The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival: The Leftovers

As I said before, the weather turned nasty the last few days we were in San Antonio, so there wasn’t a whole lot of photography going on, but there were plenty of pictures I left out of my posts from the first three days just simply because I didn’t have enough room!

Ghost Sign across from the Alamo

This ghost sign was across the street from the Alamo. I still can’t really make out what it was, but the shapes and hints of colors make me believe it must have been quite grand in its day. This was actually the first shot I took that week.

Art Corner, Universal City, TXArt Corner, Universal City, TX

We spotted this one on our way through back streets to get the picture of the Randolph Cleaners on Day 2. It was difficult to tell if this place was still open. I love the shape of this sign, and it’s a rare sight to see one of these corrugated signs still standing.

The many lives of one sign

I’m always fascinated by signs that were repurposed, and then the repurposing has, in fact, decayed more than the original. A certain justice that the sign above, around the corner from The Pig Stand in San Antonio, has shed its slapped-on skin in favor of its original metal. We passed by this on Day One, and I got this single shot from a moving car.

Threadgill's, Austin, TXThreadgill’s, Austin, TX

Threadgill’s is actually from 1981, but the signs look considerably older. It’s one of many legendary Austin music locations. We came upon it during our long trek through the Austin streets on Day 3.

Home Cooking at Threadgill's

MIller Blueprint, Austin, TXMiller Blueprint Co, Austin, TX

This was actually the first shot I took on Day 3, not far from where we parked. When I saw this sign, I knew it was going to be a good day. Pity we didn’t get a chance to see it lit up.

Soho Lounge, Austin, TXSoho Lounge, Austin, TX

This would be how you repurpose a sign. My guess is, they took the existing sign and made it their own, but who knows? It preserves the past and makes it something new, and you’ve got to admire that.

La Condesa Bread PuddingAnother dessert from La Condesa in Austin. Day 3.

French Toast

And some more food. On our fourth day we went up to the town of Gruene, which is known for its long-standing dance hall. Before that, however, Hannah made us this French toast casserole with bacon that was nothing short of perfection.

Gruene Dance Hall

The Gruene Dance Hall was every bit of what I expected and more, from the creaky wood floor to the pot-bellied stoves warming the patrons chilled by the (gasp!) 60 degree temperatures that day.

Gruene Dance Hall

dannahOur genial hosts…
scaura…and us… Somebody must have said something funny…

More from our weekend in Texas:
The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day One
The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day Two
The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day Three

The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day 3: Austin Bound


Here’s what’s great about my sister-in-law Hannah: on the day that we had planned to make the drive up to Austin, she couldn’t sleep. So, instead of doing as the rest of us would do and lay around in bed waiting for something drowsy to happen, she got up and started surfing around the internet for places to eat in Austin. What she discovered was La Condesa, a Modern Mexican place nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best New Restaurant. As we struggle down to breakfast she tells us this, describes the menu, and suddenly I’m counting the hours until lunch.

But first, Austin itself.

Capitol Building

Let me say this: I don’t like the heat. I grew up in a city that gets 80-plus inches of snow a year. I lived in Chattanooga and that was too hot for me. We met several people in Chattanooga who moved from Texas to escape the heat. I HATE heat. So bear this in mind when I say this: Austin is totally worth the heat.

Obligatory Looking-Up at the Top of the Dome ShotObligatory Looking-Up-at-the-Top-of-the-Dome Shot

Now, of course, Austin has so many signs worth photographing that I couldn’t count them all. In fact, I had to give some a pass just because there just wasn’t time. The other unfortunate thing about this particular trip was the fact that it was pretty overcast much of the day. We walked the streets and I wandered off to gather all the best signs in.

Kruger's Jewelers, Austin, TX

Two jewelers sit across from each other on Congress Avenue, Kruger’s (above) and Joe Koen & Son (below) and both have been around forever, Kruger’s since 1906 and Koen, as you can see, since 1884. Kruger’s has obviously kept their signs up better, but they’re both marvelous in their own right. And I love a sign that has a working clock in it. Now that I look at it, it took me about 15 minutes to walk from one to the other. (We stopped at the Starbuck’s)

Joe Koen and Son, Austin, TX

State Theater, Austin, TXState Theater, Austin, TX

ChickThe Proverbial Taco Truck that I Didn’t Fall Off of (Moving Car Shot)

And, of course, the infamous Austin Motel shot. I think they have a good sense of humor about the shape of their sign. I would think you would have to.

Austin Motel, Austin, TXFar Out.

Finally the hour came to be at La Condesa, and it did not disappoint in the least. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. I had the Cubanita, which looks promising, but let me tell you, it tastes even better than it looks.

Cubanita at La Condesa, Austin, TX

We felt the need for dessert afterward, and that was a good decision. This is the Boca Negra, a flourless chocolate cake with ancho, chile de arbol and carmelized bananas. I am becoming a fan of chocolate and chili together:

Boca Negra at La Condesa, Austin, TX

Roadhouse Relics, Austin, TX

One of my goals in coming to Austin was to go to Roadhouse Relics, and unfortunately there were two things wrong. First, the proprietor, Todd Sanders (no relation) was in New York that weekend. Second, there was a wedding about to shoot pictures in their back yard. It was time to get creative. I stuck my K-5 in Live View, held it up as high as I could get it, and took a few shots over the fence.

Roadhouse Relics Back Yard, Austin, TXHow many cool things do you count?

While I was at it, I went across the street, where a few more neon signs hung out. This Googie bit of fun for Freddie’s Place is still active:

Freddie's Place, Austin, TX

Jovita's, Austin, TX

Whereas Jovita’s, right next door, was out of commission. I recently found out that in 2012 the owner and several people were arrested for heroin trafficking among other charges. The location remains unoccupied.

Roadhouse Relics, Austin, TXThis, however, remains open, and is the center of all things I love.

We headed back to San Antonio. The sign portion of the Food and Sign Festival effectively ended due to poor weather the next few days, but the food continued to be good and plentiful. We don’t know if we’ll manage to get back before Dan is stationed somewhere else, but we were so thankful for the experience. Travel is so good for the soul in so many ways, and helps us appreciate not only the places we visit, but the places where we live.

The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day 2

Randolph Field

We woke up on our second day in San Antonio to homemade granola and Cafe de Olla. This was going to be a day of homemade food, and when you consider our hostess’ prowess in the kitchen, restaurants could stand to take a break for a day. Hannah works at Central Market in San Antonio, so we’d be going there for some lunch and to gather in the ingredients needed for dinner. Along the way, to placate my sign addiction, we’d hit a few high spots.

Before that, though, Hannah took us over to Randolph, where Dan is technically stationed while he is doing his residency. On the way over, I spotted something poking out of the buildings across the street from the base, and after we had taken a drive through the facility, I saw that I had not misjudged what I had seen at a distance. It was the sign for Randolph Laundry & Cleaners, a neon sign on top of the building.

Randolph Laundry & Cleaners, San Antonio, TX

Happy circumstance: no one had any idea it was there. If you’ll notice, I got photobombed by a bird up at the top near the “R”. It was an angry bird.

Randolph and an Angry BirdVery angry bird…

So rather than face the wrath of this bird, we decided to go toward Central Market. Along the way, though, Hannah had a sign location in mind for me:

Bun-N-Barrel, San Antonio, TX

Bun-N-Barrel has been around since 1950, and it’s definitely a testament to the kind of roadside architecture we’ve come to know and love from that era. I indulge myself for a few minutes, even sneaking out to the median of Austin Highway to get the following shot:

Bun-N-Barrel, San Antonio, TX

And then, the Coca-Cola sign along the side. I really didn’t expect to see palm trees in San Antonio, but they really add to this shot:

Bun-N-Barrel Coca-Cola sign, San Antonio, TX

We pressed on and stopped at Central Market for supplies. For those of you Yankees like me who have never been to a Central Market, it’s as if Trader Joe’s and Wegmans had a baby. Chances are, if it’s not there, you probably didn’t need it. I munched on a wild mushroom and goat cheese quesadilla for lunch as we went through aisle after aisle of marvelous food that we consider stuffing into our carry-ons. We settle on the Juan Diaz Cafe de Olla we had at breakfast. No regrets. I may order some online.

Across the street is the remains of the Broadway Theater. The Broadway opened in 1939 and was converted into a bank, then into apartments. Happily, the vertical sign has remained in terrific shape:

Broadway Theater, San Antonio, TX

In the meantime, my research had led me to the Ranch Motel, which was further up Broadway. Fortunately, Hannah wanted to go by the Half Price Books that is just up the street, so it looked like a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone:

Ranch Motel, San Antonio, TXKiller arrow!

Ranch Motel, San Antonio, TX

Ranch Motel, San Antonio, TX

And then on to the food portion of the program. Hannah decided on a Spanish theme for the evening, so she made a Spanish tortilla and a concoction with garbanzos and chorizo, two of my favorite ingredients:

tortilla tortilla-chorizo

blow-torchYou know it’s getting serious when the blow torch comes out… Chef Hannah prepares fideua.

fig-and-goat-cheeseAnd for dessert: fig and goat cheese ice cream. Yes, you heard right. I could eat a gallon of this right now.

Hannah’s friend Emily came over for the feast. She’s from Chattanooga and we lived in Chattanooga for ten years so we had a great talk over great food.