727,

Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe (Tie)

6322 N New Braunfels, (210) 822-0761,


Best Vegetarian Options

2. The Cove

606 W Cypress, (210) 227-2683,

3. Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe

6322 N New Braunfels, (210) 822-0761,




Best Italian Restaurant

1. Little Italy

824 Afterglow, (210) 349-2060

This small, down-to-earth restaurant hiding near the corner of Blanco and West has everything you’d expect from an authentic, family-owned Italian joint, right down to the red- and white-checkered tablecloths. The menu offers typical Italian fare (penne pomodoro, chicken parm, spinach manicotti), but the servers push the pizza and offer sample slices before you order. Speaking of pizza, you can watch the chef spin and bake the pies through a giant open window that connects the front dining room to the pizza kitchen. Word has it this is where the Lady first macked on the Tramp. The chef, who speaks with a thick Italian accent, cooks in front of an enormous green, white, and red flag painted on the kitchen’s back wall. Viva Italia!

2. Paesanos

3622 Paesanos Pkwy, (210) 493-1604,

3. Il Sogno

200 E Grayson, (210) 223-3900




Best Puffy Taco

Henry’s Puffy Tacos

6030 Bandera Road, (210) 432-7341,

Easily considered one of San Antonio’s staples (if not the trademark dish), the puffy taco has many representations across the city, but few are delectable enough to be the linchpin of an entire family business. Brothers Rick and Jaime Lopez (Henry’s sons), longtime family friend Frank Garza, and the rest of the family have operated Henry’s Puffy Tacos since 1978 at their original (and now express) location off Woodlawn. The larger location on Bandera selected by Current readers only opened in 2006. The pillowy shells are remarkably lacking of grease and hold their integrity through each crispy chomp. Any restaurant bold enough to have an anthropomorphic puffy taco mascot is begging for attention, but the thrifty $2.25 price per taco drives home the sale.




Best Korean Restaurant

1. Ilsong Garden

6905 Blanco Rd, (210) 366-4508,

Confession: The Current used to be afraid of kimchi. The thought of eating fermented vegetables seems slimy and unnatural. But upon eating the kimchi at Ilsong, our fears were banished. The fiery mix is great on its own, as a side, or eaten as a pancake. Paired with potatoes and spicy bulgogi, it’s the epitome of Korean food. All meals should start with an order of Dragon Balls, deep-fried tuna covered in creamy sauces. If the bulgogi isn’t enough meat, the ribs are so tender you don’t need a knife to cut them.

2. Koreana

2458 Harry Wurzbach #5, (210) 804-0019

3. Kiku Garden

4527 Goldfield, (210) 662-6699




Best Patio, Best Margaritas

La Fogata

2427 Vance Jackson, (210) 340-1337,

Once La Fogata’s rugged wooden doors close behind you, the worries of the world close with them. The patio’s lush tree canopy amazingly provides a cool respite from South Texas’ harshest rays, while fragrant flowers, Saltillo tile, and bubbling fountains help you lose yourself in south-of-the-border style. Whether you eat or not is of no import (fare is traditional Mexican and decent; we suggest opting for the higher-priced dishes if your budget allows), but drinking is a must. Though there are delicious sangria and mango varieties, we usually opt for the top-shelf version of the traditional Award-Winning Margarita. Our margaritas are generally taken on the rocks as a rule, but frozen is always recommended at La Fogata. Mixing is necessary. After all, these babies are far-removed from Margarita Man’s crappy concoctions, and a copious amount of tequila is evident in the generous, long-stemmed glass. We’re always game for multiple servings, but this just might be the only margarita in San Antonio where one is enough. Sunday Funday, anyone?


Best Patio

2. Stone Werks

7300 Jones Maltsberger Rd., (210) 828-3508,

3. The Cove (Tie)

606 W Cypress, (210) 227-2683,

Pam’s Patio Kitchen (Tie)

11826 Wurzbach Rd., (210) 492-1359,


Best Margaritas

2. Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina

910 S Alamo, (210) 223-1806,

3. Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine

5800 Broadway, (210) 822-6151,




Best Local Pizza

1. Dough Pizzeria Napoletana

6989 Blanco Rd, (210) 979-6565,

Eating pizza cooked in a gas oven is like drinking champagne served in a Styrofoam cup — if you’re serious about drinking, you just don’t do that. Likewise, if you’re a serious connoisseur of pizza, you know perfectly well that God created wood-fired brick ovens to make pizza. The oven at Dough (affectionately known as “Il Cuore,” the heart) was transported by three ships all the way from Naples. When you taste the pizza, you understand why they went through all the trouble.

2. Florio’s Pizza

7701 Broadway #2, (210) 805-8646

3. Goomba’s Pizzeria (Now Ray’s Pizzaria; same pizza, same menu)

7214 Blanco Rd, (210) 348-9090,




Best Steakhouse

1. Chama Gaucha

18318 Sonterra Pl, (210) 564-9400,

The Brazilian way of searing meat is Chama Gaucha’s specialty. Filet mignon, top sirloin, pork ribs, and chicken are delivered to the table and cut on the spot from the skewer. It’s a carnivore’s delight, but come hungry. Chama Gaucha only offers a prix-fixe meal, the choices being salad bar only or the whole shebang. Our hunger couldn’t match the varieties of meats offered, but the eight or nine types nibbled on were uniformly juicy, and expertly grilled.

2. Little Red Barn

1836 S Hackberry, (210) 532-4235,

3. Kirby’s Steakhouse

123 N Loop 1604 E, (210) 404-2221,




Best Romantic Restaurant

1. Grey Moss Inn

19010 Scenic Loop Road (Helotes), (210) 695-8301,

Located in the shadowy suburban setting of Grey Forest, the Inn’s popular hideaway has been a destination for googly eyed lovebirds seeking memorable one-on-one getaways for 80 years. The restaurant offers an array of steaks, seafood, and lamb, and boasts the use of free-range chicken. At the end of of a short drive into the deer-rich oak forest of Hill Country tranquility, couples dine by candlelight (or in front of a welcoming fireplace) on Bandera quail and steaks grilled over mesquite charcoal. Pair with one of the countless wines from around the world.

2. The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills

1746 Lockhill Selma, (210) 349-8466,

3. Bohanan’s (Tie)

219 E Houston, Ste. 275, (210) 472-2600,

COCO Chocolate Lounge & Bistro (Tie)

18402 US 281 N, Ste. 114, (210) 491-4480,




Best Seafood

1. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

76 NE Loop 410, (210) 340-7143,

Want a surefire way to ensure success? Slap the “Pappa” prefix in front of your business name. (Go ahead, give it a shot — it worked for Pappa-Google.) OK, that might be simplifying it a bit, as Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen is more than just another extension of the Pappas Family franchise (which includes Pappasito’s Cantina in SA). The ’Deaux is a top-notch seafood house that delivers the goods on classics like fried catfish and shrimp, but the real draw is its Cajun cooking: five kinds of gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and Pontchartrain pan-broiled fillet, for starters. More refined palettes (and fatter wallets), should indulge in specialty fish selections like Alaskan Halibut Costa Rican Mahi — flown in daily for maximum freshness. And for you weirdos that order steak at seafood restaurants, there’s a pretty good Angus ribeye, too.

2. Wildfish Seafood Grille

1834 NW Loop 1604, (210) 493-1600,

3. Sandbar Fish House & Market

200 E Grayson, (210) 222-2426




Best Brunch

1. Magnolia Pancake Haus

606 Embassy Oaks, (210) 496-0828,

A Sunday without brunch is like Fiesta without alcohol; it’s just not as amusing as it could be. Magnolia knows brunch, and executes it superbly. They claim to serve up the “World’s Best Pancakes” (which are roughly the circumference of a South Texas cantaloupe), but it’s their fresh twist on classics that keep patrons’ mouths watering. Don’t leave without sampling the Smoked Turkey Hash or Jambalaya Omelet. Guy Fieri was inclined enough to make a pit stop in his red convertible … enough said.

2. Guenther House

205 E Guenther, (210) 227-1061,

3. Candlelight Coffee House

3011 N St. Mary’s, (210) 738-0099,




Best Sushi

1. Goro’s Sushi

2619 Mossrock, (210) 349-8117,

While some places pride their sushi on tradition, Goro’s celebrates variety and innovation with flair. Order a starter while you study the menu — the dizzying list of maki options (we counted 68 varieties, including Kiss of Fire, Oral Design, and Three Amigos) takes some time to absorb. A favorite among regulars, the Whatever Roll ($12.95) is technically a chef’s choice menu item, but diners are welcome to draw their own boundaries (we asked that the eel be left off ours). On a recent Friday night, three of Goro’s sushi masters crafted artful rolls using the same ingredients — and all three looked entirely different. Ditto the appetizers: Our Seared Tuna Appetizer ($11.95) was thick-cut and hearty, miles apart from the look of our neighbor’s, which had the thinly-sliced look of Carpaccio.

2. Fujiya Japanese Garden

9030 Wurzbach, (210) 734-3551,




Best Tamales

1. Ruben’s Homemade Tamales

1807 Rigsby, (210) 333-9529

This Southside tamale shop has been a fixture in the city’s culinary world since 1952 and is still run by the Perez family. In their signature tamale, fragrant yellow masa surrounds generous pockets of pork shoulder wrapped in husks brought in from Mexico. During the Christmas season over a dozen cooks toil to keep up with orders, but don’t wait ’till winter to grab a dozen or two of these hot treats. As owner Anita Perez (left) keeps the doors open until 7 p.m., you’ve got no excuses.

2. Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa

1737 S General McMullen, (210) 433-1367

3. Adelante Mexican Food

21 Brees Blvd, (210) 822-7681




Best Food Truck

1. G & G Mobile Bistro

(210) 480-4345

Gus Gonzalez and Gabe Garman take the word “mobile” pretty seriously. The culinary punks and their custom-built, two-wheeled trailer have made two major moves since we got hooked on their innovative approach to bistro-style fare. Following them from the Museum Reach (the bygone SWC Club’s back parking lot) to the Mission Reach (alongside Boneshakers Bicycle Pub) to The Boardwalk on Bulverde (which seems to be a rite of passage for all food trucks) has been no easy task. But such delicacies as cauliflower bisque, citrus salad, croutons topped with monkfish liver pâté, and cocoa-dusted beets have been well worth the goose chase. Now, in a move that will delight some and disappoint others, G & G has become a more specialized operation. If you’ve got between 20 and 50 mouths to feed, they’ll come to you and serve up some of the most unique food in town. Count on a private dinner costing $15 a head for three courses, $20 a head for four courses, and $25 a head for five courses. But if you’re not ready to commit, stay tuned to their Facebook page, where upcoming engagements — with a limited number of spaces — will be posted. Anyone can attend, as long as you RSVP.

2. Tin Can Tacos (Tie)

(210) 913-6758,

Wheelie Gourmet (Tie)

(210) 370-7692

3. Duk Truck




Best Thai Food

1. Thai Chili Oriental Restaurant

4303 Thousand Oaks, (210) 656-8589,

This place could have easily won for best seafood, too, as their seafood salad and shrimp and crab spring rolls are as tasty as any offering in a mariscos spot. The whole fried fish is also a winner, but call ahead to make sure the catch of the day is available. Or try one of their more adventurous and healthy options, like the pumpkin curry. Spiciness is up to you, and wait staff will mark down your order on a scale of 1-10. But you can go higher. Masochistic guests here compete to see who can eat the hottest dishes, with the chef ranking the current champ’s platter a whooping 1,110. We’d say that’s off the charts.

2. Thai Taste

5520 Evers, (210) 520-6800

3. Thai Dee Restaurant

5307 Blanco, (210) 342-3622,




Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Viet Nam Restaurant

3244 Broadway, (210) 822-7461

Located in an unassuming building on Broadway, Viet Nam has long been a San Antonio staple. Start off your meal with an order of spring rolls (if t

Best Local Radio Talk-Show Host

1. Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo

WOAI 1200 AM,

We’re just going to call this the Season of Pags. For the second year in a row, you’ve helped hoist Clear Channel’s evening host on 1200 — Joe Pagliarulo — over the morning talk crews who’ve seized the Best Ofs in years past. Sure, he’ll fill in for the totally discredited national embarrassment that is Glenn Beck when his station calls on him, but he’ll do so with a little more humanity (and, we imagine, less spittle) in his dissection of the liberal outrage of the hour. Pags is the sort of guy you’d want to finish out the electrical work on your ranch house with. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll recite some of his recent poetic works come Miller Time (request “A Talk Show Host I Am”).

2. The Lisle & Hahn Morning Show

99.5 KISS,

3. Trey Ware (Tie)


Mike Taylor (Tie)





Best local website

1. CineSnob

We at the Current thought we were well acquainted with Mr. Cine Snob (aka Star Crazy, aka Kiko Martinez, a steady and reliable contributing writer), but we had no idea his following at was hip to the Current connection. Now we know. With particular attention given to
Latino/a Chaléwood stars, movie-ticket contests, and no-holds-barred reviews of the worst-of-the-worst, CineSnob makes an impression. (Now that he’s a Best Of winner, we’ll think twice about giving any movie four stars that Martinez termed an “exceedingly erratic softcore male fantasy for gamers.”)

2. San Antonio Current

3. MySanAntonio




Best Radio Station (Music)

1. KSYM 90.1 FM San Antonio College Radio

1300 San Pedro, (210) 486-0000,

KSYM is a haven for anyone with an eclectic musical taste. It plays anything from blues to jazz, world music to hip-hop, electronica to punk, even Latin alternative to R&B and alternative rock. Country, metal, reggae, and bluegrass also have a place in this student-run station, and the Beatles even have their own segment. Darn those kids and their fancy technologies: you can listen in online no matter where in the world you are. Locals are prized, but KSYM is obviously thinking about global market share.

2. KISS 99.5 FM

8122 Datapoint Drive Ste. 600, (210) 615-5400,

3. MIX 96.1

6222 NW IH-10, (210) 470-5961,




Best Radio Station (News)

1. 89.1 FM TPR/NPR

Despite major format changes at Texas Public Radio last fall (that’s right, TPR is now loaded with even more smart talk, we’re dealing with it) the city’s love for their local alternative to the angry chest beating that frequently punctuates other news radio offerings has remained unchanged. This is well-researched and professionally presented on-air and web-streaming dialogue by pros trafficking in both “news and views.” After only a few years in production, Texas Matters, The Source, and smartly empanelled Town Hall gatherings have become indispensible elements of San Antonians’ news diet.

2. WOAI 1200 AM

3. KROV 91.72-HD2 FM




Best Meteorologist

1. Steve Browne, KSAT

There are times when weather becomes downright dangerous. Ice and floods may come, but these days we’re watching the parched Texas landscape succumb to now-annual firestorms. We’re comforted knowing that Steve Browne is there to shepherd through the turbulence. A weather wonk since grade school, Brown came to San Antonio after honing his chops in equally weather-stricken cities like Boston and Atlanta. But after nearly 20 years in town (and several Best Of wins), Browne has earned the right to his “trusted local” status. Need some basic weather schooling? Check, and be sure to ask how his tomatoes are feeling now.

2. Bill Taylor, KENS5

3. David Mazza, WOAI




Best Sportscaster

1. Greg Simmons, KSAT

Although KSAT Sports Anchor Greg Simmons trails the Dallas Cowboys like he’s on their travel roster, his absolute devotion to high school sports is the reason he’s beloved by San Antonio sports fanatics. There’s nothing easy about delivering an up-to-the-minute sportscast on a night packed with high-profile varsity games, but Simmons and crew aim to cram highlights and live shots from at least 15 local contests into every Friday night sports report. Simmons is more than familiar with the terrain — the San Antonio native cut his teeth on Jefferson High School’s student-run radio station, so he understands just how brightly the lights glow on Friday nights.

2. Don Harris, WOAI

3. Joe Reinagel, KENS 5




Best Local News Anchor

1. Randy Beamer, WOAI

“Beamer,” as he prefers to be called, has claimed this title again. Repeatedly recognized as one of the top TV news anchors in the state, Beamer has reported across the globe with WOAI, bringing local viewers stories from Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Mexico. Also, you gotta love an anchor that undergoes a colonoscopy on camera for his report on colon cancer. Keep it up, Beamer. Our only request is that you bring the mustache back, you know, for old time’s sake.

2. Ursula Pari, KSAT

3. Steve Spriester, KSAT




Best Local Reporter

1. J.T. Street (Tie)

KABB (Fox 29),

1. Jessie Degollado (Tie)

KSAT 12,

KAAB’s J.T. Street has been covering un poquito de todo since first stepping in front of the camera in 2008 shortly after being named the station’s first-ever “video journalist.” The Houston native capable of handling his own gear wields a sense of humor viewers seem to appreciate. The news pup tied long-time favorite Jessie Degollado of KSAT for best local reporter. For her part, Degollado has been mastering the chaotic news cycle for more than 20 years, delivering concise and competent reports from San Antonio’s frontlines of discussion and beyond.




Best Comedian (Solo or Group)

1. Comedia A Go-Go

When watching live comedy, there is always the risk of the lone comedian failing to connect with the audience. Compound that risk by five and add the fact that Comedia A Go-Go has cultivated a dedicated fan base over their nine-year span and the troupe becomes all the more impressive. Joel Settles, Larry Garza, Regan Arevalos, Dianah McGreehan, Jess Castro, and light-and-sound wizard James Teninty use their natural stage talent as well as their multi-media savviness to deliver a comedy experience unlike any other in San Antonio. Every sketch showcases the cast’s total commitment to the stage, and for a minute you actually believe that not only could there really be a fellatio-crazed super hero loose in San Antonio but, dammit, this town needs him.

2. Jay Whitecotton

3. Cleto Rodriguez




Best Local Video Artist/Producer

1. Brandon Faucett

When he’s not doing multimedia productions for the likes of KROV FM and Studio 14 Hundred — or music videos for bands like Dog Men Poets — Faucett can be found doing commercial video direction for established outfits like Maxim, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, AOL,, and the Alamodome. Coming up fast for Faucett is Goldrush, a mini-documentary series on Greg G’s The Golden Child album. After years of second-place Best Of recognitions, Faucett cracks the top spot this year in a well-earned reader-supported boost.

2. Comedia A Go-Go

3. Michael Druck




Best Local Filmmaker

1. Zach Villafana

Ever since 19-year-old Villafana caught the video bug in middle school, the guy hasn’t quit. He won’t go anywhere without his camera in tow, and thank goodness. After one of his videos was screened at the Austin Film Festival in 2009, he won the Ford-sponsored, national “Drive One 4 UR School” competition in 2010. These days he’s playing in the big leagues: The San Antonio Spurs’ George Hill commissioned Villafana recently to direct George Hill Rising Stars, a documentary endeavor chronicling the guard’s efforts to transform young lives through the power of basketball.

2. Bryan Ortiz

3. Brett Mauser




Best Bike Mechanic

1. Nic Jacobs, Bike World

418 N Loop 1604 West, (210) 892-0123,

Jacobs started honing his bike-fixin’ skills at the age of 5, long before most kids even start popping off the training wheels. “Bikes were just kind of the first thing I really started toying around with,” he says. Jacobs eventually moved on to motorcycles and cars, but bikes remained his favorite. After a stint traveling Europe, fixing bikes for cash along the way, Jacobs moved back to SA. “I just really enjoy that raw mechanical aspect of bikes,” he says. “I love that I seriously get paid to play around on bikes all day.”




Best Roller Derby Player

1. Skullyvera, #7502, Alamo City Rollergirls

Though Skullyvera isn’t exactly an original member of the Alamo City Rollergirls, she might as well be. The aggressive, fearless blocker (and sometimes pivot) first laced up her skates for ACRG in the middle of the inaugural 2006 season and clawed her way up the ranks to become a role model for newer skaters and the co-captain of Las Tejanas, ACRG’s all-star travel team. In addition to her leadership duties on the track, Skully maintains a full-time job, is a mother and wife (her husband, the Germanator, is the team’s coach), and also serves as the league’s merchandising chair. Skully always flaunts #7502 in style, and is known for her purple or green hair, glitter eyeshadow, and crafty skeleton and skull accessories, but don’t get it twisted — she’s infamous for slamming opponents into the track.




Best Auto Mechanic

1. Steve Gehrlein

9823 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 697-9600,

We’re not so great at listening to what our car has to say. Though we hate admitting it (dear Daddy, stop reading now!), we often let rattles, ticks, and pings go until they turn into full-blown grinding or squealing. Fortunately, know-nothings have a rare gem in Cambridge Auto’s Steve Gehrlein. The car counselor has manned the weekend AM airwaves on 550 KTSA for over 17 years in his extremely popular radio show, taking calls from South Texas drivers who are desperately seeking help. What sets Gehrlein apart is his rare ability to diagnose problems over the air — listeners’ questions dictate the show and Gehrlein is most comfortable operating in off-the-cuff fashion. Now imagine what he can do if you actually take your vehicle into the shop.

Tune into Steve Gehrlein’s Automotive Show, 11am-1pm Saturdays, 1pm-3pm Sundays, 550 KTSA.




Best Local Columnist

1. Cary Clack, San Antonio Express-News

Locals can thank the heroic civil rights attorney and longtime Express-News columnist Maury Maverick Jr. for the phenomenon that is Cary Clack. Without Maverick, Clack may have never come to the attention of the paper’s top editors. Now San Antonians can digest the musings of one of the city’s best-known writers throughout the week at If there were a personality that could get daily readers to migrate past the Metro section, Clack is it — proven year-after-year Best Of winnings. Watch for him at this year’s First Amendment Day Celebration, hosted by the San Antonio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State on Saturday, April 30.

2. Buck Harvey, San Antonio Express-News

3. Jeanne Jakle, San Antonio Express-News




Best Activist/Watchdog, Best Nonprofit Leader

Solar San Antonio

Lanny Sinkin’s fight against nuclear power (and, more recently, his fight for solar, as the director of Solar San Antonio) resonates powerfully today as the radioactive fallout from Japan’s nuclear disaster continues to make headlines (and set off radioisotope sniffers stateside!). The near-celebrity-grade activist earned his stripes as one of the few, vociferous opponents of the city’s plan to build two reactors near Bay City at what would become the South Texas Project nuclear complex decades back. And he played a critical role exposing serious construction problems at the facility. Sinkin has since become a loud, local voice against any push to expand STP’s footprint, a project that we’re now told has been put on hold. Lanny’s father, local living legend and near-centenarian Bill Sinkin, has been fighting the good fight as a local progressive leader for much of the past century. The elder Sinkin founded Solar San Antonio in 1999, hoping to open the city’s eyes to the environmental and economic benefits of harnessing the sun’s power. In 2009, Bill won the Solar Hero award from the American Solar Energy Society, and was given the Governor’s Lonestar Achievement Award last fall. No wonder the pair still inhabit the frontal lobe of local readers, who named them tops for their respective watchdoggin’ and general non-profit awesomenes


Best Activist/Watchdog

1. Lanny Sinkin, Solar San Antonio Executive Director


Best Nonprofit Leader

1. Bill Sinkin, Solar San Antonio Founder & Chairman

2. Mike Gilliam, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind President/CEO

3. Jon Hinojosa, SAY Sí Executive Director




Best Local Blogger

1. Rene Guzman, San Antonio Express-News

This Express-Newser’s blog holds the top prize for its coverage and commentary on local news, pop culture, and everything from “the world of Geekdom.” A blogosphere Renaissance Man, Guzman’s writing on Geek Speak runs the gamut. Check it out to read Guzman geek out over a new Captain America trailer, a Han Solo carbonite ice tray (which we can’t blame him for loving), or killer T-shirts from San Antonio’s own Antarctic Press.

2. Jay Whitecotton, Swiss Army Robot




Best Local Elected Official (City)

1. Mayor Julián Castro

Castro’s been given a lot of titles since his rise in Saytown politics. At 26, he became the youngest (at the time) city councilman ever elected, and within a decade he took the mayor’s seat, becoming the youngest to lead a top 50 U.S. city. National and state media have had a love affair with Castro since. A fawning New York Times Magazine profile gave him the title “Post-Hispanic Hispanic Politician,” while the Atlantic last year dubbed him “one of the nation’s most promising young Democrats.” We still just know and love him as one of Rosie’s boys.

2. District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor (Tie)

District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan (Tie)




Best Local Elected Official (County)

1. Nelson Wolff, Bexar County Judge

This longtime politician had a hand in almost every facet of local government before being elected County Judge in 2002. Wolff first served as a state representative in 1971, and then moved on to the state Senate the following session. After serving a couple of terms on SA’s City Council, Wolff twice won the mayor’s seat. And, not afraid to show his literary side, the man has authored a number of books, one being an insider’s account of SA politics during the ’80s and ’90s. An awful lot of San Antonio lives inside that man’s wizened dome — and this boxing enthusiast knows how to keep it safe.

2. Tommy Adkisson, Bexar County Commissioner




Best Local Elected Official (State)

1. State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Representative Mike Villarreal revels in his nerdiness, and, frankly, it’s something that has set him apart from the rest of his Democratic colleagues decrying Perry and Co.’s attempts to cut our schools, colleges, and social safety net to the bone. An A&M grad with a master’s in public policy from Harvard, financial management is Villarreal’s game. And if you can keep your eyes from glazing over, he’ll pull out the pie charts (or literal pies!) to sell you on his plan to pull Texas out of this financial mess — namely, targeting the state’s tax code, which he says is riddled with inefficiencies and flagrant corporate giveaways. It’s a message that San Antonians can identify with.

2. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

3. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (Tie)

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (Tie)




Best Local Elected Official (National)

1. U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez

Gonzalez, a San Antonio congressman for over a decade, has risen in the ranks to lead the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, putting him on the front lines to lead the tough (and maybe impossible) battle for comprehensive immigration reform in the current GOP-led Congress. For years, Gonzalez has pushed for immigration reforms and advocated for pathways to legal residency for undocumented immigrants. We take pride in our dynastic Rep for his co-sponsoring a bill in 2009 that expanded the definition of hate-crimes to those attacked because of sexual orientation.

2. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith




Best Music Promoter, Best Hookah Bar

Frank Ayala, Studio 13

7218 Blanco Rd, (210) 390-1402,

One year while working as a volunteer at South by Southwest, Frank Ayala decided that he wanted to get into booking bands. It’s easy to get inspired by the collective energy of SXSW, but Ayala (who lived in Austin at the time) was interested in spotlighting San Antonio instead. He moved south to begin connecting the dots within our original music scene. Since then he’s booked local bands independently and worked with Backbeat magazine, but his newest ventures involve Studio 13 (a Castle Hills-area hookah lounge) and Massive Rocket Radio, a SA-based concert production and promotions company. Ayala currently serves as booking agent and promoter of Studio 13, where he has recently showcased high-profile local acts like Deer Vibes, Egshan, and Professor Amsterdam on what is best described as an “intimate” stage. The super-casual hookah spot serves beer, wine, and over 40 flavors of shisha; the list includes exotic flavors like Safari Mellon, Apple Martini, and Sex on the Beach ($9.99 house shisha, $14.99 premium varieties). Sunday nights have also become a hotspot for SA’s comedy scene as of late — anywhere from 10-15 comics take the stage every other week.

In what is perhaps Ayala’s most interesting venture to date, Massive Rocket Radio has begun to stream video of live, local music events (at several venues around town) in real time in an effort to document the San Antonio scene and help recruit a broader viewing audience. “I’ve always felt strongly that a lot of the responsibility I have is not only to promote bands, but also to entice and motivate people in different ways,” said Ayala. “That may mean just encouraging them on the project they’re talking to me about, the CD that they’re recording, designing T-shirts, or whatever. You always have to treat it like you’d want somebody else to treat your passion.”


Best Music Promoter

2. Erica Vigliante/Twin Productions (Tie)

Roland “Nightrocker” Fuentes (Tie)


Best Hookah Bar

2. Shisha Café

5500 Babcock, (210) 694-4800,

3. Hookah Café

2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 499-4144




Best Pet Groomer

1. Lucy’s Doggie Day Care and Spa

2250 Thousand Oaks, Ste. 200, (210) 495-3647,

Let’s face it, some of us are just not good enough for the dogs we keep. That toy poodle’s hair frizzes to no end after those hose-and-bucket washes in the yard. Her nails splinter from clumsy clipper handling. And she cries — how she cries human tears! — at the sloppy bows knotted over positively matted ear hair. Lucy’s is the answer. On top of precise, embarrassment-free grooming, Lucy’s offers doggy day care and full boarding services. But the gem here is found in the spa packages that include everything from a members-only dog park, therapeutic massage, and strawberry milk baths. Your dog may never smell her/himself the same way again.

2. Penny’s Pet Parlor

5518 Walzem Rd #106, (210) 653-0450

3. Pawderosa Ranch

923 Clydeville Rd, (210) 404-9941,




Best Waiter/Waitress

1. Joshua Ramírez

Sushi Zushi, 18720 Stone Oak Pkwy, (210) 545-6100,

Waiters and waitresses can be divided into three categories: those who display fake smiles, those who don’t smile, and those whose smiles are genuine. Joshua Ramírez’s disarming grin belongs to the latter group. After observing him for a while, we thought of asking some customers to take a photo with him, and we almost caused a riot — everyone wanted a piece of the guy. Go to Sushi Zushi when he works (he usually gets off at 4 p.m.) and see for yourself.

2. Moriah Sánchez

Alamo Pizza, 3938 S Zarzamora, (210) 932-2500,




Best Local Chef

1. Jason Dady

Chances are you’ve dined at least once at a Jason Dady establishment. This kitchen-hoppin’ chef has made an undeniable mark on San Antonio’s culinary map. Once named a “40 under 40” rising star by the San Antonio Business Journal, Dady is now the executive chef/owner of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, but you can still catch him spinning his grandfather’s butcher knives at some of the town’s best eateries, including Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, and Two Bros. BBQ Market.

2. Andrew Weissman

Il Sogno, Sandbar

3. Jeffrey Balfour

Citrus Restaurant




Best Massage Therapist

1. Michelle Jimenez Reyes

(210) 508-2277,

She touches you in all the right places, and for the right price, too. Reyes has over seven years of experience and is trained in Swedish, pre-natal, and deep tissue massage, as well as trigger point therapy. In addition, she’s the official massage therapist for the Alamo City Rollergirls. If this bruised-and-battered local crew calls her up for their rubdown needs, you know she’s top-notch. Plus, she’ll go to your workplace, meet you after a bike ride, or even stop in at your home. That’s service.






Best Vintage Shop

1. RG Vintage

423 W Grayson, (210) 324-0157,

When Shelby and Jacob Guevara first opened their vintage shop on the St. Mary’s Strip, it courted punks by selling rainbow-colored hair dyes and handmade leather accessories. Four and a half years later, RG Vintage (formerly Redemption Garb) is a full-fledged shopping destination specializing in pre-1990 garb. While guys can match the perfect worn T-shirt with trousers suitable for golfing or ranching, gals can find prairie skirts, leather minis, and LBDs on the same rack. The couple’s handmade reconfigured jewelry sells fast (his before hers, she claims), as do cowboy boots, many of which were recently nabbed at a discount, thanks to a Groupon fortuitously timed with SXSW. RG also buys clothes (but not on weekends), which we took advantage of last week (as spies, of course), trading into an excellent $19 find for a mere $10. Our old Wranglers are now officially up for grabs.

2. Vintage House

628 S St. Mary’s, (210) 299-4774,

3. The Jive Refried

919 S Alamo, (210) 257-5132,




Best Bookstore

1. The Twig Book Shop

200 E Grayson, Ste. 124, (210) 826-6411,

The book biz is tough today; with sales going online, even the chains are in trouble. The Twig breaks the trend, however, having upsized recently with a move from a Broadway storefront to bigger digs at the Pearl. More than a trove of fine lit, they take being indie seriously. The Twig supports community arts with poetry readings and an open mic every second Tuesday, and Story Time for wee folk Friday morns. Don’t miss readings by celebs like Sandra Cisneros at this garden of books, where discovering exciting new reads is more fashionable than posing over a cup of joe.

2. Half Price Books (Broadway)

3207 Broadway, (210) 822-4597,

3. Nine Lives Books

4907 NW Loop 410, Ste. 102, (210) 647-5656,




Best Place to Buy Rare and Hard-to-find Music

1. Hogwild Records

1824 N Main, (210) 733-5354

In addition to brand-spanking new CDs, music DVDs, and special-edition vinyl released by your favorite contemporary bands, throwbacks hold a special place of honor at 30-year-old Hogwild. But the store also has plenty of novelty items like window decals, customized buttons, and poster flags, not to mention rows upon rows of black T-shirts just begging to be taken home. Looking for hard-to-find stuff? No problem. The scholarly staff can school you on everything from punk and metal to blues and jazz.

2. Half Price Books (Broadway)

3207 Broadway, (210) 822-4597




Best Comics Shop, Best Gaming Shop

1. Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy

7959 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 615-1229,

The Avengers hang out in a mansion, the X-Men live in a prep school in Westchester, and the Justice League meet up in a tower on the moon (freakin’ showoffs). In the real world, many San Antonio superhero and gaming enthusiasts call Dragon’s Lair their secret headquarters away from home. With more than 16 years serving SA, Dragon’s Lair has built a reputation as being a geek mecca, carrying all the latest superhero comics, manga paperbacks, and a nice selection of indie graphic novels. Most impressively, DL defies the stereotypical cliché of “dank, smelly comic shop” by being well-lit, impressively organized, and staffed by cheerful experts who treat their customers like good friends. The welcoming vibe extends to their six spacious game rooms, where gamers can throw down on anything from Magic: The Gathering to StarCraft, or just spend the afternoon creating custom figurines.


Best Comics Shop


3. Collectors Authority

1534 SE Military Dr #101, (210) 977-8818,


Best Gaming Shop

2. Propaganda Palace

3903 Eisenhauer Rd, Ste. 36, (210) 400-0240,




Best Thrift Store

1. Thrift Town

12247 Nacogdoches, (210) 656-8696,

If you’ve been shopping at Thrift Town as long as we have, and getting there by taking the Perrin-Beitel exit off Loop 410, then you may have noticed that the Department of Public Safety (where we failed our first two driving tests) is now a questionable-looking nail salon. But Thrift Town hasn’t changed one bit: It’s still the clean, organized, color-coded megaplex we fell in love with 20 years ago. On a recent Sunday (when they’re open ’till 6 p.m.), we scoured the racks for something fab with an orange price tag (the half-price color of the day), flipped through old books and not-so-old magazines, and eavesdropped on an adorable pair of geezers. Holding a VHS tape of Mission Impossible ($1.95), Geezer #1 mused, “D’ya think Tom Cruise knew he’d end up in here?” Geezer #2 didn’t think so, dishing perfect non-sequiters, like: “You know those little socks they give you at the hospital? Well, they’ve got ’em here for 49 cents and 69 cents, depending on the color.” Thrift Town, with six Texas locations, buys its stock exclusively from non-profit organizations — like old surgical sock charities, apparently — meaning: way rad finds to be had.

2. Boysville Auxiliary Thrift

307 W Olmos, (210) 826-2195,

3. Texas Trash Clothing Exchange

2100 McCullough,




Best Flea Market

1. Bussey’s Flea Market

18738 I-35 N (Schertz), (210) 651-6830,

Like so many points between here and Austin these days, Bussey’s Flea Market, a family owned business since 1978, feels a lot closer than it used to, thanks to all the development of recent years. And San Antonians have done well to get over the hurdle, because from the edge of Guadalupe County, Bussey’s beckons with 500 weekend vendors selling an array of stuff we never knew we needed. Love birds ($22), money trees ($29), vintage lunch boxes (The Six Million Dollar Man can carry your soup and sandwich for $50), and hard-to-find books, such as Portable Voodoo (a steal at $6) await. If you spend all your mad money on guinea pigs, fly swatters, Cuban cigars, or action figures to span the ages (The Fantastic Four, ThunderCats, The Spice Girls, et al.), two onsite ATMs have got you covered. Never been to Bussey’s? Just take exit #177 off I-35 North and look for the giant armadillo in the parking lot.

2. Eisenhauer Market

3903 Eisenhauer, (210) 653-7592,

3. Traders Village

9333 SW Loop 410, (210) 623-8383,




Best Local Designer

1. Angelina Mata

Angelina Mata is among a handful of local designers who’ve succeeded in making high fashion a reality in San Antonio. A former model who apprenticed under Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, Mata gave up a successful career in hairstyling to focus exclusively on fashion. The mother of three balances her two distinct fashion lines — Angelina Mata Reinvintage and Angelina Mata Atelier — with private orders for impeccably crafted bespoke garments. Since winning Best Local Designer last year, Mata’s work has evolved to include high-concept sculptural installations, as seen in Creatures, her well-received exhibition in Blue Star Contemporary Art Center’s Project Space, which nearly sold out.

2. Brandy Ann Garcia

3. Samantha Plasencia (Tie)

Kathleen Sommers (Tie)





Best Local Tailor

1. Sew Chic

5152 Broadway # 201, (210) 320-9669,

Knowing the right tailor is proof the city is your own; though making use of their services might seem too much a luxury. Not necessarily so. With over 30 years of practice, Sew Chic’s Barbara Slusher is a master of her craft, offering alteration and design services for men and women at prices that won’t break your bank. And you’ll feel like a million bucks when you look like a client of London’s Savile Row.

2. Alamo Heights Tailor

6714 N New Braunfels, (210) 826-7278




Best Makeup Counter

1. MAC, North Star Mall

7400 San Pedro, (210) 375-7804,,

While they were not keen on us taking pictures inside the store, the staff at MAC’s North Star location are about the helpingest bunch of associates the makeup-challenged could ask for — and always eager with the demos. Even the most highly skilled in the facial arts trust MAC to keep them up-to-date on the latest trends. Noteworthy: MAC’s Viva Glam line, established to support men, women, and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS around the world, donates every penny reaped to the MAC AIDS Fund. None other than Lady Gaga is serving as MAC’s Viva Glam spokesperson this year, and after her tour, she’ll be back out spreading the word on the fund and how you can help make a difference.




Best Shoe Store, Best Local Fashion Boutique

Soul Boutique

4025 Broadway, (210) 822-7653,

Considering that Sole Boutique is on the outskirts of Alamo Heights and has the word “boutique” in its name, one wouldn’t automatically guess that behind its heavy doors lies a sanctuary for street culture enthusiasts and sneaker junkies alike. Sole Boutique almost feels like a gallery, one where the art comes in the form of footwear unavailable anywhere else in the city. Julio and Fabby Rodriguez’s shop regularly stocks Adidas, PUMA, New Balance, Saucony, PF Flyers, and several other brands that are distributed only to boutique accounts by the manufacturers. Footwear ranges from $40-$200, so there is a shoe for anyone looking to distinguish themselves from the pack at prices comparable to the blandest of department stores.

Exclusivity doesn’t end with the unique kicks, either. T-shirts and button-downs from the likes of Kidrobot, IM King, tokidoki, 10.Deep, and Undefeated can also be found amidst the pop-art adorned walls. The flavor of these shirts is decidedly urban and meshes appropriately with the street culture theme that runs throughout the store. Accessories include New Era baseball caps (in styles you can’t find at specialty hat retailers), and Cloud 9 watches whose distinctive styles look like miniature offspring of Willy Wonka and any of those rave kids you knew in high school. Add in a dash of manga knickknacks and the fact that new products arrive every 10 to 15 days and Sole Boutique comes together as a truly one-of-a-kind shopping experience.


Best Local Fashion Boutique

2. Adelante Boutique

200 E Grayson, (210) 826-6770,




Best Wine Shop or Department

1. Central Market

4821 Broadway, (210) 368-8600,

Central Market’s wine department is extremely user-friendly. And with a reported 2,500 wines in-house, it better be. Thankfully, it also boasts an extremely friendly staff that’s not just pretending to know what they all taste like. Even at 8 a.m., you can pick a pro’s brain about which Pouilly Fuissé might pair best with chimichangas. And the speedy chilling station comes in handy if there’s no time to ice down the bubbles. Unfortunately, the powers that be wouldn’t allow us to photograph anything or anyone in the store without going through so-called “proper channels,” but we’re pretty sure you already know what the place looks like.

2. Joe Saglimbeni’s Fine Wine & Spirits

638 W Rhapsody, Ste. 1, (210) 349-5149,




Best Plant Nursery

1. Shades of Green

334 W Sunset, (210) 824-3772,

One of the hottest urban trends is planting, and I don’t mean your grandma’s petunias. Today, it’s chefs’ gardens with heirloom foods, rooftop gardens that cool buildings, and backyards filled with abundance of foliage. Whether food plants or flowers and ferns, the push is to make it local. Shades of Green can provide you with Texas natives harvested from sustainable sources, and for them keeping it organic isn’t an option — it’s a way of life.

2. Milberger’s Landscaping and Nursery

3920 N Loop 1604 E, (210) 497-3760,

3. Schulz Nursery

3700 Broadway, (210) 804-0600,




Best Tattoo Shop, Best Piercing Shop

Dandyland Custom Tattoo & Piercing

1821 Bandera Rd #B, (210) 432-5747,

2011 marks the 15th year in business for Dandyland, and body mod fanatics were quick to praise their favorite shop once again in this year’s Current poll. No other competitor came close to dethroning Dandyland, who has taken top tattooing honors for over five years and come in first for piercing since 2008 (the first year it was a Current Best Of category.) Dandyland has become a household name for those desiring various forms of body art largely due to the shop’s commitment to cleanliness, safety, quality work, and customer service.

“When people hear our name in town, a lot of them associate it with being expensive and pricey,” said Dandyland manager and piercer Miro Hernandez, who has worked at the shop for five years. “But we can’t really buck that stigma, because we provide such a high level of service and quality that it needs to be set at a certain price.”

Dandyland’s piercers are highly regarded for their non-traditional work, and it’s common for other shops around the city to refer clients desiring work of the bolder variety to them. (Obviously, they’re more than capable of handling standard lip, nose, or eyebrow piercings, too.) In addition, the shop has begun to carry more high-end jewelry for those desiring unique pieces. On the tattooing end, Dandyland boasts six artists who easily cover the spectrum of work requested through their diverse styles and frequent group brainstorming sessions. The shop draws a discerning crowd who’s done their homework, and artists like Miles Larsen (who has been tattooing there for 10 years on and off, 14 years total) embody Dandyland’s reputation for quality ink.


Best Tattoo Shop

2. Element Tattoo

4741 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 979-9877,

3. Mr. Lucky’s Tattoo

2710 N St. Mary’s, (210) 736-6900,


Best Piercing Shop

2. Mind’s Eye Tattooing & Piercing

8503 Broadway, Ste. 107, (210) 824-0188,

3. Platinum Tattoos and Piercing

5545 NW Loop 410 (@Evers), (210) 682-5239,




Best Sex Toy Shop

1. The Shades of Love

300 W Bitters #150 (210) 494-3006,

The three sisters who own Shades of Love have successfully removed the “ick” factor from the sex store experience. This is a place you can go alone, especially as a woman, and not be creeped out by leering men fumbling out of viewing booth with leering, still-hungry eyes. It’s so much more than dildos, videos, and fake va-jay-jays. Much here is intended to cater to couples, including a vast selection of books, oils, and everything you could possibly need to connect with that special someone — though no judgment for those who choose to fly solo (or in groups). An extensive lingerie selection will soon include sexy club wear, according to owner Rita Delgado. And look for coming sexologist lectures on such things as how to flirt with your partner, fetishes, and more.

2. Adult Video Megaplex

11827 US Hwy 281, (210) 404-0011,

3. Zebraz

1608 North Main, (210) 472-2800,




Best Bike Shop

1. Bike World

5911 Broadway, (210) 828-5558,

Opened as a Schwinn shop 40 years ago this October, Bike World was the first local bicycling store to seriously champion the people-power trend sweeping the U.S. like an Italian fever in the 1970s. Nowadays, you’ll still find Bike World in the thick of SA bike culture, offering a range of wheels from Bianchi to Fisher from locations in Alamo Heights and 1604 W. Their staff is regularly praised for its knowledge and helpfulness, and even has been known to table area health fairs and transportation meetings.

2. Blue Star

1414 S Alamo, (210) 858-0331,

3. Bicycle Heaven

1931 NW Military, (210) 494-0035,