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San Antonio is earning extra credit in a new ranking of the best high schools in Texas.

In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, one local district ranks among the state’s best school districts, while one private institution makes the grade among the state’s best private high schools.

Within the top 10 in each respective category are:

  • BASIS Texas Charter Schools in San Antonio, No. 4 among school districts
  • Keystone School in San Antonio, No. 9 among private high schools

“Some of the biggest decisions that parents face have to do with their children’s education,” Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche, says in a news release. “We strive to put as much power in their hands as possible so they can make informed decisions with confidence.”

Niche says that while traditional rankings rely heavily on metrics like test scores and academic performance, its rankings combine ratings from current students, alumni, and parents with data from the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate teachers, resources, facilities, extracurricular activities and more.

Here’s how other Texas schools and school districts fared in this year’s Niche rankings.

Austin area

  • Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts & Science Academy, No. 2 among public high schools
  • Eanes ISD’s Westlake High School, No. 6 among public high schools
  • Round Rock ISD’s Westwood High IB World School, No. 8 among public high schools
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, No. 4 among private high schools
  • Eanes ISD, No. 1 among best school districts

Dallas area

  • Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented, No. 1 among public high schools
  • Dallas ISD’s School of Science & Engineering, No. 3 among public high schools
  • Carroll ISD’s Carroll High School, No. 7 among public high schools
  • St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, No. 1 among private high schools
  • Greenhill School in Addison, No. 3 among private high schools
  • The Hockaday School in Dallas, No. 5 among private high schools
  • Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving, No. 8 among private high schools
  • Carrollton ISD in Carrollton, No. 3 among best school districts
  • Lovejoy ISD in Addison, No. 5 among best school districts
  • Coppell ISD, No. 6 among best school districts
  • Frisco ISD, No. 7 among best school districts
  • Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, No 8 among best school districts
  • Highland Park ISD, No. 9 among best school districts
  • Prosper ISD, No. 10 among best school districts

Houston area

  • Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, No. 4 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Debakey High School for Health Professions, No. 5 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, No. 9 among public high schools
  • Katy ISD’s Seven Lakes High School, No. 10 among public high schools
  • The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, No. 6 among private high schools
  • The Village School in Houston, No. 7 among private high schools
  • The Kincaid School in Houston, No. 10 among private high schools

Rio Grande Valley

  • South Texas ISD in Mercedes, No. 2 among school districts
Chimichurri

State Fair of Texas adds serious gourmet treats from local restaurants

State Fair News

The 2022 State Fair of Texas commenced September 30. On the foodie front, for the first time, they've added seven new food stands from some notable Dallas restaurants.

These are above and beyond the usual concessionaires, and also have nothing to do with the Big Tex awards (which this year include a Fried Charcuterie Board and a sweet called Peanut Butter Paradise).

No, these are serious gourmet goodies that range from irresistible empanadas to gourmet soft-serve ice cream to Neapolitan pizza topped with BBQ.

These are the seven brand-new vendors joining the lineup at the 2022 State Fair of Texas:

Empanadas and fries from Chimichurri & Milagro Taco Cantina
Award-winning chef Jesus Carmona’s new stand will be serving dishes from his two Dallas restaurants, Chimichurri and Milagro Taco Cantina. He'll be doing two types of empanadas, plus a campeona taco, a burrito Texano, and mole fries, drizzled with mole sauce, crema fresca, and cotija cheese. Carmona was nominated for Rising Star Chef in CultureMap’s 2018 Tastemaker Awards and appeared on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.

Candy pickles from Di-Licious Candies Pickles Factory
Known as the “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” of pickles, the family-owned and -operated Di-Licious Candies Pickles Factory is the “first original candy pickle factory in the entire world” and has more than 250 flavors of candy pickles. Featured dishes include their signature chamoy candy pickle along with candy pickles in a cup, Rainbow Brite candy pickle sundae, and cotton candy pickle roll crunch.

Pumpkin spice cheesecake on a stick from Drizzle Cheesecakes
Olympic athlete Stephen El Gidi and his partner Walid founded Drizzle Cheesecakes in 2018. Their business has made appearances across North America from southwestern Ontario to our neighbors at Six Flags Over Texas’ Holiday in the Park. Drizzle’s New York-style cheesecake on a stick is dipped in magic-shell Belgian chocolate and rolled in a variety of toppings including crushed Oreos, red velvet cake, strawberry crumble, and more. Their stand will feature specialty flavors developed just for the State Fair of Texas including pumpkin spice cheesecake.

Loaded queso fries by Enjoy Foods
Founded in 2012, Enjoy Foods started out as a gourmet kitchen store in Rockwall from owners Dwaina Morris and her husband They'll be serving loaded queso fries, loaded queso nachos, fried chicken tacos, root beer floats, brownie sundaes, daiquiris, and fried jalapeños. One extra-unique item is their adult-infused jumbo Texas pickle infused with daiquiri mix.

Gourmet soft-serve ice cream by Once Upon a Cone
Once Upon a Cone has been soft-serving delicious ice cream treats all over Texas for the past 12 years. They do premium vanilla, chocolate, and swirled soft-serve ice cream along with specialty sundaes, shakes, floats, and malts. Their dipped cones are available in chocolate, cherry, butterscotch, and birthday cake flavors.

Nashville hot chicken by Palmer’s Hot Chicken Dallas
The Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant concept from Dallas native Palmer Fortune and his partner and chef Mills Garwood will serve the Motherclucker sandwich, a fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese and pickles; jumbo tenders; banana pudding; and tots, plain or smothered in pimento cheese queso). Plus their Frosé wine slushy made with pureed strawberries, hibiscus, and lime.

Neapolitan-style burnt ends pizza by Texapolitan Pizza
Stephan Nedwetzky of Pit Commander Barbecue is using barbecue as the topping on his favorite type of pizza, Neapolitan. Each pizza is made from 00 flour imported from Italy and needs only 90 seconds in the 900-1,000-degree stone oven to reach thin, crispy perfection. Four personal-sized pizza pies will include margherita, pepperoni, cheese, and smoked pork belly burnt ends. That one consists of red sauce, mozzarella, smoked pork belly burnt ends, jalapeños, cotija cheese, and Pit Commander Barbecue Sweet Heat BBQ sauce.

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Irish pub barrels onto Broadway

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 regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

After installing tons of wood paneling, locals Phil and Gina Bentley have transformed the former home of Picante Grill at 3810 Broadway into an intimate Emerald Isle hideaway. The Cottage Irish Pub debuted on September 23 after months of construction. Although the space is traditional, the kitchen serves a few unconventional dishes. Expect to see Ruben eggrolls, veggie paninis, and fish tacos alongside more standard fare like fish ‘n’ chips and beef stew. On tap are favorites like Guinness and Harp, and the well features an enviable selection of whisky.

Celebrity chef Johnny Hernandez celebrated the long-awaited opening of the fifth La Gloria location on September 27. The fifth location for the Interior Mexican chain, the Brooks outpost will be only open for dinner as it irons out the kinks. According to an Instagram post from Hernandez, lunch service will begin in approximately two weeks.

Recovery-minded eatery Comfort Café is now serving downtown via a food truck in the Heidgen House courtyard at 121 Starr St. Introducing itself with a soft opening on September 27, the trailer dishes up familiar fare like pancakes, chicken and waffles, and grilled cheese sandwiches. As with the other locations, the truck follows a pay-what-you-can model and benefits sobriety nonprofit Serenity Star.

More mobile munchies can be found on the South Side, where food truck park Rancho 181 celebrated its grand opening on September 17. Though the family-friendly space has not announced any permanent food vendors, it is already hosting live music performances and other community events.

Other news and notes

Prolific local bar owner Jeret Peña is taking on Alamo heights mainstay Broadway 5050 as his next venture. In a partnership with owner PJ Gottsacker, Peña will be revitalizing the food and beverage menus to breathe new life into the concept­ — a San Antonio institution since 1935.

Joel Rivas, head of the Saint City Culinary Foundation, has been named one of Bon Appetit’s "Heads of the Table" for 2022. The annual listings, which honor personalities that make the food scene more inclusive and uplifting, zeroes in on Rivas’ work with Heard, a mental health nonprofit targeting the service industry.

USAA/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/USAA/photos/a.130601539663/10152365102544664/?type=3&theater]

San Antonio's USAA marches to No. 1 among financial services brands in new study

Five-star salute

Of all the major players in the financial services industry, San Antonio-based USAA enjoys the strongest emotional connection with customers, a new study says.

The study, published by global branding agency MBLM, puts USAA atop the list of financial services providers with the strongest “brand intimacy.” It’s followed by Standard Chartered, PayPal, Mastercard, Robinhood, Visa, Citi, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and Chase.

This is the second year in a row for USAA to lead the study’s financial services category.

In terms of brand intimacy, the major driver at USAA is “identity,” according to MBLM. This is “when the brand reflects an aspirational image or admired values and beliefs that resonate deeply,” the agency says. The identity factor aligns with USAA’s mission of serving active-duty and retired members of the military and their families.

USAA’s strong showing in the identity gives it “the edge it needs to lead the financial services industry,” MBLM says.

While USAA is No. 1 in financial services, it ranks No. 98 among all of the companies included in the MBLM study.

As a whole, the financial services industry didn’t fare well in the study. It lands at No. 14 among all industries, with media and entertainment leading the pack.

“Financial services ranks six industries below newcomer crypto in this year’s study, revealing that the industry overall lacks in building emotional connections with customers the way crypto does,” says Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM. “We believe that the two industries will become more intertwined; however, financial services needs to evolve, focusing more on building trust and valued relationships, or risk falling further in our study.”

Among the companies in all of the industries covered by the study, entertainment powerhouse Disney ranks first. Two Austin companies appear in the top 25: automaker Tesla at No. 2 and grocery chain Whole Foods at No. 21. They’re the only other Texas companies in that group.

Photo by Laura Alexandra

San Antonio shop lands on new list of Latinx-owned businesses to watch

¡Felicidades!

Rancho Diaz — a retailer of home décor, kitchenware, and more — opened just a year ago in the Pearl District, and it’s already earning national recognition.

The Yelp review website has placed Rancho Diaz, at 303 Pearl Pkwy., on its “Ones to Watch” list of Latinx-owned businesses in the U.S. Yelp released the list in conjunction with Latinx Heritage Month.

Mario and Ginger Feliz own Rancho Diaz as well as San Antonio’s Feliz Modern, which made Yelp’s “Ones to Watch” list in 2021. Feliz Modern, at 110 W. Olmos Dr., stocks curated items from small businesses in San Antonio and around the world.

The couple’s newest store, Rancho Diaz, sells an eclectic Tex-Mex mix of vintage and modern pieces “that nod to a desert modern aesthetic,” according to the Pearl district’s website.

The Yelp page for Rancho Diaz features only one review, but it’s a good one: “Great home goods shop with unique items and fair prices. I picked up a vintage enamel oval Dutch oven for $75 that was in great condition. Highly recommend.”

Two Latinx-owned businesses in Austin also appear on this year’s Yelp list: Revival Vintage, a vintage furniture, décor, and clothing store at 5201 N. Lamar Blvd., and Stay While Coffee, a coffee shop at 828 Airport Blvd.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

3 San Antonio companies among best large employers in Texas, says Forbes

Workplace recognition

Several local workplaces are working overtime toward success, and it's paying off. A new list from Forbes and Statista ranks three San Antonio companies among the state’s best major employers, both those based in Texas and those with a significant presence here.

They are:

  • No. 5 University of Texas at San Antonio
  • No. 9 H-E-B (based in San Antonio; more than 300 stores in Texas)
  • No. 12 University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

To come up with their ranking, Forbes and Statista surveyed about 70,000 Americans working at employers in the U.S. with at least 500 employees each. The final list features 1,382 highly recommended employers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

H-E-B is no stranger to the spotlight: The homegrown store recently earned the title of best online grocer in the U.S., beating retail giants Amazon, Amazon Fresh, Walmart, and Walmart-owned Sam’s Club to claim the top spot.

NASA can be over the moon about its new ranking as Texas' No. 1 large employer. The space agency's $1.5 billion Johnson Space Center complex occupies more than 1,600 acres in Clear Lake. The site, home to the space agency’s mission control and astronaut training operations, employs roughly 3,000 NASA workers, along with thousands of NASA contractors. NASA’s headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

It’s estimated that Johnson Space Center contributed more than $4.7 billion to the Texas economy in 2018. On its career website, NASA cites several reasons to work at the federal agency. For instance, NASA says it offers “a range of challenging projects that will make a difference to society. You need only find the intersection between talent, passion, and opportunity.”

Here's the rest of the list of Texas' 30 best large employers, as determined by Forbes and Statista.

Austin area

  • No. 14 Google (based in Mountain View, California; major corporate hub in Austin)
  • No. 29 Dell Technologies, based in Round Rock
  • No. 30 NXP Semiconductors (based in the Netherlands; major corporate hub in Austin)

Houston area

  • No. 1 NASA (based in Washington, D.C.; Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake)
  • No. 2 University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • No. 3 Oceaneering International, based in Houston
  • No. 4 MD Anderson Cancer Center, based in Houston
  • No. 11 Bechtel (based in Reston, Virginia; major corporate hub in Houston)
  • No. 13 Clear Creek ISD, based in League City
  • No. 20 Air Liquide, based in Houston
  • No. 23 Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, based in Pearland
  • No. 25 Houston Methodist, based in Houston

Dallas-Fort Worth area

  • No. 7 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
  • No. 8 Capital One (based in Richmond, Virginia; major corporate hub in Plano)
  • No. 16 University of Texas at Dallas
  • No. 17 Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas
  • No. 18 Lewisville ISD, based in Lewisville
  • No. 19 GM Financial, based in Fort Worth
  • No. 21 City of Plano
  • No. 22 Fidelity Investments (based in Boston; major corporate hub in Westlake)
  • No. 28 Jordan Health Services, based in Addison

Throughout Texas

  • No. 6 IKEA (based in Sweden; five stores in Texas)
  • No. 10 Costco (based in Issaquah, Washington; 35 stores in Texas)
  • No. 15 Hyatt (based in Chicago; hotels throughout Texas)
  • No. 24 Microsoft (based in Redmond, Washington; offices in Austin, Dallas, Friendswood, Frisco, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands)
  • No. 26 Sherwin-Williams (based in Cleveland; more than 300 stores in Texas)
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers heat up San Antonio with 2023 tour stop

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most legendary acts is headed to San Antonio on their highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play the Alamodome on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Kicking off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29, RHCP will also stop in Houston's Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25 to close out the North American leg of the tour before heading to Europe. Effortlessly hip modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers on both Texas stops, along with talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale at 10 am Friday, December 9 online. Other supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red-hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Texas-based 3D printing company tapped by NASA to build on the moon

To infinity and beyond

An Austin-based builder of 3D-printed homes, ICON, is making one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind by signing a $57 million contract with NASA to build on the moon.

According to a release from ICON, the Texas company will soon venture into a new frontier of space dimensions. The contract, announced on November 29, was awarded to the company under NASA's Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program allows ICON to use the $57 million award to build their Olympus system, which adds to previous construction done by both NASA and the Department of Defense for exploration of the moon and beyond.

"ICON’s Olympus system is intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence," the release stated.

The project will work in conjunction with NASA's Artemis program, which launched its first rocket in 50 years on November 15. ICON will work with the program to:

  • Use lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions, in addition to other regolith simulants, to see their mechanical behavior in lunar gravity.
  • Bring advanced hardware and software into space through a lunar gravity simulation flight.
  • Create results to inform future lunar construction approaches for the space community.
  • Establish critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy and habitation.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO.

"It's a construction system we call Olympus system that will allow us to use the local materials of the moon to build all the elements of infrastructure necessary for a lunar outpost and ultimately a moon base ... launch and landing pads, roadways, habitats, you name it, all the things on the moon," said Ballard.

He added that they hope to start building on the moon by 2026, starting with a launch and landing pad.

In addition to the grant, ICON was awarded a subcontract in 2021 to support NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to create the world's first and only simulated 3D-printed Mars surface habitat. Called Mars Dune Alpha, it is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center and is assisting in long-duration science missions.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: New beer garden quietly opens

New 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 regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

The owners of Gold Feather have unofficially untapped a new venture, LadyBird Beer Garden. Although official channels are keeping details mum, a Facebook page run by landlords VLA Real Estate spilled the beans on the November 25 opening. In addition to serving craft beer, the concept at 447 W. Hildebrand Ave has a full kitchen, bar, and a small patio for enjoying the mild December weather.

Months after coyly announcing a second location, Elotitos Corn Bar sprouted a new Government Hill location on December 3. The snack shop is well known for its aguas frescas and elotes flights, offering the street food staple in various flavors. The new outpost is open Monday through Saturday, 3-9 pm.

Following the recent San Antonio expansion of Oregon-based Dutch Bros Coffee, another out-of-towner is gaining some local buzz. According to Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, Arkansas franchise 7 Brew Coffee is brewing its first Alamo City location at 4825 Walzem Rd. Barring delays, the project will be completed in May 2023.

Pop-up concept Rose Hip Coffee has found a permanent home at 116 W. Olmos Dr. in Olmos Park. The broadened Rose Hip Market combines caffeine with boutique retail, offering everything from kid's clothes to ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads. The playful equestrian wallpaper might make it a can't-miss selfie spot.

Other news and notes

A new cocktail conference will lift San Antonio's spirits in January. The Culinaria-hosted Third Coast Cocktail Summit will feature seminars, tastings, dinners, and tipsy soirées during its five-day run from January 10-14. All-access passes are now available for $250 for industry and $500 for general admission at the nonprofit's website.

In other booze news, Kinsman's Brandy Alexander Tour is back in full swing for the holiday season. Dorćol Distilling's annual celebration of the famous desert cocktail has drafted 14 spots to offer the renowned desert cocktail this year, including several newcomers like Allora, Bar Loretta, Double Standard, Ladino, and Sojourn Trading Co. A full list of participants can be found here.