The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival, Day One

For a number of years, Laura’s sister, the esteemed Chef Hannah, has been living in San Antonio with her husband, the esteemed Dr. Dan. We’ve been meaning to go down there to see them since they married and moved there in 2010, but doing so would have meant a couple of things: a) that we would have to get on a plane, and b) that we would have to arrive at such a time when the weather was not 145 degrees. Not that either of us has a fear of flying, but that at least one of us has a dislike of airports. And the heat is something neither of us enjoy. Fortunately, San Antonio is not yet brutal in March, and having endured this past winter in the Northeast, even if it was 145 degrees in San Antonio, it would have been welcome. So off on a plane we went.

Three weeks earlier, this phone conversation took place between the four of us on speaker phone:

  • Laura: We’re so looking forward to coming!
  • Hannah: Great! And I don’t want to say that everything we’re going to do revolves around food…
  • Dan: …but it is.

And so, to vindicate herself and to do the admittedly “touristy” thing, our first day we went down to the Alamo. Now, if you’re like me, and have spent your days relatively Alamo-free, and you come in contact with another person who is experienced in the care and feeding of Alamoes, they will no doubt tell you that it is smaller than you would think. As a matter of fact, mention San Antonio in a crowded room and you are more than likely to hear the words “Alamo” and “smaller than you would think” from at least 20% of those present. At least, this is my experience.

We parked in a garage and on our way toward our Alamo-gawking activities, the sign festival began. I spotted two of them on the corner: one from Casa Rio, one of the older Mexican restaurants in town, and a neat perhaps-old but perhaps-not Parking garage sign:

Casa Rio and Parking signs, San Antonio, TX

I snapped off this quickly and we turned the corner toward tourist country. Despite the fact that it was a Thursday morning, the fellow tourists were out in force. We made our way over, and, true to my nature as a tourist in this strange and foreign land, got the Alamo shot:

The AlamoSmaller than you’d think

We wander around the grounds, and perhaps it’s only because several people had told me the same thing, that it was smaller than I would think, that it appeared considerably larger than I was led to believe. Towards the back, I look up and see something that more than catches my attention. The Crockett Hotel, which sits across the road from the Alamo, has a large neon sign on its top, and it’s obviously been there for years.

Crockett Hotel, San Antonio, TX

It took a few shots, but I finally got the one I was looking for. So far, I had gotten a few signs and I wasn’t even really looking. It made me optimistic for what the next few days would hold.

We did the Riverwalk thing, like any good tourist. Hannah got us tickets for the boat ride, and we got to see the sights from the river, which was still green from St. Patrick’s Day. While I was at it, I swiped another shot of Casa Rio from down below:

Casa Rio, San Antonio, TX

And then on to the food. Hannah had heard good things about The Luxury, an outdoor eatery along the Riverwalk. What I didn’t know is that, although the place was new, their neon sign was nod to the great old ones. What I also didn’t know was how good the fries were. This was the perfect confluence of food and sign.

The Luxury, San Antonio, TXFirst, the sign, and then…

fries-at-the-luxury

I had the pulled pork (pictured right) and a heaping helping of fries. The sauce on the fries was a combo of ketchup, chopped onion, and what seemed to be an aioli made by particularly contented angels. What you see above disappeared with startling quickness.

We continued on our way, toward where we would eventually eat that night. The Riverwalk was closed for a brief portion, causing us to detour up and across a bridge, and when we did so, I spotted this sign, for the Samuels Glass Company.

Samuels Glass, San Antonio, TX

The sign is meant to be viewed from I-35, so it wasn’t the easiest shot ever. The above was probably the best of the bunch, and although I got it from many angles, none of them came out particularly great. Slightly disappointed, we moved on.

The one shot I knew I wanted was a “Coffee Shop” sign that was attached to Mary Ann’s Pig Stand, which was not far off. When we had ceased our Riverwalking, we returned to Hannah’s vehicle and proceeded to that particular sign. For the first time all day, the sun and everything else seemed to be in my favor. This one was worth the price of admission:

Mary Ann's Pig Stand, San Antonio, TXThe March sun was getting hot. Well, hot for a poor old pasty New York boy, anyway, so it was to rest up before dinner. On the way, Hannah suggested the Big Red sign along the highway. It took some doing, but we finally figured out the best way to get to it. It involved me hanging halfway out the window like a happy Golden Retriever, shooting rapid-fire. The last shot was the best. I’m a sucker for a lot of white space, and this provided the goods:

Big Red, San Antonio, TX

That night for dinner, we went to The Granary, just up from the campus of the Culinary Institute of America. The building was the private home of the Chief Cooper at the nearby Pearl Brewery. I’m a big fan of any restaurant that’s in a building that wasn’t originally intended to be a restaurant, so they had me right away, before I had even eaten anything.

The GRanary, San Antonio, TX

This place is Hannah and Dan’s favorite and it was very, very easy to see why. I had the Pork Shank, a marvelous fall-off-the-bone concoction with lentils, preserved lemon, and apricot. Regrettably, I ate it too quickly for it to be photographed, but in the midst of this feeding frenzy, I managed to snap a shot of Laura’s dish, the Beef Clod (beef topped with a coffee quinoa crunch) before it, too, was ransacked beyond all recognition. I leave you with this.

Beef Clod

Still to come: a happy discovery, a few old favorites, and a trip to Austin!

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