San Antonio: The Alamo ain't got nothing on the Prickly Pear Margarita

June 5, 2013
When we arrived back in San Antonio we returned the car rental, and then, caught a cab to The St. Anthony Riverwalk. Check in was a breeze, the staff was very friendly and we were given a scratch card and chocolates in the shape of tools since the hotel was undergoing renovations. It was a nice touch. Plus, they tucked us away from the construction so noise was never a concern. The hotel was built in 1909 it has since undergone many updates, but the charm remains.

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After resting a bit, we headed out for the night. The streets of downtown were so quiet it was bizarre. We took the steps down and poof it was lively. All the people are hiding on the Riverwalk. We took a stroll and met a friendly local couple that suggested a margarita from Market Square was must! After wandering the Riverwalk we emerged to street level to further explore.

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We came upon Leapin Lizards Pub, we popped in for a couple beers. Our time there was short lived, I'm usually a fan of dive bars but this one had an odd vibe and Frank used the restroom and he said it was the most disgusting he's ever seen. I didn't even want to take a chance with the ladies room so we left. We ended up at Whataburger for a late night snack. I don't usually eat fast food, but when I do it's at a chain we don't have at home. Whataburger began in Corpus Christi, Texas, but now has several stores across the country. I had the jalapeno & cheese burger, it was pretty weak. The cheese wasn't very melty, and the jalapenos had no heat. Frank chose the monterey melt and it was a far better pick. It was gooey, spicy and I must admit pretty darn tasty.

The following day we went to the Alamo. Everytime someone asked us why we were visiting San Antonio, Frank would say, "to see the Alamo." Thankfully, it's really not the reason we came, because we'd be sorely disappointed. It took us all of ten minutes to experience it.

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We stopped at the visitor's center and picked up two days worth of bus passes ($4 each) and then took a trolley to The Guenther House. It is a popular brunch spot that offers a step back in time since it is within the 1860 home of the Pioneer flour mills founding family. The flour is used today to make their pancakes, waffles and biscuits. It's a big draw and we waited about 90 minutes for a table. The wait could have easily been half that if they were better at turning tables over quickly. It was shocking, really, how long it took to clear tables and set them up for the next group. Luckily, the grounds are lovely and it helps to pass the time. The home is nestled in the historic King William neighborhood. We walked along the river while we waited.

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Breakfast was good, but I cannot say it was worth the wait. Frank started with cream of broccoli soup. It was very creamy with full broccoli florets. He also had the breakfast platter with eggs, buttermilk biscuits, side of Pioneer’s Country Gravy with crumbled sausage, breakfast potatoes and country sausage patties. I had the sweet cream waffle with bacon. The waffle was light and crisp, but I was most pleased with the applewood smoked bacon. Brunch set us back $30.

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Bellies full, we strolled around the King Williams neighborhood and admired the homes.





From there, we took the trolley to HemisFair Park so we could experience the Observation Deck ($10 for two). When we got to the top we were warm and sweaty (it's not easy adjusting to humidity), the cool breeze felt wonderful. You can see out for several miles since the land is so flat. It sits at 750 feet. It was hard to be impressed over its height since I recently jumped 829 feet from the Stratosphere. Still it was a nice way to kill some time and enjoy the view.



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Afterwards, we walked over the Rio San Antonio Cruises. We rode along the river learning about various tidbits about the river and the city. It's very crowded on the boat, but it's a tour worth doing.

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We worked up a little hunger so we stopped at Schilo's Delicatessen. It's a German deli in the heart of downtown. It piqued our interest as soon as we came across it. I had potato pancakes, unfortunately they were not good. They were gummy and lacked the texture and taste of any potato pancake I've had before. Frank had the pea soup and Rueben and washed it down with their famous rootbeer. The Rueben was another strike. At least the pea soup and rootbeer were good and prices were very reasonable; only $19 for lunch.



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We retired to the room and later returned to the Riverwalk for dinner at Boudro's. It's one of the few restaurants that is not a chain. The bistro is a real gem! We ate there twice. For dinner, we started with the tableside guacamole, then I had the duck three ways which ended up being two because they were out of spring rolls and subbed an enchilas, and Frank had the filet topped with chimichurri sauce. We also had to try the prickly pear margarita since it's what they are most famous for.

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The guacamole was nothing special, but the rest of our dinner was exceptionally delicious ($111). I was hooked on the prickly pear margarita from the first sip. Our server was great too. She joked with us and explained that San Antonio has a motto like Austin. Instead, of keeping it weird like Austin, San Antonio keeps it lame. She had a sticker to show us and everything. We had been enjoying ourselves, but keeping it lame seemed awfully fitting.

We didn't care for the bumping music and overall vibe at most of the bars on the Riverwalk, however, we took a liking to Swig. It's martini bar that also has cigars, a few beers on tap and whiskey. We closed it down each night. The first night we had a sweet server that told us to check out the Friendly Spot so we made it a point to do so the following day.

The Friendly Spot Ice House is indeed awesome. It's a simple beer shack with over two hundred beers available, 25 are on draft. The majority of the seating is outdoors, they have patio seating with playset for the kiddos and picnic tables with TVs in back. Plus there is a small indoor area for inclement weather. It has such a relaxed feel, it's like you're at hanging out in a friend's yard. I'd love to own a place that has a similar concept. In addition to the beers, they serve food. We weren't terribly hungry, but it didn't stop us from scarfing the nachos down. I wish we found the friendly spot sooner, we weren't able to return, though, I would've loved to.

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Earlier that day, we had taken the bus to The Luxury. It's a new restaurant that made from repurposed cargo containers. I had to experience it since Vegas will be getting its very own container park. I'm extremely excited over the concept. Unfortunately, The Luxury wasn't open yet. So, we walked up the river to Pearl Brewery to try a different culinary treat by Andrew Weissman, Il Sogno.



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Il Sogno is an Osteria that brings a taste of Italy to San Antonio. The white bean mousse starter is divine. Give me a loaf of bread and this puree, I'd be as happy as a clam. But the deliciousness didn't end there, next we sampled three items from the antipasta bar: goat cheese and red pepper, eggplant dip, and potato salad. Then, we followed with cavatelli and gnocchi romana with pork ragu. The cavatelli was superb. The gnocchi romana was a surprise, we thought we'd be getting gnocchi, but this was more like polenta. It wasn't a bad dish, it was just different than anticipated. The pork was succulent, however. Our waiter brought us dessert on the house for the confusion. The tiramisu was light and creamy. During our meal, we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine from Orvieto. I still insist Orvieto produces the best white wines. Lunch was a splurge at $110, but it was highly enjoyable.











Dinner that night was with friends. They picked us up at the hotel and took us to Perry's Steakhouse at La Cantera. It's a favorite of theirs and when I heard about their signature pork chop. I had to try it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't often order a cocktail, but I was intrigued by the blueberry cucumber martini. I can see how it would be popular, but martinis just aren't my preference. We started with calamari, which had a nice heat from the peppers. I only wish it was more lightly breaded.

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Next up was the wedge and French onion soup. The soup was the better choice. The salad was drenched with dressing and it was screaming for bite. Blue Cheese was terribly missed.





The entrees was where the meal shined. Frank had the stripsteak with peppercorn sauce. I had the monsterous chop. It's carved three ways to showcase the different cuts: ribs, loin and eyelash. Five days of the curing, smoking and roasting contribute to the smoky, caramelized flavor. The ribs were my favorite; so tender and juicy.





My chop came with a dessert trio: orange truffle, crème brulee and cheesecake. Typically, I do not like crème brulee but it was my favorite of the three.



Our server seemed overwhelmed. We dined on Mother's Day, I'm sure it was busy, but for a restaurant of this caliber, I'd expect service to be seamless. Dinner for two was $115.

The following day, we went to Las Canarias At La Mansion. Reviews speak highly of Sunday Brunch, so we figured they could master some pancakes which is what Frank was craving. Upon being seated we were told about the breakfast buffet available for $19. I'm not a big fan of steam trays so I really wanted to order from the menu, but Frank swayed me to get the buffet since it had chilaquiles (which is what I wanted to order), omelet station, sausage and bacon, pastries, fruit, waffles and pancakes were available from the kitchen. I reluctantly agreed. I had no complaints about the omelet, the pastries were stale, the fruit was not replenished and the chilaquiles were the saddest version I've ever seen. The whole idea of using a fried tortilla pieces is to add crisp texture. These chips were soaked through and it was utter mush. We ordered waffles and pancakes. They were dense and dry. On the brightside, I was turned on to Fage Yogurt with honey. Yes, I went to a Zagat-Rated Restaurant and ate store bought yogurt. I've grown tired of Vegas buffets, but I've completely taken them for granted. There is no comparison.

After breakfast, we walked over to La Villita. Monday late morning is not a prime time to visit. It looked like the setting for the Zombie Apocalypse, we only encountered one other person. One shop selling soaps was open. I'm sensitive to perfume scents so it figured it was one I would not frequent. We sat in the square and sought out a plan B.



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I wasn't interested Texas Ranger Museum so Market Square it was. We walked over, and saw the San Antonio Court House and Cathedral of San Fernando on the way.

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We went to La Margaritas and had ourselves a couple margaritas.



Frank had frozen pomegranate and I had the signature margaritas on the rocks. Twenty bucks later, we were ready to go. We much preferred the prickly pear margaritas so we returned to Boudro's. It also gave us an opportunity to try the duck spring rolls and Texas tapas. Lunch wasn't nearly as impressive as dinner. Portions were considerably smaller and a bit pricey ($54). Despite the hefty price, the spring rolls were a nice treat.

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Our time in San Antonio had come to a close. San Antonio didn't steal our hearts, but we had a nice time. We feel like we saw and did everything we set out to do. I must say the hospitality in Texas is unlike anywhere else we've been. People are incredibly warm and friendly. La Antorcha de la Amistad might have been a gift to San Antonio from Mexico to unify countries, but the Torch of Friendship is fitting for the city of San Antonio.

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Guenther House on Urbanspoon Schilo's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon Boudro's on the Riverwalk on Urbanspoon The Friendly Spot Ice House on Urbanspoon IL Sogno Osteria on Urbanspoon Perry's Steakhouse & Grille on Urbanspoon Las Canarias on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW - you've out done yourself on this one Kellee - thanks for all the great reviews and pictures - I really enjoyed the ride in Texas. Can't wait for your next adventure - Canadian Guy Eh :)

Kellee said...

Thanks! I have a camping trip to share, but no other trips are planned right now. I look forward to the next adventure too!

Anonymous said...

What did you expect at the alamo? A battle?

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