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 weekly roundup of essential food news.
A new River North watering hole made its official debut on March 3. River Sun has been sporadically open for service since November but is now regularly operating Tuesday through Sunday. The psychedelic interior provides a suitable trippy setting for cocktails like Pact of the Forest (using pecan-washed Bourbon), and The River Speaks (a tequila concoction with clarified lime and jalapeño pearls).
Psst! A new brunch spot is bubbling up in Stone Oak. In a social media post, Mimosa Gossip said it was “do days or less” from opening. The concept hasn’t posted any details about the food offerings. Still, it will feature several flavors of its namesake drink and assumably a safe place to shade your second cousin.
Weeks after Palestinian conceptSaha announced a series of pop-ups at Little Death, another concept has begun a residency at the St. Mary’s strip wine bar. Akhany Coffee Roasters will be slinging Thai-inspired coffee drinks Thursday and Friday, 7:30 am-1 pm, and Saturday, 8 am-1:30 am for the “next few weeks,” according to an Instagram post. The business’ original trailer isn’t going anywhere, however, and will still sling caffeine Wednesday to Sunday, 8 am-2 pm.
Other news and notes
Alamo Beer Co. is putting some va-va-voom into its programming with an April 29 party devoted to pinup legend Bettie Page. The event will feature live music from Pavel Demon & the Revenant and Solitary Runaway, a lookalike contest hosted by Taffy Cardenas and Samantha Deathray, and a mini car and bicycle show. Admission is free for the shindig, which runs from 3-10 pm.
Move over Choco Tacos. Taco Cabana has introduced another unlikely dessert treat. Chocolate Chimis will delight local sugar monsters by filling two chocolate chimichangas (natch) with chocolate cream cheese. The treats are available for $2.99 at all locations.
Medical Center might have some of San Antonio’s most unsung restaurants, but it isn’t exactly a scenic drive. So business owner John Vale decided to give the area a little zip.
The owner of Alamo Biscuit Co. and Panaderia has decided to transform his storefront via a humungous 1,300-square-foot mural with an Alamo City Twist. Although high winds have somewhat delayed the project, Vale expects it to be ready for close-ups in two weeks.
The goal was to create a fun photo op for customers and passers-by. A sort of “Where’s Waldo” game of the eatery’s offerings, the mural includes menu items like pancakes, coffee, bacon, and pastries. There are also visual nods to the River Walk and Alamo, and a few whimsical elements such as a rendering of Vale’s dalmatian, Cookie, and a red-wattled stranger decked out in Willie Nelson’s garb.
The centerpiece, however, is a bike with giant concha wheels. The element was designed to be interactive; guests can hop on for a selfie. Extra points if they hold one of Alamo’s pink-hued sweet rolls in the frame.
To complete the gargantuan task, Vale enlisted friends Nicholas Monroe and Jonah LaMonica of Scribe Werks. The process took months of sketching and planning, hours of work, and over 200 cans of spray paint. Rustoleum, give them a sponsorship deal.
Once completed, the mural will give guests another reason to journey to 9630 Huebner Road. But they definitely shouldn’t make it a drive-by. Chef Caesar Zepeda’s accessible menu of brunch classics equally deserves a spot on the ‘gram.
The sixth annual United We Brunch brings together the city's top brunch spots for the ultimate brunch event. Guests will enjoy brunch samples, breakfast cocktails, beer and bubbles, live music, DJs, and more. Visitors can also cast their votes as the event crowns the best Brunch Cocktail and Brunch Bite purveyors in the city.
SweetFire Kitchen at La Cantera Resort & Spa will present the Grinch’s Brunch Feast. The feast menu includes roast beast; Who mashed potatoes; Horton’s cereal-crusted French toast; Truffla tree pancakes; Cindy Lu fruits and vegetables; candy cane macaroons; beezlenut splash; and more.
The Grinch will be available for photos with children, and guests can enjoy a private reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” narrated by the Grinch.
Five dollars from every ticket sold benefits Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
There's still something romantic about meeting someone you really click with over a meal, and it looks great to suggest a cool, delicious restaurant for that first get-together. But it also adds to the pressure: According to a press release, an OpenTable and YouGov survey found that the top “stressor” for people going on first dates is “picking the right spot/activity.”
To address that unfortunate idea gap, OpenTable and Bumble teamed up to create a dining guide in 2021, listing the 100 Best Restaurants for a Date in America. This year, they reprised the popular list across Bumble’s three verticals — romance, friendship, and business — and three of those standout restaurants are in San Antonio.
“At Bumble, we’re fueled by bringing people together to build genuine connections across every stage of their life: dating, making friends and professional connections,” said Olivia Yu, Bumble’s global vice president of partnerships, in the release. “We saw great feedback from our community following our partnership with OpenTable last fall … [and] couldn’t wait to partner with OpenTable again.”
Before going any further, it’s time to acknowledge any weirdness in categorization. The methodology compared user ratings on OpenTable to determine the “best” restaurants, and then sorted them based on tags indicating whether each was "romantic," “good for groups,” and “good for business meals.” Although Bumble and OpenTable teamed up for this, the data is all automated.
Austin also scored three restaurants on the lists, with a lot more variety. For dates, sushi restaurant Uchiko charms as always, and Trattoria Lisina (technically out in Driftwood) transports visitors to Italy. Both restaurants are often cited as must-tries, and have earned their popularity in large part because of atmosphere. One other Austin restaurant, Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, made the friendship list; none made the business list.
“People are craving connection, and partnering with Bumble to debut curated diner guides means skipping the dreaded ‘where should we go’ question and instead focusing on nailing that first impression,” said OpenTable chief growth officer Susan Lee in the release. “The win-win is that this movement for in-person socialization also supports the still-recovering dining scene.”
Now through August 18, these lists will pop up for users in Bumble, who can swipe for a link giving recommendations. Those who would like to browse more intentionally can view the lists on OpenTable. All can book, and if they don't agree with this year's lists, feel free to leave the reviews that build next year's.
Life in the restaurant industry is complicated, but Texas does love its chefs.
Zach Knight, an Austin restaurant industry vet of 12 years, was on a gondola in Aspen with his friend Emmie Nostitz when the idea for Tivity was born in 2020. Knight received a call from a client, if he could call them that, asking to be connected with an Austin chef for a private at-home dinner. He had been making those personal connections to keep the restaurant spirit alive during the pandemic, but it wasn’t a business yet.
Nostitz, a creative director in advertising living in New York, saw that call as the signal it was: there was a market for this kind of connection. For the next six months, Knight and Nostitz traded calls and texts full of incidental ideas for an informal product slowly unfolding.
One of Knight's calls included an acknowledgment (that Tivity had to be real) and an invitation (that Nostitz should join, no pressure). Like many New Yorkers ready for a change, Nostitz found herself in Austin for a visit two weeks later, and for a home in 2021.
Tivity has branched out since then — with markets in Austin, Aspen, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago — but the service is still in a sweet spot between having an established community, and enjoying total freedom within its own system. It's not even tied to those markets; anywhere an individual chef is willing to travel is fair game, with nearby places like San Antonio representing a great opportunity to build lasting new cross-city relationships. That ethos extends to everything Tivity does. Most questions about how the service works are met with a question back: “How do you need it to work?”
As of July 2022, there’s a Google form to get things started. It asks about the necessary logistics, and opens up to “vibe.” The text boxes solicit information on the purpose of the event, the desired feel, and the type of guests, but notably, not the name of any chef or restaurant. But pulling from a wide pool of talent — sous chefs, chefs de cuisine, chef teams, and more from recognizable local restaurants — it’s hard to choose wrong.
“I think one of the best representations of what we do is a dating app. We are a matchmaker for chefs and clients,” says Knight. “We know what the chefs do, we know what the clients want, and we are matchmaking those experiences.”
Like a consultant, Tivity offers an opinion, or at least an idea. The team has noticed patterns early in conversations — clients choosing the same chefs and the same types of plates, again and again — that keep the service unnecessarily restricted.
“They say we want the chicken or the steak, and they don't know how to think outside the box,” says Nostitz, putting that paralysis of choice in sharp focus. “We end up talking to them and offering a Peruvian meal that they never, ever would have thought about.”
One of Tivity’s earliest, most defining meals took place during a more restrictive phase of the pandemic, for a client organizing her husband’s birthday. She requested steak. When she and Knight started planning over the phone, she mentioned that they would usually be in Spain, but couldn’t travel for birthday festivities. Tivity connected the couple with a chef to recreate “the dinner they would have had [in Spain],” who made a Spanish cake that caused the birthday celebrant to shed a tear over dessert.
“Before Uber, having a black car pick you up was getting a chauffeur,” says Knight, “and having a chef in your home was only stuff you saw on TV. We're really trying to bring that down so that it's a common idea.”
They’re succeeding. Tivity can get things started for a custom meal 24 hours after receiving a form, with about a month recommended in advance. Taking into account the huge variability Tivity offers (and the flexibility of pricing necessary to sustain that), a simple buffet-style spread could run a client in a home city roughly the same bill per person as most of the lower priced prix fixe menus around town on holidays. Meal preps are priced even lower, but for bigger budgets, a plated course dinner is comparable to one at top restaurants in Texas.
It’s as ready for an exclusive corporate celebration as it is for girls’ night. And hopefully, the duo says, it can make life easier on chefs, too, who suddenly have the chance to get creative and build a brand outside of the kitchen, to make some cash on the side, or even to offset a leisure trip near a far-away client.
Both Knight and Nostitz talk about the life-changing potential of food, for chefs and for everyone else at the table. Why should we be picky about whose table it is?
More information about Tivity, including an in-depth inquiry form and transparent pricing, is available at thetivity.com.
A new clinical trial is underway for an alternative method to lumbar spinal fusion surgery. Orthopedic medical center Ortho San Antonio and orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Anton Jorgensen announced the BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement trial using a “first-of-its-kind” technology called the 3Spine MOTUS device.
3Spine is a healthcare company focused on integrating development, research, and execution of lower back total joint replacement. The combination of the 3Spine procedure and the MOTUS device aim to address leg pain, back pain, and spinal instability. The surgery implements reconstruction of the functional spinal unit to treat degenerative disease.
Dr. Jorgensen was trained by fellow orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Hodges, the co-founder and medical director of 3Spine. Dr. Jorgensen said in a press release that he is proud to be the first Texas surgeon to participate in an important clinical trial of this type. He encouraged the community to keep in mind the challenges that come with spinal fusion surgery while searching for “new and innovative solutions to improve patient care.”
“This is something new I had to learn and practice, but I am convinced that MOTUS has the potential to fundamentally change the way I treat degenerative lumbar disease,” he said.
The first surgeries in the trial were completed at the Foundation Surgical Hospital of San Antonio. 3Spine Inc. is seeking certain patients with single-level lumbar spine disease and lumbar degeneration to participate in the study. Patients interested in the clinical trial in San Antonio can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Even dogs deserve a little pampering. Dogtopia, an innovative doggy daycare and spa in San Antonio, is growing their reach with the grand opening of a new Alamo Ranch location, with a fourth new location planned for Alamo Heights later this month.
The award-winning facility has gained so much love from the local community thanks to its thoughtful design approach and programming. All aspects of Dogtopia centers around providing the utmost care for your furry best friends. Dogs are separated by size and temperament into one of three playrooms to ensure the best daycare experience without causing any stress.
In addition to their daycare, Dogtopia also has boarding and grooming services for your companions. They have a firm belief that all dogs can benefit from doggy daycare, because it increases their socialization skills and lessens any repressed anxiety.
Every dog goes through an intake process consisting of a meet-and-greet session to view the dog’s paperwork, behavioral history, and their health. Thorough assessments are also made to distinguish any physical sensitivities a dog could have. The intake process is necessary for the safety of all dogs under Dogtopia’s care.
Dogtopia’s team members, dubbed “Canine Coaches,” are more than just playroom attendants. Every coach is required to complete a curriculum program designed by a registered canine behaviorist, all with the goal of the animals receiving the proper care and attention they need. The curriculum has been approved by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). That’s not all of their training; team members also complete canine behaviorist-designed training on body language, behavior, and health.
Dogtopia’s new Alamo Ranch location is now open at 11726 Alamo Ranch Parkway. Other locations in San Antonio include one in Stoke Oak and one on De Zavala Road. A fourth location in Alamo Heights is expected to open later in March.
More information about Dogtopia’s services can be found on dogtopia.com.
Located in a two-hour triangle between Austin and San Antonio is Kerrville, the official capital of the Texas Hill Country. Founded in 1889 with a spirit of innovation, the city still holds fast to its entrepreneurial roots as the home of James Avery Artisan Jewelry and a plethora of galleries, museums, and shops.
It's also an outdoor lover's dream. Kerrville is situated along the banks of the Guadalupe River, which serves as the map for the multi-use Kerrville River Trail and provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Here are more activities to discover during your time in Kerrville:
Art for all
The world-famous brand James Avery Artisan Jewelry calls Kerrville home, and visitors can learn about the history of the company in a museum-like setting while also shopping for their very own piece of jewelry to take home.
The company's presence is felt throughout the city, most notably with the popular Mother's Love James Avery memorial sculpture right outside the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center. This is one of the 28 public art pieces dotted throughout downtown — keep an eye out for “Lupe” the Guadalupe Bass in Louise Hays Park and the “Welcome To Kerrville” mural.
Find peace with the The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden, featuring eight bronze sculptures inspired by Christian scriptures, including a seven-story-tall steel cross, that are surrounded by a prayer rock garden.
Visit the campus of the Hill Country Arts Foundation in nearby Ingram and come face to face with Stonehenge II, a nearly life-size replica of the famous stones in England that also include two 13-foot-tall Easter Island head copies.
Head into the 20,000-square-foot Rivers Edge Gallery to view an expansive variety of contemporary and traditional artwork, or explore life during the frontier days at The Museum of Western Art. The museum also offers workshops on such skills as leather working and candle making.
The Schreiner Mansion Historic Site, built by former Texas Ranger Charles Schreiner, offers a guided tour of the mansion with history on the family that ran a major department store in Kerrville (now Schreiner Goods) and established the Schreiner Institute, now known as Schreiner University.
Catch live music and other events at the iconic Arcadia Live Theater, see a play in the intimate black box VK Garage Theater, or pay tribute to Point Theatre, the oldest-running outdoor theater in Texas. The Kathleen C. Cailloux City Center for the Performing Arts also hosts Symphony of the Hills, nationally acclaimed musicians, and theater performances by Playhouse 2000.
Events for everyone
There's something for every season here, with the spring bringing the Kerrville Easter Festival (held this year on April 8, 2023) and the Kerrville Easter Bike Ride (April 7-9, 2023).
The Texas Masters of Fine Art Show (May 26-28, 2023) overlaps with the famous Kerrville Folk Festival (May 25-June 11, 2023), and the height of summer brings Kerrville’s Fourth on the River, scheduled for July 4.
Fall sees the Kerrville Triathlon Festival and the Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair on the same weekend — September 23-24, 2023 — with the Kerrville RiverFest and Kerrville Chalk Festival following October 14 and 15, 2023.
The Texas Furniture Makers Show is scheduled for November 2-December 15, 2023, and lots of folks turn out for the Kerrville Renaissance Festival that runs weekends in late January and early February.
Kerrville’s mild weather allows for outdoor activities year-round. Hop aboard the Hill Country River Rat, a unique outdoor river activity where visitors can peddle to provide horsepower on a 25-foot-long, custom-made, 12-passenger pontoon boat.
Aside from water fun on the Guadalupe River, biking is also a popular outdoor activity. Pedal leisurely on the 10-foot-wide Kerrville River Trail, the city’s unofficial crown jewel, that parallels the Guadalupe for six miles. You can also walk your dog, go for a run, or relax on a bench and spot birds in the shade of Kerrville’s signature cypress trees.
There are multiple trail segments and trailheads that can be accessed along the Kerrville River Trail, notably Kerrville-Schriener Park and Louise Hays Park.
At 517 acres, Kerrville-Schriener is the largest municipal park in Kerrville, offering plenty of green space with a playground, butterfly garden, sand volleyball, basketball, 10-plus miles of hike and bike trails, river access, and more.
The popular Louise Hays Park features an interactive fountain, a playground, pavilions, trail heads, numerous picnic areas, and a stage that hosts music and dance performances. Louise Hays Park is also home to a variety of special events, such as Get Outdoors Day, Kerrville’s Fourth on the River, and the Kerrville Triathlon Festival.
To learn about the different critters and creatures that call Kerrville home, the Riverside Nature Center is the perfect place to explore. Wander through the gardens, educational exhibits, a gift shop, and much more.
Additional outdoor activities include golfing at Kerrvilles’ three golf courses — Scott Schreiner Golf Course, Comanche Trace, and The Riverhill Country Club — playing tennis at the HEB Tennis Center, and hunting at Y.O. Ranch or Shonto Ranch.
Time to eat
Enjoy dining with a view of the Hill Country and the Guadalupe River while exploring the craft food and beverage scene when you dine in Kerrville. From upscale dining experiences and wine tasting opportunities to delicious taco and coffee spots on the go, there's no shortage of choices.
For a meal with a view, check out 1011 Bistro, Cafe at the Ridge, Thai Ocha, Pinnacle Grill, and Billy Gene’s. Texas tacos are obviously a must, so head to El Sol De Mexico, Mary’s Tacos, Taqueria Jalisco, El Jimador Restaurant & Bar, and Rita’s Famous Tacos.
Make sure to sample the local libations during your stay — Kerrville is located in the Hill Country after all. Turtle Creek Olives & Vines, Kerrville Hills Winery, and Wine-O-Bout It satisfy vino connoisseurs, while craft brew enthusiasts will cheers to options like Pint & Plow Brewing Co., Basement Brewers of Texas, and Trailhead Beer Garden.
Other popular eateries include Bumdoodlers Lunch Company, Francisco’s Restaurant, Grape Juice, and Rails: A Cafe at The Depot.
Shop to it
Visitors flock to downtown Kerrville to explore upscale shops as well as unique boutiques and antique stores. Schreiner Goods stocks a curated selection of women’s clothing, accessories, and stylish home goods, while Rustic Elegance is a home furnishing aficionado's dream store.
Stop by Creations, a destination for fabric artists; shop for crystals and other mystical items at The Fairy Moon Emporium; or go antique hunting at Sunrise Antique Mall. Of course, shopping for a piece of James Avery jewelry is a given while in Kerrville!
Rest your head
The River Trail Cottages are a fun way to depart from the normal hotel experience, with a unique variety of retro overnight options like Motor Court Cottages, newly built midcentury-themed Depot Alley or River View cottages, and vintage RVs filled with modern amenities.
At the River House, all guest rooms offer direct access to the river and the Kerrville River Trail that leads straight through downtown. The facilities also come with grills, bicycles, river floats, fishing poles, kayaks, and backyard games.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Guadalupe River Camp Resort is the perfect place for families traveling with little ones. Enjoy putt-putt, jumbo-sized jumping pillows, laser tag, playgrounds, and a water slide park.
For those looking for a resort feel, a stay at Inn of the Hills Hotel & Conference Center is an excellent choice. The hotel features a courtyard, swimming pools, 21,000-square-foot conference center, delicious dining at the full-service restaurant, and the Inn Pub, which features entertainment on the weekends and is the only dance hall in Kerrville.