Maddy Murphy's Irish Sports Bar/ 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 and closings

A downtown pub won't be around to celebrate St. Patrick's Day 2024. Via a September 17 Instagram post, Maddy McMurphy's Irish Sports Bar announced its immediate closure after a five-year run. The watering hole teased the news a few days prior, promoting a "Last Hurrah" party on September 15. Neither bulletin offered any explanation for the move. Sibling concepts in owner Terry Corless' portfolio, including Mad Dogs British Pub and Prost Haus, will continue to operate.

Local fast-casual joint Biff Buzby's Burgers observed National Cheeseburger Day by announcing a second location. The outpost will be located at the former site of the short-lived Windmill Ice House on 2769 Nacogdoches Rd., confirming the latter's July temporary closure was permanent. Judging by Facebook photos, Biff Buzby's is nearing completion, though the owners weren't quite ready to declare an opening date. They did share that the original location's popular car shows would not be revving up at the new space.

Drive-thru coffee shop 7 Brew is also in expansion mode. A press release spilled the beans on an upcoming second San Antonio location at 6202 North I-35 Frontage Rd. The Arkansas-based company opened its first local outlet in July, introducing the Alamo City market to original creations like the Smooth 7, a white chocolate and Irish cream breve. The new location will host soft opening events September 22-29, leading up to the September 30 grand opening.

Other news and notes

While America's craft beer industry is struggling, Alamo Beer Co. is making a bold move. The Eastside brewery is merging with VIVA Beer, according to a release. The move will allow the latter to grow the brand in San Antonio and beyond.

Embracing the de facto return of fall, if not the return of crisp weather, the food scene is preparing for a flurry of events. The Big Red & Barbacoa Festival has announced the dates for its 11th year. Single-day tickets start at $10 and are available online.

Can't wait until October for festival season? The San Antonio Brunch Festival runs from 11am to 3 pm on September 23. More than a dozen local eateries will be participating, offering unlimited bites. Tickets, ranging from $85-$150, are no longer available online but will be available at the door. More details are available here.

The University of Texas San Antonio's popular Ven a Comercelebration returns on September 29. Several activities are planned to support UTSA's renowned Mexican cookbook collection, including a series of dinners at Mixtli, a DIY cookbook workshop, a community pachanga, and a party at Carriqui. As always, the event's showcase will be a fundraising dinner on September 29 featuring local chefs Alexana Cabrera and Sofia Tejeda, mezcalero Pedro Jimenez Gurria, and James Bears Award winner Iliana de la Vega of Austin's El Naranjo.

Ladino is marking its first anniversary with a grill-out party on October 1. The shindig will feature unlimited bites, a live DJ, and games for $40. Cocktails will be available for purchase.

Photo courtesy of the Historic Pearl

San Antonio's Pearl eats, dances, and paints its way through Hispanic Heritage Month

Never-ending Fiestas

San Antonians and visitors are likely to spend at least some of Hispanic Heritage Month at Pearl, the de facto city center for local culture. While the more traditional fiestas rage on elsewhere in the city, Pearl businesses offer modernity from Mexican street food to Latin clothes and home goods year round.

As a way to invite more people into the parts they haven't explored yet, the multi-use community has strung together a month of programming between mid-September and mid-October making sure to represent food, art, and more. Offerings include a kickoff party, a night market, and a collaborative new mural by MMCreative Studio.

"San Antonio's history and deep connection to Mexico is intricately woven into the fabric of our city’s culture,” said Pearl CEO Mesha Millsap in a release. “We invite everyone to join us at Pearl as we celebrate our rich heritage with the food, music, art, and culture for which our city is known.”

Pearl visitors should keep an eye out for the following activations:

  • September 12-13 — The Culinary Institute of America’s Latin American Cuisine Summit: Foodservice, culinary, and beverage professionals gather for demonstrations and discussions. These will focus on how food and culture intersect with local sourcing and traditional techniques.
  • September 16 — Viva Dieciséis at Pearl: The community celebrates Mexico's Independence Day with live music, a grito contest, and kids' activities like Lotería and guitar painting. Musical performances include ballet folklórico and mariachi.
  • Wednesdays starting September 20 — Mercadito Cultural: Pearl retailers show their wares while chefs, artisans, and artists bring it all to life with live demos and performances. These include weekly performances by Mariachi Las Alteñas.
  • September 23 and 30 — The Culinary Institute of America’s Wine Exploration Classes: The famous culinary school leads wine-lovers through Mexican and South American vintages in their respective classes.
  • Sundays, September 24 to October 8 — Vamos a Bailar with Esta Noche Dance Company: The dance company offers bachata and salsa classes for all levels, whether guests have a parter or are dancing solo. Even guests who don't want to dance are invited to sit in and listen.
  • Various dates — Calavera and Alebrije Collection: The neighborhood hosts two alebrijes and four calaveras — all large-scale— from the private collection of Chef Johnny Hernandez and La Gloria. The calaveras were created in partnership with local artists.

Food and drink specials will also pop up at various restaurants and bars throughout the neighborhood. Special menus, prices, and performances are on offer at Cured (chiles en nogada dinner), Carriqui (margarita deals and spirit tastings), Boiler House (tastings and a tequila dinner), Botika (spicy pineapple frozen margaritas and tequenhos), Hotel Emma (six-course dinner), and Local Coffee (horchata deals).

There's much to keep track of, but every day at Pearl is an adventure. Keep track of its many offerings via atpearl.com or on social media.

Earl Abel's/ Facebook

Storied San Antonio diner bids farewell to sole standalone location


Though the Covid-19 pandemic may seem like a distant memory to most San Antonians, its lingering effects are still wreaking havoc on the local restaurant industry. Now, one of the area’s longest-running diners is shuttering its sole standalone location.

Earl Abel’s managing partner and operator Danny Badiola announced in a statement that the 1639 Broadway outpost of the restaurant would close on August 21. In addition to the nagging shockwaves of the health crises, Badiola said staffing difficulties and inflation made current operations untenable.

This isn’t the first time the restaurant has dealt with labor shortages. Founded in 1933 by the restaurant’s namesake, Earl Abel’s was once a thriving local chain before World War II. Faced with a lack of workforce during the conflict, Abel consolidated operations to Broadway and Hildebrand Avenue.

The locale became a San Antonio institution popular with Alamo Heights socialites, the business community, and even stray politicians. In 1986, 70-year-old Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez made headlines for socking a man who dared call him a communist at the chicken joint.

The golden age ended in 2006 after Earl’s son, Jerry, sold the property to make room for a high-rise condo. The restaurant reopened shortly after on Austin Highway, though the distinct Populuxe architecture had been replaced by a strip mall façade.

Earl Abel’s latest run began in 2019 when new ownership group Blue Label 88 moved the storied eatery back to Broadway in its current location near the Pearl. Throughout the changes, the brand stayed true to its original mission of serving homestyle food at affordable prices.

According to Badiola’s statement, a new chapter for the restaurant may still be written later. The owners are looking for new partnership arrangements and sites in the Broadway-Alamo Heights area.

Until then, locals can get a taste of the glory days by visiting Earl Abel’s two kiosk locations at the Alamodome and the Boeing Center at Tech Port.

Via 313/Facebook

Detroit-style pizza, Southtown nightlife, and a new weekend bar spice up San Antonio food news


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.


A third location of Austin-based chainVia 313 will soon be rolling into San Antonio. According to Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation filings, the Detroit-style pizzeria will begin construction on a new building at 17315 W. I-10 #100 in late September. Construction is set to wrap up in March 2024, barring any delays.

South Presa Street's bustling nightlife corridor will soon have a new addition. TDLR filings reveal that a concept called Palomino Bar will finish renovations in the same strip as Hands Down, Bar Ludavine, and Near Dark. The owners have yet to pony up any details, but the buildout will include a new HVAC system and finishes.

Another nightlife concept will soon be taking over a former Asel Art Supply space. A concept called The Weekend, not to be confused with the slightly creepy pop star, has applied for a mixed beverage permit with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 1524 N Main. Although the location is San Antonio's longtime LGBTQIA-plus strip, it's unclear what the vibe will be.

Pet-friendly beer bar Hops and Hounds will soon be sniffing out a new location closer to downtown. Via Instagram, the spot announced it was moving to a new location near Museum Reach in the fall. However, North Siders (and their furry companions) need not worry about finding a new watering hole. New owners will soon transform the original Jones Maltsberger location into a similarly warm-and-fuzzy spot — Pups and Pals.

Medical Center staple Chef's Table Turkish Mediterranean Grill is biting off a new project. In a Facebook post, the restaurant teased a new coffee house coming to 1546 Babcock Rd. The eatery did not include many details, including the estimated opening date, but Turkish Delight will also act as a patisserie specializing in baklava.

Other news and notes

Pearl showpiece Carriqui is launching a new lunch menu on August 8 with dishes like a brisket pastrami on rye sandwich and pecan mole enchiladas and cocktails such as a smoked pineapple mojito and sandía daiquiri. The offerings will be available daily, including Sundays, when the popular group Mariachi Las Coronelas will have an August residency between 11 am-2 pm.

Photo courtesy of Howdy Child.

Austin pastrami powerhouse says howdy to Pearl's food hall


For locals who crave food variety, there's arguably no greater spot than the ever-rotating stalls at Pearl's Bottling Department. Already the home to Caribbean street food, New York-style pizza, and traditional tacos, the food hall recently added gourmet burgers via the Henbit pop-up. Now, it's completing its crave-able lineup with barbecue and sandwiches.

The new addition comes from a familiar Pearl face — Three Six General, a farmers' market favorite that has been quietly operating at Bottling Department since late February. In mid-June, owner Matti Bills rebranded to Howdy Child, rolling out a menu of sandwiches and fried chicken tenders.

Bills tells CultureMap that smoked meats are the star of the show. Made in-house at the Three Six General butcher shop in San Marcos, the selections include meat by the pound sold on Saturday and Sunday and an every day sandwich selection of pulled pork, chopped brisket, oak-smoked chicken, and hot pastrami.

The latter is the business' calling card. Bills is also the co-founder of Austin's Mum Foods, whose pastrami was named best in the state by Texas Monthly.

The bread is carefully sourced too. Keeping with the eatery's locavore ethos, Howdy Child uses sourdough from Dripping Springs-based Abby Jane Bakeshop, which exclusively uses Texas-grown wheat from Barton Springs Mills.

Bills says the leap from farmers' market vendor to food hall staple was a natural move for the business, which, unlike Henbit, plans to stick around for a while.

"When presented with the opportunity, it was a no-brainer," Bills shares via email.

The playful name, however, came about by happenstance.

"[I] Just wanted it to be something unique and playful that worked for a barbecue and fried chicken concept!" says Bills. "[I] was literally just greeting a friend one day, and we decided it would be a good name."

Though the branding may be a lark, Bills is serious about the San Antonio food scene. She promises that the food hall concept is just the start of things to come.

"I love San Antonio and definitely want to make it my home base," says the talented pitmaster. "[I'm] already working on developing another concept in the area."

Photo courtesy of Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group.

Acclaimed gourmet Austin burger joint pops up at Pearl, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From burgers at the Pearl to Fourth of July planning, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1.Acclaimed gourmet Austin burger joint pops-up at Pearl. Henbit comes from the same team as Ladino; unlike Ladino, it will only be in San Antonio for a limited time.

2. Downtown San Antonio hotel is honored with 2 prestigious awards. San Antonio temperatures are on fire right now, and so are our local hotels — figuratively speaking.

3. San Antonio's Woodlawn Lake bursts with family friendly activities for explosive Fourth of July party. The daylong party will once again provide locals with a free slate of events the whole family can enjoy.

4. Pearl embraces Pride Month with dazzling rainbow mural. Pearl is celebrating in an especially colorful way — a radiant new mural from local artist Mauro de la Tierra.

5. American Airlines adds summer travel perks including Wi-Fi enhancements, meals, and movies. American Airlines has it covered with cheese, crackers, fruit, chocolate — and much more.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Hugely popular San Antonio restaurant Ladino celebrates first anniversary with Mediterranean party

Luck be Ladino

Although Ladino has only been a Pearl gem for one year, the mediterranean hotspot already feels like a San Antonio staple.

Helmed by executive chef Berty Richter and Emmer Hospitality, Ladino is slated to celebrate its first anniversary this Sunday with a festive party celebrating the restaurant's success as well as its future. Guests will enjoy a welcome beverage (and more cocktails for purchase), plus unlimited grilled meats, pita sandwiches, and other bites. DJ Zain will keep the energy up, while guests play yard games and kids get their faces painted.

Chef Richter tells CultureMap, '"In the world of restaurants and hospitality, we always strive to progress, keep learning, and improving."

When Ladino opened last September, it represented a promising branching out from its Austin-branched hospitality group parent, which had prior (and has since) earned acclaim from national publications for its cultural vibrancy — and deliciousness, of course.

In Ladino's case, the cultural touchstone is the Judeo-Spanish language of the same name that Chef Richter spoke growing up, which also included elements of Castellano, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, and Hebrew. Richter's Turkish mother inspired many parts of the restaurant's popular Mediterranean menu.

Despite a strong point of view, the restaurant does have something for everyone, and is very accommodating to patrons with dietary restrictions. Signature staples include the sourdough-based pita bread (which comes unlimited with the hummus dip), kibbeh nayeh with Wagyu tartare, shishbarak (lamb and pork dumplings), and saffron chicken. The Wagyu Denver steak is a consistent standout, with a perfect crispy edge surrounding the medium rare middle.

Chef Richter plans to keep the menu generally the same for now, with the ongoing tradition of rotating some dishes out based on seasonal availability.

"We are excited to continue exploring the cuisines and cultures that Ladino represents, while strengthening our relationships with local farmers, growers, producers, and the communities of San Antonio," says Richter.

Now open seven days a week, Ladino offers a happy hour on weekdays from 5-6:30 pm. Deals include six dollars off of the hummus dip and pita, $5 off of Ladino's signature cocktails and wines by the glass, and deals on other plates like babaganoush, a spicy Feta plate, and more. The happy hour specials are only available at the upstairs bar, which is easily accessible catty-corner to the main Ladino entrance at the Pearl.

Tickets ($40, $15 for kids) to the anniversary celebration on October 1, from 4-8 pm, are still available via Eventbrite. Regular reservations and to-go orders may be made at ladinosatx.com.

Botanical Garden's Lightscape mesmerizes with new exhibits and discount tickets


Call it the grown-up version of posing with Santa Claus. Since its dazzling debut in 2021, the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lightscape has been the essential stop for holiday photoshoots. Planners are already working hard to ensure the annual tradition is more brilliant — and accessible — than ever.

Tickets are now on sale for the showstopping exhibition, running November 17 to January 1. The festivities will include familiar displays and brand-new illuminated works from global designers.

French creative studio Pitaya will return with a new installation, "Spark Ballet." The work features dozens of hanging lanterns glowing with firefly lights as a flickering guide around the lake. Visitors will also be treated to a pair of large-scale spectacles from UK outfit ArtAV, including an array of sparkling stars and a 40-foot-high LED tree.

Some of last year’s favorites will make an encore. The "Heart Arch Walk" allows guests to stroll under a tunnel of love while "Floraison" canopies explorers with brightly lit poppies. As always, the "Winter Cathedral" provides one last selfie spot.

The ever-popular "Bluebonnets" will also mesmerize sightseers, this time with an army of life-sized cowboy nutcrackers. The "Fire Garden" will have a new addition, too — the 25-foot dragon last seen in the blockbuster Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time exhibition.

Peak date tickets cost $28 for adults and $18 for children, with VIP packages and member discounts available. For the first time ever, the garden also offers Value Nights on select dates in November and December. Revelers can score tickets as low as $18 for adults and $10 for kids online.

San Antonio Botanical Garden Lightscape

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Botanical Garden

The Pixel tree makes an ideal selfie stop.

Rock star Bono's daughter makes her own sweet music in Flora and Son

Movie Review

The new Apple TV+ film Flora and Son centers on a single mother and her teenage son, a situation that typically calls for an uplifting story about the mother’s struggles trying to support the two of them, and the bond that develops between them as go through the troubles together. While that element exists somewhat here, it goes down a much different path that’s both saltier and equally as rewarding.

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son.

Set in Dublin, Ireland, the film follows Flora (Eve Hewson), a single mom to Max (Oren Kinlan), who gets in a fair bit of trouble. She shares custody with her ex, Ian (Jack Reynor), and their antagonistic relationship, along with Max being a teenager, likely has an effect on how Flora and Max get along. A typical interchange between mother and son has them calling each other all sorts of bad names, although there rarely seems to be any true animosity behind their arguments.

When a guitar Flora refurbishes for Max goes unappreciated, she instead starts taking online lessons herself with an American named Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). She’s no less brash with him, but her sincere interest in learning how to play and in finding out more about Jeff’s music opens a new door for Flora. Soon, a discovery that Max is making music of his own on his laptop helps them communicate better than they have in a long time.

Flora & Son is the latest music-focused film from writer/director John Carney (Once, Sing Street), and he once again finds the sweet spot in telling a personal story enhanced by song. Flora has more than a few rough edges, making her a less-than-ideal protagonist, but the heart of the character shines through precisely because she has no filter. Once music is added to the equation, it become that much easier to see the type of person she is and why you should root for her.

Both Hewson and Gordon-Levitt are charming actors, so they establish a connection through a screen well. Fortunately, though, Carney chooses not to leave it at that, adding a slight fantasy element to some of their scenes by having Flora imagine Jeff in the room with her. A romantic element naturally arises, but it’s the unexpected way in which two lonely souls find each other from across the world that makes them the most interesting.

There are a couple of decent songs that come out of the process of all of the music-making, but nothing that you could truly call an earworm. Instead, it’s the feeling you get seeing the characters interact when they’re sharing music with each other that makes the film sing. Only one character could be classified as a professional musician, with the rest of them making music for the pure joy of it, an emotion Carney translates well in his storytelling.

Hewson (the daughter of U2’s Bono, in case you were unaware) is having a moment after 15 years in the business. She has a boldness that serves her as well in this role as it did in the recent Apple TV+ limited series, Bad Sisters. This is Kinlan’s first major part, and he acquits himself well. Both Gordon-Levitt and Reynor are seasoned actors who know how to make the most of their limited scenes.

The depiction of a mother/child relationship in Flora and Son is atypical, but it still winds up in a great spot thanks to the power of music and some fine performances. Carney’s love for both songs and filmmaking has yielded some memorable movies over the years, this one included.


Flora and Son opens in select theaters and on Apple TV+ on September 29.