Photo by Julia Keim

Favorite San Antonio liquor sale returns with 3 days of dollar deals

Dollar Deals

It's a Leap Day miracle — Twin Liquors' Dollar Sale is returning February 27-29 for its winter booze-aganza. Beginning on Thursday, February 27, at 10 am, all Twin Liquors locations across the state will uncork big savings on wine and spirits.

For those who have yet to partake in a Dollar Sale, here's how it works: The Austin-based brand lowers prices on all 750-ml (or larger) bottles of wine and spirits to the lowest possible price, then adds $1. Why? We don't know, but it's cute.

In addition to fan favorites, rare wines, and collectible bottles, shoppers can also score deals on items like Macallan 12yr Double Cask Single Malt Scotch (discounted to $60.99 from its normal $81.99) or Casamigos Blanco Tequila, priced at $35.53, $11 off its normal price.

Though all 85-plus Twin Liquors locations are taking part in the winter 2020 Dollar Sale, only a handful are taking part in the special kickoff celebration. On February 27 at 10 am, shoppers at San Antonio's San Pedro Avenue shop can enjoy complimentary cocktails and breakfast tacos provided by Deep Eddy Vodka.

Considering the sale only comes around twice a year, it really is a great opportunity to stock that at-home bar with perennial favorites. Looking for a cheat sheet to help guide you through the madness? Check out our 2018 guide to making the most of the Twin Liquors Dollar Sale.

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2 Texas restaurants land coveted spots on Esquire's best-of-decade list

every day they're hustlin'

It's just a couple of lines in a sea of words of praise — but those lines are about two Texas restaurants, and that sea of words is Esquire magazine's Best Restaurants of the Decade list.

On December 27, the publication gave Dallas' Knife and Houston's Nancy's Hustle something extra to celebrate in the new year. The two Texas eateries were named along with 40 of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, such as Catbird Seat in Nashville, Sqirl in Los Angeles, and Cosme in New York City.

Nancy's Hustle, located in Houston, is hailed as one of the "most important restaurants" of the 10-year period from 2010-2019, and is described by author Daniel Gordinier as "a truck stop that spent a gap year in Copenhagen."

Since its opening in 2017, Houstonians have come to learn that Nancy's Hustle is unabashedly modern, embracing natural ingredients and offering a fresh spin on bistro cuisine. It remains a favorite of Houston's restaurant community, thanks to chef Jason Vaughan's eclectic menu, front of house specialist Sean Jensen's beverage program, and the stylish interior.

Representing Dallas, Knife is credited for reviving one of the Unites States' most iconic restaurant formats. Working with Texas ranchers and farmers, three-time James Beard nominated chef John Tesar has wowed the Metroplex since opening in 2014, serving dry-aged steaks and innovative takes on classic sides in a sleek, contemporary dining room.

"Just when the American steakhouse started to grow stale, John Tesar found a way to reinvent it," writes Gordinier.

Neither restaurants is a stranger to acclaim. In 2019, Nancy's Hustle landed the No. 2 spot on CultureMap's inaugural Top 100 list of Houston's best restaurants. That same year, it won the coveted Restaurant of the Year award at CultureMap Houston annual Tastemaker Awards. In 2018, Vaughan also won the Tastemaker Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Knife's Tesar, meanwhile, won Chef of the Year during the 2016 Dallas Tastemaker Awards.

Knife and Nancy's Hustle were the only two Texas restaurants to make the most recent Esquire's list.

8 brand-new craft breweries barreling into San Antonio right now

Brew news

The year may be coming to a close, but microbreweries in and around San Antonio are just beginning to open their doors. Overall, three breweries opened in November, two more hope to debut in December, and an additional three breweries are planning to serve beer enthusiasts in early 2020. Having trouble keeping up with all the happenings? We brewed up this handy guide for all your local beer news.

Now open

Back Unturned Brewing
Opened on November 19, Back Unturned is the work of owner/head brewer Ricardo Garcia. Garcia and team have installed a 10-barrel system in the former downtown home of Brooklynite, capable of churning out up to 20 kegs a week. The small batches allow for endless variety in the offerings, like a recent chocolate coconut porter and a fruity farmhouse ale. Along with the brews, the spot is also earning raves for chef Jared Cattoni’s easygoing bar menu of simple salads, decadent deserts, and wood-fired pizzas.

Blue Star Brewing
San Antonio’s first craft brewpub gave Black Friday shoppers a welcome gift November 29 with the debut of its second location at North Star Mall. In addition to offering its signature craft brews like Texican Lager and King Willian Ale, the site also boasts a full bar and food menu specializing in San Antonio flavors.

Silber Brewing
James and Hannah Silber and business partners Erik Ureta and Audra Perkins are all certified cicerones, the beer equivalent of sommeliers. Since November 7, they have also been running Boerne’s newest brewery and taproom. True to their beer nerd status, the project features some of the most creative brews in the area like a rose saison aged in a Chardonnay barrel and a watermelon sour. The offerings make imaginative pairings for food truck fare from Bubba’s Brat Haus and other visiting mobile kitchens.

Coming soon

Black Laboratory Brewing
This upcoming East Houston Street brewery comes from a microbiologist and biochemist, but don’t expect owners Tim Castaneda and Jeff Weihe to bring any mad science to the pint. Instead, the team focuses on approachable offerings like a traditional German kolsch style blonde and a specialty amber brewed with juniper and Texas honey. It’s unclear, however, when the brewery will finally be open to the public. It has been dark on Facebook since July when it announced it had received a brewing license from the state.

Dos Sirenos Brewing
Joining a bustling Southtown brewery scene that includes Dorcol Distilling’s HighWheel brand, Blue Star, Kunstler, and Freetail’s South Presa Street location, Dod Sirenos comes from father-and-son brewing team Michael and Jacob Sirenos. The taproom will initially focus on European styles, including a hefeweizen, a Belgian wit, a Russian imperial stout, a winter ale, and a Belgian triple. The space will also serve as a community watering hole with a stage for live music, a variety of games, and a small kitchen preparing burgers, wings, chicken, Italian sandwiches, appetizers, and desserts. According to the elder Sirenos, the brewery will be open in December, pending inspections.

Kinematic Brewing
Though it originally opened in a business park east of Boerne in September 2015, Kinematic took a break in April 2018 to focus on construction of a new standalone site off Interstate 10 closer to Comfort. The project has taken a little longer than anticipated. Originally slated for summer/fall 2019, it now has been pushed back until early 2020. Once open, it will be a destination brewery for quick road trips, offering a family-friendly setting with lawn games and a small stage, plentiful indoor and outdoor seating, and breathtaking Hill Country views.

Longtab Brewing
Founder David Holland and head brewer Mike Brown became interested in craft beer while serving as Green Berets, and the name is a nod to the “long tab” or cloth patch, worn by members of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Now, the team is opening a brewpub and coffee bar on the Northwest Side. True to their love of the country, the operation will brew classic American styles and a few German and Belgian classics made with 100 percent U.S.-grown hops and grain. According to a late October company newsletter, Longtab has been busy installing a new seven-barrel brewing system, chilling system, and tap lines with hopes for an early December soft opening. The team doesn’t appear to have hit any snags, as a November 29 Facebook post shows that brewery is now hiring.

Viva Brewery
Cofounders and neighbors Bobby Jones and Michael Johnson are outfitting part of a former East Side auto parts warehouse with hopes of opening the brewery and tasting room in fall 2020, but Viva has already been spotted around town offering samples at events and has announced a production partnership with Austin’s Celis Brewery. Viva will offer an approachable lineup that includes core beers Amarillo Ale (American lager), Ale Nino (pale ale), and Battle of Hops (IPA). A September press release announcing the concept made no mention of any food onsite, but the East Side warehouse development does offer space for a restaurant.

Iconic San Antonio bar reopens on the East Side after uncertain future

The comeback

No doubt fans of Tucker’s Kozy Korner have wondered whether the renowned East Side bar really would reopen after a short series of restarts and closures in the last few years. But wonder no more. Tucker’s is back open as of November 18, with the same standard offerings that made it popular with longtime patrons.

There are new things in store for fans of the lounge, which is now owned by Steve Mahoney’s SA Bar Management group, the force behind popular concepts like George’s Keep, Francis Bogside, Lilly’s Greenville, Blue Box, and Hanzo.

Christine Hill, who manages the bar at many of Mahoney’s establishments, tells CultureMap that the team made a few improvements, but wanted to be mindful of the heritage of the long-running classic.

"It still has the nice, comfortable, cozy environment and we want to cater to this neighborhood and this community, but also respect the history of this place and honor it," Hill says.

A San Antonio institution
Located on Houston Street, just east of downtown, Tucker’s has become a San Antonio institution of sorts. Having opened as a hot dog and burger stand in 1948, Tucker’s evolved over the decades into a cocktail lounge that lacked the frills but became a hot spot thanks to its live soul and R&B music and, later on, down-home soul food and jazz.

But over the past five years, there has been a whirlwind of changes at the spot. Chris Cullum — son of the late local jazz legend Jim Cullum and creator of the Cullum’s Attagirl and Attaboy food ventures — took over Tucker’s in 2014. Then in 2017, Jeret Pena and his Boulevardier Group resumed operations, maintaining much of the culinary and musical programming Cullum set up.

A short time later, ownership again changed hands, this time to Jeff and Jenn White, who departed to focus on their current main enterprise, Eastside Kitchenette. Most recently, Andrew Lake and Nathan Azar took up the reigns at Tucker’s in November 2018, but their tenure only lasted around seven months.

Aside from a few one-off events, Tucker’s has been quiet since spring. That changed mid-November as SA Bar Management began its new era.

A new era for Tucker's
For now, Tucker’s is sticking to drinks. The menu includes traditional cocktails such as Rusty Nail, The Business, Old Fashioned, and Brandy Alexander ranging $8 to $10. There's also wine by the glass, and some domestic and imported beers. Hill and her team are working to reopen the patio bar soon.

Food, however, is on the way. Upgrades to the bar's existing kitchen are ongoing, so Tucker's is inviting a neighborhood resident to bring his barbecue for customers to purchase on weekends. Hill also notes there soon will be a menu of small bites, such as egg rolls, made available daily.

Plans for the revived Tucker’s also call for patrons to be entertained by an alternating mix of DJs and live musicians. Sunday brunch looks to be returning, too, but the hours are currently 4 pm-2 am daily.

Meanwhile, the collage of photos, signs, and magazine covers still adorn the bar’s warm, cozy interior. The old-school jukebox will also still be playing, although the team found a way to breathe new life into that feature too.

"When we get the jukebox up and running, we can hook it into our house speakers, so if you want to play something, everyone can hear it," Hill explains.

Finally, Mahoney's team repaired and cleaned the iconic marquee sign that sits atop the bar's front entrance. For one of San Antonio’s longest running bars, it points to a bright future.

RD Speakeasy

Where to drink in San Antonio right now: 5 seasonal sippers perfect for fall

Where to drink now

San Antonio may not get a pageant of gold and red foliage, but that doesn’t stop local autumnphiles from getting into the seasonal spirit. Instead of warming up their toes by the fireplace, they drape a cardigan around their shoulders and head to the bar. These five recently opened spots may still be using ice in their cocktails, but their seasonal offerings are as snug as a scarf.

Fontaine’s Southern Diner & Bar Milk Punch
The South remains balmy much of the year, so any break in the heat becomes a celebration. Perhaps no other drink captures that festive feeling as much as milk punch. Fontaine’s version starts with tea-infused Bourbon blended with aromatics and topped with a surprise. Instead of filling the glass with opaque white, the diner uses clarified milk to give the drink a surprisingly clear color.

Ida ClaireThe Breakdown
This red-hot newcomer has been packing them in since opening on October 7. While most of the cocktails are light patio slammers, this rye-based drink is ideal for snuggling indoors. Rich cognac pairs with Italian vermouth and Angostura bitters, while a house-made apple-pepper syrup adds some kick. Nurse it with Carolina barbecue crispy chicken wings for a happy hour snack.

Lilly’s GreenvilleBrown Derby
Located in the heart of the historic St. Paul Square district, this warm and welcome bar keeps it classic with a menu of tried-and-true drinks. Its traditionally built Brown Derby cocktail is a case in point. The caramel notes of Bourbon makes it heady enough for sweater weather, while some citrus zing from grapefruit ensures it won’t give guests the sweats. A stir of honey holds down the fort.

PasticheVineyards & Orchards
Juniper Tar may have shuttered in July 2018, but one of its best cocktails lives on at this swanky East Side bar. With its autumnal mix of Calvados brandy, Pineau des Charentes aperitif, Pommeu de Normandie, Blanc de Blanc, and apple bitters, this sipper is a tribute to the fall harvest — and a cozy alternative to apple cider drinks before the weather gives in to the winter’s chill.

RD SpeakeasyJuniper Fall
Not everyone can escape for a camping weekend, but taste of the woods is available at the Barn Door Restaurant’s hush-hush new bar. Earthy Plymouth gin brings an earthy, spiced nose while bitter grapefruit and rosemary add those sylvan flavors, but without drinkers getting lost in a forest.

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San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From international flights to local delights, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe. Passengers can now book tickets for flights from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to Germany's Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

2. Hot San Antonio hotel brings back popular live fire dinner series for fall. Executive chef Michael Collins will keep grilling on the patio at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails.

3. New honky-tonk surprisingly two-steps into St. Paul's Square. When Steve Mahoney first relaunched Francis Bogside and Anne’s, rumors circulated on how he would use the expansive upstairs space.

4. Nola breaks new ground and a Hill Country eatery heads to City Hall in San Antonio food news. This week's food news saw the expansion of a popular brunch spot, cookbook and website features, and more.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. There's much to do this weekend, including beer festivals and a great standup set.

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.