Prior to leaving our darling city to pursue my education in the morally vacuous stink hole known as Austin, I spent my entire life in north San Antonio. Before seizing the first opportunity available to leave, I dawdled in the cultural wasteland of the San Antonio suburbs for 18 years.
Now, the passing of time has found me nestled snugly in the heart of Downtown San Antonio and the nightmare of my anodyne childhood is repressed more deeply in my subconscious than even the most persistent strain of castration anxiety.
But after surveying the land and finding it inhabitable, an entrepreneurial scouting party of independent coffee shops, restaurants, bars and boutiques have begun the dangerous process of reclaiming northern SA from the blight of stripmall-ism. Amongst the vanguard in that effort — though, admittedly, a micro-chain itself — is the Stone Oak iteration of Little Woodrow’s.
The Houston-based neighborhood bar chain is no stranger to San Antonio, having first put down roots on Babcock more than two years ago. Aside from its hangar-like aesthetic and uniformly buxom servers, the old location mostly relied on its notorious turtle races to attract patrons. Unfortunately, on my first visit to the original location, I failed to adequately deaden my Sarah McLachlan scruples with alcohol and as a result could really only appreciate the chelonian auto-da-fé as a sort of disturbing ritual representation of man’s uneasy dominance over Mother Nature. Needless to say, I did not return.
Several months ago, however, I heard that Little Woodrow’s was adding a new location at 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway. Since (along with a natural affinity for tortoise-shell) turtles and I also share a tendency for poor short-term memory, I decided that the bar’s newest campus would be worth a visit. As it turns out, it was.
Little Woodrow’s Stone Oak location is nearly unrecognizable from its Medical Center cousin. A sprawling outdoors area takes up nearly half the total acreage, where a verdant plume of Astroturf plays host to dozens of aggressively pastel lawn chairs. Games galore abound, including four cornhole stages and two ring toss arenas outside, as well as pool tables, electronic dartboards and weekly trivia nights inside. Several friends and I recently visited the bar with the sole intention of playing cornhole and found ourselves wholly satisfied.
Like many sentient micro-chains born in the era of craft beer, the blueprint for Little Woodrow’s — literally and metaphorically — has been streamlined by its bureaucratic overlords to maximize ROI (or returns on investments for the financially daft).
Nonetheless, business is business, and the personal touches at least manage to bring the bar a little closer to home. Though even the dad-joke beer categories (“Made in Texas,” “Good Ole Boys,” etc.) are part and parcel of a meticulously crafted image of populism, the playfulness is at least an olive branch to anyone reticent to do commerce with a soulless chain concept. In addition to their Texas-specific beer section, the menu also points out local brews in its other sections, such as Karbach Love Street ($5.50), a delightfully taut IPA in the “Hop-to-It” section.
Though their menu omits prices — a loathsome practice — most beers fall between $2.50-$5.00, though some tuna fish names have caviar price tags. Go between 3:00-7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday for a happy hour that offers half-off appetizers and $2.75 domestics on Tuesday; or on Friday, when the happy hour extends from 3:00-9:00 p.m., and those there at 6:00 p.m. for the weekly keg-tapping can claim a drink on the house. In a nod toward economy, the bar also offers bucket specials ranging from $13.50-$20.50, depending on whether you’re looking for five Lonestars, domestics or premiums.
Though they eschew a set cocktail menu, the bar has a king’s choice of liquor, not to mention frozen margaritas ($5.75) and their iconic Little Woody’s ($6.75), a slushy Bellini riff served in a frosty mason jar. Where food is concerned, expect focus-group approved favorites such as BBQ Potato Skins ($8), Irish Nachos ($8) and, inexplicably, Asian Lettuce Wraps ($9). Venture into the “Main Stuff” section for a wide variety of unctuous hamburgers ($9.50-$15), almost all of which are served on a memorably sweet, toothsome “Sheila Partin” sourdough bun.
Though by no means the savior of the suburban north, the bar may be a sign of better times ahead. With a solid array of fairweather games, an extensive and affordable drink selection and a demographic that edges tantalizingly close to collegiate during school breaks, Little Woodrow’s is definitely of the brightest spots in an otherwise culturally overcast area.
Little Woodrow’s Stone Oak 606 W. Afton Oaks Blvd.,
(210) 403-234011am-2am daily