Photo by Guillermo Rosas

We’ve only just recovered. After weeks of honoring the San Antonio bar and restaurant scene through a special editorial series, we finally crowned the winners on May 18 at a hotly anticipated party held at the Briscoe Museum. Guests sipped and savored while patiently waiting for us to reveal the champions.

During the exclusive VIP hour, guests received a first taste of the delicious bites from participating chefs. They also got in the first bids for silent auction items benefiting our nonprofit beneficiary, the Southern Smoke Foundation.

There were plenty of libations courtesy of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, Dripping Springs Vodka, and Epic Western. Hometown brewers Viva, Weathered Souls, and Second Pitch kept guests quenched with plenty of brews, a perfect companion to Twang’s beer salt. Guests could also grab Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water to cool off on a hot day.

Once the doors officially opened, guests were tempted by an array of succulent dishes from the nominees. Ladino, a dual nominee for Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year, wowed with agristada de pishkado — a white fish bite perfect for spring weather. Bar of the Year contender Moon’s Daughter showed their culinary acumen with lamb ragu hummus. And Rebelle spoiled attendees with East Coast oysters.

Finally, the crowd gathered to congratulate this year’s crop of honorees. Cheers filled the Briscoe’s halls as KENS 5 personality Sarah Forganey revealed the winners. Throughout the night, partygoers voted in the Burger Throwdown, presented by Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, giving Southtown's Bar Loretta the ultimate prize.

Robbie Nowlin of Allora and Arrosta was named Chef of the Year, while Sofia Tejeda of Hotel Emma nabbed the Pastry Chef of the Year award. Amor Eterno and Künstler Brewing won Bar of the Year and Best Brewery, respectively.

Then, three diverse restaurants scored in the restaurant categories. East side fave The Magpie got an early boost as Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, while CultureMap readers selected Reese Bros. BBQ as this year’s Best New Restaurant. Lastly, Pearl showcase Carriqui nabbed the biggest award of the evening — Restaurant of the Year.

It was heartwarming to see San Antonio’s culinary industry greats toasting their peers and the special connections forged between restaurants and their guests. Now that we have gotten some rest, we can’t wait to do it again next year!

San Antonio Tastemakers 2023

Photo by Guillermo Rosas

Aaron Peña (l) and JC Salinas of Amor Eterno show off their Bar of the Year trophy.

Tune into the virtual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Thursday at 7 pm.

Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

You could stay at home and enjoy a quiet retreat from the daily grind, but this action-packed Alamo City agenda won’t make it easy. Raise a glass to the culinary talent of San Antonio at our premiere event, the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, or get your regular weekly helping of live entertainment at Majestic Theatre and Rosedale Park. Check out the top seven things to do in San Antonio this weekend. For a full list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, May 18

CultureMap San Antonio 2023 Tastemaker Awards
Our annual celebration of the top bar and restaurant talent in San Antonio returns with equal parts flavor and fanfare. Tickets to this signature tasting event and awards ceremony grant access to bites, samples, and specialty cocktails, plus a chance to meet and mingle with the biggest names and rising stars in the local food and drink industry. Check out our San Antonio Tastemaker Awards site to learn more.

Mission Marquee Plaza Outdoor Family Film Series: Grease
Bring your blankets, picnic snacks, and lawn chairs to Mission Marquee Plaza for an evening of family-friendly cinema al fresco. Attendees can enjoy an outdoor screening of Grease, starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. Other highlights include a performance by the Wonder Theatre’s Premier Performance Group and a classic car show hosted by the Push Rods Car Club. Food trucks will also be onsite to take orders from hungry guests. Admission to this event is free and open to the public.

San Antonio Botanical Garden presents "Lush: Twilight in the Garden"
Relax, unwind, and indulge at another installment of the after-hours entertainment series at San Antonio Botanical Garden. This month’s activities are inspired by the theme Rosé and Roses, and will include extended garden hours, live music, entertainment, a signature beverage, and an array of floral displays for ambiance. For more information and to snag your tickets, visit sabot.org.

Friday, May 19

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center presents the Tejano Conjunto Festival
The first and longest-running conjunto festival in the country is back for another year of Texas musical tradition. The three-day festival at Rosedale Park includes headliners Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers, Tony Tigre Saenz, Los Texmaniacs featuring special guest Flaco Jimenez, and more than 20 other performers hailing from nearly every region in the Lone Star State. Visit guadalupeculturalarts.org for more information.

Majestic Theatre presents Rain: A Tribute To the Beatles
Relive the iconic moments and songs from the Beatles’ Rooftop Concert and their hit album Abbey Road live at this tribute performance. Audiences can expect a musical journey through one of the band’s most pivotal eras, complete with theatrics and beloved fan-favorite tunes. Tickets for both showtimes are available on Ticketmaster.

CultureMap Tastemaker Awards


The San Antonio CultureMap Tastemaker Awards take place at Briscoe Western Art Museum this Thursday, May 18.

The Pan-African Cultural Community presents Message to the People: A Story of Malcolm X
The life and words of Malcolm X take center stage in front of a live audience at Ella Austin Community Center. This production blends elements of both classical and musical theater together for a poignant historical dramatization. Audiences will enjoy original music, photographs, and vivid glimpses into the mind and memory of this important figure in Black and American history. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Tobin Center presents Matteo Lane: The Al Dente Tour
Comedian and podcast host Matteo Lane performs live at Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, with fresh material as part of his national tour. The New York-based entertainer has an impressive comedic roster, including appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, HBO's Crashing, and Will & Grace. Visit tobincenter.org for more information.

Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

These 16 contenders battle it out as San Antonio's best new restaurant


San Antonio is currently experiencing an unprecedented boon of new eateries, making it challenging for any restaurant to stand out from the crowd. Choosing the 16 nominees for this year’s Best New Restaurant has taken a ton of debate, a secret ballot, and a year’s worth of exceptional eating.

Our judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — have spoken; now, it’s time for you to pick your standouts. Vote for your favorites in our annual bracket-style elimination challenge. To vote, click here. Don't delay: The first bracket ends at 11:59 pm on Friday, May 5.

From May 2 to May 17, you can cast your vote once a day, every day. Then, you’re invited to celebrate the winner of the 2023 Tastemaker Awards during a blowout party at the Briscoe History Museum on May 18. Nominated restaurants and chefs will show off their best bites and the winners in each category will be revealed. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you to the impressive list of contenders.

When longtime chef Robbie Nowlin left San Antonio, almost no one was lauding it as a culinary destination. Now that the city has blossomed into a media darling, his return is more than a homecoming. Though his stints at standard-bearers like the French Laundry no-doubt inform his contemporary cuisine (check out Allora’s luxuriously yolked pasta), this isn’t a recreation of California’s greatest hits. It’s a city catching up with its talent and seeing the worth of exactingly executed global cuisine.

Restaurant Claudine
Like all of Carpenter Hospitality’s upmarket restaurants, this Grayson Street stunner views as a diorama. Every detail has been fussed over, from the drape of the valances to the languoring white spider mums in each bud vase. Claudine, however, introduces effortless ease. Watched over by portraits of its namesake, guests chatter over cornbread and fried chicken. It’s like being in a country house kitchen; only the good china is always used.

This Pearl eatery had a few hiccups at the start but has now settled at the forefront of casual dining. Comfort eating is at the core, but not just through the usual tricks of breading and butter. Instead, bold flavors evoke the warmth of shared family meals. Punchy San Marzano tomatoes embrace caper and olive brine. Richly sweet caramelized onions lavish affection on rigatoni “alla vodka.”

Box St. All Day
When food trucks leap to brick-and-mortar, there’s seldom more change than air conditioning. Box Street busted open its doors with the force of Miss Congeniality. The menu was only a tiny evolution — co-owners Edward Garcia and Daniel Treviño still serve what they like to eat. But the experience of drinking a strawberry Aperol spritz in a tropical Millennial fever dream finally gives it the atmosphere it deserves.

“Elevate” can be prickly when applied to gastronomy, implying that immigrant foodways lack the sophistication to be considered serious cuisine. So, it’s refreshing that Carriqui lets South Texas food stand on its own. Yes, the team spared no expense in converting Fritz Boehler’s former saloon into a Pearl showpiece. Yes, guests can peacock with a wagyu steak. But the heart of the menu is in the Old School Nachos, a simple “ain’t broke” platter of chips topped with refried beans, jalapeño, and shredded Cheddar.

Chef and partner Berty Richter first came to prominence with Hummus Among Us, an Austin food truck that dazzled far brighter than its humble surrounds. Now at the helm of this Pearl showpiece, he makes some of the most exhilarating fare San Antonio has ever seen. Though his Jewish-Balkan offerings have expanded with a fish kofta drizzled with chermoula and a genuinely astounding knafeh, that impossibly creamy hummus is still the very first item Ladino’s menu lists. It’s still the grace that should be said before every dinner.

Cullum’s Attaboy
A tribute to the golden age of San Antonio hospitality, this unassuming spot has no use for the tweezered microgreens of contemporary culinary largesse. That approach makes a simple French omelette feel like a manifesto. It comes with a stripe of sash of sprightly hollandaise, the same sunny color as the eggs underneath. Embroidered with caviar or shaved truffle, it never loses its simple charms — reminding that the quiet ones often have the most to say.

Full Goods Diner
At first glance, Full Goods isn’t all that different from a neighborhood Jim’s. The chefs serve up pillowy pancakes, towering club sandwiches, and hearty steak and eggs. The come-as-you-are vibe is similar, too, with sneakers replacing some of Pearl’s tonier shoes. But where most diners bristle at change, this one sees the commonalities in gastronomy’s full arsenal. Chief among the flavors, of course, are those borrowed from Alamo City’s rich heritage. A diner is made more quintessentially American by embracing all of its people.

Go Fish Market
Maybe it’s grind culture, but somewhere along the way, it became American doctrine that lunch should be fast and cheap. Here’s to disrupting that norm. Though this Pearl area hot spot is open for dinner, its sunny surrounds seem most fitting for a mid-day meal. It won’t get you in and out like a fast-food meal, and certainly, a dry-aged tuna sandwich costs more than Starkist. To paraphrase the great libertine Diana Vreeland, why don’t you wash away an afternoon lull with a bottle of Luigi Bianco?

Reese Bros BBQ
With the cult-like status that some barbecue joints enjoy, some hot spots have forgotten there doesn’t have to be so much bite with the bark. Make no bones about it; the licorice black crust that forms on the brisket is as mouthwatering as it comes. But that alchemy is not just a flex obscuring the other parts of the operation. Reese Bros excels at sausage, flour tortillas, and simple market sides. It also excels at hospitality, not letting endless acclaim harden into an ego trip.

Double Standard
Do distinctions really matter in 2023? Yes, this downtown concept is a bar — the name even winks to it — but the pub grub is not just there to soak up all the booze. Instead, the salty salsa verde on top of a white bean and bacon fat dip begs for a beer, and the steak frites beckon for a dry martini. This is hospitality at its core, ensuring whatever is ordered delivers a dazzling experience.

Krazy Katsu
Chicken sandwiches are big business. Just ask all the fast-food franchises that recently fought to be at the top of the category’s pecking order. This Olmos Park David, however, handily beats all the corporate Goliaths with impossibly crispy chicken breasts that can barely be contained by the bun. The base allows for almost a dozen variations. Still, the K-Pop truly shines thanks to its mix of gochujang, pickled cucumbers, and kimchi.

When the owners of Azuca Nuevo said help to Southtown, it was a perfect meet cute. The easy sociability of tapas seemed so perfect for the artsy neighborhood that one wondered why it hadn’t been there all along. Still, a great concept needs to be backed up by execution. Hola! announces itself with punchy flavors that travel well outside of Spain. Turns out that mixing Hawaiian, Cajun, and Middle Eastern dishes with Catalan classics teaches the whole world to sing.

Leche de Tigre
Sit at the bar at this Southtown cebicheria. Though the Peruvian specialties and pisco-based cocktails will entice from any perch, that stretch offers an extra dose of geniality as the chef team chat about guests’ experiences and offer suggestions from the menu. It’s fun to watch the action, too, as hunks of fish are whittled down into delicate slivers.

There’s really no reason to gild the lily when it comes to pizza. While chef and owner Ben Schwartz is certainly no stranger to the artful compositions of contemporary haute cuisine, he also knows when ingredients should stand alone. This Pearl food hall standout may not serve the most innovative pies. But crust this good feels like a revelation.

Beacon Hill Market & Deli
For Texans who might be perplexed why Northerners take sandwiches so seriously, this shop is the reason why. Beacon Hill’s hoagies are much more than meat slapped on a bun. Every ingredient cleverly provides structure, from the provolone foundation to the plump tomatoes kept far away from the bun. On top is a whisper-thin tangle of white onion — just enough bite to lift a hefty layer of ham and salami.

Allora lobster lasagna
Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

Best new restaurant: Allora

Cactus Land/ Facebook

San Antonio's 8 best beers untap the city's independent spirit


San Antonio does not have as saturated of a brewery scene as some of Texas' largest cities, but it does have a more independent spirit. Our craft beer greats seldom stick to one style and could care less if fashionable fonts appear on their packaging. Though they rack up statewide and national awards, they never lose sight of the fact that they serve the local community.

The CultureMap Tastemakers Awards celebrates that maverick spirit in this year's batch of Brewery of the Year Nominees. Meet them all below, then join us on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum when we reveal the winner.

Black Laboratory Brewing
How's this for popular science? Owners Tim Castaneda and Jeff Weihe have paid their dues in the lab, a background that informs their experimental small-batch brews. The joys of the core lineup of pilsners, lagers, and IPAs are hardly theoretical, but the limited edition beers equally pass the acid test. Chief among them is the Fiesta season's Puto San Antonio, a piccadilly raspa in a pint blending chamoy, pickle juice, and cherry Koolaid into a crisp blonde ale base.

Busted Sandal

Celebrating a decade in business, Busted Sandal now clomps around a San Antonio taproom and a Helotes beer garden. But it is still at its best brewing poundable brews that hold up to the city's 500 days of summer. With unexpected ingredients, the limited edition La Chancla series particularly delights. The Watermelon 210 Ale practically demands a dip in the pool.

Cactus Land Brewing Co.
Like many folks who have entered the industry, Cactus Land owners Dustin and Erica Teague started as home brewers. That DIY spirit still resonates in almost everything they make. In addition to brewing accessible bocks and ales, the company offers a salty coriander-scented pilsner and even a rice lager. Teetotalers can also rejoice at their equally complex root beer.

Freetail Brewing
This long-running establishment is one of San Antonio's most awarded breweries, regularly snagging medals at the Texas Craft Brewers Cup. But the beers aren't just appealing to craft nerds. Freetail has made a mission to embody the city's soul, from its German heritage to its Tejano culture. The mix results in some of the area's easiest sippers, from the puckery gose ¡Puro! Pickles to the seasonal Citrus Trip, a blood orange wit.

Künstler Brewing
The owners of this Southtown hot spot, Vera and Brent Deckard, are exceedingly well-traveled, a fact that informs their magpie approach to beer. The descriptions read like a travelogue — taking drinkers from San Diego beaches to Ecuadorean farms to hikes near Aschau, Germany. The flavors are equally international. Head brewer Vera works in dozens of styles, using her sharp palate to deliver inventive creations like a matcha milkshake IPA and a briny oyster stout.

Mad Pecker
The craft beer world can often be too earnest, so Mad Pecker's whimsical "about us" section is a whiff of fresh air. The tale weaves in sudsy hermits, cruel industrial beer kings, and magical hops forests, making owners Jason and Erika Gonzales' quest for flavor seem positively heroic. Indeed, their Wemby Watch — a Trans-Atlantic IPA brewed with United Kingdom malts — is the stuff of legends.

Second Pitch
Some good things came from the pandemic — like this still-growing operation from husband-and-wife Jim and Samantha Hansen. Obviously taking in those lost years' lessons, the couple brings community to everything they do. From women-only and all-inclusive classes to partnering with local chefs, Second Pitch puts people first. But oh, how their perfectly executed classics encourage that camaraderie.

Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
The guiding principle behind this North Central brewery is "if the beer is good enough, folks will find out." By that measure, each pint is as effective as a pop-up ad. The team doesn't spend much time transcribing each beer's esoteric notes, instead allowing guests a personal experience. And they brew whatever is good — from smacking sours to the city's best stouts.

Cactus Land Brewey

Brewery of the year: Cactus Land

Photo courtesy of Bunz Handcrafted Burgers

San Antonio's 10 best burgers are smashing the competition


What makes a great burger is subjective. Some love the simplicity of quality meat paired with a blanket of American cheese; some marvel at the architecture of a half-dozen ingredients piled to Dagwood heights. Whatever the personal preference, no other American dish quite creates the electricity of a patty meeting a bun.

The 10 nominees for the Tastemaker Award for Best Burger all have a different approach. Any could reign supreme, but only one will take home the coveted trophy. Thank goodness we have time to consider every nuance before crowning the winner on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum.

Sample, savor, and chow down on a variety of sliders during the event before voting for your favorite during the Burger Throwdown, presented by Goodstock by Nolan Ryan. Get your tickets to the event now and make your vote count.

Chris Madrid's
From puffy tacos to Hot Cheetos elotes, San Antonio gets down with the crunch. Why should a burger be any different? This iconic burger joint is at its loudest, with a tostada burger topped with refried beans and a dollop of freshly made salsa. We have the ASMR chills already.

Bar Loretta

One of the most luxe burgers on this list, Loretta's signature snack piles crispy prosciutto, Manchego cheese, arugula, and grilled red onion onto a buttery brioche bun. In a Pygmalion twist, the base is a humble smash patty— proving a dish does not need provenance to be the belle of the ball.

Bunz Handcrafted Burgers
Coco Chanel may have reached fashion perfection by taking one thing off before leaving the door. Still, she probably wasn't much fun in the kitchen. The two locations of this local mini-chain live by the adage that more is more, stabbing their towering creations with skewers. That maximalism peaks with the Bunzai, a thicket of Asian barbecue ribs and coleslaw.

Diana's Burgers
Call her mother. An elder of San Antonio's first burger family, Diana Madrid is still teaching the children with a no-nonsense approach to the craft. With a salt-and-pepper shake and a slap of gooey cheese, her burgers snatch the crown from the city'scity's most preening creations.

Double Standard
Gastropubs live and die by their burgers, so we can'tcan't blame this downtown bar for going a little over the top. The patty proves the rule of threes with freshly ground bacon, brisket, and short rib. The toppings vroom-vroom with tangy cheese, caramelized onions, and a slick of Dijonnaise.

Last Place Burger
Maybe owner Mark Villareal stumbled upon a djinn. It seems impossible that five simple ingredients could produce so much flavor. We do know that one of our three wishes would be a never-ending supply of this food truck's astoundingly great OG burger.

Mark's Outing
What is it about Marks and San Antonio burgers? Mark Outing has been defining the game for 15 years with endless variations on the form. The ice cream burger grabs the most headlines (and it is improbably good). Still, the Original Fatty's — a colossus with all the usual fixings — proves the power of simple things done right.

Mr. Juicy
Before opening this fast-casual spot, Andrew Weissman defined the city's fine dining scene. So, it's only natural that he snuck in country club au poivre as a more everyday "wet" sauce. It smashingly compliments the beef patty's char and is just as good at coating a fry. Who are we to deserve such luxury?

The Cove

This ramshackle restaurant has always been a standard-bearer in using quality ingredients, sourcing from regenerative ranches and local farms. That ethos melds most deliciously in the Blue Bison. The funk of bleu cheese grounds the subtle sweetness of the patty. A thick slab of bacon drizzled with chipotle mayo then proves where there is smoke, there's fire.

Tycoon Flats

The Juicy Lucy is a classic for a reason, but it ain't got nothing on Tycoon Flat's Texas take on the stuffed burger. There are five variations, but it's hardest to resist the one crammed with cheddar, Applewood smoked bacon, grilled onion, and honey barbecue sauce. Minnesotans could never!

Bunz Handcrafted Burgers Bunzai

Photo courtesy of Bunz Handcrafted Burgers

Best burger: Bunz Handcrafted Burgers

Sichuan House/ Facebook

The top 10 neighborhood restaurants in San Antonio serve the soul of the city


Neighborhood restaurants are not merely places to eat; they become essential parts of their patron’s personal stories. Within their walls, romantic entanglements are formed, promotions are announced, and heartbreaks are drowned at the bottom of a cocktail. In a frantic fast-food world, they have the patience to create memories.

That unassuming work often goes unsung. That’s we annually honor the Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year as part of the prestigious CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. But before we reveal the winner at our highly anticipated event at the Briscoe Museum on May 18, we want to take a moment to celebrate all the nominated restaurants. It takes magic to provide a home away from home. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

It’s often said that San Antonio is the smallest big city in America. This tiny St. Mary’s strip dynamo proves it. A personal project for chef-owner Chris Cullum, it also speaks to a shared local experience. The dishes call back to Alamo City restaurants of yore and the largesse of everyday indulgence. The dining room crowds guests in to form friendships over a perfect omelet.

Though a neighborhood restaurant can be hard to define, it absolutely must pass the slump test. Flop into one of the booths at this Monte Vista eatery and order a canned Lambrusco and a carbonara pie. Or chase the Sunday Scaries away with the “keep it coming” Bloody Mary bar. We’re willing to bet that your shoulders will drop, your back will relax, and you’ll settle in for the long haul.

Bar Loretta
On paper, this Southtown haunt seems suited for special occasions. Indeed, more than a few locals have celebrated milestones with a smokey Birthday Manhattan. As the night draws on, however, the spot grows more familiar. Service industry types stream in from nearby bars and restaurants. The light dims as the conversation hits full roar. Yes, dozens of San Antonio bars host post-work parties. Only Loretta serves immaculate steak frites until 1 am.

Most neighborhood favorites eschew innovation for comfort, filling the menu with standbys like burgers or simple steaks. This Castle Hill jewel adds a little zest. Cavatelli is topped with broccoli top pesto, fried quail is dipped into the charred eggplant skin mayo, and crème brûlée awakens with coffee meringue. The menu is ingredient-driven, sure, but Clementine serves it with the unfussiness of a sidewalk café.

Comfort Café
Community is at the forefront of this Los Patios café. For those in recovery, it provides a stable workplace free from the pressures of the often toxic restaurant world. For those on a fixed income, it gives a pay-what-you-can model. For everyone else, it delivers on the promise of its name with a beautiful outdoor setting and simple sandwiches, salads, and egg dishes served with dozens of variations.

Il Forno
Michael Sohocki is known as one of San Antonio’s most statement-making chefs. His much-missed fine dining restaurant, Gwendolyn, famously operated without electric machines. But Southtown’s Il Forno has always been about ease. Yes, the produce is meticulously sourced from local farmers, and the meats are cured in-house. Still, the offerings are accessible, the wine list affordable, and the dessert menu is tidy with a single luscious chocolate mousse.

Sangria on the Burg
This Medical Center restaurant’s website says it all. Sangria on the Burg offers “craft sangria, margarita, and beer paired with sliders, tacos, and salads.” The aforementioned are flourished with ingredients like hand-pressed corn tortillas and pineapple cabbage slaw, but chef Ceasar Zepeda isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Sichuan House
Who says a neighborhood restaurant can’t also be a destination? This Northwest Side plays pied piper with Chinese classics like Sichuan green beans, Mala dry pots, and tea-smoked duck. Regulars know they should arrive with four or five best friends and order more than anyone could eat in one sitting. One shouldn’t miss out on the frenzy of flavors; besides, plenty of take-out containers are in stock.

Thai Dee
When this beloved Blanco Road eatery resumed dine-in service after a lengthy pandemic pause, it almost broke the internet. Floods of fans graffitied its Facebook page with rows of emoji hearts while followers busily tagged friends to plan a quick visit. That sort of rapture is usually reserved for celebrity baby bumps or NBA draft picks. Thai Dee does it in a stir of curry.

The Magpie
This newly expanded East Side bistro is hard to describe. Chef Jungsuk “Sue” Kim doesn’t let genre hold her back, dishing out Korean specialties like dak galbi and Italian rabbit ragu. The wine list has an equally well-stamped passport, exploring traditional and low-intervention winemaking in equal measure. The Magpie doesn’t need to be easily categorized to make an impact. Guests happily gobble up whatever comes into the nest.

Sichuan House San Antonio

Neighborhood restaurant of the year: Sichuan House

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10 San Antonio chefs go head-to-head in gourmet Burger Showdown

Burger Beasts

San Antonians can argue with friends all day about who has the best burger in town, but nothing lands quite like a head-to-head live victory.

This October, 10 San Antonio chefs are battling for those bragging rights at the Burger Showdown 4.0 — the numeral representing the competition's fourth year running. Hosted by cooking video series Homegrown Chef and Alamo Beer, the event will set all the chefs up under the Hays Street Bridge to serve up their best creations, so San Antonians can make the final call.

If eating 10 sliders seems excessive, think of it as a public service. Not only are visitors selecting the best burger (basically citizen science), but funds raised will benefit the San Antonio Food Bank.

This is the first year that the competition will be judged by a panel alongside the usual fan voters. There will be three judges: Great Day SA reporter Clark Finney; Edible San Antonio co-publisher Ralph Yznaga; and San Antonio Food Bank's director of food sustainability Mitch Hagney.

"The Burger Showdown is always such a great community event and a really fun way to celebrate our incredible chefs while getting out and trying something new and absolutely delicious," said Homegrown Chef founder and local food writer Kimberly Suta, who helped organize the event, in a release. "I like to challenge people to eat all the burgers because it's never been done!"

Chefs plan to bring the following burgers:

  • Chef Joseph Thadeus Martinez of Tributary (last year's 1st place winner) — "The French Onion Burger," featuring a Dean and Peeler smash patty, black pearl onion aioli, gruyere fonduta, and crispy shallots on a sourdough potato slider bun.
  • Chef James Richard Smith of toohotfortabc (last year's 2nd place winner) — "The Blue Mountain Smash Burger," featuring "sweet heat," bacon jam, and veggies on a Far West Texas Cattle Co. smashed beef patty with melted American cheese on a sourdough bun.
  • Chef Diana Anderson of JD's Chili Parlor (last year's 3rd place winner) — "The Italian Job," featuring tomato-basil pasta sauce, white wine and garlic-marinated beef, buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, red onion, and romaine hearts skewered with fried mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
  • Chef Justin Bluhm of STXBBQ — "The Oktoberfest Burger," inspired by beer, meat, cheese and pretzels. It features a beef patty with sliced brisket, house-pickled onions, and smoked beer queso on a soft pretzel bun.
  • Chef Joshua Calderon of Catering by JC — "The Backyard Barbecue Burger," featuring a beef patty, cheddar cheese, onion, cucumber, and iceberg lettuce on a potato roll.
  • Chef Stephen Chavez of FredericksBurgers — "The Bacon Huebner Burger," featuring bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese on a beef patty.
  • Chef Francisco Estrada of Naco — "The Aztec God Burger," featuring black garlic-seasoned beef, epazote aioli, caramelized onions, and huitlacoche.
  • Chef Greg Ferris of Bobbie’s Cafe — "The Texas Tailgate Burger," featuring a beef patty, American cheese, barbecue chips, and a mysterious "'go big or go home' twist."
  • Chef Kaius of The Kaius Experience — "The Texan Black Gold Burger" featuring a beef patty seasoned with Texan spices, topped with aged cheddar cheese, black garlic aioli, roasted jalapeño bacon, and crispy truffle sweet potato sticks, served on a brioche bun.
  • Chef Braunda Smith of Lucy Cooper’s Ice House — The release says, "This Food Network star is known for her burgers and will tell you she can make a burger out of absolutely anything, which is why she wants to surprise you!"

All burgers except those made by last year's first and second-place winners will be made pasture-raised Akaushi beef from local rancher 529meats. Ben E. Keith & Food Related will provide some toppings.

Tickets ($55) to the Burger Showdown 4.0 are available via Eventbrite. Only 25 VIP tickets ($75) will be sold; these guests will be welcomed 30 minutes early and will receive one drink ticket. Email homegrownchefsa@gmail.com, or text or call (210) 725-2339 to order.

Country icon Willie Nelson returns to traditional 'hillbilly' inspiration in new album

The Red Headed Stranger goes Blue

Almost as much as Willie Nelson is known for Austin, he's known for Nashville — and for subverting it. The 90-year-old singer has made an iconic, and extremely long career of conforming to and bucking against musical expectations, and now he's circled back around to tradition — without losing his own sound.

Nelson's new LP, Bluegrass, is his first album-length tribute to the traditional country genre. Yet, released on September 15, it's not even his first album of 2023. It follows I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard, a tribute to the Nashville songwriter who gave folks "I Fall to Pieces."

Bluegrass, in a way, is Nelson's genre-bent tribute to his own work. The setlist gathers a dozen of the songwriter and his fans' "favorite" songs he wrote, according to a press release, re-rendered with a bluegrass ensemble.

The focus on orchestration highlights that this is a collaborative effort by the amiable, but largely solo performer. One song, "Good Hearted Woman," is the only track on the album not just written by Nelson, thanks to the similar creative genius of outlaw country great Waylon Jennings. Willie's son, Micah Nelson, created the cover art: an appropriately blue portrait of the singer with warm undertones and a wreath of familiar recreational leaves. The album was produced by Willie's longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon.

Willie Nelson BluegrassNelson's son created the cover art — in blue, of course.Image courtesy of Willie Nelson; created by Micah Nelson

Even if a listener doesn't recognize each song on the album, Nelson's voice is as unmistakeable as ever. Against a bluegrass arrangement, it floats undisturbed and unhurried. At times, it even sounds like Nelson and the band are performing in different meters, the band bustling along cheerfully while the singer lounges around the beat — but never on it.

In fact, listeners who avoid Bluegrass may find their tune changes when listening to these laid-back renditions. "Still Is Still Moving To Me" brings the more frenetic tempo and multi-part harmonies that the genre is known for at its most ferocious; but iconic songs like "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Yesterday's Wine" may not even strike listeners as bluegrass if they're not listening for it — just very string-heavy traditional country tunes.

"On the Road Again," "Man With the Blues," and album-opener "No Love Around" are perhaps the tracks that benefit the most from the Bluegrass treatment. All three seem a little more cheerful, a little more upbeat, and a little more reassuring than their original forms. There's nothing warmer than hearing the iconic "On the Road Again" melody on gut strings — except perhaps listening to the country legend offer his "advice" over that plucky, self-assured backcountry orchestra.

Most important, the arrangements rework rather than rewriting the songs. None of the renditions give off an air of hokeyness or trying to shake things up; These are just great country songs that sound even better with a banjo. It makes sense that the change in instrumentation wouldn't shift much, since according to the release, Nelson decided to record the tribute because the style informed so much of his natural songwriting style.

"Using his own catalog as source material, in the spirit of traditional bluegrass sourcing hillbilly folk music, Willie chose songs combining the kind of strong melodies, memorable storylines and tight ensemble-interplay found in traditional bluegrass interpretations of the roots (from European melodies to African rhythms) of American folk songs," acknowledges the release.

By Texas Monthly'scount (shared in the release), this is Nelson's 151st album. Avid collectors can look forward to a 12-inch special edition pressed in blue vinyl, available for purchase on September 29. Preorder ($29.98) at willienelson.com.

This year the songwriter was honored with a five-part documentary series, a blowout 90th birthday concert, the naming of a prestigious arts endowment by the University of Texas at Austin, and two Grammy Awards. His book, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs, comes out October 23. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame days later, on November 3.

Listen to Bluegrass on your favorite streaming platform. More information is available at willienelson.com.

Cassandro wrestles with lucha libre and homophobia in real-life story

Movie Review

The LGBTQ community and the sports world have long had an uneasy relationship, especially in the United States. There are exceedingly few out male athletes around the world compared to the number of players total, and even though the world has progressed in significant ways, that statistic doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Although some don’t view professional wrestling as a sport, the culture around it is certainly testosterone-heavy, an idea that’s challenged in the new film, Cassandro. Saúl (Gael Garcia Bernal) lives in El Paso, but regularly crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico to participate in lucha libre matches. On the small side, he’s regularly cast as the runt, who never stands a chance at winning.

Openly gay, Saúl decides to change his wrestling persona to be an “exótico,” allowing him to express himself in a flamboyant manner. With the new wrestling name of Cassandro, Saúl starts to gain the notice of promoters and fans. At the same time, he wrestles with personal issues, including the strained life of his single mother, Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa) and an affair he’s having with a fellow luchador, Gerardo (Raúl Castillo).

Written and directed by Roger Ross Williams and co-written by David Teague, the film has a solidly-told story featuring a mixture of good performances, even if it feels like there’s something missing. The movie has all the hallmarks of an underdog story, and while it hits some of expected signposts along the way, it also strangely seems to hold back in certain aspects.

If you’re not already familiar with the lucha libre culture, the film doesn’t make it easy to get a handle on it. As in all pro wrestling, the matches aren’t “real,” but how and when the wrestlers decide how to perform and who will “win” feels confusing in the context of the film. It’s clear that the confidence Saúl shows as Cassandro makes him more appealing, but the intricacies of lucha libre could have been expounded on a bit more.

This becomes even more evident when fans are shown yelling gay slurs at him and other exóticos. There seems to be a contradictory performativeness to the antagonism, as those same fans soon start supporting him. Oddly, any other explicit homophobia is kept hidden, which - given the time period (the 1980s and ‘90s) and the machismo prevalent in Mexican culture - seems like the filmmakers made a conscious choice to not go down that road.

That and other decisions leave the film a bit flat emotionally. Saúl/Cassandro goes through a lot of upheaval in the film, and while the majority of it is engaging, there isn't a point where the story fully captures your heart. As with other areas, if the filmmakers had pushed just 10 percent harder, it would’ve turned the film from good to great.

Bernal turns in a fantastic performance, despite the fact that, even though he looks younger than he is, he’s a little old to be playing this particular character. Still, he has a charm and athleticism that makes him believable throughout. Good in supporting roles are Castillo (playing a similar role he did in The Inspection) and Roberta Colindrez as Saúl’s trainer. Keep an eye out for Bad Bunny in a small but interesting role.

There’s a lot to like about Cassandro, the story that’s being told, and the performances it contains. But by choosing not to explore certain parts of the story as much as they could have, the filmmakers left a lot of emotion out of it.


Cassandro is now playing in select theaters. It debuts on Prime Video on September 22.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro.