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Best of SA 2011

Best of San Antonio: Drink 

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




(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)



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