Field Guide: San Antonio



Where my love of coffee + my secret affair with the SA Spurs began

It's been 5 years since I have called San Antonio home but still I often think back on my time there. San Antonio is home to me in an altogether different way than my actual hometown in Texas. In San Antonio I began to build my own life and identity, solidify my beliefs and ideas. I learned how to live on my own well, I learned how to navigate a large city, I began to love spending time alone but I also learned the skill of making friends. I taught myself to knit and found a secret love for the Spurs. I had the best apartment ever and still miss that place all the time.

I am who I am largely because of San Antonio's grasp on my heart.



35 mm shot of me in front of my first place in SA, 2011


What other city has the culture, the people, the food, the celebrations, the landscape, and the beauty of San Antonio? I have traveled the country far and wide and have never found it's equal.


San Antonio is my first true love.



Pearl Brewery Complex


This is why I am so pleased to offer you a short one-day field guide to San Antonio.

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When planning our Texas reception Robbie and I decided that if we were going to have a Texas 'wedding' then we should also have a Texas honeymoon. I instantly and emphatically suggested San Antonio and I'm sure Robbie fully expected that. He readily agreed and we started making plans. We realized we'd only have one day to explore my ciudad favorita so I knew we had to make the most of it. What locations did Robbie HAVE to see to experience and love my city in the same way as me?

Here's a rough breakdown of what we saw and did in those short hours in my city:

7:00 am - We left Glen Rose and headed south taking backroads, farm roads, and state roads until we reached a good place to jump on i-35. Robbie wanted to see Austin but as it was during SXSW it would've been hard to drive through the innards of the city without getting majorly stuck in traffic. We opted to stay on i-35 where Robbie could glimpse into the city (which I hate.) Satisfied with his small taste of Austin with the promise of returning for a full trip (god I hope he forgets) and beginning to grow road weary we continued onto San Antonio.


Tiny tasty French pastries at Bakery Lorraine

11:30 am - After a four hour drive we were hungry and cranky. And I really needed to pee. The Pearl Brewery Complex offered solutions to both. The Pearl is a historic area of San Antonio that's been transformed and (arguably) gentrified by new recent development. One part shops, one part riverwalk, and one part apartments this "lifestyle center" features a few staples of San Antonio's hip scene. Local Coffee, Bakery Lorraine, and La Gloria are some of my favorites and have been for a while.



The Granery, Pearl Brewery

When we showed up the Saturday farmer's market was in full swing, we walked around (mainly looking for the bathroom) and finally settled upon grabbing some BBQ and beer at the Granery. We split a plate of brisket + pork belly and both got some beers from their brewery, my Brown Ale was fantastic.


1:00 pm - Finally full and in need of a caffeine pick me up after all the carbs and beer we drove up Broadway to my old neighborhood Alamo Heights to get some Local Coffee. I spent hours, and probably the equivalent of days, in this cozy warm cafe during college. Just a short 4 minute drive, or a slightly longer bike ride, from my apartment it was my haven. I went to study. I went to read. I met friends there. It was absolutely my third space. So, it was no surprise that as I sat down to enjoy my coffee with my new husband I was completely overcome with emotion and started crying. I am a big time cryer but it normally takes more than that to make me weep the way I did. The happiness welling up in my heart mixed with the extreme nostalgia just overcame me and I hit me like a Texas Twister Maybe it was also the exhaustion finally hitting me. Whatever the reason, the coffee helped and touched the inner corners of my soul like a hot black salve.

I ♡ Local Coffee


After our coffee we walked across the street to Bird Bakery. Owned and operated by duo Elizabeth Chambers and husband Armie Hammer this totally 'gramable shop is pastelly perfect and stupendously sweet. I love their red velvet cake! Finally on a caffeine sugar high and ready to check into our hotel we set off for Downtown. 

3:00 pm - We booked our hotel through Expedia and got an insane deal for the Sheraton Gunter hotel smack-dab in downtown. Old school and Art Deco but totally updated the Gunter offers two bars and total comfort. When we arrived our room was not quite ready yet so we enjoyed complementary cocktails at the Market on Houston - one of the on-site bars. Shortly after my first of many margaritas that day our room was ready to go. We dropped off our bags, changed into clothes more suitable for walking around San Antonio and set off for our first destination.

4:30 pm - I know I know I know San Antonio is known for the Riverwalk  but it's awful. So awful. If you're visiting do yourself a favor and stay away from it. You can see it's beauty from the street level and save yourself from the crowds and possibility of falling into the dirty water. Robbie wanted to check it out but after walking on it for less than 5 minutes he quickly opted to walk up a flight of stone steps and take the quicker safer option of walking along the street. 

The façade of San Fernando


Our first locale was the San Fernando Cathedral. One of the oldest cathedrals in America, they have been holding regular mass here longer than any other church in America.  The Cathedral also holds something much more macabre: the bones of the Alamo defenders Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett lie right inside the cathedral. I personally think seeing this Cathedral is a more beautiful, unique and less touristy expereience than seeing the Alamo. 

We actually walked into the church at 5 pm right as the Saturday vigil began, instead of leaving, Robbie and I decided to stay for the service. It was a wonderful message of the Gospel and we were both so pleased to have stumbled upon this service. The choir had a mariachi band and that made the whole experience totally unforgettable! 

6:00 pm - Having now heard the Gospel and traversed around San Antonio's downtown it was time for dinner. One of my favorite restaurants in SA is Rosario's and lucky for us their sister location Acenar was walking distance from our hotel. The multi-level venue with a incredible patio is exceptionally decorated, and the food is unrivaled. Acenar does a modern take on Texas regional Mexican dishes inspired by the history and heritage of these two cultures. We spent total about two hours there enjoying drinks, chips and salsa, dinner, and dessert before wandering back to our hotel. Enjoying the lights, sounds, and smells of San Antonio after dark. 

An old 35mm photo from my time living in San Antonio

9:00 pm - We finished the night with a nightcap in the small but cozy, warm, firelit prohibition speakeasy Bar 414. 414 gets it's name from the so-called King of Blues, Robert Johnson. Johnson recorded a large portion of his discography in room 414 of the Gunter in 1936. Heralding house made ingredients and hand crafted cocktails made by affable and ultra knowledgable bar-hands 414 imbued class and comfort. If you're in San Antonio find the unmarked door that takes you into this whiskey wonderland. 

Warm, happy, full, satisfied, and a bit boozy we took the elevator to our room and called it a night, totally pleased with our San Antonio day! 

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McNay Modern Art Museum
As you can imagine, San Antonio has more to offer than could ever be experienced in a single day, if you're looking for a perfect vacation I can't recommend it highly enough. 


Some other people, places, and things I would like to suggest checking out:

-Take a walk in King Williams, if you're there on a first Friday check out the monthly art walk. 
-Eat + drink at the Blue Star Art Complex - similar to Pearl, mixed-use food, drink, art galleries in Southtown. 
-Shop at The Quarry Market, an abandoned cement factory turned into a highly profitable retail and entertainment area. 
-Read the Current, the free newspaper of the city to see what the local scene is like when you're in town. 
-View the city from the Tower of America's in Hemisfair park. 
-Listen to live music from Brandon Cunningham, long time friend and incredible singer-songwriter and staple in the San Antonio live music scene. 



Thanks for checking out this San Antonio Field Guide, I will leave you with a special gift: a photo of my dad eating a po-boy in San Antonio! 

Jenoa
xoxo