San Antonio beyond the Alamo!
It’s not my first visit to San Antonio, Texas, but I’m treating it as if it is. Last time, I spent almost all of the trip in museums and at the famous missions, but now I look forward to venturing out to the get a taste of the city’s other neighborhoods. I was able to fly directly into the city from Atlanta in under three hours, making for an easy weekend getaway.
My favorite place to stay is Hotel Emma, a chic boutique hotel in the former Pearl Brewery. It’s right on the Riverwalk and has multiple restaurants and bespoke details such as custom-made robes and candles. It gets its name from the brewery owner’s wife—and mistress— who were both named Emma. The wife ran the brewery after her husband died in 1914 and kept the business going through Prohibition by converting operations to dry cleaning, auto repair and making the legal “near beer,” a fermented malt beverage with very low alcohol.
The Pearl District that surrounds the hotel is home to more restaurants and shops as well as a campus of the Culinary Institute of America.
I browsed the stacks at The Twig Bookshop and drooled over the finely stitched goods at Dos Carolinas, which makes the hotel’s bathrobes. I went for lunch at Cured, known for its cured meats and brown butter caramel bread pudding.
Now satiated, I made my way back downtown to explore Hopscotch, an interactive art space with its own bar serving sotol cocktails to sip while you wander. Open since 2018, the space has an LED-lit ball pit, an installation in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, and a room where you can leave your secrets on an answering machine.
At Cuishe, named for wild agave used in mezcal, I dined on modern Mexican cuisine. The menu includes quesadillas with Chihuahua cheese and fried grasshoppers as well as chilaquiles and esquite, a corn dish with queso fresco.
On my way back to my hotel, I stopped at The Esquire Tavern, a longtime watering hole that opened after Prohibition. I sidled up to the 100-foot-long bar top, the longest in Texas, sipping my cocktail while admiring the taxidermy-covered walls.
The next morning, the husband and wife team behind San Antonio SiDeCaRs picked me up in a custom- made Vespa sidecar to show me their favorite spots. Curious drivers stopped at intersections to snap our picture and wave. We stopped for coffee and breakfast tacos before they dropped me off at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
The sprawling acreage has views of the Tower of the Americas and is made up of native and tropical plants, including 35 rare and endangered species. The glass conservatories hold an incredible variety of flora.
I returned to the Pearl District for dinner at Best Quality Daughter, which is one of the incredible restaurants in the district, featuring Asian fare with a modern twist like spicy pork fried rice. A nightcap was in order, so I headed to Hemisfair Park to Re:Rooted, a wine bar with blends from the Hill Country served on tap. You can even fill a canister to take back to your hotel!
Before my flight the next morning, I made a beeline for Market Square, with its colorful flags draped over the street. This area is great for souvenir shopping, with artisan goods from Mexico and beyond. I grabbed a cinnamon sugar pastry from Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia to eat as I browsed, the perfect last meal in the Alamo City.
BEST QUALITY DAUGHTER
SAN ANTONIO BOTANICAL GARDEN
THE ESQUIRE TAVERN
STORY: Caroline Eubanks
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