Bovino's/ Facebook

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
A La Cantera steakhouse has abruptly snuffed out its flame. Via a May 23 social media post, Bovino's Brazilian Steakhouse & Seafood announced it had shuttered for "reasons out of [their] control." The restaurant, part of a Mexico-based chain, first opened in San Antonio as Bovino's Churrascaría, later rebranding. In late April, a newly added brunch service debuted to an enthusiastic response. But by May 10, the spot announced its website had been suspended. For fans of the restaurant, there is some hope on the horizon. The statement said the closure was "for the time being," hinting at a possible return.

A sudsy new concept is wagging into Castle Hills. According to Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, Thirsty Pups Brewery & Bottle Shop will soon begin construction on a space in Castle Hills Market at 2211 NW Military Hwy #130. The concept, which does not yet appear to have a social or net presence, is set to finish the build-out in September.

A popular food truck is wheeling into a new brick-and-mortar. Guerito's Red Tacos, known for birria and aguas frescas, announced its grand opening at 9218 Potranco Road on June 2. The menu will slightly expand on the trailer's offerings while carrying longtime favorites. Those wanting a quick consommé fix can also visit the reopened food truck at 8701 FM 1560.

The Embassy Oaks location of Magnolia Pancake Haus is flipping to a new site. The original spot will close on June 4 in preparation for the switch. The diner is looking to open its 2070 N. Loop 1604 spot on June 9, barring any moving woes.

Other news and notes

Tastemakers-nominated chef Jesse "Kirk" Kuykendall is heading to Columbia for an exclusive dinner at Ocho. The June 15 event will feature dishes inspired by her South American travels, including arepas, bandeja paisa, and obleas. Tickets for the six-course feast are sold in pairs for $175 and are available here.

Photo courtesy of Shiner Beer.

Shiner Beer romances Texas with return of Prickly Pear Lager


Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. Despite our better judgment, we fall for the bad boy who flits in and out of our life. Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months; still, we can’t let go. We know full well we’d take him back tomorrow.

Such is our relationship with Prickly Pear Summer Lager, Shiner Beer’s withholding seasonal brew. First introduced in 2012, the fruit beer dipped out in 2017, later showing up for sultry flings in variety packs. In 2020, it seemed finally ready for a serious relationship before rejoining singles mixers again.

We still miss that six-pack.

It’s with some trepidation that we report that Prickly Pear has come lurking around again. In an imaginative campaign by Austin-based creative agency Bakery, the seasonal brew announced its return to Texas shelves. Based on real social media concepts, the ad tells the story of fans’ undying love for the beer via a friendly yeti, a wicked witch, and a Norma Rae-like revolt.

“Every time we post social content for Shiner, no matter what it’s about, we’ll get non-stop comments about Prickly Pear,” explains Rodrigo Rothschild, creative director at Bakery, in a release. “After about a thousand of them, we wondered if you could write an entire script just using all these weird and random comments.”

It’s easy to see why Shiner drinkers are so enamored with the beer. The company uses Texas native prickly pear with Citra and Golding hops and its proprietary yeast to create a brew that is neither too tart nor too sweet. The crisp libation also rings in at a modest 4.9-percent ABV, making it an ideal patio pounder.

“Prickly Pear is a special brew for us because it features uniquely Texan ingredients,” says Nick Weiland, Shiner’s brand director. “We recommend pairing it with carne asada tacos or a grilled chicken salad for the ultimate summer session.”

Alas, a session is all Prickly Pear’s many admirers will get. Though the lager is eager to romance them with tubing trips, backyard barbecues, and days at the beach, it will once again hit the road at the end of July.

Photo by TX Troublemaker

Alamo City's best bars and restaurants crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards


Ah spring! The wildflowers are blooming, the sandals are coming back, and our celebration of the best of San Antonio hospitality — the Tastemaker Awards — is once again heating up the night.

For the past few weeks, you’ve read about all the stellar nominees, then voted for your favorite new restaurant in a hard-fought tournament. Now, it's finally time to unveil the winners.

On Thursday evening, the all-stars of Alamo City’s restaurant and bar scene gathered with their hungry fans at the Briscoe Museum for our second annual tasting event and awards ceremony. Guests feasted on delicious bites from some of the area’s best restaurants, before applauding the proud winners.

And what a crew they are. Our 2023 CultureMap San Antonio Tastemaker Awards winners represent the crème de la crème of the city’s red-hot culinary scene. Meet them below and join us in raising one last glass to the Tastemakers. Drum roll, please.

Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
There's no reason to pretend otherwise; you've had this food before. Maybe it was over a few beers at a backyard barbecue or a buzzing Rio Grande restaurant, but it is as familiar as a family group text. This Pearl spot's genius was in giving South Texas fare the respect it deserves. Instead of being fettered by the honey assumptions that regional foods should be cheap, Carriqui fires Wagyu on custom Mill Scale grills. Instead of settling for hominess, it announces South Texas as a destination.

Best New Restaurant: Reese Bros BBQ
With the cult-like status that some barbecue joints enjoy, some hot spots have forgotten there doesn’t have to be so much bite with the bark. Make no bones about it; the licorice black crust that forms on the brisket is as mouthwatering as it comes. But that alchemy is not just a flex obscuring the other parts of the operation. Reese Bros excels at sausage, flour tortillas, and simple market sides. It also excels at hospitality, not letting endless acclaim harden into an ego trip.

Chef of the Year: Robbie Nowlin — Allora, Arrosta
Casual San Antonio offers scant opportunities to dress up, so we’ll give you a reason to wear a jacket. Though no jackets are required, Arrosta’s offerings invite one to be a little more buttoned up. Nowlin’s Reggis Ova caviar is the most luxurious dish in town, even if it’s served on a humble fried dumpling. Even the fried potatoes are so gorgeously presented that they demand some decorum. Can’t imagine wearing hard pants? Waltz next door to Arrosta to experience the chef’s prodigious fare in a much more casual setting.

Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
It's there in the name. This Southtown lounge delivers everlasting romance courtesy of velvet curtains, fuchsia lighting, and orchids languishing on the edge of coupes. The atmosphere gets a little steamier after a couple Bella Noche shots. Suddenly, disco thumps through the speakers, inamoratos file in, and the back booth becomes the most inviting spot in Alamo City.

Best Brewery: Künstler Brewing
The owners of this Southtown hot spot, Vera and Brent Deckard, are exceedingly well-traveled, a fact that informs their magpie approach to beer. The descriptions read like a travelogue — taking drinkers from San Diego beaches to Ecuadorean farms to hikes near Aschau, Germany. The flavors are equally international. Head brewer Vera works in dozens of styles, using her sharp palate to deliver inventive creations like a matcha milkshake IPA and a briny oyster stout.

Neighborhood Restaurant: The Magpie
This newly expanded East Side bistro is hard to describe. Chef Jungsuk “Sue” Kim doesn’t let genre hold her back, dishing out Korean specialties like dak galbi and Italian rabbit ragu. The wine list has an equally well-stamped passport, exploring traditional and low-intervention winemaking in equal measure. The Magpie doesn’t need to be easily categorized to make an impact. Guests happily gobble up whatever comes into the nest.

Pastry Chef: Sofia Tejeda — Hotel Emma
An alum of Mixtli and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Tejeda was the first San Antonian to be nominated as “Outstanding Pastry Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. It’s easy to see why. Her dishes combine cultural specificity (see the German and Mexican influences) with a luxury fitting of the boutique hotel. We think Emma Koehler — the property's namesake — would be proud.

Wildcard: Best Burger — Last Place Burger
Maybe owner Mark Villareal stumbled upon a djinn. It seems impossible that five simple ingredients could produce so much flavor. We do know that one of our three wishes would be a never-ending supply of this food truck's astoundingly great OG burger.

Amor Eterno San Antonio
Photo by TX Troublemaker

Bar of the year: Amor Eterno

Courtesy 28 Songs Brewhouse and Kitchen

What's brewing in San Antonio: New Boerne brewpub opens

San Antonio Brewing News

Editor's Note: With a new craft beer spot popping up in San Antonio seemingly every month, we've started a new column to track all things beer in Alamo City. Here's our roundup of everything that's brewing in San Antonio.

28 Songs is open for business
28 Songs Brewhouse and Kitchen, the new brewery on the block in Boerne, opened their doors April 8. Located north of downtown Boerne, where most of the town’s brewpubs reside, 28 Songs has plenty of indoor seating and a small stage for musicians.

Representatives of 28 Songs said their kitchen is fully open, but they are still recruiting talent to fill available positions. They are also awaiting a license to brew, so for now, visitors may choose from a variety of guest beers mainly from San Antonio-area breweries such as Weathered Souls.

Idle Beer Hall and Brewery coming soon
This summer, San Antonio’s downtown area will be welcoming a new brewery. There are plans to open Idle Beer Hall and Brewery next to an under-development food hall, Make Ready Market, in the River North neighborhood between Broadway and the San Antonio River.

Idle Beer Hall and Brewery and Make Ready will be on the same block as The Soto office building at 711 Broadway, an up-and-coming area that local developer Hixon Properties and hospitality group Pouring with heart are developing to serve as a gathering spot for residents, office workers, cyclists, and passersby day and night. Both spaces will be located in the historic, repurposed Cavender Cadillac dealership buildings.

28 Songs Brewhouse and Kitchen had a soft opening in north Boerne in April, offering a food menu and guest beers until it receives a license to brew its own beer.

Courtesy 28 Songs Brewhouse and Kitchen

28 Songs Brewhouse and Kitchen had a soft opening in north Boerne in April, offering a food menu and guest beers until it receives a license to brew its own beer.

A recent news release said Idle Beer Hall will boast a rotating selection of craft beers, draft cocktails, an agave program, and a patio with room to play lawn games.

Make Ready Market, which will offer guests a range of foods from 10 vendors, from classic comfort foods to Mexican street food. The first Make Ready tenant, Mila Coffee, opens May 1.

‘Black is Beautiful’ on the big screen
A crowd gathered at the Finesilver Building on March 30 for the premier of “Black is Beautiful,” a short documentary film about the creation of Weathered Souls Brewing’s iconic Black is Beautiful beer.

It includes interviews with Weathered Souls’ owner and head brewer Marcus Baskerville who, moved by the killing of George Floyd and protests against police brutality in 2020, brewed Black is Beautiful as a symbol in the fight for equality and against injustice.

Baskerville and Weathered Souls also transformed Black is Beautiful into a community initiative where numerous craft brewers locally, statewide and nationwide promoted the beer, and raised funds for social justice causes and shined a light on inclusiveness in their own communities.

Cactus Land/ Facebook

San Antonio's 8 best beers untap the city's independent spirit


San Antonio does not have as saturated of a brewery scene as some of Texas' largest cities, but it does have a more independent spirit. Our craft beer greats seldom stick to one style and could care less if fashionable fonts appear on their packaging. Though they rack up statewide and national awards, they never lose sight of the fact that they serve the local community.

The CultureMap Tastemakers Awards celebrates that maverick spirit in this year's batch of Brewery of the Year Nominees. Meet them all below, then join us on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum when we reveal the winner.

Black Laboratory Brewing
How's this for popular science? Owners Tim Castaneda and Jeff Weihe have paid their dues in the lab, a background that informs their experimental small-batch brews. The joys of the core lineup of pilsners, lagers, and IPAs are hardly theoretical, but the limited edition beers equally pass the acid test. Chief among them is the Fiesta season's Puto San Antonio, a piccadilly raspa in a pint blending chamoy, pickle juice, and cherry Koolaid into a crisp blonde ale base.

Busted Sandal

Celebrating a decade in business, Busted Sandal now clomps around a San Antonio taproom and a Helotes beer garden. But it is still at its best brewing poundable brews that hold up to the city's 500 days of summer. With unexpected ingredients, the limited edition La Chancla series particularly delights. The Watermelon 210 Ale practically demands a dip in the pool.

Cactus Land Brewing Co.
Like many folks who have entered the industry, Cactus Land owners Dustin and Erica Teague started as home brewers. That DIY spirit still resonates in almost everything they make. In addition to brewing accessible bocks and ales, the company offers a salty coriander-scented pilsner and even a rice lager. Teetotalers can also rejoice at their equally complex root beer.

Freetail Brewing
This long-running establishment is one of San Antonio's most awarded breweries, regularly snagging medals at the Texas Craft Brewers Cup. But the beers aren't just appealing to craft nerds. Freetail has made a mission to embody the city's soul, from its German heritage to its Tejano culture. The mix results in some of the area's easiest sippers, from the puckery gose ¡Puro! Pickles to the seasonal Citrus Trip, a blood orange wit.

Künstler Brewing
The owners of this Southtown hot spot, Vera and Brent Deckard, are exceedingly well-traveled, a fact that informs their magpie approach to beer. The descriptions read like a travelogue — taking drinkers from San Diego beaches to Ecuadorean farms to hikes near Aschau, Germany. The flavors are equally international. Head brewer Vera works in dozens of styles, using her sharp palate to deliver inventive creations like a matcha milkshake IPA and a briny oyster stout.

Mad Pecker
The craft beer world can often be too earnest, so Mad Pecker's whimsical "about us" section is a whiff of fresh air. The tale weaves in sudsy hermits, cruel industrial beer kings, and magical hops forests, making owners Jason and Erika Gonzales' quest for flavor seem positively heroic. Indeed, their Wemby Watch — a Trans-Atlantic IPA brewed with United Kingdom malts — is the stuff of legends.

Second Pitch
Some good things came from the pandemic — like this still-growing operation from husband-and-wife Jim and Samantha Hansen. Obviously taking in those lost years' lessons, the couple brings community to everything they do. From women-only and all-inclusive classes to partnering with local chefs, Second Pitch puts people first. But oh, how their perfectly executed classics encourage that camaraderie.

Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
The guiding principle behind this North Central brewery is "if the beer is good enough, folks will find out." By that measure, each pint is as effective as a pop-up ad. The team doesn't spend much time transcribing each beer's esoteric notes, instead allowing guests a personal experience. And they brew whatever is good — from smacking sours to the city's best stouts.

Cactus Land Brewey

Brewery of the year: Cactus Land

Renderings by Studio8

Easygoing brewery pours into booming River North in San Antonio


The San Antonio area has been called the next big thing for so long that it’s been hard to keep up with the hype. National publications like Eaterare wowed by our culinary diversity; Condé Nast Travelerpractically lives at Hotel Emma — heck, even the Gray Lady pulls up her monocle to have a closer look. The only question left to ask is when next becomes now.

That may be closer than locals think, as a new brewery plans to make Alamo City home. Unlike most homegrown players in the city’s beer arena, this one comes from one of the major forces behind Los Angeles’ nightlife scene.

Californian hospitality group Pouring With Heart will debut Idle Beer Hall & Brewery this summer at 711 Broadway — the property adjacent to the upcoming food hall Make Ready Market. The concept, developed in collaboration with Hixon Properties, will be the firm’s second foray into San Antonio after acquiringThree Star Bar in October 2022.

Details are still forthcoming, but a press release promises Idle will serve an ever-changing selection of approachable craft beer, draft cocktails, and an affordable array of agave spirits. There was no mention of a food program, but guests can enjoy scores of bites from Make Ready’s lineup of 10 food vendors.

While waiting on the menu, San Antonians can marvel at another stellar example of one of the city’s strengths, adaptive reuse. Accomplished firm Studio8 made use of the historic Cavender Cadillac property for both Make Ready Market and Idle. The beer hall will be housed in the former machine shop of what once was a car lot.

Lilianne Steckel, an Austin interior designer responsible for some of the city’s most popular eateries, offset the industrial elements of the structure with earthy materials. Mexican-inspired features like carved wooden doors and equipale chairs add warmth — along with a collection of rafter slogans to remind patrons to sit and relax.

While future patrons may be lounging, the players behind this River North development make it clear that the 305-year-old city is about to see some significant change. Buckle those seatbelts; it’s going to be a blockbuster summer.

Idle Brewery

Renderings by Studio8

Idle Brewing's building was adapted from a former car dealer machine shop.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Little West Side gem" sparkles with summer grand opening


Some bar owners talk about community, but the all-woman trio behind new Prospect Hill spot Chiflada’s mean it. The team says the concept, celebrating its grand opening on June 2, wouldn’t have happened without it.

Family and friends turned out to support the bar months before it was ready for the build-out. They turned out again to help transform a vacant bungalow at 1804 West Martin St. into a comfortable and stylish lounge. When the ice machine went on the fritz during the June 27 soft opening, the bar’s supporters flexed their muscles to ensure the drinks remained cold.

Even the West Side neighborhood gave it a seal of approval. Natasha Riffle, who co-owns Chifladla’s with her mother, policewoman Veronica Riffle, and El Buho owner Melanie Martinez, says the team walked door to door to change the zoning, ensuring residential buy-in.

The result is a bar that is by and for the neighborhood. At the soft opening party, Marigolds swayed in the breeze under a pergola as congratulatory bouquets filled the bar’s shelves. Guests busily chattered as popular deejay Sunnyboy played oldies and conjunto hits.

“It feels like you’re at your abuelita’s backyard and hanging with your family,” Natasha Riffle says of the bar’s vibe.

The drinks honor that spirit, too, toeing the line between the neighborhood’s blue-collar roots and the team’s cocktail-making skills. Featured sippers include a punchy Mexican Martini, a melon Paloma, the Chif Peach, and the mezcal-based Smoke on the Water.
“It’s a place to get a nice cocktail, but also a place to get a beer and shot combo,” Natasha Riffle tells CultureMap about the high-low mix.

Ultimately, Chiflada’s feels like home — the type of place folks let loose after a long day at work, where multiple generations can get in on the party and where bartenders become close friends.

“We all lived [on the West Side] off and on,” says Riffle of the team, “and we’ve all worked with each other over the years. We are more of a family than we are co-workers — 100 percent.”

Chiflada's San Antonio

Photo by Joe Rodriquez

Natasha Riffle beams in front of her newly opened bar.

Contemporary Irish pub sprouts up in new St. Paul's Square home


One of San Antonio’s most storied bars is gearing up for its next chapter. After a brief hiatus, Southtown hot spot Francis Bogside has reopened in St. Paul Square, along with a sister concept — Anne’s.

The bar first opened in 2015 in conjunction with the fine dining eatery Brigid. The pair had barely been in business for a year before an early morning fire ravaged their shared space in 2016. In 2017, the bar reopened on South St. Mary’s Street sans Brigid, becoming one of Alamo City’s favorite haunts.

In July 2022, owner Steve Mahoney announced another change. Francis Bogside was moving out of its longtime home and into a new location. Eventually, internet sleuths figured out that spot would be 1170 E Commerce St #100 in St. Paul’s Square, the former home of Smoke BBQ.

Though in a new location, the basic DNA of the bar is still intact, with a similar layout featuring a large central bar and a jumble of artwork on the walls. The space, however, is a more contemporary interpretation of an Irish pub with a bold mix of upholstery, up-to-date wallcoverings, and mosaic tiles, all enlivening the mostly brick space.

Though Bogside’s signature cocktails have often strayed from theme, a release promised a return to form with sippers like Paddy’s Irish whiskey-based Irish Maid and low ABV Jammy Lass. As usual, the specialty drinks will be supplemented by various classics, including daiquiris and negronis.

Currently, the bar has a limited food menu of pub grub, like focaccia pizza, wings, and loaded potato skins. A more fully developed menu will be rolled out as it prepares for a grand opening later in June.

The media alert did not offer many details about Anne’s, a wine bar now open in the adjoining space, but did tease at an international bottle list. The concept will also have a dedicated food menu, although no details were shared.

Currently in its soft opening phase, Francis Bogside welcomes guests 4 pm-2 am Tuesday through Sunday. Anne’s operates Wednesday through Sunday with the same opening hours.

Francis Bogside San Antonio

Photo by TXTroublemaker

A large central bar is the focal point.

5 tips to build stunning sand sculptures from 2023 Texas SandFest winners

Fun at the beach

As summer fast approaches, sandy vacations to coastal destinations are on the horizon for many travelers. For those with kids in tow, sandcastle-making might top the list of beach trip must-dos.

But “playing” in the sand isn’t just an activity for children, as proven by the 22 professional sand sculptors from around the world who recently competed in the 26th annual Texas SandFest, held in Port Aransas in April. The internationally recognized event, started by Port A locals in 1997, is the largest native-sand sculptor competition in the nation; nearly 70,000 people attended this year.

Competition entries featured everything from mermaids to the Grim Reaper, all intricately carved, brushed, and chiseled from sand, ocean water, and perhaps a little diluted spray glue that sculptors say helps maintain detail. The competitors work on their masterpieces during the event, allowing spectators to witness their progress from start to finish.

“I do around five international sand sculpting competitions per year. It’s always a great challenge to compete a high level,” says Benoit Dutherage, a competitive sculptor from France who also creates snow sculptures in the French Alps during the winter.

Dutherage took first place in the Duo Masters category, along with his sand sculpting partner Sue McGrew, for their work called “Wish You Were Here.” Comprised of two loving faces (one mystically cut in half), the sculpture was a tribute to Pink Floyd.

“We like to reflect human emotions in our sculptures,” he says. “It is never easy to pick an idea among the thousands of ideas we have.”

Florida resident Thomas Koet, whose sculpture called “The Prospector” won first place in the People’s Choice category, intended to create something with horses and a cowboy as an homage to Mustang Island, where the competition took place. High tides just before the event thwarted his plans.

“The high tide washed away so much of the sand, I had only enough left for a mule or a foal,” he says. “So I decided to make an old prospector with a mule.”

Thinking out of the box when it comes to carving sand is just one of several suggestions Koet has for recreational sand sculptors. (“Who says it has to be a castle?” he says.) He and other winners from the 2023 Texas SandFest say they are always happy to see novices get creative.

Here are five of the pros' top tips for producing a beachfront masterpiece.

1. Think beyond the standard sandcastle
“Design and sculpt outside of your comfort zone,” says Abe Waterman, a sculptor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who took first place in the Solo Masters division with his sculpture, “Sleeps with Angels.” The mega sculpture featured four angels at four corners holding a blanket carrying a sleeping woman. “While this may not lead to the best sculpture results, one will improve faster by doing this.”

Waterman noted that there are different types of sand depending on location. Some are better suited for detailed work while others work well for verticality. “But something can always be sculpted regardless of the sand quality, the design just may need to be altered,” he says.

Koet recommends picking something that will fit your attention span. “You can make anything you want,” he says. “You can make a cat, a shark, a monster truck, your high school mascot, a sneaker, or a shark eating an ice cream cone.”

2. Use the right tools
Forgo the cheap tourist shop plastic bucket and shovel set. “You definitely need proper tools to get a good result: A solid shovel, a few trowels – not too big – and a wall painting brush to clean your sculpture,” says Dutherage. “You’ll also need buckets.”

Think big painter’s buckets, he says, used to make what’s essentially “sand mud” consisting of lots of water and sand. Which leads to the next tip ...

3. Create a form mold
Consider this the secret to head-turning sand sculptures. Whether it’s a 10-foot-tall wooden box with sides that come off, or a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, a “form mold” is an open-top vessel used to hold packed sand and water to create a carve-able structure.

“It’s a very useful thing to have in order to get a solid block, and to go high,” says Dutherage. “If you are a handyman, you can build your own forms. But a quick solution is to take a bucket, no matter what size, and cut out the bottom. Then put that bucket upside down on the sand. Add a few inches of sand, some water, mix with your trowel and compact that layer. Repeat until the bucket is full. Then gently pull the bucket up and surprise! You will get a nice block of sand ready for a sandcastle full of windows, arches, and gates.”

The compacted layers of sand and water almost act as cement, creating a sturdy base for carving. Dutherage says folks can easily repeat the form mold process to create multiple bases, either side by side or stacked.

4. Use plenty of water, for the sculpture and yourself
Benoit recommends adding even more water during the sculpting process.

“Bring a plant sprayer,” he says. “Sand needs to be wet to be sculptable.”

Even rain during sand sculpture building isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that rain will destroy a sand sculpture,” says Waterman. “While this is possible, most often it just textures the surface.”

Water is also essential for the sculptor, as staying hydrated is key during the process, Waterman adds.

Texas SandFest

Texas SandFest

"The Prospector" took first place in the 2023 Texas SandFest People's Choice category

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“The biggest misconception is that I do anything different than anybody who does it only for the first time,” says Koet, who’s been sculpting sand for 25 years. “Sure, I bring more and bigger tools and I spend much more time shoveling the sand high and mixing it with water. But there is no magic other than years of practice.”

Waterman, who admits sand sculpting has taken over his life, competes in up to 10 contests a year and also creates sculptures for exhibits and corporate commissions.

“Tricks and tips will only get a person so far,” he says. “But ultimately practice and putting the time in will get them a whole lot further.”

Benoit agrees. “Making a sand sculpture requires a lot of work and the more you practice, the better you will get,” he says. “But first of all, you have to enjoy the fun of it.”