How to Imbibe Around La Cantera and Keep It (Mostly) Local

click to enlarge SARA HINOJOSA
Sara Hinojosa
Changing weather often requires a wardrobe update, and if you’re like me, it’s nice to unwind after a stressful shopping session with a nice drink.

In the area around La Cantera’s shopping mecca, where strip malls and chain restaurants run amok, it can be tempting to settle for your go-to seat at The Cheesecake Factory. But look hard enough, and you’ll find opportunities to step away from big chains and give some love to the local economy. It’s good to know a few bars that feel like neighborhood spots and use local ingredients.

Plus, after a day of spending, you could probably use both a drink and a bargain. Pro tip: visit these bars at times when they offer cocktail specials so you don’t break your shopping budget.

George’s Keep
7803 La Cantera Terrace, Suite 1200
3 p.m.-2 a.m.; Happy Hour 3-8 p.m.

George’s Keep is locally owned and hails from the same bar family as Francis Bogside and Hanzo. Like its counterparts, the space is stylish, albeit a bit too dark and moody for afternoon drinking. If you don’t mind the summer sun, you can order at the bar and enjoy your drink on the expansive patio terrace. The service is friendly here, and the cocktails are classic. Choose from five happy hour cocktail specials, including the Fitzgerald and Gold Rush, both $5.50. Wine, wells and Dos Equis are also on special. I opted for the Northwest Side, the only house cocktail special, a vodka and lime concoction that includes muddled serrano. The drink was well-balanced, not too sweet and the spice from the serrano woke me from my shopping coma.
click to enlarge SARA HINOJOSA
Sara Hinojosa
16401 La Cantera Parkway
4:30-10 p.m.; Happy Hour: Tuesday-Friday 4:30-6 p.m.

Located at La Cantera Resort, Signature is a destination spot to dress up and dine fine. For dinner, the $15 cocktails are well worth the splurge. However, happy hour offers a chance to enjoy some of chef Andrew Weismann’s signature sips and snacks for just $7. My bartender suggested something new from the seasonal menu, a variation on a White Negroni using Midori, Suze and gin infused with honeydew melon. The presentation was gorgeous, and its execution was pleasantly surprising and flawless. Considering the quality of drinks, the beautiful space, amazing service and attention to detail, this is one of the best happy hour deals in San Antonio. Treating yo’self doesn’t have to cost more than your new summer wardrobe.

General Public
17619 La Cantera Parkway, Suite 102
11 a.m.-midnight; Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m., daily

Probably the best deal from any area bar, items on General Public’s drink menu run $3 from 3-4 p.m., $4 from 4-5 p.m. and $5 from 5-6 p.m. And we’re talking the entire drink menu, which includes an extensive list of scotch, whiskies, bourbons and ryes. In other words, it’s an absolute steal. There are plenty of Texas whiskies to choose from, so I decided on Balcones Baby Blue, distilled in Waco. Normally $18, the $4 discount price made it awesome to sip without risk. Happy hour is also available throughout the entire space — on the shaded patio, in standard seating or around the horseshoe-shaped bar. When I visited around 5 p.m., the well-lit space was buzzing with UTSA students, groups of coworkers and even families. If you’ve worked up an appetite carrying all those shopping bags, the restaurant offers an eclectic menu of snacky items like pimento cheese spread and crab hush puppies. General Public does have a second location in Houston, but it’s certainly more local and satisfying than other nearby choices like Red Robin and Chili’s.

Whiskey Cake
15900 La Cantera Pkwy Ste #21200
11PM-midnight; Happy Hour: Monday- Friday 3-6 p.m., 9-11 p.m.

With seven locations throughout the lower United States, Whiskey Cake is technically a chain, but each of its outposts is committed to using the best local ingredients in its cocktails and cuisine. Found at The Shops at La Cantera, the eatery has a large, open space with a rustic charm and laid-back vibe you won’t find anywhere else at the mall. A blackboard close to the bar lists where Whiskey Cake sources its honey, eggs, herbs, ginger and more — all found nearby and featuring in many of its cocktails. The bar boasts an amazing selection of whiskey, of course, as well as craft brews and house cocktails. On the happy hour menu, you can choose between five cocktail and wine selections that will set you back $5 each, or a “dealer’s choice draft” for just $3. Both drinks I sampled, the Tequila Rose and the Great Escape, were bright and flavorful and used the aforementioned local ingredients. Not all chain restaurants are created equal.

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