Guide by: John Dunaway, @abstractconformity
Deep in the heart of Texas resides a city which is often overlooked for its “hipper" neighbor Austin and shadowed by the larger metropolises of Houston and Dallas, but take notice that San Antonio should be on your radar. Celebrating its 300th birthday this year, the city is a hotbed of rich cultural heritage far before the Alamo and continues to evolve ever since. Our buddy John Dunaway, @abstractconformity, packed his bags with some Ball and Buck essentials and made a brief excursion with his wife to see what has been hiding in plain sight. Below he shares a few insider tips for a short visit to San Antonio.
I like beer, which makes it a quick decision to stay at a brewery. Built in 1894 as the Pearl Brewhouse, the now Hotel Emma resides as home base to the transformed Pearl property. Although they are no longer brewing Pearl on site, eating, drinking and lounging are all easy finds in this well-curated village. If you appreciate Ball and Buck for their precise attention to detail, you will feel right at home here. Check yourself into the room, change out of your travel clothes and lets meet in the bar, Sternewirth, for drinks.
After sinking into a cozy leather chair, order that drink to get the real vacation started. I recommend the Bulls on Parade, there will be plenty of time for margaritas and cold beers later. With an enriched attitude, walk out the back and into the sun-drenched plaza of Pearl. Whether you feel like strolling, shopping or filling your belly, it is all here. We opted for a few bites and cold beers at Southerleigh, brewing right on site. Why limit your options when you can order a flight and taste what they have to offer? Texas coastal cuisine meets Southern flare with plenty of options to enjoy on the patio as folks stroll through the plaza.
Finish up, close out and take a stroll as it all hits bottom. Let us know which places you walked into when we meet in Emma’s library later for a La Babia Margarita on the house as their official welcome. I like a good handshake, but a well shaken margarita also does wonders. Browse the shelves for a good read, let it accompany you into another comfortable chair as the tequila sets the mood for San Antonio’s Mexican heritage.
Keep on reading or retire to your room for a little reprieve before dinner at Supper. Its right on the main floor, so there is no rush. Take your time, this is vacation after all. When dinner comes to an end, stroll around again, have one more cocktail at Sternewirth or just settle into the comfort of your room, this is just day one.
Get going when its convenient, order a little breakfast or hair of the day, as necessary, and start thinking about the full day. Right on the nightstand, you will find a handy Wild Sam Field Guide that can accommodate all of your needs. Take some time to browse their knowledge while all the gears get going, but don’t leave it behind as the back pocket of your 6 point pants or shorts will carry trustfully carry it. We decided to borrow the hotel bicycles and pedal down the famed River Walk, right through town and onward to the Mission Trail. All five missions are located along this route, starting with The Alamo and subsequently trailing out about every 2.5 miles. Its a full excursion to do them all so we only went as far as number two, Mission Concepcion.
After the Alamo, you’ll roll right by Blue Star Arts Complex which makes a good stop. You can have coffee, get a beer at the Blue Star Brewing Company or fill your bag with plenty of options from Blue Star Provision to have a picnic down the trail.
On the way back, stop at the old Lone Star Brewery to pay homage to its ruins and the National Beer of Texas. If you’re lucky, a resounding message of the 2nd Amendment will still be painted on a warehouse across the street. Not only paramount to our country, it can be found on the inside of your Ball and Buck apparel.
As you get back on the Riverwalk, stop into Ocho for a Cuban inspired lunch and cocktail. The seating is comfortable and the glass aviary will shield you from that midday sun. Speaking of sun, make a stop at Paris Hatters for an iconic Stetson or Western hat to shield your head. They have been in business for 101 years, so they know a thing or two about hats.
All of this pedaling in the sunshine, roughly 26 miles roundtrip, put our sites back to Hotel Emma for some cold Pearl beers around the pool. Get to pedaling so you can get into those 6 point active short and take a reprieve from the Texas heat.
When you have had your sun fix, retire back to the room for a cooler environment. Never fear, the trusty icebox has been stocked with Pearl and all of the essentials to make your own La Babia margaritas right in the room. Keep things going as you relax until getting ready for dinner. We’ll meet in the lobby when you are ready to share some conversations on the couches before stepping outside for a walk on the river and to admire the architecture of Hotel Emma.
For dinner, we’re only a taking a short walk across the plaza. Catch it at sunset for a nice backlit view of the Pearl Brewery before walking into Cured. Specializing in, you guessed it, cured meats, they offer up a fine closing to your evening in the once, Pearl’s Administration Building, built in 1904. Enjoy the end of day two.
For day three we grabbed breakfast at Bakery Lorraine, then took the bicycles for one last cruise down the river walk. No trip to San Antonio is complete without a stop at the Historic Market Square for authentic Mexican fare from clothes to hats and plenty of glassware. Take a look around while you sip on Michelada. If you did not get one until now, you’ve been missing out. Finish the stop with lunch at the iconic Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia for some Mexican food. At a minimum, order some sweets for the road and get pedaling back to the hotel, its probably time to roll out. We opted for a late checkout, so a quick shower and change into fresh Ball and Buck gear was in store for the drive home.
If you are like us, three days was all we had to escape town. Opting for mostly relaxing around the grounds, Wild Sam Field Guides will offer up plenty of insider options for moving all across town. Your biggest challenge will be time, so possibly book another flight and reserve a room to further explore more of what San Antonio has to offer.