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And we’re off. San Antonians have barely had the chance to catch up on post-holiday emails before filling up the calendar again with annual traditions. The first, of course, is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, the nearly month-long celebration of mutton bustin’, live music, and fried food.

The latter holds a particular fascination — and it’s sacrilege to suggest that rodeo revelers shouldn’t sample a rattlesnake corndog, bacon bomber, or a deep-fried Snickers. But let’s face it, giving a little bit of uh uh during the Nelly set takes more than empty carbs.

What to do? Build a foundation by eating a proper meal at a nearby or on-premise restaurant. Consider this a pregame plan for putting more yeehaw into your visit. Fuel up for a long day of fun, then let’r buck.

Cherrity Bar
Take advantage of this eatery’s rambling patio on sunny days to share Japanese street food like gyoza, yakitori, and crunchy karaage. Snuggle up inside during a cold snap with a bountiful bowl of ramen. The tonkotsu always hits with a generous slice of pork belly. Then there’s the umami slap of the tantanmen. Whichever way you go, start with an Old Fashioned for that preshow oomph.

Con Huevos
It’s almost impossible for newcomers to break into the local taco pantheon. However, owner Hugo Garcia was more than fit for the task (yes, 2019 still counts as "new" in the city’s taco game). Traditional fillings like picadillo and carne guisada have uncommon zip, and the flour tortillas perfectly seesaw between the fluff and chef. And should one down too many Bud Lights during a rodeo jaunt, there’s no better restorative than fideo loco.

The Dakota
Food aside, this East Side icehouse is as snug as an old sweatshirt. That alone makes it a welcome respite before being dazzled by carnival lights. But it also dishes out solid comfort food like pizza, tacos, and loaded fries. Yes, that’s the type of bar food one craves with a pint. The Dakota does it one better, mixing shishito peppers with kielbasa and spooning Wagyu chili on a Frito pie.

Dignowity Meats
This is Texas, dagnabbit, and we like our burnt ends. Perhaps that’s why this East Side shack throws them in any dish imaginable. The beefy bits crown a baked potato loaded with sharp mac ‘n’ cheese and anchor a melt with the unexpected crunch of sliced pear. They festoon corn chips and potato rolls and can be munched alone by purists. That’s probably enough, but we haven’t gotten to the must-try hot chicken.

The Frontier Club
Don’t miss a minute of the action by grabbing a bite at this on-site restaurant, conveniently located in the Hall of Fame breezeway. Though it is open to the public for weekday lunch, spring for a membership to enjoy the raucous honky-tonk nights. It’s $100 and benefits the Junior Livestock Auction and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Scholarship Fund. Three real ones can be invited as guests.

The Magpie
The little bistro that could paused in January for a refresh, so there’s no word yet on what menu chef Jŭngsūk “Sue” Kim has dreamed up for its return. Past hits have included luscious lamb ragu, chili-flecked pork belly, and airy milk bread. Expect the same mix of European and Asian flavors served during the February bookings — paired with one of the city’s most captivating wine lists.

Surtierra Cantina
There’s not much information available about this new food court attraction. But it will serve Surtierra Tequila, the San Antonio Rodeo’s official libation. That’s good enough.

Sweet Yams
Bring a little balance to your rodeo diet by lunching at this health-minded spot. From veggie po’boys to blackened salmon, the menu has plenty of giddy up — though it is hard to resist the gooey three-cheese mac. Even that is gluten-free, and the sides are both decadent and vegan. A little lightness is a blessing before a spin on the Zipper.

Tucker’s Kozy Korner
Nudie suits, patchwork poly shirts, and fuchsia Rocky Mountain jeans. This East Side staple has probably seen it all. Trapped in midcentury amber and with an impeccably curated jukebox, it’s the perfect time warp hangout before seeing a nostalgia act like Bret Michaels or Ronnie Milsap. Pan-Asian treats like brisket eggrolls, pork dumplings, and bún bowls are relatively new but take nothing away from the retro glamor.

Van de Wall Fajita Corral
Hundreds of volunteers dish out tons of steak, chicken, and brisket tacos at this long-running attraction adjacent to the food court, all in service of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition Inc. Scholarship Fund. Plus, there's ribs! Yes, Belinda Carlisle, heaven is a place on earth.

Courtesy of Wurstfest

Beat the crowds for a weekday jaunt through Wurstfest

Wurst Week

San Antonians could stop by their favorite after-work haunts for happy hour this week, but New Braunfels, a relatively short drive away, can offer a lot more.

Wurstfest is in full swing again, coming out of its first weekend of 2022 festivities. This year’s fest runs from November 4-13, spreading that massive population influx across two weekends, and shorter days in between. Sweetening the pot, admission is free from Monday to Thursday.

Realistically, although the German food is at least half the draw, Wurstfest could be called Bierfest with the sheer volume of beers it serves. And they’re not expecting too many visitors drinking before business hours end in the rather quaint New Braunfels. So, Wurstfest starts at 5 pm on weekdays, but the five hours it’s open (ending at 10 pm) offer plenty of ways to pass the time.

All weekdays start with live music at 5:30 pm on all five stages across the old German grounds. (For those who haven’t visited, this is basically a theme park: visitors wander through timber framed beer halls, past many, many concession stands, down the Comal River to a fairground, all without stepping out of Germany, it seems.) From those opening sets, there’s near-constant music on three of the stages.

Most of the entertainment comes from live music and the novelty of wandering around amongst the lederhosen and dirndls. (Those drinking less than friends should strongly consider bringing a book — this is from experience.) But there is some light programming every day to break up the drinking and dancing, especially for visitors with kids.

Monday promises a science show and masskrugstemmen (beer holding) contest. On Tuesday, more beers are held and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider make an appearance. Wednesday brings, you guessed it, more beer holding, and a magic show. On Thursday, kids can hear some storytelling, and Friday, Veteran’s Day, honors veterans with a salute. Following crowds will also bring visitors to shopping, sausage-making demonstrations, and children’s fair rides.

Perhaps needless to say, the food is legitimately excellent; this is, at its heart, a culinary event, and serves more than standard fried fair foods. Obviously, sausage is a great choice, but there are potatoes, gravy, pickles, and sauerkraut to go around. Returning revelers are thrilled to share their best recommendations for the food and imported beers. Pacing yourself, three to five hours is a very reasonable stretch for trying as much as possible and returning to old favorites.

Wurstfest tickets (free Monday to Thursday, $18 online for the weekend) are available now at wurstfest.com, along with more information and entertainment schedules.

Photo courtesy of Main Event

Entertainment chain Main Event serves up new restaurant at San Antonio locations

Bonus Event

Main Event, the entertainment chain known for its arcade games, sports, and prizes, can’t resist adding even more to its roster. With two San Antonio-area locations (one on North Loop 1604 East and one on TX-151), the games are still the main event, but now dinner is taken care of too — not just a few items at a concession window, but a full restaurant called Family Kitchen that boasts “nearly 50 new and unique menu items.”

These items start with the standard arcade food staples — burgers, sandwiches, pizza — but Family Kitchen applies its own spins for a more creative menu. Whereas before, the entertainment venue served many more generic items, Family Kitchen revamped every item to make sure it was unique to the restaurant, in addition to adding new ones.

A Triple Lava Burger comes with cheese and cheese sauce; a PBB&J Burger combines the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a less-expected blueberry jam and a totally left-field burger, bacon, and cheese; and chicken wings come in eight different sauces and rubs, including a Nashville hot blend and a lemon pepper rub.

“Family Kitchen was developed with extra care, attention to detail and a focus on premium quality ingredients,” said Chef Wiley Bates III, director of culinary innovation at Main Event Entertainment, in a press release. “We’re excited for our guests to experience our new menu offerings, which have been seasoned with salt, pepper and love, and added playfulness that customers experience throughout the rest of the Main Event center.”

As expected at the arcade, the first priority across much of this menu is shareables, including loaded fries, nachos, and pizzas. The shareability does start with volume, with “Family Feasts” bundling commonly ordered items for four to six people, but it also means more inclusive options like vegan Beyond Meat substitutes and salads. Mocktails are also available, although the presence of a “Cotton Candy Shirley” makes it clear these selections are more about being fun for kids than catering to sober adults. (Alcoholic drinks are available at the bar or the restaurant, but are not included on the online menu.)

“The Family Kitchen was largely inspired by Main Event’s brand promise to be a place for families to bond,” said Main Event Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Zickefoose. “From shareable favorites with our Family Feasts to offering something tasty and memorable for everyone in the family….”

Main Event may remind visitors of Dave & Buster’s, for good reason: the two entertainment and food venues are owned and operated by the same parent company. Dave & Buster’s, initially from Dallas, is the significantly larger brand with 148 stores, but Main Event is catching up. The latter is founded and headquartered in Coppell, Texas, and now has 52 locations. Main Event centers are also more kid-focused, and typically larger than those in the Dave & Buster’s, since they offer games like laser tag and escape rooms.

Family Kitchen is accessible to any visitors, whether or not they play any games, but there are food and game bundles to streamline the experience. More information about Main Event and the new restaurant are available at mainevent.com.

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Irish pub barrels onto Broadway

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

After installing tons of wood paneling, locals Phil and Gina Bentley have transformed the former home of Picante Grill at 3810 Broadway into an intimate Emerald Isle hideaway. The Cottage Irish Pub debuted on September 23 after months of construction. Although the space is traditional, the kitchen serves a few unconventional dishes. Expect to see Ruben eggrolls, veggie paninis, and fish tacos alongside more standard fare like fish ‘n’ chips and beef stew. On tap are favorites like Guinness and Harp, and the well features an enviable selection of whisky.

Celebrity chef Johnny Hernandez celebrated the long-awaited opening of the fifth La Gloria location on September 27. The fifth location for the Interior Mexican chain, the Brooks outpost will be only open for dinner as it irons out the kinks. According to an Instagram post from Hernandez, lunch service will begin in approximately two weeks.

Recovery-minded eatery Comfort Café is now serving downtown via a food truck in the Heidgen House courtyard at 121 Starr St. Introducing itself with a soft opening on September 27, the trailer dishes up familiar fare like pancakes, chicken and waffles, and grilled cheese sandwiches. As with the other locations, the truck follows a pay-what-you-can model and benefits sobriety nonprofit Serenity Star.

More mobile munchies can be found on the South Side, where food truck park Rancho 181 celebrated its grand opening on September 17. Though the family-friendly space has not announced any permanent food vendors, it is already hosting live music performances and other community events.

Other news and notes

Prolific local bar owner Jeret Peña is taking on Alamo heights mainstay Broadway 5050 as his next venture. In a partnership with owner PJ Gottsacker, Peña will be revitalizing the food and beverage menus to breathe new life into the concept­ — a San Antonio institution since 1935.

Joel Rivas, head of the Saint City Culinary Foundation, has been named one of Bon Appetit’s "Heads of the Table" for 2022. The annual listings, which honor personalities that make the food scene more inclusive and uplifting, zeroes in on Rivas’ work with Heard, a mental health nonprofit targeting the service industry.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."



6 San Antonio exhibits to warm your heart and soul this February

State of the Arts

All you need is art this month in Alamo City with fresh and fearless exhibits: Some will tickle your fancy; others, your psyche. Explore JooYoung Choi’s imaginary world at The Contemporary, or immerse yourself in the history of the Mexican-American War of 1848 with representations from various artists at the Centro Cultural Aztlan. Guy Blair brings San Antonio’s unhoused population into careful focus with painted portraits at the Semmes Gallery, while the San Antonio Museum of Art transports viewers into “Roman Landscapes” providing birds-eye perspectives and fantastical views. There's something for everyone this February.

Centro Cultural Aztlan

“Segundo de Febrero: Chicana/Chicano Reunion” — Now through February 24
February 2 marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The landmark treaty ended the Mexican-American War, redistributed the border, and created a new bicultural population. In this exhibition, a group of celebrated artists will explore the impact of broken treaties, new borders, and their effects on Latino, Chicano, and indigenous history and culture.

The Contemporary at Blue Star

“JooYoung Choi: Songs of Resilience from the Tapestry of Faith” — February 3 through May 7
Through painting, video, sculpture, animation, music ,and installation art, multidisciplinary world-builder JooYoung Choi documents the interconnecting narratives of a highly structured, expansive, fictional land she calls the "Cosmic Womb." Her work explores issues of identity, belonging, trauma, and resilience through the sci-fi/fantasy genre. This exhibition introduces the Cosmic Womb multiverse and highlights some of its key characters and narratives. In creating a world that explores loss, healing, and growth based upon a connective web of belief and faith in oneself, Choi expresses human resiliency and the strength that can be found through the power of storytelling.

Centro de Artes

“Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art” — February 9 through July 2
Soy de Tejas presents the works of 40 native Texan and Texas-based contemporary artists who reflect the diverse and beautiful complexity of Latinx identities. The more than 100 artworks forge new connections and explore intersections from a nexus of artists who ambitiously blaze a trail of contemporary artmaking, presenting fresh Latinx perspectives and experiences while amplifying the voices of a segment of Texas' most inspiring established and emerging artists. “The exhibit explores themes ranging from race, class, and gender to migration, mythmaking, displacement, and indigeneity," says curator Rigoberto Luna on the gallery's website. "In contrast, many works center on celebrating joyful customs, culture, and traditions that unite and sustain our communities in the face of a multitude of challenges."

Semmes Gallery - University of the Incarnate Word

“Homeless in San Antonio” — February 17 through March 17
Guy Blair is largely self-taught as an artist in the medium of pastels and watercolor. He always wanted “to do” art but was devoted to his ministry as a priest. For the past 40 years as a Catholic priest, he has ministered to both the deaf and homeless communities. In the past eight years, he has seriously paid attention to his desire to paint. This exhibit is a blending of his service to the homeless as well as his interest in art. “As we walk by homeless people on the streets of San Antonio, most people tend to look through them or judge them as perhaps deserving of the situation they are in,” Blair said in an artist statement. “This attitude allows people to build an emotional barrier, giving them permission not to connect with the homeless as destitute people whose suffering and tears are as real as our own.”

The Carver Cultural Community Center

“Alain Gakwaya"— February 23 through April 14
Alain Gakwaya hails from Rwanda and is a self-described, “activist, artist, and adventurer.” His love for art began in the 3rd grade, when his teacher requested that he draw for his entire class. Specializing in portraiture, Gakwaya paints to tell his story and the stories of his homeland. Though he's now based in San Antonio, he draws inspiration from everyday life in Africa and specifically his home country of Rwanda.

San Antonio Museum of Art

Courtesy of the Carver Cultural Community Center

Alain-Gakwaya's work is coming to the Carver Cultural Community Center this month.

“Roman Landscapes: Visions of Nature and Myth from Rome and Pompeii” — February 24 through May 21
The exhibition features 65 wall paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and cameo glass and silver vessels created in Roman Italy between 100 BC and AD 250. “Roman Landscapes” introduces visitors to the cultural and archaeological contexts of Roman landscapes, beginning with mural paintings and relief sculptures that depict coastal villas and rustic shrines. These works display the imaginary aspects of Roman images of the natural world, connecting the genre’s appearance to the political and social upheaval of the late Republic and early Empire. Fantastical views of Egypt and Greece reflect ancient fascination with these celebrated lands incorporated into the Roman Empire. Mythological paintings then reveal landscape scenes as settings for hazardous encounters between humans and the gods.

New ghost tour explores one of the spookiest spots in North Texas

Ghosts of Cowtown

A national travel company is showing off the scary side of the Fort Worth Stockyards with the launch of a brand new ghost tour.

US Ghost Adventures, an Orlando-based company that hosts ghost tours in some of the most haunted cities in the country, has just added Fort Worth to its list of tour locations. The one-hour tour is held nightly at 8 pm and includes eight stops within a one-mile walking distance.

Some of the haunted highlights from the tour include Miss Molly’s Hotel (109 W. Exchange Ave.), a former brothel where unexplained activity – think lights turning on and off, heavy breathing, and footsteps heard on the stairs – have long been documented.

The Stockyards Hotel (109 E. Exchange Ave.), built in 1904, is said to be home to the apparition of its developer, Colonel T.M. Thannisch, as well as rodeo cowboy C.D. “Junior” Colwell, who is said to have committed suicide to avoid jailtime for swindling people.

Tour participants will also visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (2515 Rodeo Plaza), where it’s said the six-foot, four-inch ghost of famed actor John Wayne has been seen admiring the cowboy memorabilia on display – even with a museum dedicated solely to him located just steps way at John Wayne: An American Experience.

While other ghost tours exist in Fort Worth, US Ghost Adventures owner Lance Zaal says his tour specializes in storytelling.

“US Ghost Adventures offers EMF detectors and focuses on telling the history behind the hauntings,” says Zaal.

When paranormal activity takes place, theories suggest electromagnetic disturbances can be seen with electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors. Lights on the detector indicate the strength of the disturbances, with a green light meaning little to no activity, yellow meaning moderate activity, and red meaning high activity.

Fort Worth was one of 12 new cities recently added to the US Ghost Adventures roster, including Houston and El Paso. The company operates tours in more than 50 cities across the country, and full list of new cities include:

The tour is $25 per person and there’s a two-person minimum. There's also an option to add a 30-minute bonus tour of four additional stops for just $6 per person.

Reservations should be made in advance online, and participants should meet at the Livestock Exchange Building at 131 E. Exchange Ave.