Wayback Cafe & Cottages/Facebook

Tucked away in the rolling greenery of West Austin are eight traditional Texan cottages. Board-and-batten in style, the one- and two-bedroom structures, set among the shade of matured trees, harken back to the early days of the Texas Hill Country.

The property, opened in December 2018 as The Wayback Cafe & Cottages by mother-daughter duo Vicki Bly and Sydney Sue, is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Austin life. In addition to the eight cottages, guests can enjoy a saltwater pool, cabana, fire pit, hillside views, and on-site cafe serving locally sourced food and wine.

Before becoming co-owners of The Wayback, Bly, a serial entrepreneur, ran the Bremond House Bed and Breakfast, while Sue dreamt of a career in event planning for professional sports teams.

The idea for Wayback, explains Sue, began in 2014. “Vicki was driving down Bee Caves Road and saw the property with a for sale sign,” her daughter recalls. “The owner wasn’t particularly interested in selling and was waiting for the right opportunity.”

While the pair weren’t exactly sure of what they would build there — they didn’t even have a business plan yet — they did know they wanted to “create a place for people to feel relaxed, happy, free-spirited, and light-hearted."

In developing plans for what would become The Wayback, which the two drew on graph paper, Sue and Bly came to discover the land's interesting history. Among the property's unique features was an oversized industrial building where the cafe currently stands, a woodshop, and a metal-forging shop that did work for the Texas Capitol.

During a meeting with Warbach Lighting, a custom light fixture company in East Austin, the duo discovered even more quirky facts about the property.

“We had a two-hour conversation with the guys and told them where our property was and they said, 'Oh The Wayback When? Families used to go out there all the time and play music,'” Sue recalls. With its rich history and important place in Austin music, the pair knew they wanted to honor the land's energy, something that continues to enchant everyone who visits.

Throughout the original design process, permitting and construction, even more discoveries were revealed. The property, once dense with overgrown, rambling trees and a thick brush, was hiding expansive hillside views.

“We were the girls that dug through the shrubs and hiked down Barton Creek a mile back to see what was there,” Sue says. “Now, off Cabin 6 and 7, you have these incredible views and can see the clay roofs of Westlake in the distance, almost like you’re looking at another village cross the canyon.”

In getting to know the property at 9601 Bee Cave Rd., one of the most important things for the pair was to respect the land, and thus every tree but two were left as is. “We placed our cottages and cafe everywhere where there was already something and tucked them under the trees. People don't take time to do that now,” Bly says.

During the four-year process building, the mother-daughter took a relaxed, organic approach. The pool came first, followed by the cabana, cottages, and the drive-thru coffee hut — organic offshoots each contributing to the magical essence.

“The last thing we thought of was the cafe,” Sue says. “What gets people together more than food and wine? Our neighbors wouldn’t come if we didn’t have that." Off the cafe used to be a shrine to the Virgin Mary. As rumor has it, Janis Joplin and other famous musicians like Willie Nelson, would jam there.

In continuing this tradition of creative, communal space, Bly and Sue will also be hosting numerous events like an art journaling class with Mint and Maple on April 8 and a men’s retreat.

Since opening just two months ago, The Wayback Cafe & Cottages has become a destination for weekend brunch, weekly pizza nights, afternoon happy hour complete with a Texas-only wine list, or for an overnight getaway. The air is still, the grounds are tranquil, and the cottages are cozy — what more could you ask for?

The Wayback Cafe & Cottages.

Wayback Cafe & Cottages hotel
Wayback Cafe & Cottages/Facebook
The Wayback Cafe & Cottages.

Homegrown chef cooks up San Antonio web series documenting local food

Local love

With almost 20 years experience in the industry, Max’s Wine Dive chef Edward Villareal is a fixture of San Antonio’s restaurant scene. His most recent culinary role, however, has taken him out of the kitchen and in front of the camera.

Inspired by his hometown’s burgeoning culinary community, he founded web series Homegrown Chef in 2017 with local writer and filmmaker Kimberly Suta. Now, he is seeking the community’s help in producing a new batch of episodes.

The idea for the series was developed when Villareal and Suta worked with Chef Cooperatives, a group of locally based chefs who raise funds to support the farm-to-table movement through pop-up events for community farms and ranches. A fan of Anthony Bourdain’s travel series, Suta wanted to document the exciting things happening in her own back yard.

“At the time, I had already been wanting to do a video series around our local food scene here in San Antonio, which had been really taking off,” Suta explains.

After a brainstorming session, Homegrown Chef was born. The first episode featured a cooking demonstration using hoja santa, a wild herb that can be found all over the city. Subsequent editions highlighted some of San Antonio’s most acclaimed chefs, including Jeff White, Pieter Sypesteyn, Ruth Wimberly and Luis Colon.

Villarreal said an increasing number of people — mainly out-of-towners — recognize San Antonio is more than just about “tacos and the Alamo.”

“Everybody has different foods and different styles," he says, "and we want to show that.”

For the second season, the show will be expanding its reach, first making a stop at the San Antonio Botanical Garden to check out its educational opportunities for adults and children, which teach visitors about the importance of healthy food, eating local, and growing produce at home.

The aim is not only inspire creativity in the kitchen, but also to educate the public. “Our greater mission is to educate and inspire people about the importance of knowing where their food comes from, eating local, supporting local farms and being inspired by the indigenous ingredients and rich culture we have available to us,” says Suta.

To help with that goal, Homegrown is teaming up with some favorite local chefs and culinary producers for Sumo Spring Bash from 5-9 pm on March 7 at Burleson Yard Beer Garden. The event will showcase Asian fusion fare featuring locally sourced ingredients, including vegetables picked fresh from the SABOT garden.

The $40-per-person admission includes event entry and bites from SABOT’s chef Dave Terrazas, independent chef Teddy Liang, JD's Chili Parlor’s Diana and John Anderson, and Honeysuckle’s Sara Lauren Hinojosa. Villareal will be serving braised pork belly steamed buns, spicy cilantro cabbage slaw, and sesame aioli.

As for the “sumo” part, guests can don an inflatable sumo wrestler outfit and spar with a partner for an extra $10. Time slots can be reserved first-come, first-served upon arrival.

The idea is at peace with the series’ cheery tone. Through interviews and cooking demonstrations, Homegrown Chef makes the story of San Antonio food fun. It’s a joy that’s reflected in its chef host.

“Watching San Antonio grow in the last five to seven years has been wonderfully fantastic,” says Villareal.

Courtesy photo

How to make a deceptively fancy dinner with only a few on-hand ingredients

Dinner Reinvented

Eggs, butter, flour, cheese, milk, and frozen spinach. Got these ingredients? Then you've got a deceptively fancy dinner.

Roni Proter shows you how to whip up — literally — a spinach souffle in this Dinner Reinvented video. There are no special skills required to make this simple yet delicious version, and you don't even have to worry about this famously temperamental dish falling flat on you.

After thawing a cup of spinach and pressing out the excess water, mix butter and flour together before adding salt and milk steeped with a bay leaf. This step, and the dash of grated nutmeg that comes next, are easy ways to give your meal a little extra oomph without getting too complicated.

Add the spinach and cheese, then froth six egg whites (but don't toss the yolks — you'll need some of them in the spinach mixture) until they form soft peaks. Fold it all together, pour into a souffle dish greased with butter and Parmesan cheese, top with more sprinkles of cheese, and pop in the oven for about 45 minutes.

When the dish emerges all fluffy and buttery, your taste buds will swear you spent more time cooking than you did.


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How to make the world’s easiest shrimp pasta for a comforting weekday dinner

Dinner Reinvented

At the end of a long day, sometimes even ordering takeout can seem like too much work. In this video, Dinner Reinvented host Roni Proter reveals how a couple of freezer staples like shrimp and peas can be transformed into comfort food of the highest order.

In a skillet prepped with simmering butter and fresh garlic, add about 10 defrosted shrimp and stir.

Sprinkle in a little salt and add a few splashes of vermouth or white wine. Proter says to always keep some on hand, and that's one ingredient we can definitely have at the ready.

After it’s cooked down a bit, bring out the frozen peas — no need to defrost — and pour in a splash of cream.

Once it’s all bubbling, add pre-cooked pasta and stir just a little bit more. Top with Parmesan, dish out, and voila! Dinner that didn’t require stopping by the grocery store or ordering in, yet still delivers on taste and convenience.


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Popular San Antonio restaurant boasts new name and refined concept

Restaurant Switch-Up

Located at the buzzy Pearl complex, Nao Latin Gastro Bar is a re-imagining of sorts of Nao New World Flavors. With a new name and tighter focus, Nao is getting even more creative with traditional Latin American cuisine.

The new concept for the signature restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) campus was unveiled in early November. Weekend service from the outdoor kitchen was carried over from the old Nao, and since then, operating hours have been expanded and the menu has undergone plenty of tweaks.

“Nao pays tribute to the gastronomy of Latin America,” says Fernando Salazar, CIA-San Antonio managing director. “Our culinary team has developed a menu of authentic dishes from Latin America but with modern culinary techniques and creative twists.”

Salazar also explains that the bar at Nao is even more tied into the main food menu.

“Our bar team has put together a well-curated list of wines from Latin America with a sprinkling of wines from the Texas Hill Country as well as a list of cocktails created by our capable resident mixologists utilizing spirits from various parts of Latin America,” Salazar says.

In other words, the gastro bar gives equal importance to the food and drinks, according to general manager Abraham Rubio. “When we do the menu, we make sure each food item and drink blend so we have a perfect product pairing between cuisine and beverage,” he adds.

Chef Zach Garza explains that Nao strives to represent a broad range of ingredients and traditions from past and present Latin America. “The whole concept is Pan Latin — Mexico, Chile, and everything in between,” he says.

The lunch menu includes seafood cazuela and duck breast skewers with citrus adobo. Brunch patrons can dine on roasted red bird chicken, complete with carrots, celery, apple, green beans, and raisins or spiced Latin toast with milk-soaked pullman, plantains, River Whey cajeta, and bacon.

Dinner offerings include stone soup with shrimp, seafood broth, serrano pepper and cilantro, and octopus chicharron (yes, it’s octopus prepared like a traditional chicharron). There is also roasted whole pumpkin to be had with fall vegetables, wilted greens, and creamy vegetable broth.

Garza adds that Nao sources many local ingredients, which is important for customers who want to be socially aware and eat healthy. “Americans are becoming more aware of where their food comes from. The average diner is more educated,” he adds.

Nao is also a place of learning for CIA students, who prep lunch before the professionals handle dinner. “It’s your last opportunity to hone your skills before you get thrown to the wolves,” Garza jokes.

Nao is now open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. The outdoor kitchen is open 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday. Brunch is served Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Monday dinner service is scheduled to start February 8.


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This stir-fry works when you have veggies to use and little time to cook

Dinner Reinvented

You know those days when you feel like you don’t have a minute to cook a decent meal? (Of course you do.) That’s when you need this recipe for chicken teriyaki with stir-fried vegetables. It’s what host Roni Proter turns to when she needs to have dinner on the table stat.

In this episode of Dinner Reinvented, she starts with a couple of chicken breasts she’s marinated in teriyaki sauce ahead of time. Don’t worry if you didn’t; even 15 minutes will do the trick.

After she puts the chicken on a heated grill pan — diagonally, to get the start of a nice crisscross mark — she rough chops whatever vegetables she has on hand. In this case, zucchini, red bell pepper, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Proter also offers a great tip for washing ’shrooms: Wipe them down with a clean, wet paper towel. If you rinse them under the faucet, they will soak up the water, and you want the mushrooms to soak up the teriyaki sauce instead.

When it’s time to cook the vegetables — after flipping the chicken — she throws them into a saute pan with a little olive oil, then adds some teriyaki sauce. She lets the vegetables cook for about five minutes.

Proter notes that you can use whatever pasta or rice might be available. For this video, she uses spaghetti, which she mounds on the plate before topping with a spoonful of vegetables and sliced grilled chicken.

To see all the steps, watch the video.


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Whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this stir fry.

Roni Proter preparing chicken teriyaki stir fry
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Whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this stir fry.
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Storytelling, not murder, powers new Hulu film Boston Strangler

Movie Review

America’s seemingly unceasing obsession with murders and/or serial killers has mainly shown itself in recent years via true crime TV shows and podcasts. But sometimes a movie can be just as effective, and one long-ago series of killings is getting a fresh look in the new Hulu film, Boston Strangler.

Taking a page from the Spotlight/She Said book, the film approaches the story from the angle of the newspaper reporters who broke it in the first place. In the early 1960s, Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) works as a lifestyle reporter at the Boston Record American but wants to move into crime reporting. When she notices a pattern in a recent spate of murders, McLaughlin convinces her boss, Jack Maclaine (Chris Cooper), to let her look deeper into possible connections.

When she finds out all the women had stockings tied in a bow around their necks, she publishes a story about the possible serial killer, opening up a can of worms that gets major pushback from the Boston police. Soon, she and fellow reporter Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) are consumed by the case, with the killer striking again multiple times, including in other cities.

Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, the film is stylish in both its execution and storytelling. Even though the name “Boston Strangler” might sound familiar to many people, the details of the case – especially the fact that two women were at the forefront of covering it – are not as widely known. The film drills down on just how frustrating the case was on all sides, leading the media and the police into a symbiotic search for answers.

Ruskin does an effective job of setting the scene, focusing on the inherent sexism of the day that women like Loretta and Jean faced without letting that aspect overpower the story. While perhaps not to the degree as in She Said, the film shows how ably – and sometimes not - the two women balance the demands of being both reporters and wives/mothers.

The film is also able to set the tone of fear that pervaded in the city at the time without being overly gratuitous. There are a few murder scenes, as well as the aftermath of murders, and Ruskin shows just enough to get the point across, never lingering on the more disturbing aspects. The casting of the various suspects helps the tone, especially David Dastmalchian as prime suspect Albert DeSalvo.

Knightley, whose recent films have been less high-profile than earlier in her career, puts in a great performance here. She demonstrates the strength someone like Loretta would need to overcome the obstacles put in her way. Coon is good, although because her character isn’t explored as much, she comes off as a little one-note. Also respectable in supporting roles are Cooper, Alessandro Nivola, and Rory Cochrane.

Boston Strangler is a solid drama that nods toward the fascination with serial killers with an approach that is bit more palatable. The work of journalists like Loretta McLaughlin in situations like the one depicted is invaluable, and this film deftly shows exactly why.


Boston Strangler is now streaming on Hulu.

Keira Knightley in Boston Strangler

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Keira Knightley in Boston Strangler.

A Night in Old San Antonio returns to enchant locals this April, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. A Night in Old San Antonio returns to enchant locals with new food and fun this April. This beloved celebration of Alamo City’s rich cultural heritage will be held April 25- 28, offering revelers food, live music, and Fiesta souvenirs.

2. Splash, spin, and swing into San Antonio's best spring activities for the whole family. Sure, Spring Break is coming to an end, but several of our spring activity picks can keep the family entertained throughout the year.

3. Southern Living names Texas Hill Country hot spot a top Southern small town. The magazine dubbed Fredericksburg the No. 4 best Southern small town, but of course, it will always be No. 1 in our hearts.

4. Riverdance stomps into San Antonio for limited summer run. The spectacular touring production is heading to the Majestic Theatre for its 25th-anniversary tour.

5. Cirque du Soleil swings back to San Antonio for first big top show. Cirque du Soleil's BAZZAR is making its Southwest debut in San Antonio this year.

San Antonio rent prices increased 7 percent from 2022, report finds


Apartment rent keeps going up in Texas, and in San Antonio the increase is seven percent more than last year, making it more difficult to afford living in the city. That’s according to a new national rent report from online rental marketplace Zumper.

Despite rent increases showing small improvements month-over-month, overall prices are still on the high side from the previous year. For example, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Antonio is $1,430 now, in March of 2023, which is a 1.4 percent decrease from the previous month, but a 4.4 percent increase from 2022. The average rent for a one-bedroom is $1,160, which is a mere .90 percent increase month-over-month, but a whopping 7.4 percent increase from last year.

The report looked at rental data from more than one million active listings in the top 100 cities in the United States to determine the rankings. Zumper ranked San Antonio the No. 66 most expensive rental market across the nation in February of 2023, up three places from the last report.

The report attributes these recent rental increase trends to the nation's rising inflation rate and unpredictable economy. Though unemployment is low (less than 3.4 percent), potential homebuyers are being sidelined with increasing interest rates. This is causing more competition among renters all over the country.

“Many markets continue to either normalize or correct following the steep increases in rent seen in 2021 [and 2022] in the zero interest rate [and] QE environment we went through,” said Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades in the report. “With interest rates expected to rise further in 2023, we anticipate continued deceleration in rent rises as new household formation freezes or is at least postponed.”

Much higher up the list from San Antonio is its Central Texas neighbor Austin, coming in as the No. 25 most expensive rental market, which is a two-place increase from a previous report. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment stayed relatively flat over the last month, at $1,670, yet is still 7.7 percent higher than it was last year. Two-bedroom apartments saw a higher year-over-year increase at 8.4 percent, with the average rent price at $2,070.

Several cities in the DFW metro area also made the list, as well as Houston (No. 51) and El Paso (No. 95). Most notably, Irving (No. 34) is experiencing a nearly 15 percent year-over-year rent increase for both one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The nine total Texas cities that made the list include:

  • No. 25 – Austin
  • No. 34 – Irving
  • No. 36 – Dallas
  • No. 40 – Plano
  • No. 51 – Houston
  • No. 55 – Fort Worth
  • No. 66 – San Antonio
  • No. 67 – Arlington
  • No. 95 – El Paso

The full data from Zumper’s National Rent Report can be found at zumper.com.