San Antonio

We got a late start out of Las Cruces, but it was worth it visiting with some old friends.  We crossed into Texas and stopped in El Paso for some of the famed Chico’s Tacos (recommended by Aaron Sanchez).  We spend the whole rest of the day and into the night driving 80 miles an hour to make it to San Antonio.  It was an uneventful drive, and it sure was long.  With the time changes, we barely made it into Dough Pizzeria Napoletana before they closed.

The restaurant is good sized with a large dining room and an equally large patio out front.  The decor is muted, dark reddish colors, and not much in the way of artwork.  I suppose the emphasis is on the food and that’s not a bad thing.  The star attractions at Dough are the pizza oven and the Burrata Bar.  I had been telling Anna that as far as I could tell, this was one of the most authentic old world style Naples pizzerias in all of DDD.  As we walked in, we were greeted by none other than the Chef/owner himself, Doug, who greeted us and chatted with us for a few moments.

Dough Pizza

Pork Lover Pizza
at Dough Pizzeria Napoletana

We drew a friendly waitress named Tanya and she took great care of us.  We ordered the Pork Lover pizza which is a succulent creation of the famed pizza dough, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh house pulled mozzarella, salami, house made sausage, pancetta and speck (smoked prosciutto).

As you might be able to tell from the picture, it was superb.  The crust was cooked to perfection with just the slightest bit of char.  The fresh mozzarella was creamy and provided a nice contrast for the spicy meats.  The sausage was scrumptious with great flavor and texture.  Overall, none of the meats were particularly spicy or hot, and if they were, the rocket-hot oven took care of that.

For me, the real star of this pizza was the tomato sauce.  It really highlighted the essence of the tomato, which was not overpowered by herbs or spices.  The real trick is striking that perfect balance between sweetness and acidity, and they nailed it.

I enjoyed every bite and was sad to see it finished.  I wanted to savor the experience and reflect on the pizza so I could write about it.  The main feeling I take away from this experience is that the pizza is very well composed and balanced.  It’s not bold, spicy, or in your face; which is more of what I’m used to (and don’t mind).  This pizza gives you the opportunity to focus on each of its ingredients, which is a lot of fun if you’re into eating crazy good pizza.

After the pizza, we had a chat with the manager, Jesse, who was gracious and appreciated our feedback.  It turns out that the pizza oven is a wood fired oven and they burn oak to keep the oven around 850 – 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (and check the temperature every 15 minutes or so).  We got to talking about the rest of their menu, and he treated us to a sample of their grilled bread with garlic and olive oil.  I asked him for a bite-sized piece, and he brought out two big slices.  I was sorry that we didn’t order the Burrata (which was featured on the show) but I’m going to try to make it back before we leave town.  We were just too frazzled to savor fine dining, but now that I know how serious they are about tomatoes and house pulled mozzarella, I’d really love to have the tasting experience.  It’s Tuesday morning (Anna’s still asleep) and we’ll be in town for three days; but, there are a ton of other great places to eat some fabulous foods.  I’m so excited to finally be here in San Antonio (and the rest soon after); and I can’t believe how lucky I am that I’m going to be eating so much great Texas food over the next few weeks.  I’ve been looking forward to it for years, and now it is finally at hand.

Even as good as the food is, I’m looking even more forward to meeting some great people.  One person in particular I’m hoping to meet is Helen Velesiotis who makes all the tacos with love at the Taco Taco Cafe.  It’s no surprise that her tacos were voted the best in the country by Bon Appétit magazine.

Betos

Sample Platter at Beto’s on Broadway

Tuesday morning arrived on our first full day in San Antonio.  We had intended to open the Texas Pride Barbecue at 11:00, but we went to Beto’s on Broadway first, which would make up for missing it the night before.  Beto’s has a large colorful dining room and a gigantic patio out back.  Our waitress, Jessica, was friendly, and we ordered two empanadas and two tacos a la carte.  Even though the place was practically empty, our food was brought out by a runner.  We ordered the poblano chicken empanada from the show which was excellent (the best thing we ordered).  The beef and red chile empanada was fair, but too mild for my taste and majorly disappointing.  The taco al pastor was passable, but poorly executed.  The so-called fish taco was more like a cole slaw taco with two little nuggets of over-cooked fish which completely lacked any flavor and were cold.  It was more of a tasting sample than a meal and not worth the trouble to send it back, but we finished the food and left.  The owner was not in, which came as no surprise.  The staff was friendly, and they serve alcohol.  It’s probably a popular local joint, but I wouldn’t bother going back myself.

Texas Pride Sign

Texas Pride Barbecue

We rolled out of Beto’s and made the short drive out to Texas Pride Barbecue, which happens to be one of the earlier barbecue joints featured on DDD (episode 312).  We pulled up and walked around the grounds before we went inside.  The place is humongous with tons of picnic tables, two giant dance floors, a big stage, a gift shop, a fish fry shack, a giant balcony, a playground for the tots, and a tattoo parlor.  I could have spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out and exploring the vast reaches of this facility.  I really liked the vibe, even though there were no people around.  Texas Pride Barbecue is a destination.

We went inside and got in the short line (we somehow managed to beat the lunch rush).  The way it works there is you grab a tray and the fine young man on the carving station lays out some butcher paper on the scale.  We ordered a four/two (four meats and two sides), which is supposed to add up to a full pound of meat.  Our order went over a pound which I was happy to see, and we accompanied that with cheesy baked potatoes, pinto beans and a few slices of bread.  Our four meats were smoked pork sausage, baby back ribs, smoked turkey, and the most amazing beef brisket I have ever had.  Once the meat is served up and everyone is happy, he wraps it up in the paper and you put it in your tray.  You can also buy meats by the pound, or have them made into sandwiches on grilled buns.  When you get to your table, you unwrap the paper and have a instant plate.

In addition to the savory food, they offer peach cobbler and pecan cobbler, which can be ordered a la mode.  I hated to pass those up, but we had to save room for later.  Because they’re on a water well, they don’t offer tap water, but they have bottled water, house made tea, soft drinks and beer on tap.

Lunch at Texas Pride

The Pride of Texas
at Texas Pride Barbecue

After you pay for your food, you take your tray out to the massive closed-in dining room which is chock full of tables, booths, a bar, and most important of all, a big condiment table; sporting fresh dill pickles, sliced pickled jalapenos, sliced onions, lime wedges, ketchup, BBQ sauce (mild or hot) and tools.  By the time we opened our paper wrapped parcel of succulent barbecue joy, and added all the extras, it was too big to even fit in the photo.  It was like a whole table of food for fifteen bucks, and we had a hard time finishing it between the two of us.

All the food was outstanding.  I had a bite of the sausage first, and was stunned at the rich flavors and the mouth feel, which was very tender and soft.  As incredible as the sausage was, the real kicker was the brisket.  The instant I tried to pick up a piece and it fell apart under it’s own weight, I couldn’t believe how tender and juicy it was.  This was confirmed when I put it in my mouth, and I was just shocked.  I never would have believed that brisket could be that juicy and tender, not to mention flavorful.  It had deep smoke rings, and didn’t need any sauce.  This was my first brisket in Texas and I was expecting it to be good; but I wasn’t expecting it to be the best brisket I’ve ever had (or could even imagine).

Bandstand

Bandstand / Main Stage
at Texas Pride Barbecue

I just had to get the straight dope on this masterpiece, so after we finally got through eating, I asked for the manager.  I got the general manager himself, Rene Rodriguez, who graciously answered all my questions for the better part of 20 minutes.  If I got it straight, here’s what he told me:  They start out with high grade Texas beef, put on a dry rub, and then go low and slow for about eighteen hours in a mesquite fired rotisserie smoker.  When it’s done in the smoker, they wrap them in foil and hold them for service, which is hand carved with thick slices (in the 1/2 to 5/8 inch range).  It’s so tender, if they tried to slice it any thinner than that, it would just fall apart.  I think they sell that rub by the jar too.

Texas Pride features live music and special features.  They have country artists on the weekends and rock and roll on Thursday nights, which draws a lot of bikers and hot rodders.  Friday nights feature a fish fry in their dedicated fish shack.  I liked the place a lot and plan to go back whenever I’m in the area.  Rene and his crew are doing it right.  We would see a lot of bandstands and outdoor eating areas in Texas, but this one is far and away the biggest.  Draw a big happy face on your map because Texas Pride Barbecue is a destination.  It makes my Top Ten List twice.  Bring your appetite and your favorite dancing partner.  Bring the kids too.

After spending the rest of the afternoon tooling around the Alamo and the River Walk, we headed over to De Wese’s Tip Top Cafe.  The parking lot was packed, but we didn’t have to wait for a table.  Order carefully.  This is a spot for locals, not tourists.  The staff was friendly, when you could get their attention.  The place was packed and the servers were super busy.  The decor was old fishing shack meets hunting lodge, with low ceilings, deer heads hanging on the walls and hardly any windows.

I ordered for both of us, and took the chicken fried steak special for myself and two enchiladas for Anna.  I’d seen a few plates go by and the chicken fried steaks were enormous with mashed potatoes on the side, and no vegetables.  I wanted to sample the onion rings too, but the only way to order them was a big giant order for about six bucks.  Too much food for us.  I asked the waitress how come they didn’t put gravy on the CFS and she said it’s underneath.  Oh.  She asked what kind of salad dressing we wanted and I assumed that went with the enchiladas.  Wrong.  None of the other plates had salad on them.  So my order was dropped by a runner (which as you know by now I despise), and it had fries instead of mashed potatoes and salad next to the gravy.  I sent it back for mashed potatoes and the salad on the side (which they graciously accommodated).  I asked our waitress, Cruz, how come the other plates didn’t have salad, and she said, they know to order it on the side; which of course I was thinking, then why didn’t she mention it to me?  As I said, it’s a place for locals.  By the time I got it back, it was already getting cold, and the crust was getting funky and coming loose from the meat.  The gravy was bland, and the mashed potatoes were over seasoned.  I tried to make a go of it, but I just couldn’t get into it.  Anna didn’t care for it either.  I sent it back.  I hate to see food go to waste, but I just didn’t see the point in trying to force something down when there is already so much other good food to eat in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, I sampled the enchiladas and thought they tasted pretty good.  They were super rich, even for me.  Two would be plenty, and they came a la carte.  I liked them more than Anna did.

I tried to find something quick and easy, and came up with a chili burger.  Our waitress said it was a house-made chili and that it was real popular.  Great.  Out it came and there was no cheese on it.  I asked about it and she said I could get cheese on it for fifty cents.  Well I had already pushed my luck on sending food back and wasn’t about to send it back again.  I ate it without cheese (begrudgingly) but not until I got the satisfaction of explaining to Cruz that almost every place in the country that serves chili offers it with cheese and onions.  She was not impressed.  I will say that the chili was good.  Nice and hearty.  But the burger was under-seasoned and they served it with lettuce, tomato and pickle, all of which were dripping wet.  It wasn’t fun, but I ate it anyway and paid the check.  I left a good tip, but the meal was all but ruined simply because the waitress wasn’t considerate enough to get my order dialed in.  If she would have brought it out the way everyone else was ordering theirs, I’m sure I would have eaten it and been perfectly happy with it.  She seemed rather perplexed that I didn’t want gravy in my dinner salad, or that I wanted mayonnaise for my burger.

As I’ve said, I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody.  It takes a local’s knowledge of the menu to get your food the way you want it.  It’s hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food done up old school style.  I have no doubt they have an army of loyal patrons/regulars, and if you go there as a tourist, order carefully and don’t assume anything.

Cove Burger

Texas Burger at The Cove

Our last stop for the day was at The Cove.  They have a bar adjacent to the kitchen and a large patio area out back.  It was open mic night in the bar, and the talent was surprisingly good.  You order your food at the window up front and they bring it out to your table.  We had intended to get fish tacos, but when we rolled into town we discovered that their Texas Burger was rated one of the top burgers in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine.  Wow.  The Texas burger features fresh greens, beans, avocado, chips and salsa.  We decided that we couldn’t live without their Freebird Sandwich which is comprised of chicken salad with grapes, walnuts, poppy seed dressing and spicy mayo on fresh toasted bread.  We grabbed a table out back and settled in to wait for our food.

Cove Sandwich

The Freebird Sandwich at The Cove

Both sandwiches were good offerings, but we found them leaning more towards the healthy side than the scrumptious side.  The burger was either under seasoned or not seasoned at all, and didn’t come together for me.  Also the bun, which seemed toasted but not grilled, was exceptionally dense and thick.  The sandwich was better, but the bread was sliced so thick that it ended up being too dry for our taste.  Anna liked the chicken salad, but it seemed to be short on the poppy seed dressing or the spicy mayonnaise.  We were both sorry that we didn’t try the fish tacos instead, and will try to make it back if we can.  After six days on the road, it was our first order of fries (which were nicely cooked).

Wednesday morning… a fateful day as it would turn out.

We set out for a much anticipated breakfast at the Magnolia Pancake Haus (with the plan to come back to our room before lunch).  The Magnolia is tucked away in a big shopping center, but we found it easily enough thanks to Jill.  The parking lot was packed and so was the restaurant; all three dining rooms (capacity of 152).  The place was decorated beautifully with raised panel wainscoting, high ceilings, two tone paint and decorative plates adorning the walls.  The place was jumping, with lots of staff milling about and the hubbub of diners conversing and clinking their table wares.

We didn’t have to wait for a table, and we already knew what we were going to order.  Anna ordered the Pfannekuchen and I ordered the corned beef hash.  I liked the place so much I wish I could tell you the food and the service were both spectacular.  Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.

The Pfannekuchen is described in the menu as being “fluffy” with lots of apples and cinnamon, and I was expecting it to be kind of like a mash up where pancake meets soufflé meets apple fritter.  Even though it was Anna’s breakfast, I was afraid that I would love it too and want to eat too much of it.  In a surprise twist, the corned beef hash is offered with toast or pancakes and so I went for the cakes.

Corned Beef Hash at Magnolia Pancake Haus

Corned Beef Hash at Magnolia Pancake Haus

Our food was brought out by a runner (which has just about turned into the kiss of death for me).  First the good news.  The pancakes were probably the best I’ve ever had.  Between the creamy butter and the house made syrup, the pancakes were so good, I hated to have to share.  I didn’t want to miss a single bite, and I don’t usually get pancakes of my own.  If you love pancakes, this is the place to go.

 

Haus Cake

Pfannekuchen at Magnolia Pancake Haus

The Pfannekuchen was anything but fluffy.  It was extremely dense and flat.  I took one bite and didn’t care for it.  I thought the cinnamon was way overdone (at least for my taste) and the apples were a bit undercooked, which may be because they were sliced a little too thick.  I didn’t dig it at all, but I thought Anna was enjoying it.  Wrong.  Meanwhile, my two eggs over medium were cooked perfectly and the corned beef hash was delicious.  The chef mentioned that he had worked for years to get the flavor profile and hash consistency right where he wanted it.  I would agree that it was a fantastic hash.  But, in an unexpected twist, the hash was over seasoned for my taste.  The flavors of the hash were deep and developed, but the seasoning was up front, like table salt.  It was still good, but I couldn’t believe it.  If the chef had been there, I would have summoned him to double check the seasoning; but I already knew he wasn’t there.  I’d like to believe that it was just a fluke.  

It wasn’t until after we left and were walking back to the car that I realized how much Anna didn’t enjoy her breakfast.  That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but the real tragedy here was that Anna could have enjoyed some spectacular pancakes instead.

We went back to the room for a little relaxation and set out later for a two-fer lunch at both the Bun ‘n Barrel and El Bohio.  I had a gas station picked out and programmed into the GPS and planned to stop for gas near the Bun n Barrel.  After we got off the freeway and turned a few corners, we happened across a discount gas station and pulled in off the cuff.  I pumped in 40 bucks worth and we continued up the road for Bun n Barrel.

We were almost there (about one mile to go) when the car started running badly, losing compression and power.  Then it died.  I managed to get it off the road and safely parked.  Could it be that our fifteen-year-old trusty steed wasn’t so trusty anymore?  I sure hated the thought of that, especially being so far from home and still near the beginning of our long trip.  I was sure it must have been some bad gas (and of course I was mad at myself for stopping at a one-off, non-brand-name gas station).  Dumb.  The odds of getting bad gas are very slim, but it happens.

Fortunately for us, we were right next door to a good sized auto repair shop.  The guy at the counter said it could be bad gas (not likely) or it could be the fuel pump, the fuel filter, or clogged injectors.  We were looking at repairs in the neighborhood of $700 or more and the guy said that they may not have time to work on the car today, but they would get it in and diagnose the problem.  So be it.  I don’t know anyone in San Antonio, and didn’t want to be on foot.  I think it was about an hour and a half or so before they finally pulled it in from the lot next door.  Not happy times.  It looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue.

We’ve had the car for six years and it has never done anything for us besides run like a Swiss watch.  I felt pretty certain that it was bad gas, but wondered if I would ever be able to prove it.

The service manager came bounding out of the garage with a bottle of the gas and informed me that indeed it was bad.  No doubt about it.  He said they can drain the gas, put in a new fuel filter, and we could be on our way.  Great news.  The bill was still going to be over $500, which included a $150 hazardous waste disposal fee, but we were happy at the prospect that our trusty steed wasn’t broke and we could be on our way without having to leave the car overnight.

Bun Burger

The Lisa Burger at the Bun ‘n Barrel

The service manager himself took off to go fetch the fuel filter and gave us a lift to the Bun ‘n Barrel.  Cool little place, great people.  We ordered the Lisa Burger, which is the classic drive-in style double cheese burger.  Lisa had been the waitress there for 38 years.  We had hoped to meet her, but she just retired a few months back.  Her daughter, Stacy, took care of us, and she had already been working there for eleven years.  Wow.  Joe cooked up the massive half-pound burger right, with onions and pickles on the side.  Despite the fact that we were upset about the car situation, the burger was fabulous and we had a chance to talk with Joe as well.  Feeling impish, I asked Stacy if she was going to go after her mom’s record.  Apparently not in this lifetime.  We’ll see.

We loved the place and the decor was classic diner throughout.  I wish we were in a better mood and could have had a bigger meal.  If we ever make it back to San Antonio, I will be going back for sure.

We walked back to the shop and they had the car finished before long.  We paid the bill and headed back for the gas station where we bought the gas.

Fortunately for us, the owner of the station was right there, but it was just after six and they were slammed.  We hadn’t got a receipt for the gas earlier and didn’t have any way to prove that we were there except for the security footage.  The owner explained that we needed to call the Texas regulators and file a complaint; who would then would investigate and make a ruling.  I asked him for a receipt for the gas, and he said he would have to review the security footage and I could call him back in a few hours.

Under those happy circumstances, we took off for El Bohio; the Puerto Rican joint across the street from Fort Sam Houston.  It was finally time to try the Mofongo, which Guy Fieri seems to love.  The owner was there and he was super friendly.

Anna was fighting back the tears, distraught over the setback; and was convinced that we were never going to get compensated for the repair.  I kept trying to cheer her up, by pointing out that it could have been worse, and we could have been left afoot, or involved in an accident.  It didn’t help much.  I agreed that there was a good chance that we would never get reimbursed for the repair bill, but there was no need getting upset about it until it actually happened.

Mofongo

Pork Mofongo at El Bohio

Our Mofongo arrived and we took the pictures.  The chef also brought us out a salsa verde to go with it.  He also treated us to a chicken empanada, which he wanted us to try as a specialty of the house.  The mojito pork had a very nice flavor, but it seemed to us to be over cooked and a little on the dry side.  We ate all the salsa with the pork, and it was tasty.  I didn’t care much for the Mofongo itself.  I was trying to fall in love with it, but struggled desperately to get the flavor of the garlic sauce that it is mixed with.  Anna was digging it more than I was, which surprised me.  She kept taking bites of the Mofongo and I asked her to help me finish the pork.

The chef came out and asked how we liked it.  I told him that I couldn’t taste the garlic at all, and was disappointed.  He said it was only on the top because other people say it’s too spicy.  I gave him a big smile and said, “We like spicy.”  He went to the back and brought out a side of the garlic sauce.  I slathered it on and scooped up a big fork full.  It was more spicy, but I still wasn’t digging it.  Once again, it just seems that I don’t go for the Caribbean flavors.  Despite the fact that I didn’t care much for the food, I was happy to meet the owner and he was exceptionally hospitable and friendly.  He loves what he is doing, and is getting ready to expand.  Good for him.  The empanada was good.

Now dark, we left El Bohio and set out for Chris Madrid’s where we devoured one of their famous Tostada Burgers.  It was gigantic and messy as hell, but boy was it good.  If we would have ordered it Macho (double meat) I think it would have been impossible to pick up.  I don’t know why this place hasn’t been on DDD, but it looks like a great place.  We also had plans to try the Barbecue Brisket Pizza at Big Lou’s, but our schedule was thrown off and we were stuffed.  We headed back for the motel.

I called the owner of the gas station and he said that he had had a chance to review the security footage, and invited me to come talk to him to see if we could work something out.  Although it was terribly inconvenient, I certainly had to go hear the guy out and get a better idea of where we stood.  I left Anna at the motel alone and headed over.

He thanked me for coming back across town so late, and to make a long story short, not only did he sincerely apologize for our day having been ruined, he wrote us out a check for $500.  A real stand-up guy.  I was quite impressed.  He agreed with me that something like this should be covered by his insurance, but the amount was less than his deductable.  He and I hit it off and plan to stay in touch.  I don’t know how long he has been in the country, but he immigrated here from India, and his English is excellent (which he said he learned in India).

We shook hands and I headed back to the motel and handed Anna the check.  I’m sure she was even more pleased than I was.  It would be easy to think that the guy offered to settle with us as the lesser of two evils compared with a complaint and maybe a fine or something.  But it could also be that he genuinely felt bad about what happened to us and wanted to compensate us for the repair simply because it was the right thing to do.  I’m going with the latter, and it helps to shore up my belief that most people are basically good and honest.  We’ve told the story a few times and people ask, “Did you take his check and cash it first thing the next morning?”  No, we did not.  We never cashed that check.  We deposited it in our local bank after we got home weeks later.  When someone is an honorable man, he doesn’t pass bad checks.

We packed out of the room the next morning and loaded up the car.  We set out for breakfast at Taco Taco Restaurant and were hoping to meet the owner, Helen.  We parked immediately behind the kitchen, and when we opened the car we were assailed with the heady aromas coming out of the back.  If the food tastes as good as it smells, we we’re going to be very happy campers.  We went in to the crowded restaurant and got a booth up front.  The place was packed, but we didn’t have to wait.  It took us a long time to figure out what we wanted.  They are famous for the Taco el Norteno, but it’s a fajita style, which really isn’t our bag.  We got a few of the puffy tacos, and as Guy said on the show, “They’re puffy and you can’t get enough-y.”

Puffy Tacos

Puffy Tacos at Taco Taco Restaurant

He was right.  Those tacos were great.  We got one beef and one chicken and we both agreed that we liked the beef better.  If you haven’t seen the show, all the tortillas are made by hand.  The tortillas are then carefully cooked and fried till they are puffy and formed into a shell.  The shell is then meticulously and lovingly filled with the seasoned meet and garnished with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.  The tables are set with decanters of fresh salsa with lots of garlic and cilantro, and all that other good stuff.  I wish we could have ordered a platter of tacos, or tried the whole menu.  The picture doesn’t begin to do the tacos justice.  The puffiness is not just a gimmick either.  These tacos have a flavor and a mouth feel unlike anything I have ever eaten before.  Man they were good, and I will have them every time I ever make it to San Antonio.  I will also try the Taco el Norteno since it’s so popular.

We did get to meet Helen, who was very gracious and posed for a picture.  She was pleased that we loved the tacos, and invited us to stay in touch with her after we get home.

The real kicker at Taco Taco Restaurant (It’s so nice they named it twice) was our waitress, Nelly.  The poor woman had to come to our table six or eight times while I asked her about all the different meat and taco combinations.  With a quiet strength and calm reserve, she suffered my barrage of questions and must have been quite relieved when we finally placed our order.  She was a good sport about it, and smiled the whole time.  She really cared that we would be delighted and happy with our food, which we were.  I asked how long she had been working there and she said, “From the beginning” (which was about fourteen years ago).  Well, you can’t argue with that.

Cove Taco

Fish Taco with Poblano Sauce
at The Cove

After a few tacos to get the appetite flowing, we headed back to The Cove and decided that we just couldn’t leave town without trying their fish taco.  I am so glad we went back.  I got all my questions about the Texas Burger answered, and we got to meet Rudy the manager, John the bartender, and Lisa, the owner.  All great people.  I sampled a few of the local brews, and the real treat was the fish taco.  It was one of the best we’ve ever had.  The poblano sauce is truly inspired, and I can’t wait to get home and try to whip up a batch myself.  If my buddy in Dallas has enough gear, I might even try to whip up a batch there.

The Cove

Dining Room and Bar at The Cove
(Let the Good Times Roll)

Rudy was so forthcoming on the burger description, I asked him what was in the Poblano sauce.  He just smiled big and said, “Poblanos.”  If you make it anywhere near San Antonio, you’ve got to try these tacos.  They’re so good, they don’t even need anything else on the menu.  We got a much better look around the place, confirmed my suspicions on the burger, and had a nice chat with Lisa.  I really fell in love with the place and give it my highest recommendation.

Let’s cover the burger first.  I had wanted to go back for the fish taco, and when I realized that I forgot to read the burger review in Texas Monthly magazine that clinched it.  The burger is from locally grown grass fed beef.  Super high quality.  As such, they don’t feel that the meat needs to be seasoned while cooking, especially given that it is charbroiled.  I respect that.  It could be a Texas thing.  Personally, I didn’t enjoy the burger as much as I would have liked to, and I feel that the seasoning may have been the missing ingredient for me that could have tied the whole burger together.  It’s an award winning burger, and relatively healthy as burgers go, but I’d rather have it my way.  As for my confusion over the magazine cover, the burger on the cover of the magazine was from a different restaurant.  The Texas Burger at the Cove placed fifth in the whole state, and the burger on the cover was number three.  No big deal.

We also talked to Rudy about the Freebird sandwich and what happened was that it was missing the spicy mayonnaise that we read on the menu.  I guess they were right in the middle of a menu change and so it was just a fluke.  Rudy had another sandwich made for us the way we were expecting it, and it was much more satisfying and scrumptious.

The chat with Lisa was very revealing.  What we see today as The Cove is the product of many years of hard work.  It’s flanked on one side by the car wash and the other by the laundromat.  They originally ran another business out of the middle and started The Cove with sandwiches and ice cream.  They started expanding, and kept adding on to it over the years, to include the full kitchen, the full bar, the spacious rear patios, and coming soon another expansion behind those.

I asked Lisa about their health conscious menu and the high quality ingredients.  She made the change in her life to eat right and source the best ingredients and decided that’s the kind of food she wants her restaurant to feature.  Bravo.  I really applaud the commitment to high quality, and combined with the great space/decor and the live music almost every night, I think The Cove is thee place to go for a great time in San Antonio.  I realize that I’m not a Texan, but the Cove symbolizes the embodiment of what I think Texas should be like.  Sprawling outdoor patios, live music, cold beer on tap, great food, and good times.  And just to show how much the owners of The Cove love their regular customers, they don’t stay open into the wee hours of the morning in the name of profits.  They roll up by midnight, even on Friday and Saturday; and want to see their customers keep coming back (safely).

It’s true that I wasn’t thrilled with their interpretation of the burger, but otherwise I just can’t say enough good things about The Cove.  It’s sure to make my Top Ten list for Texas.

We rolled out of The Cove and toured the Japanese Tea Gardens (which were fashioned out of an abandoned limestone quarry).  Following that, I indulged myself for a few hours at the local Sam Ash music store, which is the only one in Texas.  I hit the jackpot there too because it has one of the biggest drum displays in the country (of the brand I have in mind) and the national sales rep and his clinician/artist were there training the staff.  I got to look on in awe and amazement (and play four different sets).  It was a ton of fun for me, and gave me a chance to work up an appetite for the famous Salt Lick in Driftwood,Texas.

Next DDD Destination: Austin   DDD count: 220

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