Places to Eat in San Antonio

Rudy's BBQ is my favorite BBQ in San Antonio, TX.This is Kayla, one of my dearest friends. She deserted me. Okay, I know that sounds a little bit over dramatic. But she up and moved to San Antonio a few years ago and ever since I’ve been trying to guilt her in to moving back. So far it hasn’t worked. But that is okay because it’s meant that I have gotten to visit her. And I really like it in San Antonio. Visiting a new place, and staying at someone’s house instead of in a hotel means that you see the area a little bit differently. Although we did go by the Alamo on one visit, we mostly skip the touristy stuff. Also it means that you eat some of your meals at home in pajamas. But honestly, what we do the most when I visit, is try to find places that sound too crazy delicious to miss. So today I am sharing some of my favorite places to eat in San Antonio. Some of these are chain restaurants that we don’t have in CA and some are local favorites. Either way, they are all delicious and I (we) think you should know about them. I’m also sharing some of Kayla’s other faves!

Sonic abounds in Texas. So when you are there, you should probably stop for their happy hour. First off, there is a Sonic on just about every corner. Although there are few Sonics in So Cal, they are pretty few and far between. So for me, it is a very “Texas” thing (but I realize that they are all over a lot of other southern states as well). You simply must drive through and grab a drink at some point during your stay. My fave is the Sonic Sunrise, that is no longer on the menu but some will still make for you. It’s basically a cherry limeade with orange juice. And it’s YUM!

Kayla’s Tip: Sonic may have a Happy Hour between 2-4 pm daily which means half of drinks plus other discounts!

Things to do in San Antonio, TX.  Mostly, you're gonna eat! I’ve known this little cowgirl since junior high school although we didn’t get to be great friends until after we graduated from college. She’s a kindergarten teacher who has the biggest heart! She is a fantastic listener and gives me the best advice. She always lifts me up when I need it and calls me on my sh*t when I need that too. We love to be in our jammies and watch trashy TV together and I wish we got to see each other more often. Here is where I break in to “Wind Beneath my Wings”…

Max's Wine Dive in San Antonio, TX.Another special thing about Kayla is that, just like me, she loves to eat. So leading up to my trips, we starting sending links of restaurants back and forth to each other and planning our visit around meals and snacks. I couldn’t wait to try out Max’s Wine Dive after she told me about their crazy good comfort food. It was too dark out by the time the food came to get pictures of it. But we ate fried pickles, these delicious potato chip nachos with bleu cheese, fried chicken sliders and Max n’ cheese. Yeah, we go hard. Their brunch menu also looked amazing. Ambiance is cool and this seems like a great happy hour option. I also remember getting some dreamy short rib sliders from Houlihan’s on a previous visit that I would happily order again. Kayla says they also have delicious martini and wine flights and fabulous desserts.

Kayla’s Picks for Happy Hour: Stonewerks or Hofbrau

Hot Joy in San Antonio, TX. We did not eat at Hot Joy but I took a photo of it because it looked so awesome! It’s bright and colorful and the design is just plain fun. On first look, it seems like Chinese food but then I read about it in Bon Appetit. And it sounds even more awesome than I imagined. This is on my list for the next visit for sure.

Feast in San Antonio is THE place to go for brunch! Cool vibe and delicious food! Down the street from Hot Joy is Feast. We ate brunch here and of course had to start off with champagne cocktails. The interior of the restaurant is pretty small but there is a great patio out front that looked really fun. The decor has a mid century modern vibe with a touch of glam minus the kitsch. It’s just cool. AND THE FOOD!!!!! We started with sausage and moved on to biscuits and gravy and a fantastic almond french toast. I kind of wanted to see if I could hang out there until I was ready to eat again, but of course, I over ate and practically had to roll myself right out of there. This is where you should go with your girlfriends to celebrate someone’s birthday. They only take reservations for parties of 6 people or more so be prepared for a wait!

Kayla’s Picks for Brunch: 18 Oaks at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country

Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. A great place for delicious food and drinks.You absolutely have to check out the Pearl Brewery area. It’s a cool, industrial type area that they have made in to a destination for food and shopping. The buildings are cool, there is a communal and super friendly vibe and so many great options for eating and drinking.

Smoothie from One Lucky Duck at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, TXThank goodness there was a juice spot called One Lucky Duck for a nice counter point to all that over indulging. There is a really cool indie, food vibe here. Just take a look at their list of restaurants. There is also a culinary academy here so you know they aren’t fooling around when it comes to food. There are also some great little shops for browsing in while trying to make room before your next meal. Last time I was there they were expanding it even more so I can only imagine what they have to offer there now. This is one of those places where you can pop in for a quick meal or hang out for hours.

La Madeleine Cafe for yummy French inspired lunch that's fast. Um, La Madeleine. Why oh why don’t we have one of these by my house? I would eat there everyday. It’s a country french themed restaurant and the food is just really fresh and really good. On this day I had a trio of Monte Cristo sandwiches and a side salad. SO good. But the Strawberries Romanoff is the real reason I like to go here. It’s a bowl of delicious, fresh strawberries topped with a sour cream based brandy sauce! (It kind of tastes like this quick strawberry snack!!!) This would be the perfect place to take your family for breakfast or lunch since there are so many different options. This is a totally casual place similar to a Marie Callendars.

Kayla’s Picks for Breakfast Spots:  Cuppencake or Bird Bakery (Um, Kayla, I want to go to these places!!)

Rudy's BBQ San AntonioI want to be honest that I have not driven around Texas on a BBQ taste off. We just keep going back to Rudy’s because it is so delicious. It’s rustic, smokey, small and just what you want your BBQ joint to be. The brisket is out of this world. As is the creamed corn and don’t even think about not getting the peach cobbler.

Kayla and I have embarked upon many a cupcake tour. Kayla’s sweet tooth rivals my own. Some of those bakeries have closed since our last eat off so Kayla’s current pick for best cupcake spot is Gigi’s Cupcakes. And if you are looking for a different kind of treat, you HAVE to try Karen’s Kernels in Helotes. The flavored popcorn comes in the most amazing flavors like Dill Pickle and Key Lime. We’ve tried quite a few flavors and all of them are ridiculous. I wish Kayla would read this post and send me some…

*Updated to add: OMG! I forgot the TexMex! Geez. Kayla wants you to know that Chuy’s is the place to go for some good TexMex. It’s a chain so there are tons of locations to serve you (their first location was in Austin). Their queso is fantastic and in the bar at happy hour they have an all you can eat queso/salsa/nacho bar. She also says to try their jalapeno dip. It’s “seriously amazing” and addicting.

The Alamo Cafe (two locations) is home to Kayla’s favorite queso in town and also the best tortilla soup around.

And down at the Riverwalk there are tons of dining options. Kayla’s faves are Acenar for Mexican (I’ve been there with her and I concur!). They do a tableside guacamole service where you choose your favorite flavors and they make it to your specifications right at your table. They also do a queso flameado. And also Paesanos for delicious Italian!

Or maybe I should plan another trip to San Antonio. Have you been? What places do I need to be on my to-do list?


New Red Robin Allergy Friendly Interactive Menu

*The Red Robin information and gift cards have been provided by Red Robin.  I was sent a gift card to Red Robin to try out their new Interactive Allergen Friendly Menu Builder portion of their website.  I jumped at the chance because Red Robin was one of the first restaurants that I let my food allergic son eat out at because the staff and management ALWAYS went out of their way to ensure his safety.  With the creation and launch of this new meal planning feature, making allergen free dining even easier and safer, I wanted to share my experience with you all.  All opinions are mine.Whiskey River BBQ wrap at Red Robin.  // #sponsoredI LOVE Red Robin.  And always have.  From their high octane cocktails that I discovered in college (Sand in Your Shorts was always my go-to but I probably haven’t had that in about 10 years!) to their fries (I’m obsessed with their fries!) and on to my current favorite the Whiskey River BBQ wrap, I could eat at Red Robin daily.  But I don’t.  We really don’t eat out all that much.  I prefer to save money and make dinner at home.  But it wasn’t always like that.  I pretty much unconsciously set out to NOT learn how to cook from my mom growing up.  So when I got married, and even after I had my first child, I was getting some homemade meals on the table but they were NOT nutritious, particularly tasty or frequent.  All of that changed when I found out my son had tons of food allergies at one year old.  He had had continual, severe eczema for 6 months and I was desperate to get to the root of the problem.  I will never forget one Monday night, however, when the phone rang and it was his doctor.  After months of trying crazy harsh creams and steroids, we finally did a blood test to see if it was food allergies.  It was after 5 pm when the call came and she said, “He’s allergic to milk, eggs, soy, peanut, probably shellfish and other tree nuts.  You can give him Rice Milk.  They sell it at Whole Foods.”  And with that, I was left to navigate his food allergies on my own.  We changed pediatricians and I got to work trying to figure out what would be safe to feed him.  I did my research online and in books and by wandering Sprouts and Whole Foods.  I immediately had teach myself to cook and made pretty much all of his food.  I didn’t feel confidant with reading labels to know if I was going to give him something that would harm him.  And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable taking him out to restaurants and having to rely on someone else’s knowledge, or lack thereof, of food allergies to keep him safe.

Red Robin has a new allergen free meal builder to create your perfect, and safe meal.  // #sponsoredI brought all of his food with me wherever we went.  If he did come to a restaurant with us I carefully wiped down the table and made sure he wasn’t sitting by anyone that had one of the food’s he couldn’t have.  But finally, when he was about 4, I decided that if I wanted to give him more of a normal childhood experience in terms of dining out, that I should take the next step of trying to navigate restaurant menus.  One of the first places I went was Red Robin.  I did some research on line and felt that there was at least some conversation about allergies on their site.  I called a manager and inquired about food allergies and decided to try it out.  Even back then they handled food allergies with ease.  And it was a place he could eat where I felt he was safe with fries no less!  So when I got an email asking if I would like to check out the new Red Robin allergy friendly interactive menu builder, I jumped at the chance.  A few Saturdays ago, the family and I headed to Red Robin for lunch.

Dining out with food allergies.  // #sponsoredWhile it is possible to pull up the website on your own phone (and of course from your home computer), the manager at our Red Robin location brought us out an iPad to view the menu builder on.  Of course my son had to try it out first.  I think he really just wanted to see if they had Minecraft on the iPad.  Red Robin trains all team members on how to deal with dietary restrictions and modifications to their menus.  The use special allergy alerts in different type so it is clear on every order.  The alert notifies the kitchen that a special allergen kit is required for the order.  The kit includes tools that are to be used on allergen orders only and are purple to clearly distinguish them from other kitchen tools.  Awesome!

December Loves

mozza newport beachSorry for the terrible iPhone pic, but we tried out a new restaurant a few weeks ago and it was AMAZING!  If you are in Orange County and haven’t tried Pizzeria Mozza yet, you HAVE to.  It was phenomenal.  We tried a bunch of different things and all of it was perfection.  And this cocktail, the Holiday Garland I think it was called, was sensational!  A spiced cranberry reduction with bourbon and a cranberry gelee garnish.  FTW!  I had 3 of them!  3!! I never have three cocktails when I’m out.  And I was able to walk myself out so they may have been light on the liquor.  Or my belly was THAT full of delicious yumminess.  We also spotted a celeb chef eating there.  That is always a good sign.

k-and-i-at-microsoft-p.s.-i-made-this-partyKristin and I attended a party thrown by Microsoft hosted by Erica of P.S. I Made This to showcase holiday gift DIYS that can be done with their products.  We got to take home these awesome plastic ornaments that were printed on a 3D printer! (image via Getty Images for Microsoft)

fresh-paint-custom-wrapping-paperWe also got to create our own wrapping paper.  Using the Fresh Paint program, Kristin drew a Christmas tree pattern and then it was printed out for her!  SO cool!  I’m dying to play with Fresh Paint some more.

custom-thank-you-noteIt is rare that a company sends out a thank you note after working with you on a project.  It makes sense, you sometimes are working with a PR company and not the actual brand.  And some of their campaigns include a huge number of bloggers.  But I got this thank you note from Chinet (remember this post?) and thought it was super cool.  Not only was the message very nice but it was personalized with the name of my blog right on the front.  I thought it was a really nice touch.

abe-lincoln-sweatshirtYou all know that I love U.S. President’s right?  I saw a girl wearing this sweatshirt when we were at Disneyland and I almost stopped her to ask her where it was from.  I googled it once we got home and found out it was from Forever 21 (says no longer available but they have this version too)!  Sold!  It’s my fave.

hooray-cake-topperI can’t wait to use this cake topper from Little Cat Design Co. available at Sweet and Saucy Shop!  My youngest is turning 5 a few days after Christmas and this will be coolin’ out on top of his cake.  They come in a bunch of colors and phrases and if you live in Orange County, you can order over the phone/email and then pick it up in one of their stores (I went to the Newport Beach location).  That way you save on shipping AND since you are in the bakery, you might as well pick yourself up some delightful treats.

What did you love  this month?

Bertolli’s Into the Heart of LA {part 1} A true Italian adventure through food

This past weekend, I was invited by Bertolli on a food tour of authentic Italian cuisine found right in Los Angeles.  And I can honestly say my stomach and heart are still full.  Not only did I get to meet a wonderful group of local bloggers, but a variety of Italian food purveyors as well.  And every single person/restaurant/staff we came across shared their passion with us as well as copious amounts of food.  Bertolli started in 1865 selling regional foods and has grown in to a huge company with products in many categories.  But what I love, especially, is that their mission has stayed the same – Quality Italian food to savor in your home.  Over and over we heard from the Italian chefs about the importance of family and sharing with them exquisite ingredients.  It totally struck me to the core.  Y’all, we need to stop.  That is right, just stop.  Stop texting, stop conference calling, stop multi-tasking and really sit down and enjoy dinner together.  All these proprietors had this ridiculous sense of pride about their businesses and well they should.  But it always came right back around to the family that they are sharing it all with.   
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Our group met at Cafe Bella Roma to enjoy delicious coffee drinks (a delectable cappuccino for me, thank you very much) and cornetti.  I had never heard of those before which shocked me a little.  For those of you who know me well, I like my sweets.  I take them pretty seriously.  And these did not disappoint.  They are an Italian croissant, some filled with cream (holler!) and dusted with powdered sugar.  Owned by Roberto Amico, this cute little neighborhood cafe serves more than just breakfast treats and you should absolutely check it out if you are in the area.  
Our next stop just happened to be in a mall.  I don’t hate to shop so I felt right at home there.  Wouldn’t have even flinched if they marched us to a food court.  There is a time and a place for foods on sticks and I am not opposed to them.  How cute are Chrystal and Amir of The Duo Dishes?!  I heart them! 
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Obika is most definitely not in a food court.  In fact, it is this totally great little restaurant.  They sat us at the counter area and we got to hear Chef Mossimo talk all about Mozzarella (they import it 3 times a week from Italy!) as well as how important it is to use fresh, local ingredients.  It was great to hear about the area where he is from and what he thinks of where he is now.  He and the restaurant are serious about providing you with an authentic experience and it was awesome to taste several types of mozzarella and see how they compared to each other.  The salty, slightly oozy burrata was my fave.  And they ended our visit with a taster portion of tiramisu.  I will love them forever.  How cute are these ladies?  That is Andrea of Savvy Sassy Moms (one of the ladies putting on my Blogher makeover!) Romy of Romy Raves and Melanie of Travels with Two.   
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Another mall!  This time, Santa Monica Place at the end of 3rd Street Promenade.  I have to say that having a private driver shuttling us all over the city did not suck as there was major traffic (nobody walks in LA) and luckily we didn’t have to deal with parking.  And people kind of gawked trying to figure out who this group of people was piling out of a big black van.  I had no idea what to expect at this stop but I was blown away.  In a totally great way.  Orange County, take note:  WE NEED TO BE MORE AWESOME.  I would kill to have The Market local.  Up on the dining level of the mall there is a big sign for The Market.  Once you go through their doors, you are in a whole new artisanal food utopia.  There was an organic ice cream stand, a rad florist, a specialty chocolatier and a whole slew of other places each individually owned and operated.  They got the whole thing right – the atmosphere was really cool and all the graphic design throughout was spot on.  And like, me, they think dessert should be eaten first.  I wonder if The Market has cellulite too… 
Our first stop was to Primi al Mercato, owned by Piero Selvaggio.  We were treated to a demonstration on how they make their fresh pasta by chef Fernando and his wife.  It was so cool to see and I will totally be stealing some of their tips.  I’m not going to lie, I will never attempt to make fresh pasta.  But I will certainly infuse butter with sage like they did. What will I put it on?  Who knows, but it smelled SO good when they did it.  I think I could have eaten it on a shoe and it would have been delicious.  This was for sure the most lively group we encountered so far.  Chef Nico (pictured above) was a character and totally humored us as each one of us made him pose for pictures.  They demonstrated ricotta cheese gnocchi, spinach cavatelli, and 4 cheese tortellini.  And I adore how they serve pasta samples at their take out counter.  What a great way to turn pasta in to a hand held appetizer for your next party.  Similar cones are available from Think Garnish.    
Next they brought us around to the sit down side of their restaurant and had us taste some of the most delicious pasta dishes I have ever had.  Oh and wine.  There was wine.  Good wine.  How cute is Piero above in his red and white shirt?!  He was so gracious and eager to share his staff and amazing food with us.  What struck me most is while one of the servers was er, well, uh serving us, he said he really looks forward to family meal.  Like, whoa.  The staff is treated like family.  Revolutionary.  I am not a daring foodie by any means.  In fact, I’m a pretty picky eater.  But I know when I am in good hands and when to go with the flow.  I would never order lamb or most things from the sea but these dishes have changed my mind.  We were treated to gnocchi with lamb ragu (so good it was dumb), squid ink garganelli with seafood and mint pesto (I ate tentacles and stuff) and Tuscan pici with fava beans, pancetta, peperoncino and pecorino cheese (I wanted to make out with the cheese).  
How could I have not told you about Stacie yet?  Stacie worked alongside Bertolli to find all these amazing spots in and around Los Angeles.  She is a sommelier and wine reporter/blogger.  She specializes in Italian wines and she was integral in giving us a complete picture of a true Italian dining experience.  She was crazy intelligent and knew all the best spots in town.  She talked about each wine we were served, where it was from and why it was a good pairing with what we were eating.  As a curious wino who would like to know more, this was a huge bonus of the event for me.  Bertolli rocked my world on the first part of the tour and {spoiler alert} the second part only gets better!  
Come back tomorrow for part 2!  There are 3 more stops to go! 
All photos are mine
I was wined and dined all over Los Angeles by Bertolli but all of these opinions are mine. {full disclosure}