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Lucy Cooper's Ice House/ 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

One of San Antonio's most recognized chefs is going for a three-peat. Braunda Smith, known for recent appearances on Guy's Grocery Games and Chopped, tells CultureMap that she is opening a third location of Lucy Cooper's Ice House. The new spot will take over the former home of Cerveceria Chapultepec at 8403 State Highway 151 #101 at a to-be-announced future date.

A St. Mary's Strip staple is also in expansion mode. Signage for a second Tycoon Flats is wrapped around the former location of Purple Garlic at 1017 Austin Hwy. It's unclear when the new burger joint will debut. Although the banners promise a summer 2023 opening, renovation appears to still be in the early stages.

The cookie wars are coming to San Antonio as Tempe-based Dirty Dough opens at 19903 Stone Oak Pkwy #104. The franchise's schtick is that its treats feature "some combination of layers, mix-ins, or filling within the dough." But its more recent claim to fame regards a lawsuit brought about by Crumbl Cookies. The rapidly growing upstart accused Dirty of stealing its concept, logo, and recipes. The Arizona brand countered with its own lawsuit and an ad campaign, including mocking billboards on Crumbl's Utah home turf. Cookie criminologists can make their own conclusions on the kerfuffle during Dirty's grand opening on May 27.

On to the less contentious world of ice cream franchises — Ohio chain Handel's Homemade Ice Cream is opening its first Alamo City outpost on May 18 at 5311 N. Loop 1604 W. near The Rim. According to a press release, the grand opening will have face painting, a balloon artist, giveaways, and the chance to win free ice cream for a year. Among the opening flavors will be grape, Key Lime pie, and Graham Central Station — a graham cracker-filled ode to the now-shuttered multi-hyphenate nightclub.

A new kid on the block hopes to wow customers near the University of Texas at San Antonio. Wok N Fries serves 10 riffs on loaded fries, including chicken pesto fries with mozzarella, cheeseburger fries with cheddar and pickles, and Texas fries with mayo, bacon, and onion rings. Potato libertines can head to 7038 UTSA Boulevard on May 20 and 21 for the grand opening weekend featuring free fries for the first 20 guests on either day and a hefty discount for other customers.

According to a Facebook post, the Medical Center location of Taqueria Data Point finally roared back to action on May 12. The revered restaurant was forced to shutter in March 2020 after suffering damage from a nearby fire at Mustafa Grocery. The other two locations at De Zavala Road and Gramercy Place will continue killing the breakfast taco game.

Other news and notes

Culinaria has announced the dates for the summer edition of Restaurant Weeks. The biyearly program recruits eateries to offer a specially priced prix fixe menu as a fundraiser for the nonprofit. Though no participating restaurants have been announced yet, locals can mark their calendars for August 12-26.

Feng Cha Teahouse San Antonio/ Faceboook

Soothing Chinese tea shop bubbles up in Castle Hills

TARO-FIC

One of mainland China’s largest dessert franchises is crossing the pond to San Antonio. According to a release, Feng Cha will open its first Alamo City store at 8055 West Ave #100 in the Castle Oaks Village shopping center on May 20.

Although the brand has only been in operation since 2016, it has become a global goliath with more than 1,000 locations scattered across Asia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New York, California, and Minneapolis. It has a significant presence in Texas, with shops in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston metropolitan areas.

Feng Cha specializes in customizable tea drinks brewed from real tea leaves. Toppings include boba, a variety of jellies, aloe vera, and milk foams in five profiles ranging from sea salt to cheese. It also serves various fruit refreshers in flavors like dragon fruit, summer melon, and kiwi basil. They couldn’t be more welcome as San Antonio prepares for hellish temps.

On the dessert side, Feng Cha specializes in cheesecakes. The mini delights cover all bases, offering American toppings like Oreos or strawberries and Asian favorites like matcha and taro.

Feng Cha Teahouse offers a menu of tea drinks brewed from real tea leaves, including a large array of fresh fruit teas made with real fruit. Their customizable milk foam menu includes over 12 tea bases and five milk foam varieties.

Though some of their offerings are similar, Feng Cha has a very different look than most of its stateside competitors. Instead of a bright poppy look, the brand’s interiors are typically bathed in neutrals with pale color accents and natural woods.

The soothing palette will form a suitable backdrop to an explosion of colors during the shop’s grand opening celebration on May 20. Among the attractions will be a traditional Vietnamese lion dance, karate demonstrations from Retro Sport Karate Group, and gift card giveaways.

Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

These 16 contenders battle it out as San Antonio's best new restaurant

VOTE THE TASTEMAKERS

San Antonio is currently experiencing an unprecedented boon of new eateries, making it challenging for any restaurant to stand out from the crowd. Choosing the 16 nominees for this year’s Best New Restaurant has taken a ton of debate, a secret ballot, and a year’s worth of exceptional eating.

Our judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — have spoken; now, it’s time for you to pick your standouts. Vote for your favorites in our annual bracket-style elimination challenge. To vote, click here. Don't delay: The first bracket ends at 11:59 pm on Friday, May 5.

From May 2 to May 17, you can cast your vote once a day, every day. Then, you’re invited to celebrate the winner of the 2023 Tastemaker Awards during a blowout party at the Briscoe History Museum on May 18. Nominated restaurants and chefs will show off their best bites and the winners in each category will be revealed. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you to the impressive list of contenders.

Allora
When longtime chef Robbie Nowlin left San Antonio, almost no one was lauding it as a culinary destination. Now that the city has blossomed into a media darling, his return is more than a homecoming. Though his stints at standard-bearers like the French Laundry no-doubt inform his contemporary cuisine (check out Allora’s luxuriously yolked pasta), this isn’t a recreation of California’s greatest hits. It’s a city catching up with its talent and seeing the worth of exactingly executed global cuisine.

Restaurant Claudine
Like all of Carpenter Hospitality’s upmarket restaurants, this Grayson Street stunner views as a diorama. Every detail has been fussed over, from the drape of the valances to the languoring white spider mums in each bud vase. Claudine, however, introduces effortless ease. Watched over by portraits of its namesake, guests chatter over cornbread and fried chicken. It’s like being in a country house kitchen; only the good china is always used.

Arrosta
This Pearl eatery had a few hiccups at the start but has now settled at the forefront of casual dining. Comfort eating is at the core, but not just through the usual tricks of breading and butter. Instead, bold flavors evoke the warmth of shared family meals. Punchy San Marzano tomatoes embrace caper and olive brine. Richly sweet caramelized onions lavish affection on rigatoni “alla vodka.”

Box St. All Day
When food trucks leap to brick-and-mortar, there’s seldom more change than air conditioning. Box Street busted open its doors with the force of Miss Congeniality. The menu was only a tiny evolution — co-owners Edward Garcia and Daniel Treviño still serve what they like to eat. But the experience of drinking a strawberry Aperol spritz in a tropical Millennial fever dream finally gives it the atmosphere it deserves.

Carriqui
“Elevate” can be prickly when applied to gastronomy, implying that immigrant foodways lack the sophistication to be considered serious cuisine. So, it’s refreshing that Carriqui lets South Texas food stand on its own. Yes, the team spared no expense in converting Fritz Boehler’s former saloon into a Pearl showpiece. Yes, guests can peacock with a wagyu steak. But the heart of the menu is in the Old School Nachos, a simple “ain’t broke” platter of chips topped with refried beans, jalapeño, and shredded Cheddar.

Ladino
Chef and partner Berty Richter first came to prominence with Hummus Among Us, an Austin food truck that dazzled far brighter than its humble surrounds. Now at the helm of this Pearl showpiece, he makes some of the most exhilarating fare San Antonio has ever seen. Though his Jewish-Balkan offerings have expanded with a fish kofta drizzled with chermoula and a genuinely astounding knafeh, that impossibly creamy hummus is still the very first item Ladino’s menu lists. It’s still the grace that should be said before every dinner.

Cullum’s Attaboy
A tribute to the golden age of San Antonio hospitality, this unassuming spot has no use for the tweezered microgreens of contemporary culinary largesse. That approach makes a simple French omelette feel like a manifesto. It comes with a stripe of sash of sprightly hollandaise, the same sunny color as the eggs underneath. Embroidered with caviar or shaved truffle, it never loses its simple charms — reminding that the quiet ones often have the most to say.

Full Goods Diner
At first glance, Full Goods isn’t all that different from a neighborhood Jim’s. The chefs serve up pillowy pancakes, towering club sandwiches, and hearty steak and eggs. The come-as-you-are vibe is similar, too, with sneakers replacing some of Pearl’s tonier shoes. But where most diners bristle at change, this one sees the commonalities in gastronomy’s full arsenal. Chief among the flavors, of course, are those borrowed from Alamo City’s rich heritage. A diner is made more quintessentially American by embracing all of its people.

Go Fish Market
Maybe it’s grind culture, but somewhere along the way, it became American doctrine that lunch should be fast and cheap. Here’s to disrupting that norm. Though this Pearl area hot spot is open for dinner, its sunny surrounds seem most fitting for a mid-day meal. It won’t get you in and out like a fast-food meal, and certainly, a dry-aged tuna sandwich costs more than Starkist. To paraphrase the great libertine Diana Vreeland, why don’t you wash away an afternoon lull with a bottle of Luigi Bianco?

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.

Double Standard
Do distinctions really matter in 2023? Yes, this downtown concept is a bar — the name even winks to it — but the pub grub is not just there to soak up all the booze. Instead, the salty salsa verde on top of a white bean and bacon fat dip begs for a beer, and the steak frites beckon for a dry martini. This is hospitality at its core, ensuring whatever is ordered delivers a dazzling experience.

Krazy Katsu
Chicken sandwiches are big business. Just ask all the fast-food franchises that recently fought to be at the top of the category’s pecking order. This Olmos Park David, however, handily beats all the corporate Goliaths with impossibly crispy chicken breasts that can barely be contained by the bun. The base allows for almost a dozen variations. Still, the K-Pop truly shines thanks to its mix of gochujang, pickled cucumbers, and kimchi.

Hola!
When the owners of Azuca Nuevo said help to Southtown, it was a perfect meet cute. The easy sociability of tapas seemed so perfect for the artsy neighborhood that one wondered why it hadn’t been there all along. Still, a great concept needs to be backed up by execution. Hola! announces itself with punchy flavors that travel well outside of Spain. Turns out that mixing Hawaiian, Cajun, and Middle Eastern dishes with Catalan classics teaches the whole world to sing.

Leche de Tigre
Sit at the bar at this Southtown cebicheria. Though the Peruvian specialties and pisco-based cocktails will entice from any perch, that stretch offers an extra dose of geniality as the chef team chat about guests’ experiences and offer suggestions from the menu. It’s fun to watch the action, too, as hunks of fish are whittled down into delicate slivers.

WonderSlice
There’s really no reason to gild the lily when it comes to pizza. While chef and owner Ben Schwartz is certainly no stranger to the artful compositions of contemporary haute cuisine, he also knows when ingredients should stand alone. This Pearl food hall standout may not serve the most innovative pies. But crust this good feels like a revelation.

Beacon Hill Market & Deli
For Texans who might be perplexed why Northerners take sandwiches so seriously, this shop is the reason why. Beacon Hill’s hoagies are much more than meat slapped on a bun. Every ingredient cleverly provides structure, from the provolone foundation to the plump tomatoes kept far away from the bun. On top is a whisper-thin tangle of white onion — just enough bite to lift a hefty layer of ham and salami.

Allora lobster lasagna
Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

Best new restaurant: Allora

Righteous Pie/ Facebook

6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Favorite pizza truck serves last slice

NEWS YOU CAN EAT

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
Popular pizza truck Righteous Pie has served its last slice. The two-year-old operation, most recently parked at the Block, was especially known for its variety of plant-based alternatives like vegan cheese and summer squash. In a frank social media post, the trailer said that continuous construction and food inflation caused the project to be untenable.

Dance club Cream is clearing out the cobwebs of Saint Paul Square. Via Instagram, the Beacon Hill night spot announced it had begun renovations of a multi-story building at 102 Heiman St. Creatures of the night will lurk in the goth-themed main level, while technophiles will sweat in the basement. The top floor, with a skyline view, will be available for private bookings and musical showcases. Though the owners did not yet divulge a projected opening date, the original Cream will stay open until the first bass drop before transitioning to a hookah lounge and late-night eatery.

The owners of South Side spot Bobbie's Café are taking a second concept under their wing. According to a new Facebook page, Birdie's Bake Shop, Coffee House & Eatery will take flight this summer. Located next door to the Southern restaurant, the shop will dish out French pastries and plenty of caffeine.

Other news and notes
We guess there's a market for it. Touring dining experience Karen's Diner stops in San Antonio on September 16 and 17. During the pop-up, purposefully rude servers dish out burgers and fries in a vaguely '50s atmosphere. Unlike other famous Karens like BBQ Becky, however, the concept prohibits racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist slurs. It does not, however, ban hefty pricing. The $47 ticket covers one burger, one soda, and an order of fries.

And apparently, there's a market for this one too. In celebration of Fiesta, Bakery Lorraine has debuted a pickle macaron. Available at all locations, the sesame seed-topped cookie is filled with pickle curd buttercream and retails for $3.

Like many of us, it looks like Texas Monthly's long-running TM BBQ Fest is so over Austin. The magazine announced that its meat festival will return to Lockhart for a second year. The two-day extravaganza, held November 4-5, kicks off with the BBQ World Fair in Lockhart's historic downtown on the 4th, followed by a November 5 picnic featuring pitmasters from the magazine's vaulted top 50. Members of the TM BBQ Club get first dibs on the tickets on June 1.

Photo courtesy of Sanrio

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck will roll through San Antonio for one day of pastel pastry sweetness

say hello

We've heard of cat cafes, but this touring pastel paradise appeals to a different type of cat lover. The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is rolling through San Antonio for one day only on Saturday, April 8.

This isn't the first time San Antonio has said hello to this truck over the years, but it does carry some new items. Visitors to the truck will get access to exclusive merch including a new pullover hoodie with a chef kitty on the front and baked goods and other kitties up and down the arms. There's also a new plush that puts Hello Kitty in a pink teacup made of the same soft material.

Although the focus does tend to be on longer lasting figurative treats (see also: mugs with sprinkles in the handles, enamel pins, and a chef kitty coin bank), there are a few tasty items that make it a functional cafe.

Hello Kitty's classic friends Keroppi the frog and Chococat appear on petit fours. The leading lady appears on those miniature cakes, a giant sugar cookie, smaller cookies in sets with latte cup shapes, and French macarons. A box of madeleines is the only treat without a bow or character piped on.

It'd certainly be more fun to go in person, but all the edible goodies are packaged up in decorative boxes, perfect for giving as gifts.

The truck has been touring since 2014, later inspiring a Hello Kitty Pop-Up Container and Hello Kitty Mini Cafes in malls. The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe in Irvine, California, takes the concept all the way with velvet bench seats, cakes, hot and cold cafe drinks, and even cocktails.

During its visit to San Antonio, the truck will be parked at 17703 La Cantera Parkway across from Bass Pro Shops near Tribute at the Rim, and will serve customers from 10 am to 7 pm. It does not accept cash, so bring a debit or credit card.

Family taking pictures at the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

Photo courtesy of Sanrio

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is returning to San Antonio on April 8.

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck will be in the following Texas cities on its western tour:

  • San Antonio, April 8
  • Houston, April 15
  • Friendswood, April 22
  • Fort Worth, April 29
  • Dallas, May 6
Photo by Katherine Stinson

These 6 San Antonio brunch spots are worth a return visit (or two)

brunch hunches

Anyone who says magic doesn't exist clearly hasn't snagged a coveted reservation at the Box Street Social for brunch. It's one of the local spots that nails that sacred ritual, brunch with the besties: a magical experience where Monday doesn't exist and stress is forbidden.

Here are some of our top local brunch spots that'll leave both your appetite and your soul satiated (even when Monday actually hits.)

Box St. All Day
Not only does Box St. All Day look like the dreams that Instagram reels are made of, it's got a high quality menu to match, courtesy of chef and co-owner Edward Garcia III. The all-day brunch restaurant (at 623 Hemisfair Blvd, Ste 108) offers hearty options like strawberry cheesecake French toast, steak-eggs and frites (the fries alone are dangerously delicious), the Box St. Brekky sandwich made with house-made bread, and more. Pair your meal with one of its cute coffees, cocktails, or zero-proof cocktails, and save room for plenty of pictures with your brunch buddies before you leave — the details in the decor have a sophisticated feminine flair, thanks to Box Street's innovative creative director Caroline Garcia-Bowman. Reserve on Toast.

Full Belly
Tucked away in its own cozy corner of the world in the Stone Oak/1604 area is Full Belly Cafe + Bar. Where else can you order a plate of pecan pie French toast while gazing at an incredible hand-painted mural of classic animated characters like Jessica Rabbit, Marvin Martian, Stewie Griffin and more brunching together? Executive chef James Moore also serves up plenty of savory brunch options if you don't have a sweet tooth, like the pork belly benny or a baked eggs and toast plate with roasted garlic and thyme cream. Reserve at fullbellysa.com.

Ocho
Did you know that Chef Kirk of Ocho, Hotel Havana's in-house restaurant, is the only local chef to win an episode of Food Network's Chopped? Brunch at Ocho is also a photo-worthy experience, where brunch items like pan de platano (banana bread), plantain cakes con carnitas (plantain pancakes), and more are served up to guests with a side of San Antonio sunlight, given that Ocho is located in a beautiful (and air-conditioned!) glass conservatory. Reserve on Resy.

The Hayden
The Smoke Shack might be the best spot to get your brisket fix on Broadway, but The Hayden is the spot to be for brunch. You can't miss The Hayden's classic retro sign right in the center of The Boardwalk on Broadway. The interior lives up to the welcoming feel of a Jewish deli, complete with menu options from executive chef Bill Corbett like fried chicken and latke waffles, or a bagel and lox. And don't worry — if you're craving the comfort of pancakes, The Hayden's got you covered with The Hayden pancake stack, among other options. Reserve at buzztable.com.

Vegan Avenue on Main
Chef Griselda Muñoz's entirely vegan menu will make believers even out of the most dedicated meat eaters. The cinnamon roll "bettermilk" pancakes have to be tasted to be believed. (Yes, even the sweet cream in the pancake is dairy free!) If you're missing a classic breakfast sandwich but trying to stay meat-free, try Vegan Avenue's "Honee-Butter Chick'n sandwich" with vegan eggs and crispy, fried plant-based chicken. If you're not near Vegan Avenue but craving its vegan breakfast tacos, you can also get your fix at Vegan Avenue's sister restaurant on TPC Parkway, Plantology. Reserve at squareup.com.

Barbaro
One of the best hair-of-the-dog cocktails in town is Barbaro's delicious Garibaldi, a simple concoction of Campari and orange juice, but you can't go wrong with the "Keep It Coming" Bloody Mary bar and Mimosas: For $15, you can alternate between the two until you've had your fill. Soak up Saturday night with eggs Barbaro (two poached eggs on homemade focaccia, Benton's country ham, hollandaise, and spinach) or dive into a skillet pancake (whipped lemon ricotta and seasonal berries, plus extra fine bacon, ricotta salata, and maple syrup).


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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Sweet Los Angeles salad chain plants first San Antonio store

LETTUCE CELEBRATE

One of America's buzziest fast-casual brands has found its way to San Antonio. Sweetgreen, a Los Angeles-based chain known for locally sourced bowls and a contemporary brand identity, debuts at Quarry Village on June 6.

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 2006, the chain has become one of the U.S.'s fastest-growing concepts by reimagining fast food. Its menu focuses on gourmet grain bowls and salads augmented with healthier drinks and desserts.

Highlights include a spring asparagus salad overflowing with green vegetables and za'atar breadcrumbs, the warm Shroomami bowl with roasted sesame tofu and portobello, and a protein-packed green goddess salad with black lentils and chickpeas.

With a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2027, Sweetgreen commits itself to sustainable construction, a plant-heavy menu, and local sourcing when possible. The San Antonio newcomer works with local farms when possible, like Rio Fresh Farm, Fredericksburg Peach Co., Kitchen Pride, Village Farms, Bowers Shrimp Farm, and Banyan Foods.

That community commitment extends to working with locally serving nonprofits. For every meal sold on opening day, the restaurant will donate a meal to Brighter Bites, a national organization delivering fresh produce to underserved elementary school families.

Sweetgreen will also be bringing some opening day fun. The first 50 guests will receive a mystery box from Austin-based brand Kendra Scott, and the first 100 guests will receive a free print from local artist Maya Sokovic. Diners will also enjoy gelato and coffee from Paciugo and a live set from San Antonio deejay Alyson Alonzo.

San Antonio is a city with so much history, with a vibrant food and dining scene to match, and we couldn't be more excited to be joining the community," said Sweetgreen cofounder and CEO Jonathan Neman via a release. "We look forward to continuing our commitment of connecting residents in Texas to real, healthy, convenient food."

Once opened at 340 East Basse Rd. #101, Sweetgreen will have daily hours of 10:30 am- 9 pm.

Sweetgreen San Antonio

Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.

Sweetgreen greets visitos with a fresh, clean aesthetic.

Controversial comedian Dave Chappelle plots out 4 Texas arena shows, including San Antonio

Chappelle's Show(s)

Comedian/actor Dave Chappelle will soon bring his "Dave Chappelle Live" stand-up comedy show to arenas in four cities in Texas, including the AT&T Center in San Antonio on July 12

Other dates include the American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 29, the Toyota Center in Houston on July 1, and the Moody Center in Austin on July 14.

Chappelle is a complicated figure who's been celebrated for his trailblazing comedy and vilified for his controversial stances. Chappelle's Show, which ran from 2003 to 2006 on Comedy Central, was widely praised, and Chappelle remained extremely popular despite the abrupt end of the show and him choosing to recede from the spotlight in the following decade.

His re-emergence in the late 2010s brought success in the form of three straight Grammy wins for Best Comedy Album, but also continued jokes aimed at transgender people. He has been the subject of multiple protests over that material, and has even had a show canceled by a venue in Minneapolis after receiving criticism for hosting him.

As if to underscore the contentious nature of his comedy, no cellphones, cameras, or recording devices will be allowed at any of the four shows. All phones and smart watches will be secured in special pouches that can be unlocked at the end of the show. Anyone caught with a cellphone in the venue will be immediately ejected.

Tickets for the four shows will go on sale at 5 pm on June 5 at ticketmaster.com.

Endless creativity of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse keeps superhero story in overdrive

Movie Review

The blast of pure fun that was 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse accomplished several goals, but none more important than reclaiming the character from being part of just the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By not participating in the never-ending connecting stories of the MCU, the filmmakers could do whatever they wanted, first and foremost using Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) instead of Peter Parker as its main character.

It was also at the forefront of multiversal storytelling that has become the rage in the MCU and elsewhere. Given the multitude of Spider characters that have existed in the comics over the years, it was uniquely suited to telling a story with people from multiple universes. That concept is taken to the nth degree with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, a film that has seemingly limitless levels of creativity.

Miles, having separated from Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), and other Spider-people at the end of the first film, is doing well as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, casually protecting people from threats big and small. But when a highly unusual villain named The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) proves especially tricky, a series of events has Miles follow Gwen into a portal where he encounters every other Spider character in existence.

Lest you think that’s hyperbole, among the people he meets are Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman (Issa Rae), Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac), Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya), Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider (Andy Samberg), and Spider-Man India (Karan Soni), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Revelations made while meeting all of them lead Miles to a whole new understanding of himself and the multiverse in general, with far-reaching consequences.

The filmmakers, once again led by writers/producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, fill the screen with so many visual elements that at times it can be overwhelming, but in the best possible way. Unlike most animated films, there are multiple different styles employed throughout, and never knowing what to expect gives the film a kineticism that borders on manic, although it always stops short of being incomprehensible.

The storytelling is much more complex this time around, no surprise since it involves so many more characters. But the personal stories of each of the Spider characters, especially Miles and Gwen, maintain a grounded nature that keeps the plot anchored even while delving into increasingly fantastical territory.

Although this film deals with some darker themes, there is still plenty of humor to be had. The intersection of so many Spider characters highlights their differences, and the way they interact can’t help but be entertaining. Miles is still a 15-year-old kid, and the way he navigates the world(s) has a lightness to it that is a sharp contrast to the various adults in his life.

Moore, who’s not as well-known as some of his co-stars, has proven to be the perfect voice for Miles, making him relatable and powerful at the same time. Everyone else gives similarly great performances, although the fact that many of them are famous for their non-voicework doesn’t really play a factor in how well they come across here.

A third film, Beyond the Spider-Verse, is teased with a cliffhanger, and unlike other franchises where multiple films are unnecessary, there are no such reservations here. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse equals the success of the first film, and there is no doubt that the filmmakers will bring the same level of attention to detail to the end of the trilogy.

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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now running in theaters.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.