Roots salad Kitchen/ Facebook

Our only regret for Black Restaurant Week San Antonio? There are only so many meals we can eat in a day. So we’ve learned to form a game plan before diving into the dozens of restaurants participating in the annual celebration of culture and cuisine.

Founder Ryane Smith’s labor of love, held this year from February 26 to March 5, has become an annual tradition. Each year, participating restaurants agree to donate a dollar from a special to a local charity; this year, the San Antonio Food Bank. That alone is an excellent reason to schedule lingering dinners and mid-day lunches.

But it is also a chance to discover new favorites to return to month after month. Here are a few of ours to get your calendar started.

Carmens de la Calle
For over 20 years, this venue has been delivering la vie boheme to locals via its cozy downtown hideaway. The food pairs nicely with the flamenco often found inside. Order the house paella with chicken, chorizo, and seafood, or order empanadas 72 hours in advance. They come in a mind-boggling assortment of global flavors — everything from the Japanese-inspired Samurai Chicken to beef picadillo.

Kirk’s Jerk
Kirk’s family-run food truck specializes in — what else — jerk chicken. Jamaica’s most famous culinary export is made into tacos, sandwiches, and sliders — and even a salad bowl. That’s just a lip-smacking start. For a limited time, the Converse trailer will also be dishing out oxtails and curry chicken for a complete family feast. All are served with the necessary sides: cabbage, rice and peas, and plantains.

Momma Luv’s
This Northeast Side eatery combines soul and Caribbean cooking in one of the most piquant menus in town. Southern specialties like fried catfish and collard greens can be mixed and matched with island favorites like Jamaican beef patties, plantains, and slow-stewed chicken.

Mr. A. OK’s Kitchen
An industry vet with more than 20 years of experience, chef Steven Harris specializes in the soul food once ubiquitous at Southern meat-and-threes. That means every sandwich and entrée comes with at least one side, a list that covers all the classics — mac ‘n’ cheese, greens, black-eyed peas, dirty rice, fried okra, and more.

Roots Salad Kitchen

It used to be conventional wisdom that people who wanted a healthy meal in San Antonio had to cook it themselves. Not anymore. Spots like Roots are dishing out plenty of veggies and whole grains, all served as a fast-food value meal. Chef Chris Cukjati takes it one step further by introducing a global flavor palate. Chimichurri gives zing to flat iron steak in a Tex-Mex salad; shrimp is paired with crunchy green apples and a sunny orange dressing.

Sweet Yams
A more health-minded take on Southern fare, this East Side eatery offers lean meats, gluten-free bread, and organic produce. All of the sides are vegan, but omnivores might not notice. The red beans and rice is insanely flavorful, thanks to a squirt of sriracha and creamy avocado.

Trices Café & Lounge
Owned by chef Elsie Glasu-Atunuwa, Trices is one of only a handful of restaurants in Alamo City offering West African standards like egusi soup (a nutty comfort food made from blended melon seeds) and jollof rice (a vibrantly spiced dish made in a tomato stew). Try either with a Malta Guinness, a sweet, malty soft drink with just a hint of the familiar stout’s flavor.

Wine 210
This elegant neighborhood wine bar has an intriguing array of bottles, ranging from patio pounders like Field Recording’s Skins to big reds like Longevity Cabernet Sauvignon. The snacks are naturally designed to let the vino shine. Opt for charcuterie, olives, hummus, or a decadent double-chocolate cake.

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Hot San Antonio hotel brings back popular live fire dinner series for fall

Straight fire

Fall is finally upon us, and while we welcome the end of 100 degree days, we're all for the heat at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails, which is bringing back its popular live fire series.

The downtown restaurant, located inside the Hotel Contessa, is reprising a summer series, this time for the fall season. Led by executive chef Michael Collins, the Ambler live fire dinners are a fun, interactive dining experience out on the hotel patio. If you're looking for a way to eat well and stay warm as temperatures (hopefully) cool, the live fire dinner is a guaranteed way to get the best of both worlds.

Chef Collins and his team are essentially hosting a hotel cookout where every item on the plate is grilled. It kicks off with a complimentary welcome cocktail, alongside buttermilk biscuits made with Shiner Bock beer and honey, plus a romaine salad for starters.

Guests will then choose between starters like mesquite-smoked and grilled Texas Akaushi ribeye, cast iron-blackened Gulf mahi-mahi, or mesquite-smoked beer can chicken. These entrees have more than a touch of Texas in the tasty mesquite smoke — and the 22-ounce ribeye and the half-chicken are seriously big portions.

Ambler invited CultureMap to a previous live fire dinner, where the sides were a surprising star. The cast iron-griddled potatoes also caught some smoke from being on the grill, and each dish is only lightly seasoned, to enhance the natural flavors rather than create a new taste.

Reservations for the fall live fire series ($79-$129 per person depending on entree, beverages at additional cost) are available on OpenTable. The fall live fire dinners kick off on September 30, and occur every Saturday all the way through November.

Stylish Barbie merch truck cruises through San Antonio on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop. Actually, this truck will beat the Sanrio version here on September 30.

The Barbie Truck will stop in San Antonio on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourPhoto courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

This is not the first time a Barbie truck has visited San Antonio, but for obvious reasons, it should be in very high demand this time around.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in San Antonio on Saturday, September 30th, from 10 am to 7 pm at North Star Mall. See it in the parking lot on the corner of the 410 access road and McCollough. Arrive early in case of long lines.

These Barbies will hit six other Texas cities on the tour:

  • October 7 — Austin
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • October 21 — Friendswood (Houston)
  • October 28 — The Woodlands (Houston)
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.

Colors change at San Antonio Botanical Garden with new fall events and 10,000 marigolds

Follow the Marigold Road

It may not feel like the seasons are changing yet, but plants notice that kind of thing. As the days get shorter, the rhythms of life at San Antonio Botanical Garden chance, and locals are invited in to feel the shift with new programming.

Starting off with pure excess and sunny fall joy, the garden will be showing off a path of 10,000 marigolds throughout the month of October at "Marigolds en Maravilla." The Oz-like exhibit draws attention to a fall bloom very significant in Hispanic cultures, and perhaps most associated in San Antonio with Día de los Muertos. (The garden celebrates this in its own event on October 21.)

A special event will introduce visitors to the golden display on October 8 with a live performance by local singer-songwriter Azul Barrientos. Guests can take part in marigold printmaking, a community chalk mural, guided tours, marigold planting, and even tasting the flowers. A separate tea party on the same day will teach visitors to make cake and tea out of marigolds; a craft event on October 11 weaves the blooms into headpieces; and more of the flowers turn up in other events across the calendar.

Of course, a family pumpkin patch was a must-have, and there were some opportunities to taste those too, but they have since sold out. Less expectedly, orchids are also prominently featured with their own tour on October 8. According to the garden, the fall is a "fabulous time" to see orchids in bloom.

Two exhibitions will be departing the garden soon: the "Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time" topiary collection, which brought the park even more to life with fantasy creatures; and the "Frida Kahlo Oasis," which replicated some elements of the famous artist's home and displayed plants as she would have.

Other events to look out for this October include:

  • Fall Brews & Blooms: Sunday, October 15 — Guests will assemble on the lawn to enjoy local and regional craft beers and live music.
  • Bootanica: Saturday, October 21 — Halloween comes early at the garden, where families are invited to dress in costume, trick-or-treat, and try hands-on activities taught by Garden Educators. The event is free with the price of admission.
  • Sinister Soiree: Friday, October 27 — This adults-only experience meet-and-greet connects visitors with pop culture villains, teasing a heavy Disney focus in the event imagery. Guests will "sip and sing" along with live performances.
  • 5th Annual Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Fest: Saturday, October 28 — At the intersection of fantasy and Halloween, this less-spooky event focuses on the candy and dress-up with a "fairytale, superhero, and villain" twist, assisted by live characters, live music, and even live animals.

Next up after the fall programming will be the famous Lightscape holiday path, with more than one million lights and a few upgrades from past years. But let's enjoy fall before rushing forward to winter quite yet.

More information about San Antonio Botanical Garden and its extensive fall programming is available at sabot.org.