We found ourselves on a whirlwind trip to San Antonio when Jake won a contest a work.
The main point of the trip was to see the Final Four basketball games, so we spent most of the evenings at the AlamoDome. However, the schedule did allow some time to relax and choose our own adventures in the spaces between.
Starting at the MSP Airport Humphrey Terminal’s Barrio, I made it my goal to eat so much guacamole that it would be disgusting. Everywhere we went, I ordered guacamole. It was great.
Drive all the way down I-35 from Minnesota and you will end up in Laredo, Texas. BBQ, country music, sunshine, an abundance of guacamole, Mexican and Tex Mex food, warm greetings. . .maybe I’m just a little bit Texan?
Jake sneezed when we were walking downtown and a stranger jogging past slowed their pace just a tiny bit to say “Bless you” with so much sincerity that we were kind of taken aback and then basked in the moment.
The hotel we stayed in was located around 30-minutes from the downtown area in the foot hills. One of my favorite moments was hanging out with our fellow trip-goers outside, eating BBQ, drinking cocktails, and playing lawn games. We Minnesotans might have miserable weather half the year, but we never take evenings like this for granted.
Here are some of our trip’s highlights:
AlamoDome Fajita Nachos:
Coming from the Twin Cities where sports venues really emphasize our local food offerings, I noticed a lot of the vendors (at least on the first floor) served fairly generic foods like hot dogs, pizza, Chick-Fil-A, and prepackaged pretzels. One local vendor Los Barrios caught my eye with their fajita nachos.
While most of the nachos I saw around the stadium included boxed chips with pump or packaged cheese, Los Barrios ladled queso from a big pan. This is the real deal queso. They load it with fajita beef or chicken, veggies, jalapeño,s and a fresh, spicy salsa. Compared to the awful $16 hoagie I had at a Vikings game here, $13 for these nachos felt like a deal.
Back in 2006, I spent exactly three hours in San Antonio. I was interning at a church in New Orleans that hosted groups of volunteers for hurricane relief projects. One of our first intern bonding activities was going on a road trip in July from New Orleans to Phoenix. We stopped in San Antonio for a few hours to see the Alamo and grab lunch. Unfortunately the group I walked with chose Fuddruckers instead of a local restaurant. I was very amused to see the Fuddruckers still there. A very intoxicated person lay on the steps puking, surrounded by 10 officers.
We were determined to explore the Riverwalk on our own and took a Lyft during a free afternoon. From the Alamo, we walked 1.5 miles to the historic Pearl District. The RiverWalk becomes quieter as you leave the downtown area which is densely packed with bars and restaurants. River taxis float by occasionally. Joggers and dogs brush past.
Eventually you reach the complex around the old Pearl brewery which features Hotel Emma, an independent bookstore and other shops, lots of restaurants, weekend Farmers market, and Culinary Institute of America campus. The scenery and abundance of places to grab refreshments makes this experience worth seeking out.
Ocho at Hotel Havana
Hotel Havana sits halfway between the Alamo and Pearl district. Once you reach the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, walk up the stairs and veer towards the right where you can sit in the beautiful, air-conditioned atrium-like area or outside on the patio.
Ocho is open as early as breakfast and the food is affordable.
We shared fried plantains, mushroom tacos and an excellent chips and salsa platter. The chips arrived fresh from the fryer, coated in a spicy seasoning served with guacamole, fresh salsa, and pickled vegetables. At $6, this particular dish felt like a steal.
We sat at the bar (there are two) cooled down with cold cocktails and charcuterie. The charcuterie menu allows diners to choose three, six, or nine items, all made in-house. The meat is carefully arranged on a platter with pickles, crackers, and a variety of sauces including a jam, mustard, and champagne gelee. You can add cheese, as well.
Our favorites included the Salami Diablo and smoked duck ham. I especially loved the chicken liver mousse while Jake preferred the Apple Jalapeño Pork Rillettes.
The service here is flawlessly polished. You will want to spend some time wandering around the brewery before or afterwards.
Have you ever visited San Antonio? Feel free to leave thoughts and experiences below in the comments.