Do You Have Your Fiesta Wreath Yet?

We are officially one week away from the kick off of Fiesta 2017 and I am so excited!

If you take Fiesta serious like me and some of my other friends, you have probably had your own Fiesta wreath on your front door and papel picado hanging for a few weeks now.  If not, don’t worry-  there is still plenty of time to pick up your decorations to get ready for our city’s biggest party of the year.  Here are a few of my favorite places in town to shop for Fiesta decorations.

Fiesta on Main

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Fiesta on Main is the motherland for all things Fiesta.  As soon as you walk in, you’ll feel like Fiesta has exploded everywhere!  Not only can you find every possible type of decoration or items to make wreaths and hats, they also have so many options for dresses and shirts.  Room after room is filled from top to bottom with flowers, streamers, papel picado, ribbons, piñatas, confetti, and other trinkets.  Plan to spend some time at this store if you stop by!

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Find out more on their website or follow them on Facebook.

Amols

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The great thing about Amols’ is that you can find party decorations for any occasion so put it on your shopping list the next time you need to decorate.  But for Fiesta, they take it to a whole other level with an entire room dedicated to Fiesta decorations.  While Fiesta on Main is my favorite store, it seems like some things at Amols’ are less expensive and it also appears that they  have more options for papel picado and other banners.  The only downside to shopping here is the parking situation.  There’s a few spots right in front otherwise you’ll need to find a spot somewhere on the nearby streets.

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Check out everything Amols’ has to offer on their website or follow them on Facebook.

The Cascaron Store

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I’ve seen this tiny store on Austin Highway so many times but never stopped in until this year and what a shame because I’ve been missing out.  My favorite things about this store are the huge piñatas and wreaths they make.  The store owner, who I spoke with during my last stop there, said they make everything themselves.  Our little apartment wouldn’t do them justice so I cannot wait to get a new wreath for our house next year.  They also carry one of a kind Spurs papel picado!

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Stop by their store to see their huge assortment of decorated cascarones like Trump and Angry Birds seen above or visit their website to shop!

 

The Fiesta Store on Broadway

This is the official Fiesta store which means this is the place to get your Fiesta medals and many items decorated with the official Fiesta design.  While you can also find some different wreaths and papel picado, my first choice for those things is still either Fiesta on Main or Amols.  Also, real Fiesta maniacs know that this is also where you can buy event tickets and get information.  A beautiful new mural was just put up on the side of the building.  Be sure to stop by and check it out soon!

It's that time

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Be sure to keep an eye out for more Fiesta blog posts as we get closer and through out the 10 days.  You can also follow my Fiesta adventures on Instagram @bornandgraisedsa.

¡Viva Fiesta, y’all!

-C

 

 

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Year of the Margarita: Top 5

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Someone must have known what they were doing when they decided National Margarita Day would be on February 22nd.  Normally, it’s cold outside in February so what better time to drink margaritas and dream about patio weather.  But we skipped winter in San Antonio this year and it’s expected to be warm, sunny and in the 80’s this week, which is the perfect patio drinking weather.

I’m on a quest to find the best margaritas this city has to offer this year.  I’ve already tasted quite a few and have learned a few things along the way.  In honor of National Margarita Day, I present my current top three favorites along with two margaritas from new spots to try out.

1st: Los Pepinos Vodka Margarita from The Fruteria

I know, I know.  It’s not traditional and it doesn’t even have tequila in it!  But, it’s so good, I just had to list it as my favorite margarita so far.  It is made with muddled cucumbers, Los Pepinos Infusion Vodka, fresh lime juice and rimmed with Tajin.  I don’t hesitate to tell anyone who asks that I’m not a huge fan of the food at the Johnny Hernandez restaurants.  The food can be hit or miss and sometimes service is lacking.  Also, they charge for chips and salsa which should be considered illegal in Texas.  But- you can always count on fresh juices and ingredients being used in all of their drinks and that pretty much guarantees a pretty tasty outcome.  In celebration of #nationalmargaritaday, you can pick up a margarita from any of his SA restaurants for $5!  That’s an excellent deal.

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2nd: Chispa Tradicional from Sol Luna

Rule number one when drinking chispas at Sol Luna: Watch out- they will catch up to you quick!  This version of a margarita is rumored to also include Everclear.  I have not been able to confirm that 100% but it would explain why they seem to be so potent.  Not only does it have a good kick to it, the chispa is made with fresh lime juice as well and a salted rim.  Sol Luna is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in San Antonio and a chispa pairs well with any dish.  Grab a seat on their shady patio and enjoy!

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3rd:  Any margarita from Mi Tierra’s Mariachi Bar

I don’t care what the haters say- I love Mi Tierra and Mariachi Bar!  Some of it is nostalgia from eating there all of the time with my family growing up but come on, how can you not love a place that looks like Fiesta and Christmas 365 days a year 24/7???  Any margarita (or drink for that matter) from Mi Tierra makes the top 3 on my list mainly because they get the job done and the energy and people watching at Market Square is so fun.  There’s always something interesting happening down there.

It's time to Texas. #mariachi #mariachibar #meetthegowers

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my happy place.

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New find #1:  Classic Margarita from Chisme

I’m such a fan of Chisme, which is the newest addition to the St. Mary’s strip.  Their food is excellent and I am super excited to finally try out their brunch menu this weekend.  I enjoyed the margarita here because it was simple- not too sweet and not too sour.  They have a fabulous outside bar and patio that is perfect for this weather.  Need another reason to love this place?  During happy hour, not only do you get free chips and salsa (as it should be) but it also comes with free queso!

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Love my medal? Get it in the SA Flavor store!

New find #2:  Margarita Clasico from El Mirador

So this one isn’t technically new, because El Mirador has been open since 1967.  But it was recently purchased by the same group that owns the Esquire downtown, renovated and re-opened.  I love how they kept the things that made this restaurant special and puro San Antonio while also bring a fresh new vibe to the place.  The classic margarita is great and easy to drink here.  It comes in a frozen version or on the rocks like I prefer.  What is really fun about this place is their expansive tequila and mezcal selection.  Take a seat at the bar, introduce yourself to the bartenders and ask for recommendations.  You won’t regret it.

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So that’s it for now….hope you guys enjoy these margaritas as much as I do.  Send me your favorites so I can add them to the list to try out and review.

Want to get your own #missmargarita Fiesta 2017 medal?  You can find out more about the medal and how to get one here.

And as always, don’t be that pendejo who drinks and drives.  Hit me up if you want a code to Uber or Lyft for free rides!

Happy National Margarita Day, y’all

CL

King’s Hwy BBQ

So, this morning I was all motivated to go workout because I was inspired by my new, very cute workout tank that says “Gordita” on the front (thanks mom!) and then we got caught up checking out a new house on the market, running a few errands, and returning/exchanging Christmas gifts.  The next thing I knew, it was lunch time and Jon and I were both starving.  Needless to say, this Gordita ended up at King’s Highway BBQ.  It felt like a perfect time to snap some pictures and tell you guys more about why this is our favorite BBQ place.  It’s definitely on my list  of spots that always get it right- consistently great food with amazing brisket.

img_0628Sausage, Sweet tea glazed spare ribs, and brisket.

We first met Pitmaster Emo years ago when we used to frequent Two Bro’s BBQ where he was the pit master responsible for turning out some of the best brisket we had ever had.  We used to take friends there all of the time and rave about how good the food was.  Then one day, we stopped seeing him there and didn’t know where he ended up.  Fast forward to 2015 and I found out via Facebook that he was opening a new BBQ place in the same building that formerly held Taps y Tapas in the 5 Points neighborhood.  Excited is an understatement- we were psyched!

I love everything about this restaurant – everything on their menu is fantastic.  But the brisket is the real standout.  It’s one of the best in the city.  Yes, I know about 2M and they are really good too, but Pit Master Emo’s brisket has been on point for YEARS.

img_2239-1Shredded chicken torta

My favorite go-to menu item is the shredded chicken torta.  For those of you who don’t know what a torta is- it’s basically a sandwich with different types of meat on a toasted bolillo (white bread roll).  KH’s version is made with your choice of meat and topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, onions, avocado, and tomatillo salsa. Seriously, so good.

King’s Highway makes BBQ like what a lot of us in San Antonio are used to having at home at our family BBQ’s.  It’s Tex-Mex style and it’s perfect.  For example, you can get it served with tortillas instead of bread.  Also the sides are Mexican rice, borracho beans, potato salad and coleslaw. When you visit, order a small order of each to try them all out.

Want tacos?  They have you covered on that too.  Their street tacos can be made with brisket, shredded chicken, pulled pork, carne guisada, and pork belly.  Yes, pork belly street tacos.  And yes, they are delicious.

 

 

img_2237-1Craft beer on tap but also Dos Equis and Michelob Ultra for the rest of us.

Pro-tip #1:  Kings Hwy always has 16oz tall boy Lone Star, Lone Star Light, and PBR’s for $2.00. All day, every day.

Pro-tip #2:  They sell out of food.  In my opinion, selling out is a sign of how great the food is.  So get there early or even call ahead to make sure there is still brisket left.  They will also often post on Facebook when they’ve sold out.  You don’t want to be like the sad guy who showed up after us today only to find out they had just sold out.  I’ve been that guy and it’s not fun.

Pro-tip#3:  You can find my “Gordita” tank and other gear on this website http://rungordorun.bigcartel.com/

Find out more about Kings Highway by checking out their website at http://www.kingshwybnq.com or by following them on Facebook.

-CL

Fratello’s

My friend Aaron (@210_Local on Instagram) recently had a great point about the restaurant scene here in San Antonio- everyone is so excited to try out every new place that opens up and we tend to forget about the spots that deliver consistently outstanding food and drinks.  I totally agree with him because these restaurants and bars deserve some credit since they are what makes our city’s food scene so special.  This blog post is the first of many that will give a shout out to places that are just always so freakin’ good.   Let’s start with Fratello’s.

Located on Broadway, south of Brackenridge Park, Fratello’s occupies the completely renovated old Bonanza building.  If you don’t know what a Bonanza is, you are:  A) under the age of 30, or  B) lucky.  Or was it a Sizzler?  Either way, the restaurant bears no resemblance of the cheap steak/buffet place that was once there.  And that’s a good thing.  They nail the casual Italian decor perfectly without being too cheeky.

For either lunch or dinner, everything on their menu is just so good.  I usually go for a sandwich or a pasta.  You can’t go wrong with the Pappardelle Bolognese or the spaghetti and meatballs.  Want extra meatballs?  You can ask for them in an order of 2 on the side.  The lasagna and chicken parmesan are two other classic comfort foods to enjoy here.  If a sandwich is more your speed, try out the meatball sandwich or the Lombardo, a breaded chicken sandwich with fontina cheese and roasted tomatoes.

fratellosPappardelle Bolognese (Pasta and meat sauce)

They even get the salads on their menu right.  Looking to try something lighter than what you would normally choose from an Italian menu but still hungry?  Try the La Griglia salad- topped with grilled chicken breast, roasted tomatoes and asparagus, this salad will fill you up.  This salad can also be ordered as a sandwich for a heartier option.

@donfoode gets it right with this picture of The Lombardo- served on fresh bread with homemade chips.

Finally, I need to make sure to mention that you cannot skip dessert.  Take a look at the dessert case when you walk in and you will understand what I mean right away.  On a recent visit, a light green slice of cake in the case caught my eye.  When it comes to desserts, I am a sucker for anything pistachio or lime related so I just assumed that it was one of the two.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was actually a Basil Tres Leches cake instead!  Basil Tres Leches?  Some times Tres Leches cake can be too soggy for my taste but this one was perfect- moist and a great fresh flavor that wasn’t too sweet.

Basil cake. DELICIOUS!

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@lizastro is correct- the Basil Tres Leches cake is DELICIOUS.

Pro-tip #1:  Fratellos’s is a great place to have a celebration dinner for a birthday or some other occasion.  Just call ahead of time to reserve tables and order food for your party to be served family style.

You can view their full menu on their website at http://www.fratellosdeli.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram for more pictures and special events.

-CL

Hop & Vine 

If you don’t feel like reading, here’s the short version: OMG so good! Locally owned and sourced. But Alamo Ranch.

For those of you still reading…

It is true- I really liked Hop and Vine.  I don’t make it a habit to frequent places so far from the center of the city anymore but I heard really good things about H&V so we decided to make a trip out there.  The restaurant is located in the Alamo Ranch shopping center.  For those of you who don’t know, basically every possible chain restaurant (and store) is located in Alamo Ranch.  So when I heard about a locally owned, operated, and sourced restaurant that popped up in the shopping center, I was intrigued.

Everything we had was so delicious and fresh.  The fruit parfait looked simple, but it was a perfect balance of sweet/tart fruit with yogurt and topped with fresh made cream.  I love avocado toast but I questioned the pairing of avocado with strawberries on toast, but it turned out to be so good.  I cannot resist trying the chicken and waffles if it’s on the menu and yesterday was no different.  It was difficult to decide what I liked best about their version- the boneless, fried chicken pieces, the bacon waffle (yes, a pieces of bacon were thrown in the waffle maker with the batter), or the spicy maple syrup.  But together, it was fantastic.  My friends also enjoyed the poutine, eggs benedict and the bacon,egg, and avocado sandwich.

And for the most important topic of all- Mimosas.  When a lot of places today charge way too much for OJ and champagne, H&V gets it right.  You can get either a single glass for $2 or a carafe for $5.  Of course we chose the carafe!  A trip to Hop & Vine is so worth it.  I’ll have to figure out when I can get back there to try out the dinner menu.

Hop & Vine – if you’re reading this, pretty please open a second location inside Loop 410?!

Thanks to my brunch mates who patiently let me take pictures of their food and try a few bites here and there!

   Farmers parfait- homemade granola, honey infused vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit
 Strawberry avocado toast with red wine balsamic reduction cation and basil 

 Chicken & Waffle -boneless fried chicken with bacon waffle with spicy maple sauce
 Breakfast poutine- cheese curds, brown gravy, brisket with over easy eggs on top of French fries

 B.E.A.S.T. – bacon, egg, avocado, sprouts, fried green tomato

 Texas map of Hop and Vine’s local Texas suppliers



Pro-tip #1- If you’re planning on going with a larger group, I’d recommend getting a reservation because it’s a smaller restaurant.
You can view their full menu at http://www.hopandvinesa.com or follow them on Facebook or on Instagram @hopandvinesa

-CL

Do you Via?

Have you ever ridden the San Antonio Via bus?

Lately, I have had an interest in utilizing public transportation more and more.  Growing up in SA, I luckily didn’t have to rely on public transportation to get around so I’ve only ridden it a handful of times including park and rides to Fiesta.  But I have realized over time how much I hate driving, parking and just dealing with cars all together.  That’s not very convenient when living in a city like SA that is so spread out and not designed for easy use of public transportation.  Also, I’ve noticed that riding the bus in this city can be seen by a lot of people as something undesirable that only poor people would do which now seems weird to me after experiencing how public transportation is used in cities like NYC by everyone and it’s totally normal.  My friend, Moses, was the first person I had talked to that uses the bus on a regular basis as supplemental transportation for times like when he knows parking will be a problem or for a night out without having to worry about drinking and driving.  He makes it look and sound so easy but excecpt for him, I get weird looks when I mention my interest in regularly riding the bus to anyone else.

J and I are in the middle of an experiment to see how long we can go with only one car.  We work at the same office so for the most part it hasn’t been a problem.  In the event we need to be in different place at the same time, we’ll either walk (gasp!) or grab an Uber/Lyft and it has been working out fine so far.  Today, I found myself at the Lincoln Heights shopping center after taking a $10 Lyft ride from the Pearl.  I wasn’t jazzed about another $10 ride home, so I thought it was the perfect time to take the bus.  How hard could it be?  I only needed to go straight down Broadway, right?

 

Luckily, I was already pretty sure that the 9 or 10 route would go south down Broadway into downtown.  A little double checking on the Via website and using the sites Riders tool to map out my trip confirmed those lines would work.  (Note: I tried using the app found in the App Store for a previous bus trip that yielded incorrect arrival times so I opted to skip the app this time) After walking to the closest stop, I waited.  The 9 bus drives up, I get in and pay my fare…then off we go.  Speaking of paying fare, it was $1.30 per trip.  I had 2 $1 bills, put them in the dispenser and didn’t get change back.  There are options for weekly or monthly unlimited passes that are less expensive per ride.  Super cold AC and free wifi made the trip down Broadway a breeze where I got off at the stop nearest the Pearl on Broadway.

So in the end, it wasn’t bad at all.  If I had to rely on the bus for work, I could see how difficult it would be on a daily basis  though.  There’s plenty of areas for improvement that should be considered if not already such as development of a great app to simplify finding bus routes to improving the bus stops (coverage, locations).  Last year, District 4 Councilman, Rey Saldana, decided to solely take the bus for week.  You can read about his experience here.

I plan to contiune to use the bus and will also look for ways to provide feedback to Via and the city about how the services and routes can be improved.  You can start doing the same too.  Check out this link for information on public meetings hosted by Via.

I’m definitely not a pro Via bus rider yet, but here’s a couple of tips I know about so far.

Pro-tip #1 – Definitely take advantage of the free wifi on the bus…which would be especially nice for longer trips.

Pro-tip #2- I owe this pro tip to Moses because he taught me this one.  You can find out the next route arrival times for a particular bus stop by texting Via!  Save this number in your phone: 52020 and then if you are at a bus stop, you can text the stop number to it and it will respond with the upcoming route arrivals.  For example, I was at stop 27757 on Broadway and Basse and I knew that I needed to catch either the 9 or 10 bus.  I texted the bus stop number to Via and the picture below shows what I received back so I knew my bus was only 3 minutes away. With a little bit of research, you could use this to easily find nearby stops and the next arrivals.

 

Would you consider riding the bus instead of driving?  If you do, I’d love to hear about your experience.  Take a pic, tag me and let me know what you thought.
– CL

 

Adventures in Happy Hour

If you have ever hung out with me then you know one of my favorite recreational activities is happy hour.  It really just includes some of the best things about life, such as day drinking, winding down from work, catching up with friends while being surrounded by pretty good deals on drinks and eats.  Naturally, I get asked often where my favorite spots are.  Although, you’ll find me at TBA a lot (see my previous post about TBA to understand why), there are so many other places that I’d also recommend the next time you’re trying to figure out where you and your happy hour crew should go.

Here’s a few of my favorites and why I like them so much.

Barbaro

Barbaro really deserves a full blog post on its own because it is one of my favorite places for dinner, lunch, brunch and drinks.  I describe Barbaro to people who have never been as “eclectic and different pizza” because although you could order a “normal” pizza, you definitely don’t want to when they have put together a menu of outstanding different pizza options.  But what makes Barbaro a top happy hour destination?  THE DRINKS, of course!  First, along side the amazing food menu, Barbaro boasts a wonderful bar with a full and interesting cocktail list.  They also carry a huge liquor selection in case one of the cocktails doesn’t catch your eye.  Want craft beer?  They have a rotating list you will be able to find something good to try. 

Happy hour specials run EVERY DAY (yes, Saturday and Sunday) from 3pm to 6pm.  And to the delight of many Barbaro HH enthusiasts, about two weeks ago they brought back their all day happy hour on Tuesdays.  Totally perfect for when the beginning of the week is rough.   Happy hour specials at Barbaro.  $5 house cocktails FTW!

White bean dip,  Dukkah, flat bread, olive oil.

 My favorite cocktail at Barbaro is the So Fancy- Lillet, vodka and gin with a grapefruit garnish.  Can you say boozy?

Pro-tip # 1:  Parking is a pain at Barbaro because the little parking lot fills up fast.  Don’t drive if you don’t have to.  If you do have to drive, be careful parking in the neighborhood behind the restaurant so you don’t get towed.

Pro-tip #2:  Happy hour prices don’t include food but don’t let that stop you from grabbing some snacks from their menu like the olives and peppers or the white bean dip pictured above. The kitchen is closed from 2-4pm in case you happen to get there at that time.

Check out their full menu here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BER4eRNJcrC/?taken-at=119838252 and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for specials and events.


Faust Tavern

Faust, which is located right off St. Mary’s on Woodlawn, is a go-to happy hour stop simply because their drink prices are so damn good all of the time, but especially during happy hour.  Grab a spot inside the little dark bar or sit with friends at a picnic table on the patio to enjoy a few drinks.  This place is less “fancy cocktail” and more of a place to get a good, cold, drink.  Their happy hour runs every day from 4pm to 9pm with so many specials to choose from but most notable are the $2 Lone Star tall boys (all day!)  and the $5 beer and shot combo where you get to choose from Lone Star, Pearl, Carta Blanca, High Life, Fireball, Fernet, Jim Beam, and Tequila.

Local foodie s.a.vory knows what’s up at Faust.

Now this is a happy hour (til 9!) #keepsareal #supportlocal #stmarysstrip #adventuresinhappyhour

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Pro-tip:  Faust is also home to one of the best kept secrets in town- Crossroads Kitchen.  Although, not on the menu currently, they have the best fried fish sandwich ever.  Be sure to grab something to snack on while you’re there.

Follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheFaustTavern

 

Lüke

The reason Lüke’s happy hour is one of my favorites can be summed up in a single word: OYSTERS.

I know, I know…oysters are a “love them or hate them” thing.  If you love oysters like I do, then you must put Lüke on your list of happy hour goals. Happy hour runs from 3pm to 6pm where you can get Texas gulf oysters for $1 a piece. They also have specials on a daily tartine and slider that you can pair with one of their cocktails or beers on special.  Use happy hour as an excuse to try out their French 75 and you will not regret it.

Side note:  Let’s all take a moment of silence in memory of when the oysters at Lüke used to be $0.50 each during HH #goodoldays

Pro-tip:  You’re already complaining about downtown parking, right?  The solution to that problem is to make the trip for Downtown Tuesday where all city owned garages and lots offer free parking after 5pm.  Find out more about Downtown Tuesday here: http://www.downtowntuesday.com/

Find out more about this beautiful restaurant on their website: http://www.lukesanantonio.com/#home-section or follow them on Facebook and Instagram for everything happening there.

Other notable happy hours to consider are:

The Bang Bang Bar: Happy hour runs from 2pm to 8pm and it includes different daily specials where you can cool off inside and listen to the oldies they have jamming every day. https://www.facebook.com/TheBangbangbar210/

Amp Room: $2.50 you call it from 6pm to 9pm says all you need to know about this happy hour. https://www.facebook.com/TheAmpRoom/?fref=ts

Francis Bogside:  Something in Southtown from the same owners as Blue Box.  They have specials all day Monday and Tuesday through Friday from 4pm to 7pm on wells, drafts, and $4 Jameson shots!
What are your favorite happy hour spots?  I’d love to try something new out if you think I’d like it!

– CL