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Photo courtesy of Chicken Salad Chick

Texas is not exactly known for its delis, so Chicken Salad Chick may be a sight for sore eyes in San Antonio. The Alabama-based concept has been popular in Texas: It opened its 24th restaurant in the state and the first in San Antonio on January 31, following through on a 2021 announcement to bring eight locations to the area in the next few years. A second location is set come clucking in February, pushing the chain's total number of restaurants in the United States past 220.

For now, the first restaurant is in the Stone Oak neighborhood at 22831 N US Hwy 281, where it serves a dozen flavors including a traditional southern flavor with sweet pickles and eggs, and more adventurous flavors like buffalo sauce or lemon and basil. These come on lettuce, bread, and sometimes croissants (although these do not appear on the San Antonio menu online). With an order-ahead app and a drive-through window, this fast concept gets even faster.

"We are thrilled to introduce this unique concept to San Antonio,” said San Antonio franchise co-owner James Oberg in a release. “In fact, we love Chicken Salad Chick so much, we already have our second location in Westover Hills opening in just a few weeks and have plans for more. The brand sets itself apart with its made from scratch menu, core values focused on enriching the community and commitment to serving guests.”

The restaurant is taking this grand opening opportunity, starting February 8, to delve into that giveback goal with daily giveaways as well as a friends-and-family fundraiser benefiting the Children's Hospital of San Antonio Foundation, Christus Health.

On Wednesday, February 8, the first 100 guests will receive one large container of chicken salad every month for a year. One of those winners will be randomly selected to receive their prize weekly, instead. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the first 50 guests to make specific purchases will receive a prize: a tote bag, a small cooler, and a large cooler, respectively. Guests can arrive starting at 7 am for grand opening day only.

Oberg presents this franchise with co-owners Jeff Rochelle and George Shaw, who call San Antonio their hometown and have owned some Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers restaurants for almost 20 years.

Chicken Salad Chick is open now, Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. On Wednesday, February 8, guests may begin arriving at 7 am to check in for the grand opening, but will have to return later between 9:45-11:15 am, depending on their assigned time. Chicken Salad Chick will post more about giveaway terms on Facebook.

Santa Diabla San Antonio

6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Wicked cafe and cantina debuts near Pearl

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

A devilish concept has hopped into the former home of the short-lived Cervecería Chapultepec. Santa Diabla, the first Texas restaurant from Mexico-based hospitality group Grupo Orraca Restauranteros, debuted January 26 at 906 E. Elmira St. The menu traverses both Tex-Mex and interior Mexican cuisine, dishing out favorites like nachos, tuna carnitas, aguachile, and birria flautas.

Stinson Municipal Airport cleared a new restaurant for takeoff on January 25. Owned by Stephanie and Joshua Smith, the Trailblazer Café serves AM classics like breakfast tacos, salads, gourmet burgers, sandwiches, and a dizzying array of beverages. The unique eatery also commits to nourishing the community through its partnership with Ready to Work SA, teaching clients marketable skills that extend past food service.

The continued construction on the St. Mary's strip isn't harshing the vibe of the district's newest occupant. Vibras flipped the open sign on January 20, reimagining the former space of long-running café Candlelight Coffee at 3011 N. St. Mary's St. The hybrid concept thumps at night as a Latin nightclub illuminated by LED lights and washes of hot pink. The previous night's hangover can be nursed at the same spot with smoked Bourbon lattes from Sad Hrs.

Meanwhile, the race to fill Alamo City with out-of-town franchises continues with the announcement that Utah's Beans & Brews Coffeehouse is eyeing San Antonio as part of a six-state expansion. The release did not specify when or where the locations would crop up, but the deal with Brame Holdings would include 40 outposts split with Austin.

In still more caffeine news, a combo coffeehouse and beer garden is brewing at 11011 Shaenfield Rd. in northwest San Antonio. In addition to the titular beverages, Refuge Coffee + Beer will serve Texas wine and run a food program. However, as of press time the website is still being built with lorem ipsum text and no contact information or social media presence. A countdown clock does promise that the joint will be open by April 1, and permits have been filed with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Details about the latest haunt settling into the booming Southtown neighborhood are also slim. Located in the former Jokesters 22 space at 713 S Alamo St., Blush has thus far offered three concrete clues: it will serve baked goods, brunch, and cocktails. Otherwise, the project flexes an Italianate atmosphere, scoring one post with the White Lotus theme song and another showcasing a pair of Testa di Moro-style planters. No word yet on whether Tanya McQuoid will actively be in danger there.

Photo courtesy of Pinstack

7 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Upscale bowling venue stacks up new Far North Side location

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 and closings

Dallas-based entertainment hub Pinstack is aiming to roll a double in San Antonio. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records reveal the company is building out a new location at 19238 I-10 W. After a pandemic delay, the concept opened its first Alamo City outpost at 742 NW Loop 410 #201 in November 2022. The new Pinstack promises more of the same, offering upscale food with family friendly fun.

Locally owned Stout House is also expanding its footprint. Via social media, the watering hole shared owner Doug Ackerly’s news that two new locations are pouring into the Far West Side. First out of the gate will be an outpost at Alamo Ranch Parkway and Alamo Parkway, opening in late February or early March. Hot on its tails will be a space at Culebra Road and Tally Road, opening “three weeks behind.”

A Houston-based seafood chain with a Latin American twist will soon be docking in San Antonio. According to a recent filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Mambo Seafood is converting the former Joe’s Crab Shack at 4711 NW Loop 410 into its first area outpost. Once open, diners can expect fried fish, shrimp platters, seafood cocktails, and signature rice bowls.

Continuing his ambitious 2022 path, local nightlife juggernaut Adrian Martinez is opening another Smoke BBQ+ Skybar near North Star Mall. The concept took to social media on January 3 to announce that it was taking over the vacated Miami Bar space at 602 NW Loop 410 for a new chain location. Martinez operates four locations in San Antonio and an outpost in Corpus Christi.

Residents of Castle Hills will soon wake up to a new Clear Light Coffee Co. location. The shop shared that a special use permit was approved for a second spot at West Avenue and Northwest Military Highway. In addition to caffeine, it will serve various small bites and wine. The opening date is still pending.

Other news and notes

Chicken-fried steak staple Josephine Street is taking a breather in January for maintenance. Via Instagram, the long-running restaurant said it would be out of action starting January 2. Fans of home-style food need not worry, however. The gravy will flow again on January 23.

Curry Boys BBQ is ready for its close-up. The critically acclaimed eatery announced on Instagram that it will be featured on PBS’ Planet Barbecue, hosted by Steve Raichlen. Though the schedule hasn’t been announced yet, the series debuts in May.

Universal

Universal Studios will open a new family-friendly theme park in North Texas

Theme Park News

Texans, get ready to meet Shrek: Universal Parks & Resorts is opening a one-of-a-kind theme park in Frisco, near Dallas, promised to be unlike any other in the world — a new park set in a green landscape featuring immersive themed lands that celebrates Universal's iconic characters and stories.

According to a release, the company has purchased 97 acres of land, east of the Dallas North Tollway and north of Panther Creek Parkway, which will also be home to a themed hotel.

The complex will boast a completely different look, feel, and scale from Universal's existing parks, one designed to appeal to a new audience for the brand.

It will also be a regional version, smaller than Universal's other parks in Hollywood and Orlando, designed to be more intimate and engaging for younger audiences, although surely the same quality as the larger parks.

Features will include family-friendly attractions, interactive and playful shows, character meet & greets, unique merchandise, and food & beverage venues.

The release says that Universal Parks & Resorts selected Frisco for its growing population and ability to attract businesses.

"We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the city of Frisco and Mayor Jeff Cheney as we work to bring this innovative new concept to life, designed specifically for a younger generation of Universal fans," says Page Thompson, president of New Ventures at Universal Parks & Resorts.

"We think North Texas is the perfect place to launch this unique park for families given its growing popularity within this part of the country," she says.

The new park is part of a bigger expansion for Universal Parks and Resorts, which is also opening a third theme park at Universal Orlando Resort, as well as a smaller horror-themed park in Las Vegas.

6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Buzzy vegan chain flies downtown coop

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 and closings

After two years of explosive growth, vegan chain Project Pollo is unexpectedly contracting. In an Instagram statement, the brand broke the news that it was shuttering its original trailer at Roadmap Brewing. The owners explained that they would make “drastic changes” in 2023 “to focus on efficiency and guest service.” Project Pollo also will be relocating a kiosk location in Austin, though have yet to announce a new landing spot. Meanwhile, the decidedly carnivorous Last Place Burgers will be rolling into Roadmap starting January 14.

University of Texas San Antonio favorite The Well has tapped out after almost seven years in business. In a Facebook post, the owners thanked the local community for its support without offering any reasoning behind the decision. Fortunately, the building will not remain vacant. A third location of Big’z Burger Joint is sliding in on January 13.

It’s out with flavored sodas and in with … flavored sodas as Utah chain Fiiz Drinks takes over the former Sonic Drive-In location at 3521 Broadway St. In December, signage appeared on the long-vacant Alamo Heights lot announcing the move. The company, however, has yet to make any official announcement. Once open, the eatery will serve various technicolor drinks and snacks like pretzels, nachos, and cookie dough bites.

Bust out that Fashion Nova haul. A new nightclub is moving into the former V Lounge space at 107 E. Martin St. downtown. Exact details about Rio Azùl are still forthcoming, but promotional materials promise the club will thump Latin pop and dance and offer a glitzy, Vegas-like experience.

Other news and notes

Two of Alamo City’s breweries have made the jump to full-service brewpubs. First, Freetail Brewing announced the previously teased kitchen at its 2000 S. Presa taproom was open. Now, Southtown revelers can enjoy pizza along with their pints.

East Side watering hole Black Laboratory Brewing soon followed suit with its own pizza kitchen opening on January 4. The project is a partnership with 2-1-Dough Pizza Co., using the adjoining space recently vacated by Truth Pizzeria in October. In addition to pies, the brewpub will be offering sandwiches, salads, and shareable appetizers.

Photo courtesy of Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality

Chic seafood market and eatery splashes into Pearl area

Today's Catch

For many business owners, January is a time to regroup before the busy year. For Houston and Emily Carpenter, it’s a chance to go full steam ahead. With the New Year’s haze still lingering in the air, the hospitality dynamos will soon add another concept to their budding restaurant empire.

Go Fish Market will open on January 12 in an unassuming warehouse space at 125 W. Grayson St. According to Houston, the eatery will be Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality’s take on the neighborhood fish market, melding a retail counter with a full dining room and a wine bar offering more than 60 bottles.

“As you can imagine,” Houston tells CultureMap, “the menu will be seafood — from fried medai and calamari [to] a kingfish burger, a variety of fish on in-house sourdough, and of course the on-ice favorites including oysters on the half shell, snow crab legs, and caviar.”

Helming the kitchen will be Ruben Pantaleon. An alum of acclaimed restaurant chains such as Nobu and Roka Akor, Pantaleon has been running the sushi bar at sibling restaurant Up Scale for the last year. Dina Simoneaux, most recently at Allora, will be charged with the front of house as general manager.

Photo courtesy of Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality

Go Fish will open in a warehouse near the Pearl on January 12.

As usual, the group put as much stock into the ambiance as restaurant operations. Go Fish has a more casual vibe than its cousins Little Em’s Oyster Bar and the recently opened Restaurant Claudine. The original building’s warm brick offsets a cool color scheme of mint, baby blue, and crisp white.

Now that Go Fish is up to snuff, Houston shares that the group will turn its attention to Nineteen Hyaku, a sleek sushi concept coming to the new Jefferson Tower in October. But before the ribbon is cut, locals shouldn’t be surprised to learn there is yet another restaurant on the horizon.

Houston spilled the beans on Mailroom Cafe, set to open in the summer in the same building as Go Fish.

“This will be a bakery and cafe offering your favorite pastries, gourmet sandwiches, and a coffee program geared towards the crowd that wants to come in for a meeting or sit at their laptop,” Houston elaborates on what will be the sixth concept for the group.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

7 San Antonio staycation spots for Valentine's Day, 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. 7 San Antonio staycation spots to spoil your special someone this Valentine's Day. Alamo City is bursting with romance, and we've got you covered with the best places to spoil your special someone this year.

2. Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights. The popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series launching this month.

3. Where to see the once-in-recorded-history green comet approaching San Antonio. Okay, so the weather wasn't super ideal for stargazing this week, but there may still be time to catch this rare opportunity.

4. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Locally inspired happenings and live performances make it easy to explore all that Alamo City has to offer this weekend.

5. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

Sneak peek inside San Antonio chef Steve McHugh's new Austin restaurant

Officially cured

Bucking the recent (and growing) trend of Austinites moving to San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh just debuted his first concept in Austin. The eagerly-awaited Luminaire opened February 1 at the new Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin, along with a second concept, Las Bis.

Located at 721 Congress Avenue, details of the new hotel and its restaurants were released in fall 2022, sparking excitement from anyone already familiar with McHugh's work at Cured and Landrace. For the initial announcement, CultureMap connected with the six-time James Beard finalist to hear what to expect at the new outpost, while an updated announcement this week revealed that McHugh has enlisted chef Greg Driver as executive chef at the new concepts.

“We’re thrilled to finally lift the curtain and bring in guests to dine with us,” says Chef Steve McHugh in a release. “Chef Driver and I work really well together, and I have no doubt that Luminaire and Las Bis will shine under his leadership.”

Previously the interim executive chef at Austin's Westwood Country Club, Driver will carry out McHugh's vision at the restaurants. Both new concepts and the hotel itself will no doubt be a welcome addition to downtown Austin, padding out the list of pre- and post-theatre dining options for entertainment at the city's historic Paramount and State theatres next door.

Luminaire occupies the entire ground floor of the hotel, including an expansive patio stretching both sides of the corner along Congress Avenue and 8th Street. Much like its San Antonio counterparts, the full-service restaurant will feature the seasonal, local Texas fare and charcuterie well-known (and well-loved) by McHugh devotees. Along with specially curated meat boards (hello, 24-month jamon), the menu will also showcase a heavy Spanish influence, featuring a variety of delicious breakfast empanadas, chicken a la plancha, the Angus beef Luminaire burger, and more.

The all-day restaurant will be an ideal pre-curtain-time destination, while the upstairs Las Bis will take over for post-show nightcaps. Located on the eighth floor of the hotel, the terrace bar and lounge shares space with the hotel’s lobby and will feature craft cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines. Snacks will include an assortment of playfully plated conservas, both domestic and imported, which McHugh shared the story behind in our previous coverage.

“Our team put many thoughtful hours into the menu creation for Luminaire and Las Bis, blending familiar flavors with plenty of discovery,” says McHugh in this week's latest release. “And for those without much experience in cured meats and conservas, we made sure to include plenty of must-try items to introduce folks the right way.”

In addition to the two new concepts, McHugh’s team and executive chef Driver will provide room service for guests, as well as catering for the hotel’s four meeting and event spaces. Starting February 1, Luminaire will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, while Las Bis will open Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to midnight, and noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Mary Whitten

A sneak peak at Luminaire.

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."