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Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

The hotly anticipated second location of Nonna Osteria said ciao to Alamo City on September 27. Located underneath Silo Elevated at 434 North Loop in the Ventura Plaza shopping center, the much-loved Italian restaurant offers indoor and al fresco seating Tuesdays through Saturdays. Though it does not have an identical menu to the Fairmount Hotel original, many dishes reappear — including a version of the decadent tartufo served in a cheese wheel.

Bakudan Ramen is hoping to bowl San Antonio over with a new location in Stone Oak. A second outpost of the Japanese favorite debuted October 11 at 22506 US-281 North #106. The fledgling chain isn’t entirely done laying its San Antonio footprint. A third outpost is underway at the Bandera-Loop 1604 interchange with an unannounced opening date.

Acclaimed Seguin eatery Davila’s BBQ is now playing ball with the AT&T Center. In a video Instagram post, the Texas Monthly-approved barbecue joint announced it will serve its smoked meats during the 2022-2023 season. In honor of the move, owner Adrian Davila will introduce a few Spurs items to the menu honoring icons like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginóbili.

The former home of goth hot spot Wax Club Lounge appears to be undergoing a resurrection. A new concept called REDBAR has applied for a late-hours certificate with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 2211 San Pedro. There’s no word yet on what the bar will be — no web or social presence appears to have been established.

Other news and notes

The Southtown location of Freetail Brewing Co. will soon be offering wood-fired pizzas. The craft brewery took to social media to announce that it was now hiring kitchen staff to add to its team. Previously, the pies were only available at the 4035 N. Loop 1604 brewpub.

The San Antonio Grilled Cheese Fest will bring some ooey-gooey fun to The Espee on November 19. The third annual festival pits local restaurants in a battle for a $500 prize. Tickets are $38-$58, with the VIP pass including early entry.

Local food activist Jamie Gonzalez — aka Puta de la Fruta — has been named the sole Texas candidate for the American Heart Association’s 2022 EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator and its big $50,000 prize. The annual program provides training and grants to organizations and individuals impacting community health. Locals can vote for the hometown hero here.

Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen

7 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Cult-favorite salad chain sprouts in the Quarry

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

Vibey Los Angeles-based salad chain Sweetgreen is digging into the Quarry. In late August, the fast-casual eatery filed its intention to spruce up the former Max’s Wine Dive space at 340 East Basse Rd., #101. Known for its tech prowess and collaborations with celebrity chefs like David Chang, Sweetgreen has rapidly broadened its footprint since 2007. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation project details say the spot will be ready for inspection in April 2023. Company reps did not return a request for comment.

San Antonio’s most lauded barbecue joint is firing up a new location. Another filing with TDLR reveals plans for a 2M Smokehouse at 1303 Lorenzo St. in Castroville. The restaurant, led by two-time James Beard-nominated pitmaster Esaul Ramos, will redevelop the former site of Dan’s Meat Market with a new kitchen addition, pit room, bakery, and outdoor seating. According to records, construction is expected to wrap up on June 30.

Move over, Baldwins. A less controversial quartet of siblings moved into the Omni La Mansión del Rio. Helmed by chef Andres Farias, Four Brothers began serving River Walk revelers on August 15. Replacing former onsite restaurant Las Canarias, the eatery finesses South Texas cuisine with Latin and French influences. Mains include a basil-crusted branzino, St. Louis-style ribs, and showy dry-aged tomahawk with confit potatoes and chimichurri.

Millennials looking to see the real-time financial impact of their latte habit can flock to San Antonio’s first Capital One Café as of August 18. The hustle culture hub, open to the general public, offers self-service banking, coworking space, and conference rooms. Capitol One credit and debit customers receive a half-off discount on drinks at the La Cantera shop.

Plant-based pizzeria Verve Pie is saying “thank you, next” to Cibolo. In an August 25 Instagram post, the restaurant explained it is looking to relocate to San Antonio. Staff shortages have made operations difficult for the last two months. Still, the restaurant wanted to hang on until existing employees could seek re-employment. A location within Alamo City limits will be closer to its customer base.

Other news and notes

Best Quality Daughter is taking a stand for reproductive rights. On September 11, the Pearl eatery will host a benefit dinner pairing chef Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin with Iron Chef personality Mason Hereford of New Orleans’ Turkey and the Wolf. Tickets for Good Trouble in Little China are $150 and will benefit Planned Parenthood South Texas and Lift Louisiana.

The Squeezebox is bringing a little sizzle to the St. Mary’s Strip with its inaugural Fajita Lounge Showdown on September 4. During the event, local chefs Kenny Loo of Golden Kirin Restaurant, Sergio Flores of La Tortuga Cocina Latina, Eddie Barrera of Sijang Korean Corn Dogs, Rory Torres of Crispy Bao Gang, and Steve Lopez will battle for a $500 prize. The $10 cover includes all-you-can-eat tacos and entertainment from The Texases.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B crowns big winners in annual Quest for Texas Best competition

Delicious victory

H-E-B revealed the winners of a delicious competition this week. The annual Quest for Texas Best competition seeks to find the best Texas-made food products, with the big winners being sold at H-E-B grocery stores around the state.

Five winning brands, narrowed down from more than 500 entries, were announced Wednesday, August 24.

Claiming the $25,000 grand prize in the H-E-B contest was McAllen-based I Love Chamoy, which makes a sugar-free version of the sweet, tangy, spicy Mexican sauce. Creator Annie Leal "made it her mission to make this traditional staple of Mexican candy more accessible to people with different dietary needs," following her father's diabetes diagnosis, the H-E-B website says.

The first-place winner was an Austin-based maker of frozen gourmet cookie dough, Love & Cookies, which received $20,000.

Ashley Cameron founded Love & Cookies in 2019 after her 5-year-old son was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a common heart ailment among children. After returning home from a stay at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, all her son wanted to do was “bake cookies with Mommy.”

Cameron kept making cookies, sharing them with friends and family and subsequently opened a store baking and selling 14 gourmet flavors of cookies. She followed that up by introducing a line of four varieties of frozen gourmet cookie dough.

Reacting to the H-E-B victory, Cameron says part of the winnings will be donated to the Kawasaki Kids Foundation and the rest will be invested in Love & Cookies. “We can’t wait to share our product with the rest of Texas,” Cameron says.

Grabbing second place and a $15,000 prize was Houston-based Zwita, which produces harissa, a traditional Mediterranean chile sauce that originated in Tunisia. The company’s owners are Karim and Mansour Arem.

“This is a monumental achievement for us because it confirms that there is indeed interest in our Tunisian stories and culture,” the Arem brothers say. “It is also a testament to how multiculturally rich our beautiful state is and how there is not just one meaning to being Texan. We are humbled that H-E-B wholeheartedly supports us in our mission of preserving our Tunisian ancestry by helping us share it with our fellow Texans.”

The Arems say their prize money will be earmarked for marketing and advertising campaigns.

Tying for third place and snagging $10,000 prizes were Dallas-based Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que, which makes a barbecue rub that will be available at H-E-B stores, and Guthrie-based Burnett Ranches, which produces Four Sixes Ranch Chuck Wagon Chili Mix.

Brent and Juan Reaves, the brothers who own Smokey John’s, say the H-E-B recognition means their dad’s dream has been realized. Their father founded the Smokey John’s barbecue joint, originally known as Big John’s, in 1976.

“He always believed that he had a quality product, but he didn’t live to see it validated,” the Reaves brothers say. “H-E-B believing in us today was really them believing in our dad. And today we are so proud that he was validated by a retail giant.”

The brothers say some of the prize money will be shared with the company’s employees, and the remainder will go toward product marketing and expansion of retail sales.

“Each year we are amazed by the submissions,” James Harris, senior director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at San Antonio-based H-E-B, says of Quest for Texas Best. “The creativity, passion, and determination is truly impressive and inspiring.”

I Love Chamoy was the grand-prize winner.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B
I Love Chamoy was the grand-prize winner.
Photo courtesy of Visit Brenham

Blue Bell Ice Cream is just the start in artsy, barbecue-loving Brenham

On the Road

About halfway between Houston and Austin lies the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream: Brenham. It’s where the frozen stuff — and a favorite of all Texans — began in 1907.

You should definitely swing by the Blue Bell Creamery and production facility while you’re there and grab a scoop or two, but there’s also more to love about Brenham.

Check out this sweet list of additional things to do.

Eat dessert first, then dinner
After that ice cream, save some room for the main dish. The Brenham Barbecue Trail includes six stops, including local favorite LJ’s BBQ that serves up perfectly smoked meats and legit sides. Pro tip: Top their famous mac & cheese with the brisket.

Truth Barbeque is another award-winning, can’t-miss beacon of Texas barbecue. At Pioneer Smokehouse, a family-friendly place with a huge patio, order the Hobo Nachos loaded with chopped brisket, queso, and tons of other goodness.

Nathan’s BBQ has been serving up old-school Texas barbecue for decades — look for live music there on Friday nights. Pitmaster and owner Cody Stelter of Cody’s Pit Stop is a fifth-generation Texan. He only fires up the ’cue on Sundays, though, so plan ahead.

Last but not least on the smoked tour is Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli. In addition to incredible barbecue, they have other Southern comfort faves and are famous for their kolaches, too.

For a break from barbecue, Las Americas Latin Cuisine is a family-owned eatery with a different kind of spice in their delicious, traditional-meets-modern Latin flavors.

Ninety-Six West is artsy and eclectic, with a tapas-fusion menu in an upscale-chic setting. You’ll love the traditional Italian cuisine and extensive wine list at Volare, charmingly located in a converted Colonial "salt box" house with a beautiful outdoor garden area.

For brunch, look no further than The Tilted Windmill, an eclectic cafe with an impressive coffee selection and bakery, too.

Grab a bevvie or two
Brenham is also home to some must-sips, including Windy Winery, which produces classic varietals and unique blends and has a tasting room with breathtaking views.

For Texas-casual flavor right in historic downtown, Wine Bar Brenham is your go-to spot — they’re known for their “massive mimosas.”

Beer aficionados will love Brazos Valley Brewing Company, which embraces the essence and flavor of Texas with its small-town vibes and big, bold beers. They also host events like Trivia Thursdays, yoga on Saturdays, and live music on the weekends.

Go on a culture kick
The mural scene is popping in Brenham, with 20 large-scale and miniature works gracing exterior walls all across downtown. While you’re on the Brenham Art Walk, don’t miss local studios and galleries full of pieces from local talent.

For performing arts, Unity Theatre is an intimate, 125-seat theater in a restored downtown warehouse that presents a variety of plays and musicals throughout the year.

You can find concerts, plays, and more at The Barnhill Center at Historic Simon Theatre, which was originally built in 1925 in the grand architectural style of Beaux-Arts Classical Revival.

And save the date for the Texas Arts and Music Festival in October, hosted near the historic downtown square.

To discover more about the home of Blue Bell and plan your next cool adventure, head to Visit Brenham.

Historic downtown Brenham is full of charm and bright, beautiful murals.

Photo courtesy of Visit Brenham
Historic downtown Brenham is full of charm and bright, beautiful murals.
Photo courtesy of Jack Ryan's Steak & Chophouse

Strike it rich with Kilgore's nostalgic charm and heaps of history

On the Road

Once upon a time, there stood the greatest concentration of oil wells in all the world and they called it the World’s Richest Acre.

These derricks, located in little more than a city block of downtown Kilgore, were discovered by chance in the 1930s and produced more than 2.5 million barrels of black gold during their heyday.

You can still see the 37 oil derricks that dot the sky as well as the historic town’s preserved Art Deco buildings, brick walkways, and more when you visit this tiny-but-mighty destination that’s two hours east of Dallas.

Here are 10 more reasons to have a summer weekend in Kilgore.

1. Jack Ryan’s
For an upscale dinner with drinks and a view, Jack Ryan’s has your order covered. Owners, executive chefs, and brothers Brad and Wes Ebey are both classically trained and have cut their culinary teeth at luxe spots like the Four Seasons, The Adolphus, and more.

Now, they serve up sophisticated takes on steak, chops, and seafood, adding their own unique and flavorful spin.

2. East Texas Oil Museum
This fascinating museum at Kilgore College recreates the oil rush of the early 1930s. Journey through a full-scale recreation of stores, people, animals, and machinery, all depicting the lively activity of "Boomtown."

3. Meadowbook Golf Course
Situated among the Piney Woods, this course is a picturesque yet challenging nine holes where you’ll also find a driving range, putting green, golf carts, and swimming pool.

4. BigHead Creek Mountain Bike Trail
Take your biking adventure to Kilgore and discover a scenic escape into the Piney Woods of East Texas. This shaded mountain bike trail is filled with thrills and stunning mature trees that are perfect for Instagram.

5. DeRigueur of Kilgore
Enjoy the ultimate shopping experience in Historic Downtown Kilgore at De Rigueur. This popular boutique features unique and stylish women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories. Owner and well-known Texas stylist Still Collum completes your curated shopping experience here.

6. Texas Broadcast Museum
Experience the evolution of broadcasting and communications through the 20th century at this Historic Downtown Kilgore museum, which showcases vintage equipment, broadcast studios, and lots of fun retro phones and radios.

7. Rangerette Showcase and Museum
The first group of its kind in the world, the Rangerettes brought "show business" to the football gridiron and first took to the field during the 1940 football season, pioneering the concept of dancing drill teams that are now seen across the nation.

The Rangerettes' storied history is celebrated at this museum, which features props, costumes, and thousands of photographs and newspaper clippings.

8. Country Tavern
The barbecue ribs here have been legendary for decades — they've been serving them since 1938. The special sauce gives the hickory-smoked meats a sweet East Texas edge, paired with sides that are just as delicious.

9. Kilgore Mercantile and Music
The real treat in this historic downtown shop is its ice cream parlor, where they scoop out 33 flavors along with old-fashioned fountain faves like shakes, malts, and splits.

10. Kilgore Cruise Night
On the last Saturday of every month, classic cars, trucks, bikes, and more all come out to play downtown. In addition to the cruising, you can enjoy music, food, contests, door prizes, and more.

Add more places to your list and plan your weekend at Visit Kilgore.

The patio at Jack Ryan's serves dinner and drinks with a view.

Photo courtesy of Jack Ryan's Steak & Chophouse
The patio at Jack Ryan's serves dinner and drinks with a view.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Texas

Sink your teeth into legendary barbecue in film-famous Taylor

On the Road

The quintessential small Texas town of Taylor doesn’t just have stunning sunsets, fields of cotton, a historic downtown with local shops, and even some horseback-riding cowboys in the mix — it has also been the site for scenes from a whole host of movies and shows, including Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Rookie, Varsity Blues, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead, among others.

But you should also know that Taylor has another bold claim to fame: its world-famous barbecue.

Located just about 30-ish minutes outside of Austin, the town is in the heart of the Texas Barbecue Trail and boasts two champions of their craft.

Louie Mueller Barbecue is a family-owned, legendary Texas icon, originally established by Louie Mueller in 1949. They've served guests from around the world with all the staples, including thick slabs of salt-and-pepper crusted brisket, sausage, ribs, pork, steaks, turkey, and chicken. At this “Cathedral of Smoke,” all meats are slow-cooked for hours in age-old pits using post oak wood. The place has shown up on Food Network, the Travel Channel, and in several documentaries.

Sure, Davis Barbeque serves up tender brisket with a crunchy bark and ribs that fall off the bone. But it is owner and pitmaster James Davis Jr.’s secret "Come Back Juice" barbecue sauce that’s the game-changer here.

In addition to these hot spots in the “barbecue belt,” Taylor also has a range of local eateries with world-class flavors from Poland, Peru, Latin America, Czechoslovakia, Asia, and beyond.

Plowman's Kitchen, located inside of the historic Old Taylor High School, is known especially for its massive Breakfast Board: eight silver dollar pancakes, eight French toast triangles, fresh fruit, bacon, sausage, French toast glaze, butter, whipped cream, and syrup.

If you feel the need to work off some of these calories, set out on the city's architectural walking tour. It passes by more than 25 buildings, including the Renaissance Revival-style post office and St. Marys Church, the site of the oldest Catholic school in Williamson County (it opened in 1896).

On Saturdays, you can tour the Moody Museum, which dates back to 1887 and is the former home of Texas governor Dan Moody, who served two terms from 1927-1931 and is best known for reducing the KKK presence in Texas.

There are a variety of parks where you can pause and connect with nature, as well as the new skatepark, Pierce Park. Or if shopping if your cardio, drop into any of the more than 20 unique stores in the downtown shopping district.

Be sure to check the community's event calendar before your trip, to make sure you're not missing annual celebrations like the Taylor Rodeo, Christmas Parade, Main Street Car Show, and numerous barbecue cook-offs throughout the year.

Learn more about this small town with big flavors at Taylor Made Texas.

Taylor is smack in the middle of the "barbecue belt."

Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Texas
Taylor is smack in the middle of the "barbecue belt."
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, 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's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.