Sofia Hernandez

Diamond Dachshund Rescue of Texas will present Fiesta Dachshund Dash, a day of intense dachshund races, wide variety of vendors, food trucks, and more. All friendly dogs are welcome and dressed up dogs are encouraged. Adoptable dachshunds from Diamond Dachshund Rescue of Texas will be on site to Boop the Snoot and Meet & Greet.

Courtesy of Arts+Labor

San Antonio's top 10 stories of 2022 feature a Texas legend and famous fried chicken

2022 in Stories

Editor’s note: As 2022 comes to a close, we're looking back at the stories that defined San Antonio this year. We've covered food and travel, and now it's time to set our sights on San Antonio at large. This year, San Antonians had fun; they gravitated toward novelty (alpacas, bowling, and a cave house) while keeping pace with the more serious world around them (strong local economies and urban expansion). Here are the 10 most-read San Antonio stories of 2022.

1. Re-released documentary explores the greatest Texas musician you've probably never heard of.Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove was available to stream again in November. "Has San Antonio lost its soul? Has Austin lost its groove? Doug Sahm is the answer," reads a recent release for the documentary ahead of its re-release and a special San Antonio screening on Friday, November 11.

2. Famous fried chicken and biscuit chain hatches 3 San Antonio locations. Bojangles, the North Carolina-based fried-chicken-and-biscuits chain with a die-hard following, plans to enter the San Antonio market over the next several years with three locations. It says it will open three Bojangles locations in Northeast San Antonio. Those franchise restaurants will be operated by Copacetic Group.

3. Affluent San Antonio neighbor named No. 7 richest county in Texas. One San Antonio neighbor was listed among the richest counties in Texas, according to data analysis compiled by Stacker. The website compiled a list of the wealthiest counties in Texas based on median household income, and Kendall County nabbed the No. 7 spot at $84,747.

4. San Antonio-area farm opens Alpaca Pumpkin Patch for festive fall fun. Located just 40 minutes southeast of Alamo City, Black Barn Alpacas is a 16-acre ranch home to 50 adorable alpacas. The ranch hosted its autumn harvest festival every weekend in October. In addition to alpaca petting, feeding, and photo opportunities, visitors enjoyed live music, carnival games, hay rides, food trucks, bounce houses, and pumpkin painting.

Black Barn AlpacasBlack Barn Alpacas is a 16-acre ranch home to 50 adorable alpacas. Photo courtesy of Black Barn Alpacas

5. Construction begins on downtown San Antonio’s $27 million ‘central park’. On January 26, 2022, community leaders — witnessed by 200 excited area residents — broke ground on Civic Park at Hemisfair, San Antonio’s central park, marking the beginning of 18 months of construction that will result in a world-class public greenspace.

6. Charming Texas Gulf Coast community named one of the most affordable beach towns in U.S. A report from Realtor.com said a popular Texas coastal town is among the most affordable in the country. Rockport, Texas, a coastal community a little under a three-hour drive from San Antonio, landed at No. 7 on Realtor.com’s list of most affordable beach towns in the country. The charming Gulf Coast town’s average home list price was $435,112.

7. San Antonio suburb booms as No. 5 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. Estimates released May 26, 2022, by the U.S. Census Bureau ranked New Braunfels No. 5 for population growth from July 2020 to July 2021. New Braunfels' population rose 8.3 percent during the one-year period, topping out at 98,857.

8. Massive upscale bowling and entertainment mecca rolls into San Antonio. After a two-year delay caused by the pandemic, Pinstack, the Dallas-based bowling, entertainment, and dining destination, finally got the ball rolling on its San Antonio fun hub, located at 742 NW Loop 410, suite 201. The new Alamo City Pinstack is the fifth location for the company, which also has entertainment centers in Plano, Las Colinas, Allen, and Austin.

9. San Antonio home with private cave explores the market at $875,000. Originally listed in July at $950,000, the home had a pending offer after the price was slashed by $75,000 to $875,000. Aside from the four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,745-square-foot home, the property featured a cave discovered in 2004 when the current owners were clearing the more than two-and-a-half-acre homesite.

SA Zillow cave homeThe cave’s main room measures about 30 by 26 feet and contains nine-foot-tall formations. JB Goodwin Realtors

10. 16 Veterans Day specials that salute San Antonio military service members. From restaurants and coffee shops to retailers and exercise classes, CultureMap rounded up the best Veterans Day discounts for those that have served and continue to serve our nation.

Photo courtesy of Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium

'Scuba Claus' takes a dive to greet visitors at Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium

Move over, merfolk

Sliding down the chimney is so 18th century. While North Pole Santa is busy preparing for the big day the traditional way, Scuba Claus and some of the elves are making waves at Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium.

This aquarium invites visitors into a clear underwater tunnel in a tank with a 20-foot depth, allowing for an extra-immersive experience. Scuba divers regularly enter for cleaning, alongside mermaids, whose more leisurely underwater time is spent interacting with guests through the glass in iridescent costumes.

Scuba Claus, who wears his beard and red suit in all conditions, even when scuba goggles are involved, has a deceptive amount of holiday business to take care of, so he’ll only be at the aquarium on December 17, 18, and 24 at 1 pm.

There’s plenty of other special attractions during the holiday season, including holiday lights along the tanks; an interactive, themed tank decorating experience; and letter-writing to Sharky, who will swim them up to the North Pole.

A day at the Sea Life aquarium isn’t complete without a visit to the touch-friendly rock pool (the only place it’s fun to touch something “sticky” underwater) and a visit with the five types of stingray, and an exploration of the seahorse nursery. There are also jellyfish, sea turtles, and six-foot eels, alongside the many fish, both fresh and saltwater.

Visitors are welcome to wander the aquarium on their own, or check for feeding and demonstration schedules at visitsealife.com. The Ocean Tunnel, where Scuba Claus will appear, is acceptable to any ticket holder (starting at $19.99 for locals).

Photo courtesy Ryan Rice

New legislation would let Texas say no to puppy mill sales statewide

Animal News

A Texas legislator has introduced a bill to help animals: On December 2, Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed HB 870, which would help put an end to puppy mill practices by requiring that pet stores can sell only healthy animals from shelters or rescues.

Pet stores across Texas would no longer be allowed to sell puppies or kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills, protecting pets and consumers -- similar to laws that have already been enacted in a number of cities across Texas.

Patterson previously filed a similar bill, HB 1818, in 2021. And as he notes in a statement, the law would affect only one major retailer: Petland.

"Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores,” Patterson says. “There’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. I’m proud to once again file HB 870 to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners."

If passed, HB 870 would not preempt local ordinances. Instead, the law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.

In 2022, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels all passed ordinances like HB 870, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law, says Stacy Sutton Kerby, Director of Government Relations at Texas Humane Legislation Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for animals and has been involved in prior efforts.

“While 14 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies,” she says.

During the 87th legislative session in 2021, HB 1818 received huge bipartisan support but couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.

“There is widespread support and momentum for this policy," Kerby says. “We are excited to work with Representative Patterson again on this issue. His early filing of the bill shows his dedication to halting the puppy mill pipeline into Texas and alleviating the burden on shelters of having an overwhelming number of healthy, adoptable pets in need of loving homes."

Black Barn Alpacas presents Elf Days on the Ranch

Black Barn Alpacas' Elf Days festivities include bouncy houses, exclusive shopping at the BBA store, and petting & feeding Santa’s alpaca herd. Get your all-access pass for just $12 per person — alpaca feed included!

Photo by Hannah J. Frias

See San Antonio pets in their Halloween best at Sunken Garden Theater costume contest

Bark of the Town

Halloween costumes are hard to pick, not to mention sensitive to the tone of the event. Are you a pun, or a sexy fill-in-the-blank? Pet costumes, on the other hand, are limitless. A bumblebee. The little mermaid. A cloud. Grandmother Wolf. An unsuccessful TV pilot, if your pet really resists being picked up. You can use any of those and more at the 8th Annual Thomas J. Henry Bark in the Park costume contest and pet expo on October 29 at Sunken Garden Theater.

The contest benefits San Antonio Pets Alive and the Animal Defense League of Texas through registration fees (discounted to $7 to preregister until further notice). Winners take home prizes up to $1,000, and spectators can join for free.

While the pets strut their stuff and handlers check out the vendors, kids are invited to hang out in the kids’ zone. Furthering the purpose of the event's benefactors, there will be an on-site adoption drive. Perhaps next year’s winner is among the hopeful adoptees. Food trucks and music round out this day at the park.

San Antonio Pets Alive is a no-kill animal shelter with some long-term residents — currently featured in “long stay” cats and dogs categories — as well as newcomers who get snatched up the moment the public finds out about them. The shelter offers adoptions and relies heavily on foster families. San Antonio Pets Alive has saved more than 63,000 animal lives since 2011.

The Animal Defense League of Texas is a similar organization operating locally in San Antonio, which claims to be the area’s “largest and oldest true no-kill shelter.” It maintains a full-time veterinary staff, spays and neuters pets for low-income families, and runs educational programs in schools and in the community. The shelter’s maximum capacity is 400 animals, but it pledges never to euthanize an animal when space runs out.

For more information about the Thomas J. Henry Bark in the Park contest, visit thomasjhenrylaw.com or view the event on Facebook.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio rent prices increased 7 percent from 2022, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio rent prices increased 7 percent from 2022, report finds. Despite rent increases showing small improvements month-over-month, overall prices in the San Antonio area are still on the high side from the previous year.

2. Popular San Antonio doggy daycare opens new location in Alamo Ranch. The award-winning Dogtopia has gained so much love from the local community thanks to its thoughtful design approach and programming.

3. Bask in local artistry with the inaugural San Marcos Studio Tour in April. The inaugural, self-guided San Marcos Studio Tour will feature more than 50 artists all across San Marcos and the surrounding area.

4. Own a piece of Utopia with this Hill Country riverfront retreat listed for $2.5M. This secluded, tree-filled, riverfront estate boasts nine guest cabins and "the Fortress," a historic lodge that can sleep 12 guests.

5. Blockbuster Western art exhibition and sale stampedes into San Antonio. The Briscoe Western Art Museum's annual Night of Artists Exhibition and Sale returns to San Antonio March 24 through 25.

These 6 San Antonio brunch spots are worth a return visit (or two)

brunch hunches

Anyone who says magic doesn't exist clearly hasn't snagged a coveted reservation at the Box Street Social for brunch. It's one of the local spots that nails that sacred ritual, brunch with the besties: a magical experience where Monday doesn't exist and stress is forbidden.

Here are some of our top local brunch spots that'll leave both your appetite and your soul satiated (even when Monday actually hits.)

Box St. All Day
Not only does Box St. All Day look like the dreams that Instagram reels are made of, it's got a high quality menu to match, courtesy of chef and co-owner Edward Garcia III. The all-day brunch restaurant (at 623 Hemisfair Blvd, Ste 108) offers hearty options like strawberry cheesecake French toast, steak-eggs and frites (the fries alone are dangerously delicious), the Box St. Brekky sandwich made with house-made bread, and more. Pair your meal with one of its cute coffees, cocktails, or zero-proof cocktails, and save room for plenty of pictures with your brunch buddies before you leave — the details in the decor have a sophisticated feminine flair, thanks to Box Street's innovative creative director Caroline Garcia-Bowman. Reserve on Toast.

Full Belly
Tucked away in its own cozy corner of the world in the Stone Oak/1604 area is Full Belly Cafe + Bar. Where else can you order a plate of pecan pie French toast while gazing at an incredible hand-painted mural of classic animated characters like Jessica Rabbit, Marvin Martian, Stewie Griffin and more brunching together? Executive chef James Moore also serves up plenty of savory brunch options if you don't have a sweet tooth, like the pork belly benny or a baked eggs and toast plate with roasted garlic and thyme cream. Reserve at fullbellysa.com.

Did you know that Chef Kirk of Ocho, Hotel Havana's in-house restaurant, is the only local chef to win an episode of Food Network's Chopped? Brunch at Ocho is also a photo-worthy experience, where brunch items like pan de platano (banana bread), plantain cakes con carnitas (plantain pancakes), and more are served up to guests with a side of San Antonio sunlight, given that Ocho is located in a beautiful (and air-conditioned!) glass conservatory. Reserve on Resy.

The Hayden
The Smoke Shack might be the best spot to get your brisket fix on Broadway, but The Hayden is the spot to be for brunch. You can't miss The Hayden's classic retro sign right in the center of The Boardwalk on Broadway. The interior lives up to the welcoming feel of a Jewish deli, complete with menu options from executive chef Bill Corbett like fried chicken and latke waffles, or a bagel and lox. And don't worry — if you're craving the comfort of pancakes, The Hayden's got you covered with The Hayden pancake stack, among other options. Reserve at buzztable.com.

Vegan Avenue on Main
Chef Griselda Muñoz's entirely vegan menu will make believers even out of the most dedicated meat eaters. The cinnamon roll "bettermilk" pancakes have to be tasted to be believed. (Yes, even the sweet cream in the pancake is dairy free!) If you're missing a classic breakfast sandwich but trying to stay meat-free, try Vegan Avenue's "Honee-Butter Chick'n sandwich" with vegan eggs and crispy, fried plant-based chicken. If you're not near Vegan Avenue but craving its vegan breakfast tacos, you can also get your fix at Vegan Avenue's sister restaurant on TPC Parkway, Plantology. Reserve at squareup.com.

One of the best hair-of-the-dog cocktails in town is Barbaro's delicious Garibaldi, a simple concoction of Campari and orange juice, but you can't go wrong with the "Keep It Coming" Bloody Mary bar and Mimosas: For $15, you can alternate between the two until you've had your fill. Soak up Saturday night with eggs Barbaro (two poached eggs on homemade focaccia, Benton's country ham, hollandaise, and spinach) or dive into a skillet pancake (whipped lemon ricotta and seasonal berries, plus extra fine bacon, ricotta salata, and maple syrup).

The 8 best bars in San Antonio have the right mix


Though it's easy to quaff a decent cocktail almost anywhere in Texas, San Antonio's watering holes offer a little something special. Maybe it's the friendliness of the patrons trading rounds with complete strangers. Maybe it's the prescience of the bartenders who know hundreds of regulars' orders. That generosity of spirit is found at almost every spot in town.

But the best of the best mix in something extra — inventive flavor profiles, enveloping atmosphere, and an "it" factor that is hard to define. But we know it when we drink it — we've seen it in all the nominees CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Bar of the Year perhaps too many times.

So, we salute the unassuming dive bars, the swanky lounges, and happy hour haunts. Alamo City wouldn't be half as fun without them. Join us in raising a glass to our finalists below, then pop a cork as we name the winner at the Jack Guenther Pavilion at the Briscoe Museum on May 18. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Amor Eterno
It's there in the name. This Southtown lounge delivers everlasting romance courtesy of velvet curtains, fuchsia lighting, and orchids languishing on the edge of coupes. The atmosphere gets a little steamier after a couple Bella Noche shots. Suddenly, disco thumps through the speakers, inamoratos file in, and the back booth becomes the most inviting spot in Alamo City.

Bar Loretta
At many upscale restaurants, the cocktail menu is an afterthought. List a serviceable Old Fashioned, add a martini, and call it a day. Not so at this endearing Southtown spot. Though guests can certainly swan with a Gatsby-era Mint Julep, the originals really bring the fireworks. A Lucinda Williams homage, Junebug vs. Hurricane, balances strawberries with Peychaud's bitters. Mariachi Static burns the house down with a dash (or three) of hot sauce.

George's Keep
The three-martini lunch may be a thing of the past, but still, the Éilan Hotel's resident bar knows how to get down to business. Leather banquettes and hunter-green wainscoting set the scene for some hard bargaining of what patrons will order next. Heady tipples like George's signature mix of VSOP Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon keep the deals flowing, even if they are just on Ameritrade.

Hotel Havana - Havana Bar and Ocho
This artfully designed downtown property knows a thing or two about chiaroscuro. The darkness comes from the dimly lit basement at Havana Bar, where peccadillos slink into the shadows. Blazing light illuminates Ocho upstairs, refracted through the turquoise accented panes of a glass conservatory. All revelers have to do is follow their mood.

La Ruina
In a tequila-obsessed town, this East Side hideaway has made a name by focusing on rum. Former Modernist owners Gerry Shirley and Olaf Harmel stir up a vacation's worth of concoctions, from tiki classics like Mai Tais to Brazilian bombshells like Caipirinhas. Steal the tropically wallpapered booth if you can get it. Rum was meant for languor.

Don't be surprised if you see the occasional cat slumbering at this louche East Side bar. Felines know a thing or two about posh surrounds. Guests will purr just as loudly over co-owner Benjamin Krick's sly barcraft. The back bar is an apothecary stocked with hard-to-find European spirits, cordials, and fortified wines — all used in some of the most unexpected cocktails in the city.

The Moon's Daughters
Perched atop the glittering Thompson Hotel, this rooftop lounge is usually recommended for the breathtaking downtown view. The interior offers just as much scenery. San Antonio's see-and-be-seen set sprawl on the luxe furniture, sipping CBD-infused cocktails and nibbling Mediterranean bites. The hospitality program isn't all just for show, of course, but it never hurts to gild the lily.

Three Star Bar
As much fun as it is to clink Baccarat, most days, we'd rather crush cans. For a weekday drink, it's hard to beat the wood-paneled slump of a neighborhood bar. This Grayson Street dive lets guests loosen their belts over craft beers and shots. The new ownership — Los Angeles-based Pouring With Heart — tinkered a bit with the drink menu but kept the meat and potatoes.

Amor Eterno San Antonio

Photo by TX Troublemaker

It's all about love at Amor Eterno