The Aisle Seat: San Antonio, Texas
Posted on 2008-03-18 00:00:00 by David Hartogs
North America | San Antonio Texas: In the spirit of March Madness I have decided to write about San Antonio, Texas. I had the pleasure to attend two conferences there in 2007 and experienced a good bit of the Alamo City. San Antonio is a nice place to go for a few days. The River Walk aside, it's not the most scenic place ever, but if you stay downtown everything you will need is very walkable. One thing that shocked me about San Antonio is the sheer size of the population. Not in terms of numbers but the physical girth of the general population. According to Forbes.com it is the 3rd most obese city in the United States. This shocked me given the amount of Air Force personnel and what seems like a love for sports but people here are fat and slow, sorry to be blunt but that's the truth.
Remeber The Alamo!If you have never been to San Antonio most people are surprised that the Alamo is in the heart of downtown. The grounds are well kept and it is pretty cool to see, yet somewhat unimpressive. Right across the way from the Alamo is the Alamo plaza with the most touristy shops you will see. Including a wax museum, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, a Davey Crockett game, McDonalds, Subways, and a Pat O'Brien's. The heroes at the Alamo were outnumbered by thousands of Mexicans and gave their lives for the freedom of their country and to stand for what they believed in. To honor these brave men the city of San Antonio made sure to put in the fine places I mentioned above. Well done, I would think if Davey Crockett and company would know what the future held, they may have just given it up and said, "Nah, you guys take it, I'm going on break."
The River Walk (www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com) is a true gem. There is a multitude of restaurants, bars, shops, boat tours, water taxis. In good weather there is anything you can think of. You have a Hard Rock Cafe, Howl at the Moon Piano bar, Dick's Last Resort, hotels and lots of other stuff. Getting your bearings can be tricky but basically it is a U-shape with a branch at the top that runs to the Rivercenter Mall, and the convention center. Do not go in the first week of January that is when they typically clean the river, by draining it and picking up the garbage. I am sure it smells, plus it takes away from the scenery. To walk the entire River Walk will take about 15-20 minutes, so explore and enjoy. The River Walk was built under the city so take note of where you go down and where you climb back up.
One place to visit that is away from downtown, but a nice walk in good weather is the Market Square or El Mercado (514 W. Commerce St). This is a fun place to see Mexican trinkets and buy some nice souvenirs if you can't get south of the border any time soon.
While the majority of restaurants on the River Walk are chains and very touristy, there are some gems and one of them is Boudro's (www.boudros.com 421 E. Commerce St) The first place to go for an excellent meal, a solid wine list, and great drinks. If you go, this is the best place for a prickly pear margarita. It looks florescent purple but is as good as any margarita around, frozen or on the rocks. Most anything you order will be good. The duck gumbo is delicious and the black and white soup is excellent. For starters they have an interesting twist on guacamole and it turned out to be damn good. They make guacamole at your table side, but they squeeze fresh orange juice and use fire roasted tomato salsa in the mix.
Downtown, but somehow just missing being on the River, is a great German deli, Schilo's Delicatessen (424 E Commerce St). Serving German sausages, kraut, corned beef sandwiches, this is an inexpensive, yet historical, and excellent deli. Service is friendly and you'll see people from all walks of life in here.
If you are in the mood for sushi there is a local chain called Sushi Zushi (www.sushizushi.com 203 S. St. Mary's St.), which is pretty good, interesting rolls and a very nice Sake menu.
You can't go to Texas and not have terrific Mexican food. I went to two places on the River Walk that were disappointing. (Rio Rio Cantina: bad food but excellent margaritas, and I can't remember the other one) Case Rio is the oldest restaurant on the River Walk and am told it's good.
Now for the goods. I am sure if you ask 10 people in San Antonio you will get 10 different answers of who has the best Mexican food. But I am going with La Margarita (www.lamargarita.com, 120 Produce Row) across from Market Square, I went there on the advice of my friend and colleague Barb. Thanks Barb! This is where you will see tourists and local families dining on fine authentic Mexican food. It looks a little touristy but the food is very good and when you walk through the doors, holy tortilla the fine smell of Mexican food knocks you back and gets you in the mood for a feast. Again, great Margaritas, and the salsa was excellent. I went with the El Cabrito, that's right baby, goat fajitas. They were tender and plentiful and almost as tasty as the ones I had in Acapulco. All the food I saw looked terrific and the service was decent.
One bar I need to mention is the Menger Hotel bar, this is right next to the Alamo on Blum St. and is very historical. This is where Theodore Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders and is a nice bar to have a happy hour drink or start your evening off with some friends before dinner. The bar area and hotel lobby also serve as a museum to the Rough Riders. I bet good ol' Teddy drank nothing but whiskey straight from the bottle. Thanks Pete for showing it to us.
So for those of you going to San Antonio for the Final Four or for a convention, there is plenty to do in between games and they have done a great job with the River Walks, one of the truly cool neighborhoods in America. That being said I've been twice, spending a total of 10 days there and I don't need to go back for quite sometime. As always leave some comments or email me with other recommendations.