The final installment of “Greetings from…” heads deeper into the heart of Texas for some classic barbeque brisket in the Barbeque Capital of the State (which means by default possibly the Barbeque Capital of the World), along with a city that very soon will be on par with Austin, Dallas, and Houston when it comes to being a top tier dining destination.
Of course, when we think of San Antonio, we think of the Alamo and the Riverwalk. A visit to the Alamo is obligatory, as is the exceedingly touristy boat “tours” along the San Antonio River. How is this exactly a “tour?” It’s not as if the sights are really “sights.” Think of the Riverwalk a bit like a Disneyland meets modern Americana shopping mall with a hint of Texas cowboy and and a tablespoon of Bourbon Street debauchery thrown into the mix.
The mega restaurant corporation Landry’s (Bubba Gump, Chart House, Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormack & Schmick’s, Rainforest Cafe…) runs much of the Riverwalk. Unfortunately, many of San Antonio’s visitors are much more interested in the chain dining experience, rather than an actual dining experience. There is a Pat O’Brien’s, the New Orleans import, and home to quite possibly America’s most horrid cocktail. One food court near the dock for Riverwalk cruises nearly made me collapse from the aromas of sticky, greasy orange chicken.
While San Antonio is an enormous, sprawling city à la Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles, the core of the city is actually very small and walkable. The dining scene doesn’t quite rank up with those cities yet, but it is already inching closer and closer. Remember, this city has the third and newest campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Interestingly, what did I leave remembering from San Antonio? Excellent cocktails, just not at Pat O’Brien’s.
And in Barbeque Central, also known as Lockhart, an hour’s drive from San Antonio (halfway between the city and Austin), it was a slightly disappointing dual between Black’s and Kreuz Market. In the end, Kreuz Market was crowned the victor.
It’s fascinating to see the variety of old buildings who were thriving factories a century and now have been completely remodeled and spruced up for retail and often culinary purposes. You see your old steam powerhouses become nightclubs. Old carriage houses hold salons. Warehouses now seem to always become cozy bistros and artist ateliers, unless it’s the old B&O Warehouse in Baltimore, in which case it becomes part of the Major League ballpark in that city, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
How about old breweries? With the recent astronomical surge in craft breweries, it would seem to be common sense to replace an old brewery shell with a new brewery. That’s essentially what many of the world’s massive breweries have done, including Miller in Milwaukee, Budweiser in St. Louis, Guinness in Dublin, and Carlsberg in Copenhagen.
In San Antonio, they’re a little more creative with what they’ve done with the old Pearl Brewery, just barely north of the city center on a prime piece of real estate along the San Antonio River. Yes, the same river as the “river” in the Riverwalk. The Pearl Brewery is night and day from the endless tourist overload in the heart of the Riverwalk. (more…)
A margarita on the San Antonio Riverwalk as the cocktail of the week? There goes any thoughts of Trev’s Bistro’s high standards.
Nope, this is the real deal. Margarita perfection can be found on the banks of that Americana touristy extravaganza known as the Riverwalk. Yes, Riverwalk cocktails tend to be more like what your fraternity parties served back in the day. Well drinks often are considered the high brow drinks.
Step out of the blazing 100 degree Texas sun into this formal yet relaxed oasis inside the Omni Mansion del Rio Hotel, one of the old hospitality lions of San Antonio. The margarita can be found both at the hotel’s bar and in the Las Canarias restaurant with beautiful Riverwalk views, yet a world away from the Riverwalk’s atmosphere. (more…)