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Photo courtesy of The Rustic

Francamente, no one in San Antonio needs a list to find margaritas on Cinco de Mayo. Everyone is mixing up tequila and lime drinks to celebrate. The holiday has spiraled out from its military roots, initially commemorating victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and most currently representing some United States rendition of Mexican joy.

Texans have a unique privilege as some of Mexico’s closest U.S. neighbors; an opportunity to interact with actual Mexican and Mexican-American culture on a daily basis, and absolute Mexican camp on May 5.

The following are six San Antonio spots getting in the Cinco de Mayo spirit with parties and specials that go beyond a margarita happy hour. Whether this year it feels like a tamales holiday or a burgers and beer holiday, locals have another fun opportunity to learn about and celebrate our Mexican friends and family.

Costa Pacifica
If a trip to the Pacific Coast feels a little out of reach, one coastal restaurant in town offers an all-day getaway. Costa Pacifica is augmenting its usual seaside fare with special food and drink options to celebrate, including margaritas, beer, and shots of Milagro tequila (priced at $3.99 for happy hour). There will be three hours of live music sets starting at 4 pm, then an hour of Mariachi Oro y Plata, and karaoke until 10 pm. The restaurant even has a page on the website to discuss the history of the holiday.

The Rustic
Live music at a local restaurant is standard for Cinco de Mayo, but live music is always bigger on the big stage at The Rustic. Its annual event will include $20 Modelo beer buckets, tacos by Joe Leo, mariachi and other live music. It’ll be decked out in colorful decor, and promises photo ops, including mini beer burros who will be visiting and making the rounds like two adorable waiters. Happy hour starts at 3 pm and runs until 6 pm, with festivities until around 9 pm.

Hopdoddy
An Austin contribution to the San Antonio food scene and over-the-top burgers, Hopdoddy, is bringing back a “fan favorite” Mexican burger for the month of May, starting on Wednesday, May 4. The Bidi Bidi Burger is a cross between a burger and a tostada (layered with entire intact tostadas the size of the burger itself). That’s topped with two cheeses (pepper jack by Tillamook, and cotija), a black bean spread, pico de gallo and shredded lettuce, and seasoned with chipotle aioli, guacamole crema and cilantro.

Market Square
If you didn’t get enough of the constant circus that is Market Square during Fiesta, head back for special Cinco de Mayo programming. This time the market is open Saturday and Sunday, with live bands and mariachi (in past years, a competition), and a Folklorico dance performance. Then, of course, there will be the usual working artist and food booths, who will surely be in the holiday spirit. Sometimes the best holiday plans are about seeing places you’re used to … just a little different.

Tony’s Siesta
Tony’s Siesta is not messing around this Cinco de Mayo, with its 5 Days of Cinco party. The first day, May 1, was a pig roast collaboration with four barbecuers. Other events include the Blood In Blood Out Trivia Night and karaoke, Industry Night, Cholo STAR WARS Loteria y Costume Party, and on May 5 … who knows? Head over to their Instagram or Facebook for more information on daily events as they come out. Tony’s is known for great cocktails and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

Chicken N Pickle
One of the great things about this holiday is the absence of one agreed-upon traditional activity. If your Cinco de Mayo includes pickleball, it sounds like you’re really doing it right. Chicken N Pickle will host a street taco cookout on May 5, with all bites coming fresh off the grill: chicken tinga, carnitas, burnt ends tacos, and elote cups. Margaritas will be made with Una Vida tequila. Book a court ahead of time at chickennpickle.com. The venue has events most days, from trivia nights to watch parties for big sports games.

Courtesy of Ofelia McDonald

Iconic Marfa restaurant and funky house hit the market for $670,000

The Whole Enchilada

You now can wrap up an appetizing one-of-a-kind real estate deal in the iconic West Texas arts destination of Marfa.

Ramona Tejada, owner of the popular Marfa Burrito shop, is selling the restaurant along with the adjacent house, says Ofelia McDonald, a real estate agent with Austin-based Pauly Presley Realty who’s marketing the property. McDonald tells CultureMap that the property, located in the center of Marfa, features “an adobe house and super funky restaurant with large outdoor spaces — very Austin-y.”

The property is listed at $670,000.

The four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home and the unattached restaurant sit on an oversized corner lot near El Cosmico, a hotel and campground, and the Chinati Foundation museum. The next-door restaurant includes a professional kitchen, dining room, and outdoor patio.

“It’s a super Instragram-able location, and lots of famous people go there. Anthony Bourdain kind of became a friend of [Tejada], and Matthew McConaughey always goes there,” McDonald tells Realtor.com.

Actor Mark Ruffalo also has frequented the shop, according to Saveur magazine.

An article published in 2017 by Saveur dubbed Tejada “the burrito queen of Texas.” The magazine raved that Tejada’s burritos lived up to the hype, as they’re “tender and slightly flaky, and thrilling enough to eat all on their own. Meaty, eggy fillings don’t disappoint.”

The Lonely Planet travel guide also commends the no-frills burrito joint.

“Across the U.S. you can usually assume that a restaurant serves good grub if you see police officers eating inside,” Lonely Planet says. “In Marfa, the predictor of goodness is the Border Patrol, and you’ll find them chowing down (along with everyone else in town) at this simple place, where big burritos earn high praise.”

Tejada is selling the shop, which opened in the 1990s, and the house as she enters retirement and prepares to live with her daughter, according to McDonald.

McDonald envisions the new owner being a “cool, hip, creative type who gets Marfa — something like Franklin Barbecue — and understands the value in the investment and wants to be part of the community.”

Rusty Taco/Instagram

Texas taco chain finally comes out of its shell for San Antonio debut

Is your taco game rusty?

In response to the question, “Can you ever have too many taco joints?” most San Antonians would offer up a resounding, full-mouthed, “I can’t talk now; I’m eating this taco.”

Sure, we’ve got more than our fair share of taquerias, so many, in fact, that we’re known to many as a taco town, and even scored a shoutout from Texas Monthly, which recently penned an article about San Antonio’s taco trail, pronouncing we’ve got the best taquerias in the state.

The newest crave-worthy hot spot to roll into San Antonio is inspired by authentic Acapulco street tacos — and it’s ready to put a little fiesta flavor in your face.

Rusty Taco, the Dallas-based chain that specializes in street-style tacos made from original recipes (including a mouthwatering selection of breakfast tacos that are served all day), will finally open its first San Antonio location 17026 Bulverde Rd., in the Bulverde Marketplace, on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 am.

Though the chain originally planned to have the franchise open last summer, these handmade tacos are well worth the wait.

The concept was founded in 2010 by Rusty Fenton, who was inspired by his travels throughout the U.S. and Mexico to create a taco stand that served authentic food and drinks at affordable prices in a welcoming environment. The brand continues to grow nationally and now has 38 Rusty Taco locations in 12 states.

Helming the local restaurant — which, by the way, features a sizable outdoor space so you can get as messy as you desire when gobbling up tacos and queso — are owners and operators Andy Besing and Perrin Larsh (also a four-store Arby’s franchisee) with San Antonio-based Lone Star Restaurant Group. The duo says their aim is to share authentic tacos with a city that obviously has an appetite for them.

“We are thrilled to welcome guests to the first Rusty Taco location in San Antonio,” Besing says. “We offer terrific indoor/outdoor dining on our expansive 900-square-foot outdoor patio.”

Lone Star Restaurant Group also has plans to open additional Rusty Taco locations throughout San Antonio, though since the opening of its first local restaurant got pushed back a bit, the original timeline for opening those additional locations — sometime this year and next — may also get delayed.

But not to worry, because locals can grub down on all the Rusty Tacos they can handle from the Bulverde Road location starting next month.

Rusty Taco menu highlights include 20 street tacos, from Baja shrimp and beef fajita to roasted pork, brisket, black bean, cauliflower, and fried chicken tacos. All-day breakfast tacos include chorizo, egg, and cheese; brisket, egg, and cheese; jalapeño sausage, egg, and cheese; and fajita, egg, and cheese, to name just a few.

There are also four different kinds of nacho plates, piled high with a choice of meat and all the fixin's, and made-from-scratch must-have sides like queso, chips and guac, and black beans.

Rusty Taco also serves up a variety of drinks, including Mexican cola and Jarritos, and will feature a custom-built, full-service bar offering a “unique cocktail program.” Top picks include the “fancy beers” and the potent rocks and frozen margaritas that the restaurant is happy to note are made with “cheap tequila.”

Save room for dessert, otherwise you’ll be drooling while your taco compadres polish off dreamy sopapillas and churros.

“San Antonio is very special to our family, with happy memories of great taco eating adventures,” says Denise Fenton, Rusty Taco co-founder and brand director. “We are so excited that the first Rusty Taco is opening in one of Rusty’s favorite cities.”

The new Rusty Taco in San Antonio will be open daily. Sunday through Thursday hours are 7 am-10 pm. The taqueria will be open on Friday and Saturday from 7 am-11 pm, perfect for those late-night weekend taco cravings.

Follow Rusty Taco San Antonio on Facebook and Instagram for more info and taco temptation.

It's always taco time at Rusty Taco.

Rusty Taco/Instagram
It's always taco time at Rusty Taco.

7 things to know in San Antonio food: Upscale bar with Japanese twist dashes into Five Points

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

Michael Sohocki is back at it after shuttering his trailblazing Restaurant Gwendolyn and the downtown location of ramen shop Kimura in December. On January 11, the busy chef reintroduced Kimura in the former Five Points Local space at 1017 N. Flores St. Then, on January 15, he quietly cut the ribbon on Dash Bar in the loft of the same building. The latter specializes in “European classic cocktails with Japanese techniques,” like the Crazy 88 with yaupon gin, matcha syrup, lemon, and sparkling wine and a bramble cocktail with colorful butterfly pea powder.

La Fogata has expanded its footprint with a third location in Alamo Heights. Named La Fogata Cantina, the new outpost has taken over the former home of Nosh, at 1133 Austin Hwy., also owned by restaurateur Patrick Richardson.

Los Angeles-based chain Mochinut unveiled its latest San Antonio location in a January 7 Instragram post. Located at 19202 Stone Oak Pkwy., the shop serves breaded Korean hot dogs, milk teas, and Hawaiian-style mochi doughnuts, a hybrid of the American pastry with rice flour.

Austin import Kung Fu Saloon opened its first San Antonio location on January 14 at 5531 N. Loop 1604 W. in the Rim Crossing Entertainment District. The playful concept bills itself as a “vintage arcade bar,” complete with Skee Ball, karaoke rooms, and a pixelated aesthetic inspired by classics like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Guests can also expect plenty of beer and a cocktail menu heavy on flavored spirits.

Those needing a break from Alamo City’s endless supply of breakfast tacos (hey, it happens!) now have a new Southtown spot for the morning meal. The Breakfast Truck, a new mobile eatery at Hub Mrkt at 1203 S. Alamo St., debuted January 10 with a menu that includes breakfast sandwiches, traditional egg plates, and caffeine from locals Stranded Coffee.

Other news and notes

H-E-B has won yet another plaudit, this time from the dryly named Annual Retailer Preference Index: U.S. Grocery Channel Edition from Dunnhumby. The international research firm ranked the hometown heroes second on its list of best stateside grocers. The top spot went to Amazon, proving only that much of the nation has yet to be introduced to the singular charms of H-E-Buddy.

Lone Star distilleries will once again be highlighted as the Texas Whiskey Festival returns on May 13-14. Held at Star Hill Ranch, the affair includes a seated tasting of rare whiskies on the Friday of the event and a more casual sip-and-stroll event on Saturday. Tickets, ranging from a $20 pass for designated drivers to a $215 two-day pass, are on sale now.

2 beloved San Antonio chains cruise onto list of country’s best drive-thrus

Texans’ bread and butter

The rest of the U.S. is quickly catching on to some fast-food addictions most Texans have been noshing for years, with one automotive-focused media site driving some national praise for two beloved San Antonio-based eateries.

Online publication Jalopnik recently released its reader-curated list of the Best Drive-Thru Restaurants in America and — likely unsurprising to devourers of burgers and Tex-Mex in the Lone Star State — Whataburger and Taco Cabana, both based in San Antonio, are featured among the top 10 favorites.

Jalopnik notes that perhaps Whataburger’s popularity among drive-thru consumers has something to do with the chain’s many burger options (“Maybe its popularity is thanks to the rumored 36,864 different burger combinations that customers can create with the firm’s range of toppings.”)

In further applauding the burger chain, which has maintained an almost cult-like following since the brand first launched in Texas in the 1950s, one Jalopnik reader even shared a story about a Whataburger newbie’s first experience.

“Whataburger, hands down,” the poster told Jalopnik of their favorite drive-thru in the country. “If it’s on the menu, it can be put on your burger. I once had the joy of watching a kid from New Jersey eat Whataburger for the first time. It was like that scene from The Road when the son has a Coke for the first time in his life.”

In addition to that transformative experience (true Texans know a perfect Whataburger meal can be an epiphany), Jalopnik readers also hailed Taco Cabana as one of the best drive-thrus in the country.

Though Jalopnik, which is clearly not based in Texas, downplays the Tex-Mex chain’s formidability, calling it “another taco joint” that serves up a host of “Mexican treats,” readers (and likely Texas-based devotees) set the publication straight, calling out Taco Cabana’s fresh-made flour tortillas, array of salsas, and boozy offerings, and making mention of the brand’s way-better-than-Taco-Bell quality.

“Multiple orders of magnitude better than Taco Hell,” one Jalopnik poster says.

Another reader notes the chain is a middle-of-the-night go-to, something many Texans can also relate to.

“Taco Cabana,” the poster says of their favorite drive-thru, “especially the 24-hour ones. Nothing, I mean nothing, beats a couple of barbacoa tacos at 3 am.”

Other drive-thru chains scoring a spot in Jalopnik’s reader-based top 10 include Wyoming-based Taco John’s, ubiquitous California burger joint In-N-Out, California-based Baker’s Burgers, Jack in the Box, Chicago-born hot dog spot Portillo’s, universally loved Chik-Fil-A, quality burger joint Culver’s, and sandwich eatery Runza.

Photo courtesy of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association

South Texas town’s patriotic extravaganza honors Washington’s Birthday and local traditions

founding father fest

George Washington probably never chose to celebrate his birthday in Laredo, Texas. Nor was he even alive by the time Laredo threw him his first birthday party on February 22, 1898. A celebration with such deep roots is what attracts locals and visitors to the first U.S. president’s annual birthday party each year in Laredo, which transpires a mere 2 1/2-hour drive from San Antonio during a weekslong extravaganza, this year from January 21 through February 27.

Before we unveil the specifics of this birthday bash and why it’s worth a day or weekend trip, it’s important to offer some history: The origin of this event is so convoluted to the modern ear that it just makes sense that the annual celebration, now in its 124th year, takes over a month to unfold. There’s a lot to cover.

It was a symbolic gesture by every measure: The Improved Order of the Red Men Yaqui Tribe #59 (a misleadingly named patriotic fraternity started in 1834 by and for white men who allegedly dressed as natives during the Boston Tea Party and modeled their club after their idea of the natives’ political structure) staged a theatrical battle, an exchange of keys representing the city of Laredo and Pocahontas, and a reenactment of the historic tea dump.

But the local chapter’s Mexican and American Laredoans were looking for something for a patriotic celebration that everyone could get behind. They learned that Washington’s esteem extended past the Southern border of the United States, and that he, too, had donned a similar disguise to meet undercover and plan with revolutionaries.

The present day celebration is rich with historical costumes, music, and military extravagance. Some of the events, especially the Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Ball, spark discourse on appropriation, over-celebrating colonialism, and depoliticizing complicated border relations. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association is clear and consistent about its intentions: to welcome everyone and show them a good time. Oversimplified or realistic for a population with a complicated history, the ostensibly multicultural events all boil down simply to celebrating America.

“As far as patriotism, the tone is the same,” says Nino Cardenas, PR and marketing manager of the WBCA. “It’s just a love for your country. We celebrate this as anybody would in the United States.”

The WBCA works all year on the birthday celebration, which draws around 400,000 visitors over the course of 38 days. Cardenas says most of the visitors come for the final two weekends, when the biggest events are scheduled, like the Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade through downtown Laredo. The procession draws up to 100,000 spectators with floats, Clydesdales, marching bands, and Shriners (the masonic fraternity members who wear fezzes and drive tiny or antique cars). For the absolute best view, some people set out their seats the night before.

The Jalapeño Festival (a music festival within a birthday party festival) unites regional Mexican and country music over two days, with other themed events mixed in. At the obligatory jalapeño-eating contest, each of the top eaters scarfs down hundreds of jalapeños, unflinching and gulping down drinks. A grito contest ranks long-winded exclamations, not as a reaction to infernal levels of jalapeño consumption, but as part of a patriotic, expressive tradition that sounds like laughing, crying, or cheering.

An airshow, one of the most demanding events the WBCA single-handedly plans, showcases classic air acrobatics by teams and individual pilots. It’s not just about the pilots; two skydiving teams choreograph jumping out like daredevil synchronized swimmers. This year, a team will demonstrate the F-35A Lightning II, the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter.

Some smaller events specifically reference the history of Washington’s Birthday over many years, including an annual poster unveiling and an opening exchange of abrazos and symbolic gifts between child ambassadors of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.

All this planning, and the seemingly impossible execution, is done with the help of volunteers. The WBCA is a nonprofit, so it relies on manpower from people who believe in the community impact and want to experience the festivities from the inside. The association starts reaching out for more volunteers in mid-January and continues accepting applications until the event.

“Our goal is for you to have a great time,” says Cardenas. “Just go have fun. We make sure that experience goes as seamless as possible.”

For a lot more information on the upcoming events, history, volunteering, and recommended travel plans, visit wbcalaredo.org. Some events, including the Jalapeño Festival and the airshow, require tickets for entry, which can be purchased on the website.

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San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, 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. San Antonio's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.