Recover Texas Ocelots/ Facebook

In Texas, wildlife conservation is far from a simple equation. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, over 93 percent of the state is privately owned, including vital habitats for big cats. Balancing protection measures with the desires of landowners requires a deft hand.

Still, one San Antonio nonprofit is hoping it has found the right formula for ocelot recovery. The East Foundation, a local ranching operation and agricultural research organization, is proposing the Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to support reintroducing species into the wild. A 30-day public comment period began September 15.

Following the proposal, the East Foundation will release ocelots onto a section of its San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg and Starr Counties — an area marked as unoccupied ocelot habitat. Landowners in neighboring counties can voluntarily sign up to allow the cats passage on their acres, exempting them from future conservation activities.

Working with the Recover Texas Ocelots project, East Foundation has assembled large amounts of data on ocelots, ranging from prey habits to behavior with other carnivores. This research informed the organization's conservation strategy.

The need for protection is dire. The distinctively spotted wild cats have been officially listed as endangered since 1982. The state's sole breeding populations live in far South Texas, where much land is devoted to ranching.

"The largest population of ocelots remaining in Texas (and, by extension, the United States) occupies East Foundation ranch land in Willacy County," explains Dr. Jason Sawyer, Chief Science Officer for the East Foundation, via a release. Several estimates place that population between 50 and 100.

"So, we have demonstrated that good land stewardship associated with normal ranching activities is not in conflict with ocelot recovery," he continued, "and we want to continue ranching operations while also providing an opportunity to expand these populations."

Plan details and other conservation efforts can be found online. Comments will be accepted through October 16, with full specifics available at the Federal Register.

"The assurances provided in the Agreement offer a path for lasting and effective partnerships that accomplish conservation goals while removing the barriers that have historically impeded these efforts," said Neal Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer for the East Foundation. "We are excited to lead an effort like this in South Texas, where we successfully operate, and where wildlife conservation and ranching have been vitally important for more than 100 years."

Bellagreen/ Facebook

Green eats, kicking coffee, and migratory mangonadas spice up San Antonio food news


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.

Openings and closings

Dallas fast-casual concept Bellagreen will soon be heading to San Antonio. According to filings with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the "American bistro" will be the second hospitality tenant at the Jefferson Building at 1900 Broadway, the home of hotly anticipated sushi restaurantNineteen Hyaku. Similar to other new additions to the local chain scene, like Seasons 52 and Postino, Bellagreen offers an eclectic mix of upmarket quick cuisine — including Wagyu burgers, brick chicken, and hemp flour empanadas. State records set the completion date in April 2024.

Bucking against the stereotype that Alamo City is a sleepy town, yet another caffeine carpetbagger is landing on local soil. Via a press release, Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii announced plans to open five new locations in San Antonio, joining out-of-towners Black Rock Coffee Bar, Dutch Bros. Coffee, and PJs Coffee of New Orleans in the race siphon off Starbucks' gas. Company officials, however, did not share the neighborhoods it was targeting for a spring debut.

Snack shop Big Daddy's Eats and Treats has shuttered its Cevallos Street location, but locals need not get into a stew. Via Instagram, owner Jaime Morales explained that the business is temporarily operating out of Burgerteca, located a few blocks from the original outpost. The stopgap move will give diners access to desperately needed raspas while Morales converts one of the complex's silos into a forever home.

Other news and notes

Adelita Tamales & Tortilla Factory has reopened after a car crashed through its building on September 9. In a Facebook update, the 85-year-old business shared that it quickly partitioned off the damaged portion of the building to allow some production to resume. However, the corn tortilla machine, which took the brunt of the collision, remains inoperable.

Popular Tastemade personality Frank Celenza is taking a detour through River City for his latest show, Worth the Hype. The series dives into some of the most buzzworthy restaurants to learn the secrets behind their signature dishes. The San Antonio stop includes visits to Alebrije, Box Street All Day, Curry Boys BBQ, and Ray's Drive Inn.

Ahead of its October launch, Make Ready Market is offering a sneak peek of four of its upcoming concepts on September 22 at Three Star Bar. The pop-up will feature bites and brews from Buje, Eet-up, Idle Brewing, and Pescado Bravo for a $10 ticket. Proceeds will benefit Slow Boogie's, an altruistic root beer trailer providing jobs for Eastside youth.

20 area nonprofits are rising to GroupRaise Krispy Kreme Back-to-School Fall Fundraising Challenge. The nationwide competition invites locals to support their favorite charities by purchasing a dozen (or more) glazed doughnuts from midnight to 11:59 pm on September 14. A portion of the sales will be donated to participating organizations, and the top 10 doughnut slingers will get an additional donation.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Coalition of San Antonio cultural organizations band together to offer Maui wildfire relief


Viewing the devastation that ripped through Lahaina, Hawaii on August 8, it's easy to be disconsolate. But it's heartening to see fundraising endeavors gain momentum nationwide. San Antonio is no different, with many rising to the occasion to send relief to the island.

The latest effort comes from a group of four San Antonio organizations rallying support for the Imua Maui Relief Fund, an initiative aimed at aiding the children and families whose lives have been severely disrupted by the recent natural disaster. The San Antonio Zoo, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, Witte Museum, and the Will Smith Foundation (not related to the famous actor) have banded together to encourage donations to the vital cause.

Managed by Imua Family Services, a longstanding Maui nonprofit, the fund will ensure that the money raised will have a tangible impact on the Lahaina community. As a clearer picture of the damage emerges, the organization will adapt to meet the shifting needs of the community.

Susan Naylor, the founder of the Will Smith Foundation, shares a personal connection with the cause. After losing her eight-year-old son in a car crash near Lahaina, she developed a profound bond with the island — creating the Will Smith Imua Discovery Garden in his memory.

"I've been told there is a magnetic energy, or beat, on Maui," Naylor explains via a release. "[The island] pulls the people in she wants and sends the others home ... The island has chosen me, and through these years, I've worked to help the children in Maui through Will's foundation."

Contributions to the Imua Maui Relief Fund can be made online, offering San Antonians the chance to stand in solidarity with the affected Maui community. The collaboration between the San Antonio organizations provides a direct way to help, removing the confusion that often occurs after a natural disaster.

"There is a message in this great disaster that has occurred on our island," Naylor says. "It's a message to come together and be Maui strong. So I'm appealing to my hometown San Antonio to help restore the spirit—mana—of Maui, whose people will always be in my heart."

Pride Center San Antonio/ Facebook

Lady Gaga foundation rains on San Antonio with Pride Month donation


With America's currently overheated political climate, this year's Pride Month has been unusually contentious. But leave it to Lady Gaga to spiff it up with a little sparkle.

As the month's festivities draw to a close, the pop icon's Born This Way Foundation has teamed up with nonprofit CenterLink to give $250,000 to selected LGBTQ-plus community centers across the United States — including Pride Center San Antonio.

The move is natural for the organization founded by Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta. Since 2012, the wellness nonprofit has been working with youth to "make the world kinder and brave."

CenterLink, an international network devoted to buttressing LGBTQ-plus community organizations, zeroed in on regions where queer youth are currently facing discriminatory state legislation, a factor — according to a 2022 Trevor Project study — leading to mental health disparities in the population.

Funds will help the selected centers provide essential services like counseling, healthcare, and education while empowering the organizations to fight for civil rights and inclusive policies. Locally, Pride Center provides vital programs like case management, safe zone training for allies, an empowerment-based summer camp, and group therapy sessions.

Locals can support like-minded organizations by donating to the Pride Fund, helping groups across the nation provide essential resources such as housing, food, and gender-affirming clothing. Direct donations to the Pride Center can be made via their website.

Busted Sandal/ Facebook

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Local brewery teases new Hill Country spot


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.


It looks like beloved brewery Busted Sandal has something brewing in Kerrville. In a playful Instagram post, the local company shared coordinates for a new project coming soon — pointing to the Hill Country town. Little other information is known about the spot, but the post promised an opening day in July.

A new AM café has awoken at 23702 I-10 #108 in Leon Springs. Open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, Mae Dunne Kitchen & Goods serves a variety of dishes, ranging from classic American fare like French toast to Mexican dishes like machacado tacos. The stylish eatery also acts as a retail space, selling artisan home goods, fragrances, and specialty foods.

Market Square’s La Margarita is making a splash in the pop-up game. The popular restaurant has launched Mar de Cortez, a weekend-only concept devoted to fresh seafood like oysters and ceviche. The temporary eatery concept will be open from 11 am-9 pm every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.

Other news and notes

One of San Antonio’s most-respected food journalists passed away on June 8. Chuck Blount, a food writer with a more than 20-year tenure at the San Antonio Express-News, was especially known for his barbecue coverage — paving the way for the barbecue-obsessed media of today and his humorous 75-Second Beer Reviews. Family friends have established a GoFundMe to help with hospice expenses and to provide for Blount’s daughter.

Braunda Smith of Lucy Cooper’s Texas Ice House has created the Blount Burger to raise additional funds for the journalist’s family. The fitting tribute features a four-ounce patty with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, applewood-smoked bacon, Alabama white barbecue sauce, a smoked sausage link, two chicken fried onion rings, and a drizzle of Coca-Cola barbecue sauce. The burger will be available beginning June 9.

Looking for another way to do good while enjoying some of the city’s best burgers? San Antonio Burger Week is back June 16-25 to benefit the San Antonio Food Bank’s Summer Meals for Kids Program. The 2023 lineup features an all-star cast of restaurants, including Benjie’s Munch, Broadway 50 50, Chris Madrid’s, and the Jerk Shack. The full list of participants can be found here.

Courtesy Spurs

San Antonio Spurs help build new kid-designed playground in Uvalde

Healing and happiness

Who is better equipped to design a playground than children themselves? This week, multiple organizations teamed together to help build a new play space at Uvalde C.I.S.D. Dual Language Academy.

The project included design input from the students themselves, as well as a collaborative effort from groups eager to foster healing and growth in Uvalde, including the San Antonio Spurs and their Sport for Healing Fund.

Launched in the wake of the May 2022 Uvalde tragedy, the Sport for Healing fund aims to provide long-term support for the Uvalde community by creating and investing in trauma and healing-centered care for youth and families.According to a release, the new playground at Uvalde C.I.S.D Dual Language Academy is the first major project funded by the organization.

The partnership also included KABOOM!, a non-profit nationwide organization whose mission is to help build community playgrounds across the country and end playspace inequity.

"Throughout the history of our organization, our work has been rooted in the healing power of play," shared Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM! via release. "As we continue to partner with Uvalde in bold, new ways, we hope that KABOOM! can play a small role in supporting the community as they continue to heal and create amazing places for the kids to play, learn, and just be happy and healthy kids.”

Other organizations that assisted with the Uvalde playground project included the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, The Community Foundation Uvalde Forever Fund, and Bank of America. The playground itself was built by a group of 150 dedicated volunteers.

The Uvalde C.I.S.D Dual Language Academy playground is just the beginning: The city of Uvalde has partnered with KABOOM! and their 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity. The five-year nationwide plan includes a plan to build 10 playgrounds in Uvalde, of and this is the third playground space built in Uvalde through the KABOOM! partnership.

Coach Norma Jean Sandoval, a dedicated Uvalde C.I.S.D employee for over 20 years best summed up why the playground project was so important: "Playgrounds are where nothing else matters. Kids can play freely and laugh together outside of a structured classroom environment. This playground will allow them some much needed fun and relaxation from what’s happening in the world around them."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B soars to No. 2 in Forbes' prestigious list of best employers in Texas, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From animal crossings to page turning, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B soars to No. 2 in Forbes' prestigious list of best employers in Texas. In addition to being based in San Antonio, H-E-B operates more than 300 stores in Texas and employs 154,000 people.

2. Wildlife advocacy tour treks to San Antonio's spectacular land bridge. The land bridge is getting national attention through a promotional road trip meant to highlight the structure's role in protecting local ecosystems.

3. Texas Book Festival releases full lineup of 300 authors, including Roxane Gay and Ali Hazelwood. The weekend will be full of panel discussions, author readings, book signings, and much more.

4. San Antonio foundation pounces on bold program to return ocelots to the wild. Following the proposal, the East Foundation will release ocelots onto a section of its San Antonio Viejo Ranch.

5. Famous furniture store Louis Shanks shutters last remaining San Antonio location. The furniture retailer first opened in 1945, with the San Antonio store opening in 1983.

San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe

booking tix now

Big news for Texas travelers: San Antonio International Airport's first-ever nonstop flights to Europe will begin in 2024.

Passengers can now book tickets via Condor Airlines for flights from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to Germany's Frankfurt Airport (FRA) between May 17 and September 6, 2024. Flights will initially operate three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – and flights to Frankfurt are expected to take a little more than 10 hours, while flights coming in from overseas will last about 11.5 hours.

The seasonal service is a "spectacular win" for the city, according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and could bring in an estimated $34 million annually. The airport has been seeing wins left and right, having just been named one of the nation's least stressful airports, and consistently handling busier and busier days.

"Germany is where San Antonio has the most demand for travel in Europe because of the cultural, historic, tourism, military, and business ties," Mayor Nirenberg said in a news conference on September 21.

San Antonio Airport System Director of Airports Jesus Saenz foreshadows that the SAT-FRA flight is "just the beginning" of possible flight expansions for the airport in the future.

"We fully believe San Antonio will utilize this service to Europe and take advantage of Condor’s extremely competitive airfares," he said. "Once that happens, we anticipate Condor will expand their services even further."

The airline will be using a brand new Airbus A330-900neo aircraft for the nonstop flights, which features 30 business class seats, 64 premium economy seats, and 216 economy seats.

"With our growing fleet of A330neos, we can provide better travel options to more Americans every year," said Condor CEO Ralf Teckentrup said in a release. "I am particularly proud to offer the only nonstop connection from San Antonio, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany – the heart of Europe, where travelers can enjoy the popular touristic sights of Germany or travel beyond conveniently by air, road, or rail. I invite everyone to try out our newest and most luxurious in-flight experience ever."

Monday flights will depart from SAT at 10:05 pm and arrive in Frankfurt at 3:20 pm the following day. Returning flights from FRA on Mondays will depart at 3:40 pm and arrive at SAT at 8:05 pm.

For Wednesday and Friday flights, departures from SAT will take place at 8:25 pm and arrive at FRA at 1:40 pm the next day. Returning flights from FRA will depart at 2:00 pm and arrive at SAT at 6:25 pm.

New honky-tonk surprisingly two-steps into St. Paul's Square


When Steve Mahoney first relaunched Francis Bogside and sibling wine bar, Anne’s, in the former home of Smoke BBQ, rumors circulated on how he would use the expansive upstairs space. Now, San Antonio has its answer. In a surprise move, the veteran bar owner debuted his latest venture — honky-tonk concept Blayne’s — on September 22.

The name pays homage to the late Blayne Tucker, the former co-owner of the Mix and managing partner of Floore’s Country Store. A tireless advocate for the city’s musical scene, he helped usher in the Save Our Stages Act, assisting hundreds of venues to stay afloat nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[Blayne’s] impact in San Antonio is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Mahoney via a release. “We hope to continue his efforts and support live music in the city.”

Fittingly, music will be in the air at Blayne’s, starting with The Babylonz and DJ Guero Vaquero from 5 pm to 2 am on the soft opening night. A large dance floor, pool tables, and bar games complete the honky-tonk vibe.

Like many of Mahoney’s bars, Blayne’s has a solid food program. The Tex-Mex fusion menu features eclectic pub grub like red curry short rib mini tacos, southwest eggrolls, street corn bites, smoked barbacoa pizza, and customizable nachos. The initial press announcement didn’t deeply discuss the drink options but promised margaritas, house cocktails, and beer.

Though no official announcement has been made, Mahoney has another bar up his sleeve. The Francis Bogside website teases the January 2024 opening of Robert’s, named after Mahoney’s late business partner, Robert Darilek. Details, including the location, are slim, but the landing page touts “feature club-style seating, an extensive whiskey list, and a cigar menu.”

Following the September 22 sneak peek, Blayne’s will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 5 pm to 2 am.

Blayne's San Antonio

Photo by TXTroublemaker

Blayne's food menu includes red curry short rib mini tacos.