San Antonio trip. Where to stay?
We are heading to San Antonio with our 6 month old in March. We're interested in barbecue (we're hoping to make the drive to Kreuz Market) and Tex-Mex places and anything else good. We prefer to stay on the casual side of dining, especially with our daughter in tow. We'll have a car. Would it be better to stay in Hill Country or in downtown San Antonio? Also, once you've suggested a place, would you post a restaurant or two that you think we should visit?
Thanks for your help!
619 N Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644
Hill County or downtown San Antonio? Those are two entirely different trips. Downtown SA offers fairly quick access to good restaurants while you'll drive a bit in the Hill Country and have to do some investigation to find the gems.
Downtown SA, I've enjoyed everything I've ordered at Boudros but don't expect much from other places on the Riverwalk... however, I'm looking forward to trying Lukes.
In the Hill Country, check out Alamo Springs Cafe for a good burger in a fun environment.
If you can, get a room at La Mansion on a lower floor with a balcony. We did that a few weeks ago for our anniversary. It's really cool, it's like the Riverwalk is in your room.
However, it gets expensive having a car downtown, I think it's about 30$ a day to valet park at the nicer hotels.
There's some powerful good BBQ south of Austin and N of SA. If you have time you should go to one or two.
Stay at Mokara or La Mansion near Riverwalk. Your daughter will enjoy that. Luke is a new restaurant by John Besh of August fame in NOLA that's in the Embassy Suite's hotel on Riverwalk. You may want to stay there. Please report back if you dine at Luke. Get the 3/6 happy hour special half price drinks and 50 cent oysters.
Salt Lick BBQ @ 18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX. 512 - 858 - 4959. I35/EXIT217/220. 20MI S AUSTIN.
Smitty's Market @ 208 S. Commerce St., Lockhart, TX. 512 - 398 - 9344. 29 MILES S OF AUSTIN.
Kreuz Market @ 619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart, TX. 512 - 398 - 2361. 29 MILES S OF AUSTIN.
Black's BBQ @ 215 N. Main St., Lockhart, TX. 512 - 398 - 2712. 29 MILES S OF AUSTIN.
City Market BBQ @ 633 E. Davis St., Luling, TX 830 - 875 - 9019. 44 MILES S OF AUSTIN.
Mokara Hotel and Spa @ 212 West Crockett Street, San Antonio, TX 210 - 396 - 5800.
Omni Mansion Del Rio @ 112 College Street, San Antonio, TX 210 - 518 - 1063.
Embassy Suites @ 125 E Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 210 - 226 - 9000.
The Luling City Market mentioned is not in Luling, it is a knock off of City Market in Luling and they are not related, it is in Houston. To my knowledge, City Market does not have a website. I like the Drury Inn Riverwalk, with prices and parking half or more of some of the "fancier" hotels. We stayed there on our honeymoon and an anniversary, and it is just fine. Take the elevator down, the door opens, and you are on the Riverwalk. Is it the La Mansion, no? I stayed there and it is magnificent, but you mentioned a daughter in tow, and I'm thinking the finest might not be a priority.
For kid friendly restaurants, Texas Land and Cattle is in the lobby with more than decent steaks at moderate prices. For Riverwalk dining, I like Boudro's, especially on a warm day, plus Acenar, and a place not usually mentioned, Waxy Oconnor's Irish Pub, good fish and chips. Tex Mex on the river is not suggested, with a car and a twenty minute or less drive, try Rosario's down south, or Los Barrios a little north on Blanco Rd.
It is for me the bane of the Riverwalk to have to walk behind strollers all the time. Until I came to San Antonio I had never seen so many strollers (I call it the Strollerwalk). Unless you enjoy pushing a stroller along a very narrow path by the river behind a bunch of other young parents I'd stay further out, especially if you want barbeque.
San Antonio is a wonderful destination with children in tow. I have taken 5 sons, in various combinations, there many times over the years. The zoo is the best in Texas and the kids love it. There is a little train by the Zoo that runs through Brackenridge Park which I have enjoyed for more than 40 years. My kids always really liked the Riverwalk. There are restaurants and really good restaurants on the Riverwalk. You would want to search this board for Tex-Mex in San Antonio. The Texas Monthly magazine did a large review of the Best in Texas last month or so. As far as hotels, I like the Menger, a lot, but I am maybe somewhat old-fashioned. You can usually get a pretty good rate and it is steps from the Alamo and a block or so from the River. I like Paisano's -now on the river - love the Paisano shrimp. Get it as an appetizer at least. Biga on the Banks is top notch, but probably not with a 6 year old.
Biga on the Banks
203 S. St. Mary's St., San Antonio, TX 78205
I think it depends upon how long you're staying and what sort of vacation you're in the mood for. Staying a week anywhere other than downtown San Antonio is going to be a much "quieter" vacation. If you want to get away from it all and rest and relax, you can do that in the Hill Country. However, there's not much else to do out in the Hill Country, unless you're going for the ranch experience at someplace like the Dixie Dude, or the Mayan up at Bandera. Otherwise, a night or two out there might be enjoyable, but I think you'll get pretty bored pretty rapidly, unless you're intentionally going for low-key.
And something tells me that's not the vacation you're looking for.
Stay on or near the Riverwalk. There's lots to do within walking distance, so you don't have to get into your car to go do it. The Menger, mentioned above, is particularly great for history buffs. Most large cities have a 'grand old hotel,' and the Menger is San Antonio's. It's been 'the' place to stay for about a century-and-a-half. My parents actually went there on their honeymoon back in 1941 and, even then, the hotel had been open and busy for nearly a hundred years. The bar is a particularly historic and atmospheric spot. It's where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders, and he is reputed to have ridden his horse in through the hotel lobby, and up the main staircase. They serve killer hot-chiled peanuts in the bar along with the beverages, so you definitely should have a drink there, even if it's just a soda.
Then one day (but not a Sunday), take a day trip on the "Barbecue Trail."
Do a loop from San Antonio. Rise around 8 or 9 am, grab some breakfast tacos, and start by heading east on I-10 to Luling. Plan to arrive around 10am or so (they open earlier, but the meat may not be ready before then). Have some nibbles of wet brisket and hot links (just a few tastes; don't fill up) at City Market. From there, 1/2 hour or so north on 183 to Lockhart, where you do the same thing at Smitty's, Black's, Kreuz. Consider this eating/snacking/sampling style as "Texas Tapas." It's easy to do because you order your smoked meats a la carte, by the pound, just as you would at a butcher shop. We usually order a half-link of sausage, and about a 1/4 lb of brisket for two folks to sample. If the brisket seems particularly good that day, we go back and order more (sometimes the whole brisket), unsliced, to take home. When we're on one of these "barbecue runs," we skip the sides completely. They can be good, but they're usually pretty mediocre, and they're not the reason we came so it's counterproductive to waste limited tummy room on them. Also, while in Lockhart, be sure to get a good look at their old county courthouse. It's been featured in a great many movies.
From Lockhart, head due west to San Marcos and I-35. Both San Marcos and New Braunfels are interesting small towns to explore, on your zippy interstate route back to San Antonio.
Or, you can cross I-35 and head up to Wimberley, a tiny town famous in Texas for its charm. There are many shops and galleries and antique and tchotchke stores and restaurants to wander. It's compact, too, so you just get to the center of things, park, and walk. Then you can meander your way back to San Antonio along back roads, or scoot over to 281 and head south.
Don't do the loop the other way around. Remember that these iconic Texas BBQ joints began life as meat markets, not restaurants, so you shouldn't plan to go for dinner. You need to get there fairly early in the day, or they'll likely be sold out of the choicest cuts. So get to them first, and then take your time meandering and wandering back to San Antonio.
We always take a cooler and I'd suggest that you do as well. You can pack up whatever you don't eat and take it back to your room to snack on later, or wrap it up to take home with you to share with those neighbors that picked up your mail while you were gone. (The hot links work especially well for this.)
633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648
Nice post, Jaymes. It gave me some good ideas.
I am going to be very cooped up for three long days in a Conference. Would love to do some serious exploring during my other four days. The Alamo, Riverwalk, Missions, Market Square, Pearl Farmer's Market are a few obvious choices. I really dig BBQ and want to fit in the following, even though you mentioned not to do the trip on Sunday... Would love your thoughts anyway, and others as well. Thanks!
Sunday: Drive to Lockhart - get there by 11 as suggested. Sample Black's and Smitty's (Kruez is closed). Head to San Marcos and New Braunfels, meander at a very slow pace. Monday: Drive to Luling - eat at City Market. Head over to Wimberly for another slow day. Maybe take the drive along 32 ( I understand it is called "Devil's Backbone), hook up at 281, then take it south to the airport for 5:00 pm departure.
Your schedule looks plenty nifty.
The only reason I suggested not doing the "barbecue loop" on a Sunday is that several of the best places are closed.
But if you're breaking it up into two days, that should work just fine.
I think you'll love wandering the back roads of Central Texas in March. And who knows - perhaps the bluebonnets will be in bloom by then.
I can field this one pretty well. My favorite taqueria is an unnamed place south of fredricksburg about a 1/4 mile on zarzamora. It's a yellow building on the right. On your way you'll pass Brown Coffee which is the best coffee in SA. No questions asked. What I love about this taqueria is (1) the incredible flour tortillas (2) unique meats, always something to explore. The corn tortillas are great if you like the dense, almost sweet tasting kind, but that's not my preference. There are lard fried chips for self service (and don't be ashamed to have chips with breakfast)
Taco taco is a place that lots of people love, and for good reason. What it has going for it is making taqueria classics taste a little fresher. There's also the Taco Norteno which is their claim to fame, although I'd stick with their other stuff, as the norteno is out of balance to me. They do a solid barbacoa.
As for BBQ. If you are doing a tour it would be an incredible shame to pass up Franklin in Austin. This is a place that everyone from Food and Wine to Full Custom BBQ (decidedly un-snobbish) http://fcg-bbq.blogspot.com/ have been singing the praises of for a couple of years. Its a great contrast to the legendary bbq of lockhart/luling.