Monday, December 28, 2009

short trip to the alamo city

A big chunk of my heart lives in San Antonio, Texas. My dad's "half" of the family all reside in Bexar County, with only a small number of exceptions scattered outside the area.

Growing up, trips to San Antonio for me meant visiting Grandma and Grandpa's house and playing with cousins. If anything else existed in SA beyond the walls of my grandparent's home, it didn't really matter to me -- I didn't need, nor was I interested, in much more.

As I've grown up, I've discovered that San Antonio is a fun place to spend a few days away from home. The culture is uniquely and perfectly Tex-Mex, on a much greater scale than any other city of its size. There's a touristy element (beyond just the Alamo and the Riverwalk) that lends itself to visitors from out of town, but not in an overly garish manner, but just enough to be entertaining.

Tomorrow Ty, Aidan and I are hitting the road for a few days and heading over to the Alamo City. I'm most excited about meeting my new second cousin, Baby Bryson, and visiting with family. But hitting any of the following spots ... some of my favorites in San Antonio, would be queso on top.

1. The Menger Hotel -- one of my favorite hotels in the world. Within walking distance of the Alamo and the River, the Menger sits in a centrally perfect location in downtown SA. But my two favorite (yes, it's a tie) aspects of the Menger are its historically gorgeous bar, built in 1887, as well as the mysterious ghosts and spirits who reside inside the old hotel. I've even had my own unexplained spooky encounter at the Menger ... but that's a post for a different day. :)

According to the hotel's website, the watering hole at the Menger was where Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of his Rough Riders, volunteers for the American volunteer Cavalry in the Spanish-American war. The pub has a paneled ceiling of cherry wood, booths and beveled mirrors from France. It's cozy in size, yet perfectly so. Oh, and they serve a killer a cosmo.

2. Dolores Del Rio Ristorante & Grill Room - Betcha thought I'd be writing about a Tex-Mex restaurant in a post about San Antonio, didn't ya?! Believe it or not, one of the best overall experiences I've had at an Italian restaurant has been in San Antonio. Dolores Del Rio is a magnificent hidden gem. Look for the little place where a tree on the river grows right out of the building.

The restaurant is located in one of the less-travelled areas of the Riverwalk, and if you blink as you walk by it, it's easy to miss. With live jazz 7-nights a week, as well as a belly dancer who makes a sexy appearance at 8:30 in the evening (don't miss it!), the eclectic bohemian ambiance of this tiny restaurant is a total feast for all the senses.

Oh, and the menu and wine list (mostly Italians, heavy on reds) is top-notch. Menu tip du jour: go for the gnocchi and chicken in bay leaf sauce -- divine.

If you're lucky enough, you'll be seated right by the kitchen, which usually isn't the best location in most restaurants. But the owners and chefs at Dolores are eager to share old world stories about Italy, as well as tidbits about the menu. Again, such a super overall dining experience. It's hard to leave!

3. Alamo Fiesta on Main - THE place to go for gaudy (yet fun!) Tex-Mex party supplies, arts and crafts, as well as furniture and textiles from abroad -- an explosion of Dia de los Muertos, sugar skulls, papel picado, piñatas, and cascarones.

Located in an old white house near San Antonio College close to downtown on Main, Alamo Fiesta epitomizes color. It's also from where most of the ornaments on my Mexican tin ornament tree originated!

¡Felíz año nuevo!

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