Image courtesy of the San Antonio Botanical Garden

It’s been a while since most San Antonians attended a show-and-tell. A lot of us sat through Zoom presentations recently, but we all know that’s just not the same as making in-person connections. Luckily, there’s a local cure for Zoom fatigue — and it aims to be the talk of the town.

A social practice by way of Tokyo called PechaKucha is returning to San Antonio on Thursday, March 3 after a year and a half off — enough time for participants to gather brand new stories to tell at the San Antonio Botanical Garden for the city’s 40th “volume.” The material is on screen, but the presenter is finally back in front of the audience.

The storytelling exercise was developed by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, just as a way to make design presentations a little more bearable. It follows an easy 20-by-20 rule: The presenter shows a slideshow of 20 images, speaking for 20 seconds about each. This makes for good chitchat, or in Japanese, PechaKucha.

There’s just enough structure to encourage anyone to break down a complicated story into pieces they feel confident telling over the otherwise daunting six minutes and change. Topics can be comedic (“Random Slides Improvisation” by Michigan’s Jerry Price and Dave Krock), analytical (“Saving the Ocean with Law and Science” by Marcel Jaspars of the University of Aberdeen), inspirational (“Life Lessons from Trail Running” by Colorado’s Sarah Lavender Smith) or anything else that gets people talking. A huge segment of the PechaKucha library teaches listeners skills like baking and pursuing more sustainable lifestyles.

In San Antonio, the top-trending PechaKucha is presented as a how-to and delivered more like a memoir in a Texas accent that is rare among similarly high-performing recordings on the site.

From PechaKucha Night San Antonio Vol. 6, “How to be an Independent Farmer in Central Texas” details Linda Perez’s personal journey on her ranch, punctuated by emphatic crowd support. Judging by the regional callout in the title, Perez probably put her presentation together in the hopes that curious non-Texans would listen to the recording at home. Still, Perez’s charisma and the audience’s excitement douses the presentation in hometown pride.

San Antonio’s 40th volume will include presentations by seven locals: Maeve Bassett, an applied ethnobotanist at the Botanical Garden; Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, owner of the wildly popular Asian fusion restaurant Best Quality Daughter; Heyd Fontenot, a queer artist who was raised Catholic; Mara Nathan, a pioneering female Rabbi; Erika Prosper, first lady of San Antonio; Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, the city’s first Black poet laureate; and Tyler Ybarra, owner of coffee shop and roaster Cafe Azteca.

Alyson Alonzo, a local musician and former presenter will return as the night’s emcee, and DJ Anita Boogie will bring the beats for the welcome reception. For $7 online or $10 at the event, visitors will see a combined 47 minutes of presentations, nibble bites by local restaurants like Jardin and Bakery Lorraine, and enjoy some greenery on the lawn at the Betty Kelso Center.

For more information about the March 3 event at 6:30 pm, visit the Eventbrite listing.

Inspired listeners can create their own PechaKuchas and compose and publish their own presentations using PK Create, a builder in its beta stage on pechakucha.com.


San Antonio drinks in ranking as cheapest happy hour spot in Texas, says study

Is it 5 o'clock yet?

Happy hours in San Antonio are practically as popular as area attractions like the River Walk and the Alamo. And according to one new ranking, there’s something else San Antonio sippers can be happy about: The city is the cheapest spot for happy hours in the Lone Star State.

A new ranking from jewelry retailer Shane Co. (not sure of the connection between cocktails and carats) puts San Antonio at No. 8 among the best U.S. cities for happy hours. And among all 50 cities featured, San Antonio ranks as the lowest-cost place for happy hour ($26.80 for an evening of drinks consumed by one person).

Phoenix takes first place in the happy hour rankings, with San Diego at No. 2.

Three other Texas cities appear in the top 10: Dallas (No. 4), and Houston (No. 9), and Austin (No. 3), the top happy hour town in Texas, which real estate brokerage Redfin ranks seventh in a separate study for the number of #HappyHour Instagram posts per 100,000 and eighth for the overall volume of those posts. No other Texas cities show up among the top 20 U.S. cities.

To come up with its ranking, Shane Co. analyzed Yelp data from the 50 largest U.S. cities. It then judged each city based on happy hour expenses, number of happy hour spots, average number of happy hour reviews, average rating of happy hour spots, and number of “perfect” amenity-rich happy hour spots.

“There’s something special about unwinding after a long day of work with a nice, cool drink out on the town,” Shane Co. gushes. “The bubbly atmosphere, as well as chatting with pals and sociable strangers that will soon become friends, are all things that make happy hour, well, happy!”

Long-awaited Italian restaurant says ciao to San Antonio with summer opening


When things go south, it’s usually a bad thing. But in the case of North Italia, going south means San Antonio is — finally! — home to a well-known Italian restaurant that’s been simmering on the back burner for more than a year.

North Italia, the cozy neighborhood Italian joint founded in 2002 that now has 25 locations scattered across the country — including two in Austin, and in Dallas, Houston, and Plano — will open at The Rim June 9.

Praised for its made-from-scratch pastas, daily pizzas, crafted small plates, and delightful wine selection, North Italia was set to break ground at the San Antonio development in 2019 with an April 2020 completion date, but that got pushed back significantly thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new North Italia will feature many of the restaurant’s well-loved favorites for brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour service. (Step outside your comfort zone and do like the Romans do: Try the squid ink pasta, a briny bite that plays perfectly with seafood.) North Italia will also offer takeout and delivery service via DoorDash and Olo.

Of course, what’s a restaurant without a knowledgeable staff? In preparation for its June opening, North Italia will host a series of job fairs in search of passionate employees to fill both front-of-house and back-of-house positions. The events will take place at North Italia at The Rim (5822 Worth Pkwy., Ste. 108) May 6-8, as well as May 10-15 and May 17-22 from 10 am-6 pm each day. An additional job fair event will take place Sunday, May 16 from 11 am-4 pm.

And just in case restaurant workers need any added incentive to re-enter the job market after the hospitality-industry-shattering pandemic, North Italia will offer a signing bonus for select positions at the new San Antonio restaurant.

Courtesy rendering

Luxury River Walk hotel lands new restaurant from celebrity San Antonio chef


San Antonio’s newest luxury hotel has tapped some serious culinary cred for its signature restaurant, opening in February along the River Walk.

Thompson San Antonio, the sleek 20-story, 162-room Hyatt property located on the banks of the San Antonio River, will feature four dining and bar concepts, including its principal eatery, Landrace, led by nationally acclaimed chef Steve McHugh, owner of Cured.

The 200-seat, light-drenched Landrace, features floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the River Walk. With McHugh at the helm, the new eatery will offer a menu emphasizing regional ingredients and products sourced locally and regionally, with an emphasis on wood-fired grilling.

“Landrace is a dream realized for me, as I have been envisioning and working on the concept for some time,” McHugh, a James Beard Award finalist, said in a release about the newly announced midcentury-modern-style concept. “The menu will showcase my fascination with local ingredients and the unique products grown in Texas as we celebrate the natural flavors and nuances of the seasons in collaboration with Texas’ heritage farmers and growers.”

With Landrace’s regional suppliers including Broken Arrow Ranch, Texas Black Gold Garlic, Barton Springs Mill, Wholesome Harvest Farm, Windy Hill Farms, and Peaceful Pork, McHugh will expand his culinary prowess beyond his much-loved Cured dishes. In addition to grilled plates like barbecued oysters, bone marrow with lamb sirloin, Berkshire pork chops, and charred chicken with achiote and fermented hot sauce, other highlights of McHugh’s new menu include wagyu beef tartare, pasta with Gulf blue crab, and roasted delicata squash with pomegranates.

In line with McHugh’s curated menu, the beverage program provides a similarly posh experience for diners, with the highlight being a tableside cocktail cart that will serve Old-Fashioned cocktails made to order.

High atop Thompson San Antonio’s 20 stories is the property’s rooftop restaurant and bar, The Moon’s Daughters, a 300-seat indoor/outdoor eatery inspired by the Greek goddess of the moon and featuring a Mediterranean-driven menu created by hometown executive chef Robert Cantu. Aiming to evoke thoughts of sun-drenched holidays along the Aegean Sea, the menu will include a variety of noshable small plates and meat, fish, and veggie-forward dishes, like lamb ragu, stuffed leek kabobs, seared black bass, and blowfish tails.

Rounding out the hotel's venue options are an open-to-the-public lobby bar and a fourth-floor pool bar exclusively available to hotel guests and condo residents of The Arts Residences on the property.

“We are excited to bring creative, new, and tailored dining experiences to San Antonio with the opening of Landrace and The Moon’s Daughters, scheduled for early 2021,” Ted Knighton, general manager of Thompson San Antonio, said in the release. “It is an honor to work with one of San Antonio’s most celebrated chefs on his newest masterpiece, which will pay tribute to the ingredients and farmers of our region. The Moon’s Daughters will also offer a magical experience in a must-see rooftop setting, unlike any other in our city.”

Located on the River Walk at 115 Lexington Ave. and within walking distance of the Tobin Center for Performing Arts and The Alamo, Thompson San Antonio is scheduled to open February 18.

Famed San Antonio chef Steve McHugh will lead Landrace.

Landrance Thompson Hotel rendering
Courtesy rendering
Famed San Antonio chef Steve McHugh will lead Landrace.
Photo by recep-bg/Getty Images

Texas pops the cork on study of biggest virtual partiers during COVID-19 shutdown

Cheers, Y'all

If your social calendar suddenly swelled during the pandemic, you're not alone. Virtual happy hours have suddenly become the way to relax and connect with friends — especially in Texas.

A recent study from lifestyle website Improb.com has crowned us one of the nation's virtual party hot spots, with Texans attending an average of four online parties a week during lockdown.

Not only that, but the data reveals we knock back about four drinks per party. Nearly half (48 percent) said they're regularly cheers'ing with beer, while 31 percent prefer wine, 13 percent drink spirits, and 8 percent are mixing up cocktails. Overall, one in 10 of the participants admitted to experiencing more hangovers during lockdown than before it started.

People apparently miss their coworkers too, with one in 10 surveyed attending online drinks hosted by their employers.

The website surveyed 3,100 Americans who are sheltering in place across the country to get its results.

The least sociable states include Louisiana, Maine, and Oregon, who only party virtually two days per week. And the most sociable? Arkansas and Washington, whose residents are raising a glass six days a week. You've got to have at least one day to recover, after all.

Iconic San Antonio bar reopens on the East Side after uncertain future

The comeback

No doubt fans of Tucker’s Kozy Korner have wondered whether the renowned East Side bar really would reopen after a short series of restarts and closures in the last few years. But wonder no more. Tucker’s is back open as of November 18, with the same standard offerings that made it popular with longtime patrons.

There are new things in store for fans of the lounge, which is now owned by Steve Mahoney’s SA Bar Management group, the force behind popular concepts like George’s Keep, Francis Bogside, Lilly’s Greenville, Blue Box, and Hanzo.

Christine Hill, who manages the bar at many of Mahoney’s establishments, tells CultureMap that the team made a few improvements, but wanted to be mindful of the heritage of the long-running classic.

"It still has the nice, comfortable, cozy environment and we want to cater to this neighborhood and this community, but also respect the history of this place and honor it," Hill says.

A San Antonio institution
Located on Houston Street, just east of downtown, Tucker’s has become a San Antonio institution of sorts. Having opened as a hot dog and burger stand in 1948, Tucker’s evolved over the decades into a cocktail lounge that lacked the frills but became a hot spot thanks to its live soul and R&B music and, later on, down-home soul food and jazz.

But over the past five years, there has been a whirlwind of changes at the spot. Chris Cullum — son of the late local jazz legend Jim Cullum and creator of the Cullum’s Attagirl and Attaboy food ventures — took over Tucker’s in 2014. Then in 2017, Jeret Pena and his Boulevardier Group resumed operations, maintaining much of the culinary and musical programming Cullum set up.

A short time later, ownership again changed hands, this time to Jeff and Jenn White, who departed to focus on their current main enterprise, Eastside Kitchenette. Most recently, Andrew Lake and Nathan Azar took up the reigns at Tucker’s in November 2018, but their tenure only lasted around seven months.

Aside from a few one-off events, Tucker’s has been quiet since spring. That changed mid-November as SA Bar Management began its new era.

A new era for Tucker's
For now, Tucker’s is sticking to drinks. The menu includes traditional cocktails such as Rusty Nail, The Business, Old Fashioned, and Brandy Alexander ranging $8 to $10. There's also wine by the glass, and some domestic and imported beers. Hill and her team are working to reopen the patio bar soon.

Food, however, is on the way. Upgrades to the bar's existing kitchen are ongoing, so Tucker's is inviting a neighborhood resident to bring his barbecue for customers to purchase on weekends. Hill also notes there soon will be a menu of small bites, such as egg rolls, made available daily.

Plans for the revived Tucker’s also call for patrons to be entertained by an alternating mix of DJs and live musicians. Sunday brunch looks to be returning, too, but the hours are currently 4 pm-2 am daily.

Meanwhile, the collage of photos, signs, and magazine covers still adorn the bar’s warm, cozy interior. The old-school jukebox will also still be playing, although the team found a way to breathe new life into that feature too.

"When we get the jukebox up and running, we can hook it into our house speakers, so if you want to play something, everyone can hear it," Hill explains.

Finally, Mahoney's team repaired and cleaned the iconic marquee sign that sits atop the bar's front entrance. For one of San Antonio’s longest running bars, it points to a bright future.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From hotel accolades to urban treasure hunting, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live in new national report. San Antonio was previously the No. 75 place to live in America in 2021, tumbling to No. 83 in 2022 and dropping even further down the list to No. 103 in 2023.

2. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this holiday weekend. Check out Spoon or Kool and the Gang tonight, or head to UTSA for their annual Asian festival.

3. This is how big San Antonio apartments get for $1,500 a month. San Antonio renters can find apartments that span 1,010 square feet for $1,500 a month.

4. Posh Pearl hotel books top spot on best luxury hotels in U.S. list. Tripadvisor's coveted Travelers' Choice Best of Best Awards recently gave Hotel Emma top marks in two categories.

5. Texas unearths new ranking as 2nd best state for urban treasure hunting. Fun fact: Texas has the highest number of metal detecting sites in the nation.

Fine dining chef unpacks nostalgic pop-up concept at popular Grayson Street bar on Memorial Day


With new restaurants seemingly opening daily, San Antonio’s culinary scene is more exhilarating than ever. But even those with a packed reservation schedule sometimes crave something different.

Enter pop-ups — a San Antonio obsession that grows more popular each month. The latest to enter the fray is Restaurant Claudine chef Mel Cavazos, who will debut Throwback Sammies, a one-night-only concept sprouting up at Three Star Bar on May 29.

“I want to do something comforting that everyone can relate to,” explains Cavazos of the nostalgic concept. “I want the menu to read simply but totally unexpected when you eat it.”

The small menu includes a trio of dishes that evoke childhood memories. Cheese bread is reimagined with Romesco sauce, burrata, and basil, while another sandwich has all the fixings of a Sunday pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. Those desperately waiting for fall will no doubt flock to the Thanksgiving Meltdown, complete with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry.

One dish, however, is even more personal. In honor of a recently passed friend, Cavazos added a “secret” vegan sandwich featuring buffalo cauliflower and homemade pickled vegetables.

“He loved his vegan wings,” Cavazos remembers.

The chef tells CultureMap that Throwback Sammies is just the start of a series of pop-ups she hopes to hold monthly. As she continues developing a career at Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality’s ever-growing restaurant empire, she sees the pop-up series as a chance to keep exploring her culinary voice.

“I want to expand and explore more options,” Cavazos says, adding, “I love sandwiches, but that’s not what I like to be known for.”

Throwback Sammies starts at 8 pm and runs until supplies run out. Future pop-ups will be announced via Instagram.

Texas' best restaurants and bars reign at 2023 Tastemaker Awards


It’s another one for CultureMap’s history books, folks. Our statewide journey to recognize some of the best chefs, restaurants, and more in 2023 has finally come to a close.

The series kicked off April 13 with our sold-out Houston Tastemakers at Silver Street Studios, then we moved to Cowtown for our Fort Worth event on April 27. The Texas culinary tour steered us to our Metroplex neighbors in Dallas at the Fashion Industry Gallery on May 4. From there, we took a drive to the Hill Country for Austin’s evening festivities at Fair Market on May 11, then concluded our journey with our second-ever fête in San Antonio on May 18.

The 2023 Tastemaker Awards honor the state’s most innovative culinary pioneers, allowing nominated chefs and restaurants to showcase their talents for guests before announcing the winners during a live ceremony.

Guests sampled chefs’ specialty bites and imbibed a variety of creative cocktails or mocktails, with a few Topo Chicos sprinkled in throughout the evening. But as always, our nominees and winners are the main focus of our program and are the reason we can bring these celebrations to life.

Nominees are brought forth by a panel of previous Tastemaker winners and CultureMap editors. While the panel choses a majority of the winners, the winner of Best New Restaurant is determined by our readers in an online, bracket-style tournament. New this year in each city, a sizzling on-site Burger Throwdown sponsored by Goodstock Beef by Nolan Ryan.

Without further ado, let’s meet our 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards winners, listed by city:

San Antonio:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
  • Chef of the Year: Robbie Nowlin, Allora, Arrosta
  • Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
  • Brewery of the Year: Künstler Brewing
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: The Magpie
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sofia Tejeda, Hotel Emma
  • Best Burger: Last Place Burger
  • Best New Restaurant: Reese Bros BBQ


K\u00fcnstler doppelbock
Künstler Brewing Instagram

Künstler Brewing is our Brewery of the Year.

  • Restaurant of the Year: Bludorn
  • Chef of the Year: Mark Clayton, Squable
  • Bar of the Year: Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar and Spirit Lounge
  • Best New Restaurant: Aiko
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Emmanuel Chavez, Tatemó
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Shawn Gawle, Goodnight Hospitality
  • Bartender of the Year: Kristine Nguyen, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Craft Pita
  • Wine Program of the Year: Nancy’s Hustle
  • Best Pop-Up: Khói Barbecue
  • Best Burger: Burger Bodega

Fort Worth:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Fitzgerald
  • Chef of the Year: Juan Ramón Cárdenas, Don Artemio
  • Bar of the Year: Birdie’s Social Club
  • Best New Restaurant: Calisience
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Angel Fuentes, Guapo Taco
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Cafe Bella
  • Best Burger: Dayne’s Craft Barbecue
  • Best Brewery: Martin House Brewing Company


  • Restaurant of the Year: Shoyo
  • Chef of the Year: Junior Borges, Meridian
  • Bar of the Year: Lounge Here
  • Best New Restaurant: Quarter Acre
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Mike Matis, Fearing’s
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Maricsa Trejo, La Casita Bakeshop
  • Bartender of the Year: Haley Merritt, Midnight Rambler
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: El Rincon del Maiz
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros.
  • Best Burger: Wulf Burger
  • Brewery of the Year: Manhattan Project Beer Co.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Birdie’s
  • Chef of the Year: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Joaquin Ceballos, Este
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Mariela Camacho, Comadre Panadería
  • Bar of the Year: Nickel City
  • Bartender of the Year: Erin Ashford, Olamaie
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Nixta Taqueria
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Brewery of the Year: Lazarus Brewing Co.
  • Best Burger: Dai Due
  • Best New Restaurant: Maie Day