Cookie Plug/ 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

Californian-based sweet shop Cookie Plug is firing up its first San Antonio franchise. Inspired by '80s and '90s hip-hop culture, the store serves "thicc" cookies in graffitied environment pulled from a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air DVD cover. The first of several planned franchises is set to debut at 3830 N. Loop 1604 E. #103 on April 15, according to a Facebook announcement.

Hospitality nonprofit Saint City Culinary Foundation has called it a day after six years of serving the hospitality community. Via an Instagram statement, founder Joel Rivas briefly explained that the decision wasn't taken lightly but was the best course of action. One of the foundation's signature programs, however, will live on. Mental health support group Heard will continue serving workers as an online group under the stewardship of Amie Ward.

P.F. Chang's giant horses have trotted into New Braunfels. According to a release, the third San Antonio-area location debuted on April 5, continuing the company's efforts to rebrand its outposts as "bistro" concepts. The announcement didn't precisely specify what differentiates the old from the new. Still, as long as they have lettuce wraps, the customer base will surely be happy.

A fixture of Boerne's dining scene will soon serve its last schnitzel. In a social media statement, Little Gretel owner chef-owner Denise Maza announced that she was shuttering the long-running Czech-German restaurant on April 30. Maza had previously shared her retirement plan, opening the property for lease in January.

In brighter Boerne news, 28 Songs Brewhouse + Kitchen will officially debut on March 13. Located in the Main & Market development at 110 Market Ave., the veteran-owned business will serve pub grub and guest beers before introducing its own beer in May.

Tommy Bahama, the unofficial vacation outfitter of middle-aged men, is bringing some hibiscus-hued hospitality to the Shops at La Cantera. According to records at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the brand plans to open its Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar in the tony shopping center. Guests can expect a vaguely tropical menu and some Ernest Hemingway steez after the construction wraps up in late October.

Courtesy of Bakery Lorraine

San Antonio’s 5 best pastry chefs always rise to the occasion


It has always been a mystery that pastry chefs don’t get more recognition. Making a great dessert requires a knack for precision, an eye for design, and an encyclopedic knowledge of flavors. Sweets are the crescendo of the meal, the final determiner of whether dinner is just food or a sumptuous feast.

The five nominees for the CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Pastry Chef of the Year certainly know the difference. Each can turn sugar, flour, and butter into high art, but only one can take the cake. Read on to learn more, then join us at our annual party on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum to find out who is the smartest cookie. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell — Bakery Lorraine
This dynamic duo first gained fame from their multicolored Parisian macarons. But they are just as adept at the other French classics. The kouign amann pairs its buttery heft with a vibrant lemon curd, the canelé is lavished with a bit of rum, and the opera cake jolts with espresso-brandy syrup. The techniques are exacting enough to satisfy any purists. The flavors are pure libertine.

Elise Russ — Clementine
This Castle Hill neighborhood gem calls its desserts “the best parts.” That’s no exaggeration. Russ strikes just the right balance between comfort and innovation. In her hands, a carrot cake keeps the best parts of its church social roots with decadent cream cheese icing. Candied pineapple and coconut ice cream deconstruct the idea without taking away an iota of the hospitality.

Jenn Riesman — Rooster Crow Baking Co.
A veteran of Supper at Hotel Emma and Silo Restaurant Group, Reisman has now struck out on her own. The move has sparked some of the city’s most electrifying desserts. The accomplished chef knows that subtlety isn’t always a virtue when it comes to sweets. Instead, these pies, cookies, and pastries bang, bam, and bap as loudly as a Batman sound effect.

José and David Cáceres — La Panadería
How does a nearly decade-old business still draw weekday lines? By serving some of the most innovative pan dulce in the country. Case in point is the croncha — a flaky croissant dough topped with the crumbly icing of a concha. It’s alchemical, addictive, and just one small trick in these pastry brothers’ hats.

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.

Bakery Lorraine
Courtesy of Bakery Lorraine

Best pastry chef: Bakery Lorraine.

RockerDogz/ Facebook

6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Gourmet hot dog joint unexpectedly shutters

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

After two years of running a brick-and-mortar, RockerDogz Gourmet Street Dogz has turned off the grill. The concept started as a mobile eatery before finding a permanent South Side home in 2020. Though owner Kris Martinez did not go into specifics in a video message shared on social media, he explained that "It was time to move on." However, there is a glimmer of hope for fans of his smothered hot dogs. Martinez teased that monthly pop-ups could soon be in the works.

Balcones heights-area watering hole The Texan Icehouse has also thrown in the towel. In a frank Facebook post, the owners explained that the building had been sold. Although the team had "utilized every means possible to continue to operate," negotiations ultimately fell flat. The last day of business will be April 29.

In a heartbreaking social media note, vegan ghost kitchen Urban Soul Market owner Tia Rodriguez announced that she is temporarily closing her business as her son battles sickle cell disease. While the concept is on hiatus, Rodriguez is asking for community support via a crowdfunding campaign.

A new Cinnaholic franchise rolled into Alamo Ranch on March 31. The sweet shop, known for its plant-based creations, has rapidly expanded since appearing on Shark Tank in 2014. The 519 W. Loop 1604 #104 storefront is its second San Antonio location.

Other news and notes

Festival season has hit the Alamo City area. Organizers of the Adobo Throwdown Cooking Competition and Food Expo have announced that the event will return August 5-6. Organized by the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce, the event includes food vendors, live entertainment, and cooking demos. Amateurs and pros can also compete in various competitions focused on ube, barbecue, lumpia, and — of course — adobo. The $17 weekend passes can be purchased here.

Becker Vineyards' 24th annual Lavender Fest has also come into bloom. From 10am-5 pm on April 15 and 16, guests can celebrate the iconic herb on the Fredericksburg winery's lawn, enjoying luncheons, tastings, and artisan vendors. Tickets range from $15-$60.

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Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

Music and more live entertainment are making a strong case for being out and about in Alamo City for the next few days. See Maluma live in concert, or have a laugh with Deon Cole. For those looking to welcome fall with a bit of flair, Fright Fest returns to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Check out the top seven things to do in San Antonio this weekend. For a complete list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, September 21

Mission Marquee Outdoor Family Film Series: Selena
Enjoy a free screening of the blockbuster 1997 film Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez, on the outdoor silver screen at Mission Marquee Plaza. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, blankets, and snacks for the most comfortable movie experience. Additional attractions include food trucks and live entertainment. More information about the film series can be found at missionmarquee.com. This is a pet-friendly and all-ages event.

San Antonio Botanical Garden presents "Lush: Twilight in the Garden"
The after-hours entertainment series at San Antonio Botanical Garden continues. This month’s activities are inspired by the theme "Knight at the Garden" and will include extended garden hours, live music, entertainment, a signature beverage, and an array of floral displays for ambiance. For more information and to snag your tickets, go to sabot.org.

AT&T Center presents Maluma in concert
Latin music sensation Maluma stops by San Antonio’s AT&T Center for one night only. The Colombian voice of hit songs like “HP” and “Felices Los 4” performs live in support of his new album, Don Juan. Go to Ticketmaster for more details.

Friday, September 22

Six Flags Fiesta Texas presents Fright Fest
Six Flags Fiesta Texas undergoes a terrific transformation into the spookiest space in San Antonio with the return of Fright Fest. Park visitors can enjoy nighttime attractions such as haunted houses, scare zones, thrilling rides, and more. Fright Fest programming continues through October 31. Visit sixflags.com for additional information.

Aztec Theatre presents "Deon Cole: My New Normal"
Actor and comedian Deon Cole comes to Aztec Theatre for one night of major rabble-rousing and humor. The Black-ish star and seasoned stand-up comedian makes the stop in San Antonio in support of his My New Normal tour. In addition to his appearances on television, Cole is also known for his comedy specials, including Charleen’s Boy on Netflix. Get tickets on Live Nation.

Saturday, September 23

Ballet San Antonio presents "Ballet in the Park"
Art in motion is set against the backdrop of the night sky at this special Ballet San Antonio event. "Ballet in the Park" is a two-part evening that includes a free children’s ballet class and a live performance by the company’s professional dancers. Admission to the show is free and open to the public.

Hill Country Council for the Arts presents Boerne BierFest
Venture out to Boerne for a day of Texas beer with German-inspired festivities at the Agricultural Museum and Arts Center. BierFest highlights include live music from headliner Gary P. Nunn, traditional strength competitions, a live auction, art displays, food, and more. Attendees will also get to sample from more than 30 Texan craft breweries with a commemorative tasting stein. Festival information and ticketing details can be found at hccarts.org. For those looking for an elevated experience, VIP packages are also available.

Maluma / Facebook

Maluma performs live at the AT&T Center on September 21.

San Antonio foundation pounces on bold program to return ocelots to the wild


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."

Amazon goes on holiday hiring spree with 2.6k open positions in San Antonio

Holiday News

Soon the holidays will be here, and that means an influx of seasonal work from Amazon, which is on a holiday hiring spree.

According to a release, the company is hiring 250,000 employees throughout the U.S. in full-time, seasonal, and part-time roles across its operations network.

More than 28,000 of those will be in Texas with nearly half — 13,000 employees — to be hired in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Houston will be hiring more than 5,100, Austin more than 4,100, and San Antonio more than 2,600 workers. Waco gets 1,700-plus new positions, and El Paso, more than 300.)

Those include a diverse range of roles, from packing and picking to sorting and shipping, available to applicants from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Customer fulfillment and transportation employees can earn, on average, over $20.50 per hour for those roles, and up to $28 depending on location. Interested candidates can see hiring locations and open positions at amazon.com/apply.

"The holiday season is always a special time at Amazon and we’re excited to hire 250,000 additional people this year to help serve customers across the country," says Amazon SVP John Felton. "Whether someone is looking for a short-term way to make extra money, or is hoping to take their first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career at Amazon, there’s a role available for them."

According to Felton, a fulfillment or transportation employee who starts today will see a 13 percent increase in pay over the next three years, on top of offerings like pre-paid college tuition and health care benefits on day one.

Jobs in Amazon’s operations network include: stowing, picking, packing, sorting, shipping customer orders, and more, available in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., with a range of full- or part-time hours.

For anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Amazon, they offer free behind-the-scenes tours to the public at amazontours.com.