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

 

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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

Fiesta Oyster Bake- The Heartbeat of Fiesta

You may have heard Fiesta San Antonio referred to as “A party with a purpose” and if you have ever been to Oyster Bake at St. Mary’s University, you know it’s a huge party with a great purpose.  This year’s festival marks the 100th anniversary of one of the biggest and best Fiesta events this city has to offer.  The Fiesta Oyster Bake committee estimates 7,000 volunteers work over 50,000 hours to put on this 2 day event for 60,000+ attendees. Held the first Friday and Saturday of Fiesta every year, this year’s event was just as fun as it always is. 

The event boasts some of the best festival food and drinks along with various stages with bands playing tunes to suite almost any musical taste.  This year, some of the headliners included rock band Chevelle, Texas country singer Kevin Fowler, and Tejano star Bobby Pulido.  There was also a carnival on site that buzzed all day and night long.  April in San Antonio usually means heat, humidity, and rain and it is looking to be no exception this year.  There was a high chance of rain threatening the day but that didn’t stop the crowds from showing up and luckily for everyone, it didn’t end up raining at all.  
  The Oyster Bake carnival is perfect for kids (and kids at heart) while others use the grassy area near by to take a break from the fun.

In my experience attending Oyster Bake, I can say there are two types of people who attend:  1) Arrive early to enjoy no lines and the laid back atmosphere of the day 2) Arrive after 5pm, deal with the crowds and rock out to the headlining bands.  

I used to be a group #2 attendee but over the last few years I have converted and I am now a proud member of group #1.  No matter which group you belong to, you will no doubt have a great time.  
  
The infamous Chicken on a Stick.  

Food options at Oyster Bake vary widely.  Of course, there are oysters!  You can get them baked, fried, and as a shot (raw served in a little plastic cup).  If you have never been to OB, as a first timer, you have to get the baked oysters just for the experience.  After renting an oyster shucking knife, find a spot to crack open your oysters to enjoy.  Don’t forget to find the oyster shell recycling station when you’re done!  As an Oyster Bake veteran, I opt for the oyster shot.  Less mess and easy to garnish with cocktail sauce, horse radish, lemon juice and Tabasco. 

Other food options include everything from fajita tacos and pizza to hamburgers and turkey legs.  And there are so many options for food on a stick- shrimp, sausage, steak and of course chicken.  I found out yesterday that not only can you order a chicken on a stick with a jalapeño, you can ask them to dip it in the jalapeño juice for a little extra zing! 

Food and beer options vary from  $2 to $7 (at .50 cents a coupon) depending on what you’re buying.  Definitely plan ahead based on how hungry and thirsty you are.  A chalupa at Oyster Bake

 
Pro-tip #1:  Use Via Park and Ride to get to Oyster Bake.  The event takes place on the St. Mary’s campus which is surrounded by neighborhoods so parking on the streets fills up fast or you’ll have to pay $15 -$20 for anything nearby.  The Via will drop you off right in front of one of the entrance gates and only costs $2.50 each way (discounts available for kids, students, and seniors).  Plus, you get a free coupon for a bottled water or soda to redeem at Oyster Bake.  Check out their website for more info on how to use Park and Ride for the remaining Fiesta events here: http://www.viainfo.net/SpecialEvents/FiestaService.aspx

Pro-tip #2: If you’re planning to stay into the evening to watch the headlining bands, bring your lawn chairs and umbrellas to set up.  Find a great spot for watching the shows and make it your home base for the day.  Not only will you have an area to come back to through out the day for resting and cooling down from the heat, but you’ll have a great area for watching the headliners later in the evening.  Don’t worry about leaving your chairs unattended while you walk around, they will be there when you come back- San Antonio is friendly like that!  PS: no coolers are allowed.

Want more information about this event for next year? Find it all here: http://www.oysterbake.com/index.html

Be sure to put this event on your calendar for 2017…Happy Fiesta!

-CL

Let’s Fiesta, San Antonio!

Hey San Antonio!  It’s that time of year again- Fiesta 2016!

If you’ve been in this town for any period of time, then you probably already knew that.  I read a Facebook post earlier this week where someone said “we can feel it in the air!” and they couldn’t be more right.  Let’s face it, although the festivities don’t officially begin until later today, the party has already begun.  For the last two weeks there were Fiesta medal launch parties popping up all over the place (my collection is out of control!), houses and businesses are decorated with papel picado, and I just received a Chicken on a Stick cookie!

It’s my favorite time of year.  Yes, even more than Christmas.  Who else out there has their yearly Fiesta staycation all lined up?  This year you will catch me at the usual events- Fiesta Fiesta for Pin Pandemonium, Market Square, Oyster Bake, The River Parade, NIOSA, The Battle of Flowers Parade, King William Fair, and the Fiesta Flambeau Parade.  I’m also going to be trying out a few new events I have never been to like the Deco Festival, Chilli Queen Fest, and Cornyation (yes, I know- I’ve never been!).

For those of you who don’t know, Fiesta started as a single parade to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto but has grown to 11 days of parties, festivals, parades, and so many other events.  It is also now referred to as the “Party with a Purpose” because official Fiesta events raise funds for various charities and services through out the city.  Fiesta 2016 is the 125th anniversary of Fiesta!

It's time! #fiesta2014

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One of my favorite pictures event though the Hemisphere Arch is no longer there- wasn’t she so pretty all dressed up for Fiesta?

A few Fiesta virgins have asked me about where to go that would be a good first time event and my recommendation is the Southwest School of Art Festival this Saturday and Sunday (4/16 & 4/17) or Tuesday night at NIOSA.  For NIOSA, get there before gates open to grab good parking (or even better- grab an uber) and walk in when the gates open.  It’s usually less crowded on Tuesdays so you’ll be able to walk around and enjoy before the craziness starts.  The lines for the chicken on a stick and the anticucho get really long- be sure to hit those booths up early to avoid the lines.

What would you recommend to Fiesta first-timers?

NIOSA 2015

NIOSA 2015 with Valdez family and friends

NIOSA 2014 fam

NIOSA 2014 with Vera family and friends

Chicken on a stick! Fiesta must- have! #fiesta2015 #safoodpics

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You must get a Chicken on a Stick- find them at Oyster Bake or at NIOSA in the Froggy Bottom area.

 

Follow me on Instagram @mrs_liserio for fun events and Fiesta information.

You can buy your own chicken on a stick cookie (plus other cute Fiesta inspired cookies) here-  https://www.facebook.com/nancysfancycookies/?fref=ts

Check out this link to find a full list of events-  http://www.fiesta-sa.org/events

Looking for the free events? Check here-  http://www.mysanantonio.com/fiesta/article/Fiesta-for-free-30-events-that-don-t-charge-7226466.php#photo-4494858

¡VIVA FIESTA!

-CL

 

 

The Clean Plate

I’m just going to get this out of the way now- The Clean Plate is one of my all time favorite restaurants in San Antonio.  I don’t know why they picked the name but I suspect it has to do with either the fact that it’s a farm to table restaurant that only uses locally sourced, non-GMO food or that their food is so good you will literally clean your plate.  Probably both reasons right?

Ok, now a bit of bad news.  Their ridiculously delicious fried chicken is not currently on the menu. This stuff is seriously the best fried chicken in SA.  It was two large pieces of juicy, fried chicken served with smashed potatoes, the best glazed carrots I’ve ever had in my life and this wonderful tarragon cream gravy.  Keep an eye out for it to show up on the menu again and then get there as quickly as you can to try it out!  The good news is that it has been replaced with a chicken fried steak that made up for all of the sorry chicken fried steaks I’ve been subjected to.

Lil Emma’s shrimp nachos as a starter- chipotle, black beans, cilantro cream, cheese.

The menu here is small but packed with so many delicious options.  You won’t be disappointed with anything you choose.  There are so many rave reviews about the Mac and Cheese as well as the Gua Bao (braised Asian pork belly in a steamed bun) and those reviews are right.  If you go with a group, order a few appetizers to share with the table.

You also cannot go wrong with the Spaghetti Bolognese.  It sounds like a simple dish but there’s something about the meat sauce that really makes it more than just a bowl of spaghetti.  I haven’t had the waygu burger myself, but Jonathan is a fan.

Chicken fried steak with smashed potatoes, glazed carrots (of my dreams) and bacon cream gravy. 

On top of how awesome their food is, the waitstaff is amazingly friendly and helpful.  Don’t let the tiny little building throw you off- good things come in small packages!  Find some time to stop by while we are still having this nice, mild weather and grab a table on the patio.

Fettuccine Alfredo with grilled shrimp.

Pro-tip #1- The Clean Plate does not serve alcohol BUT they are totally BYOB friendly.  Bring your own wine then sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy your evening.

Pro-tip #2 – I hear lunch time during the week can get pretty busy so it might be best to try this place out for an early dinner or on the weekend.
You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and here: http://thecleanplatesanantonio.com

– CL

SoLuna

It may be raining and  cold-ish in San Antonio right now but earlier today when the sun was still out, I had an awesome lunch on the patio at Sol Luna.  First, I’ll start with this: If you have never had a chispa from Sol Luna, your life is not complete.  Seriously.  Sol Luna is on my top 5 list of  best Mexican restaurants in San Antonio for more reasons than just the Chispa.  Located on Brodaway, less than a mile inside Loop 410, it’s a super central spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Luckily this place is located very close to my comadre’s* house so we eat here more often than we probably should.


  The patio is back there behind those trees, plants and flowers- which offers a shady spot to enjoy an afternoon. 

Sol Luna has a very big menu that offered everything from traditional Tex Mex to more traditional Mexican fair.  Today, my dining partners had the cabrito tacos and cheese enchiladas with meat sauce while I had the Avacado Relleno.  I’ve had quite a few things off of the menu and haven’t been disappointed yet.


Guacamole appetizer with Pico de Gallo. 

When you go to Sol Luna, you must order a Chispa.  It’s basically a margarita that packs a big punch. 

Some other things to know about Sol Luna:  1) If you’re in the mood, you can also catch Mariachi’s wandering around looking to play songs for you 2) On Sundays they serve a paella brunch  3) Their sister restaurant is El Mira Sol on Blanco (near Bitters) where the food is just as good and you can also get a Chispa.

 

The menu offers more than traditional Tex-Mex food.  This is the Avacado Relleno- stuffed with crab and shrimp salad and tossed with a light vinaigrette.

Pro-tip #1- I’ve said it already, but don’t order a margarita- order the Chispa.

Pro-tip #2- Grab a seat on the expansive patio, especially on really nice days.  It’s covered with lush plants and flowers so it offers the right amount of shade perfect for sipping drinks.  This place can get busy on Friday and Saturday nights, so get there early.

Find them on Facebook and here: http://calvillosmexicanfood.com/

Happy eating!

-CL
*Comadre = Godson’s parent in Spanish

Coffee with a View at Paramour

To start with, I will say that Paramour is one of my favorite coffee spots.  But I’ll be completey honest- I was kind of disappointed the first time I went to Paramour because of the vibe and crowd it attracted.  It is such a beautifully built and decorated bar with a HUGE selection of beer and liquor to choose from but it reminded me that the atmosphere of a bar really makes a difference.  When I found out that they decided to start a coffee program, I got excited to go back and give the place another try.  So we went back and now it’s one of my favorite morning spots for coffee. 

Even on a cloudy day, you can’t beat this view in SA. 

When it comes to coffee, I’m pretty simple.  I like strong, dark roasted black coffee.  So when I go to Paramour, I order the drip coffee (which comes with a free refill).  Their menu contains most of the standard items you’d expect for a coffee bar so you should find something you like easily.  They also have some special things like the Americanski which is a tiny americano (watch out that glass is really hot when served!).  I’ve also tried a hot jasmine tea and an iced mocha which were both very good.  They have added drinks like an Irish coffee and bloody Mary’s to the menu which are perfect for some day drinking.  Everything is prepared on demand and with attention to detail so it’s not a place for a quick cup of coffee- it’s a perfect place to spend some time relaxing and checking out the view.

The bar, located on the 4th floor of the Phipps Building, is beautifully decorated and has plenty of couches and chairs.

Another reason I like this place for coffee so much is the people who work there.  It doesn’t hurt that Jesse, the Manager of the Coffee Program, and the rest of the baristas are incredibly knowledgable and super friendly.  If you have any questions about the menu, ask away.



Irish coffee- Irish whiskey, espresso, demerera sugar, heavy cream.

Pro-tip #1:  Parking can be tricky here especially if it’s more crowded.  There is some street parking available or valet (at night) if nothing is open in walking distance that you’re cool with.  As always, I’ll recommend taking an Uber. Also, be prepared to hike it up 4 flights of stairs since it seems like the elevator is often not available for use.  Hey, taking the stairs is good for you.

Pro-tip #2:  This is a great spot to get some work done.  Bring your laptop and grab a spot at the bar.  There are plugs installed underneath the bar so you don’t have to worry about running out of power.  I’ve also seen others use this as a meeting spot.

Find them on Facebook or at http://paramourbar.com.

– CL