Eastern European in San Antonio

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    Delicious food in an elegant setting.
    San Antonio has spent lavishly on Houston Street for the very purpose of equalizing the traffic. We have widened sidewalks in anticipation of the madding crowds. There are lighted palm trees and the vaunted connection at Presa Street between Houston and the River - a stairway and associated water feature calculated to "suck" people up off the River Walk. Unfortunately, the water feature is as often featuring mud as not, and the Presa-connection public art, a series of neon-illuminated, etched glass "manhole covers" set into the sidewalk as way-finding runway lights, hasn't functioned fully since its installation. (It's useless during the day even when working properly.) Should you, despite all odds, actually make it to Houston Street - past the handsome, and brave, glass gallery and the Buckhorn's enthusiastic, bless 'em, barkers - your first big urban experience is a view of a parking lot. A real crowd-pleaser every time.;This is all a shame, for Houston Street doesn't need to be our very own Boulevard of Broken Dreams. There is already a lot to offer: Between the brash Buckhorn and the posh, new Valencia hotel alone there are several cultural and commercial attractions - the Children's Museum and the Majestic and Empire Theatres among them - worth the attention of locals and visitors alike. And there are classy bars and upscale restaurants, pioneers on an underpopulated frontier. In addition to strategic and inventive marketing, the street needs the bars and the restaurants. Among the first to stake a claim was the Houston Street Bistro, and their most recent reward for vision and perseverance has been the canceling of the final portion of the symphony's season in the adjacent Majestic. So much for the prix-fixe, pre-theater menu - at least on symphony nights. - Ron Bechtol
    L'Etoile closed its doors unexpectedly this year. You can still enjoy Thierry's cuisine at the Grill at Leon Springs.
    The Melting Pot is in a class all its own, offering the finest in four-course fondue dinners, fabulous dipping sauces, an impeccable wine selection, and romantic setting in a relaxed atmosphere. This restaurant features detailed woodwork, beautiful granite tabletops, mood lighting, elegant artwork, grand copper waterfall, and view from the “Chicago style” bar top of the elaborate wine room, displaying over 2,000 fine wines both foreign and domestic. ;Patrons of The Melting Pot will delight in a truly interactive dining experience, beginning with a selection of delicious cheese fondues prepared with the finest quality cheeses, salad, entrée with flavorful cooking selection and mouthwatering dipping sauces, and of course, one of The Melting Pot’s decadent chocolate fondues they flambé tableside.;
    This is one of those "don't-y'all-go-at-once" reviews. It's just too small. Slipped into a 12-foot wide sliver of a strip-center storefront, The Triangle Cafe is tiny. It's also run entirely by one married couple, making it the quintessential mom-and-pop operation (she's up front, he's in the open kitchen) - except "Mom" and "Pop" aren't your typical café-culture couple at all. Both are Mexico City natives, and "Pop," at least, is from a very prominent family. He trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and at hospitality school in Switzerland. This couple presumably could live anywhere, but they have selected San Antonio because they, like many Mexican national expats, feel comfortable here. They feel especially comfortable in the "village" atmosphere of Leon Valley, the restaurant's location. I never would have found this place if not for a reader tip, so a certain local, and a loyal customer base is clearly working for them after only about six months. Turns out there's a reason for that loyalty.;- Ron Bechtol



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