Ocho, siete, seis, cinco…

Ocho, at the Havana Inn, airily extends along the riverwalk. It’s a lovely bar/restaurant. Well-lighted via the large garage-style doors that line the wall that overlooks the Riverwalk. It was a bit of a mess in places last we were there (sugar packs propping up a table leg, crumbs on the long, velvety sectional) but that’s easily overlooked. In fact, just look up…

Ocho

The piecemeal furniture has that down-on-its-luck sprezzatura feel to it, which I like. Not quite pretentious: more colonial Kenya somehow. I mean that in the best possible sense as San Antonio sometimes feels like a beleaguered, overrun city hosting tourists to survive. You have to find the more sincere places to drink when you’re downtown. This is one of them.

Ocho

The first drink is free with your Artpace membership, which is nice considering that Modelos are $5. Still, as you can see from the photos below, the light is just so.

Menu
Menu

At the bar: a single goldfish in a unusually shaped fishbowl — o fishy fishy fishy o!

from the bar
from the bar

I’ve always loved this space and now it’s even better. Less linear with the couches and the bar at one end, Ocho feels like a place to relax, sip a beer and, wonderfully TVless, have a conversation about art (or football or whatever).While I couldn’t spend every afternoon here (the above mentioned price), the occasional Friday afternoon is perfect.

RealTail II

Freetail announces the second annual RealTail event on Saturday, August 27th starting at 11:30 am (nothing like that good strong pre-noon beer) at their brewery on 1604 and NW Military Hwy. They will be featuring a beer, which includes nopalitos, four spices and agave nectar, made in collaboration with Real Ale, as well as an assortment of other rare, barrel-aged beer including Freetail’s Bandito, La Muerta 2010, Atê and selections from Real Ale’s Mysterium Verum series. The list to taps will be rolled out on Freetail’s Facebook and web pages a week prior to the festival.

It’s a free event sure to hold a surprise or two.

Support local beer.

Freetail suspends plans for second location

From an official press release: Having previously announced expansion into the Houston market, Freetail Brewing Co. will announce the indefinite suspension of plans for a second location — citing concerns over access to capital.

“As I moved forward with the Freetail Houston project, I began to run into an increasing level of resistance in capital markets. A brewpub is a good project for downtown Houston, but the deal is simply not there for me at this time,” explained Freetail Founder & CEO, Scott Metzger. “When we announced the project on May 17, we also stated there were financial considerations to be addressed. Those considerations are ultimately what put this project on hold indefinitely, and no other reason. To move forward with the project at this time would beirresponsible and an injustice to my company and the City of Houston.”

“For now my focus will be to continue growing our successful original location, which has internal expansion needs of its own, and moving forward in the battle for fair reform of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, as it relates to the activities of our state’s brewpubs and breweries,” added Metzger.

I must say that I was disappointed to hear that Freetail passed up a downtown San Antonio location for Houston. I love Freetail but it’s so far out it hardly even qualifies as being in San Antonio, as far as i’m concerned (I may be a bit of a snob as far as boundaries are concerned but it takes a planned day to make it out there). There are lots of places to be had in the flourishing  downtown/Southtown (and in focus for a repopulation of work/live space by our Mayor, including a redevelopment of HemisFair Park and recent whisperings of an HEB) area and moving down would keep the competition healthy.

Still I’m sorry to hear that they won’t be able to brew their divine suds in Houston. They would have done well there by adding to the half a dozen or so breweries. But in the meantime maybe they’ll reconsider a location downtown as they battle the stubborn forces that be over antiquated laws.

—Lyle Rosdahl

Miche Monday! Make your own Miche.

Last Monday Ryan and I decided to make our own michelada. Delicious: clamato, spicy V8, lime, chili powder, worcestershire, pepper, ice and of course Modelo.

Miche Monday!

Refreshing!

Unfortunately I didn’t realize that I was out of regular Tabasco. I did put some Tabasco Chipotle in my first miche. The smokey flavor was interesting, though I wouldn’t want more than just a taste. Too overpowering. We went to La Fiesta down on Flores for ingredients. A pleasant experience. Time seemed somehow to stop in the open, well-lit store. It was a pity to leave almost but we had miches to make. Worth it.

—Lyle Rosdahl

Tall dark michelada at Rosario’s

Rosario’s

902 South Alamo ● 210.223.1806

($5.25)

So from Blue Star* Ryan and I decided to head to greener pastures (or redder ones) up South Alamo. Rosario’s offers delicious margaritas, but I’d never had a michelada there.

Beer: ✪✪✪✪

  • Choice. We had a Negra Modelo with this one. I’ve never had a michelada with anything but light beers (though the other day when I was at Blue Star someone ordered one with the brewery’s amber ale). The dark beer turned out to be an excellent choice.

Dressing: ✪✪✪

  • Salt and some mild but tasty chili powder lined the rim here.

Spiciness: ✪✪

  • Not much in the way of a bite to this one.

Color: ✪✪✪

  • While it wasn’t a bloody read color, the Negra Modelo made it nice and dark. Almost a maroon.

Overall Taste: ✪✪✪✪

  • This michelada tasted great to the last ice coated drop. Oddly enough, it got better the further down it went. For some reason the clamato and other standard ingredients settled. It certainly was a pleasant change. For obvious reasons most micheladas become watered down toward the end. The other unique quality to this was the dark beer. The slightly sweet, malty taste of the Negra Modelo complemented the slight spice and acidity of the clamato. While I was hesitant to try a darker beer at first, I’m sold now. Rosario’s micheladas come in a big ole glass (I assume the whole bottle of beer fit in this) but the price is still pretty steep. Get off the trolley right in front and step into the ambient and noisy restaurant for a taste.
—Lyle Rosdahl

*Just a note to say that I think Blue Star is an excellent place to drink beer. Their pale ale is refreshing and thoroughly delectable.

The beauty of bats

Near the boat dock under IH-35 at Newell & Camden a bachelor colony of Mexican Freetail bats hangs under the rumbling trucks and cars. (Yes, the females live in larger colonies elsewhere like the enormous colony under the Congress Street bridge in Austin.) Four Tuesdays in July and August (including the one tonight, 7/27 @ 8pm, 8/9 @ 7.30pm & 8/23 @ 7.30pm) San Antonio River Authority in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife give an educational presentations prior to the emerging of the bats for their nightly feast.

BatsThe colony, according to Maura from SARA, is somewhere around 10,000 bats. They roost here in South Texas from about April to October then migrate to warmer climes down south. Of the 47 species of bats in the US, Texas is home to 32 of them. Unfortunately, though, bats in the US are being smitten with White-Nose Syndrome, a white fungus that is killing thousands of them.Luckily it is not yet in Texas, but there have been cases of it as close as Oklahoma. This is scary stuff.

Bats

The bats came out at 8:25 pm and streamed up over the highway for about five minutes or so. It’s a much smaller  showing than Austin’s but no less spectacular. There’s something magical about seeing the ribbon coming out from under the highway and disappearing around the phone tower. The ancient echolocation of bats against the cellular sky.

Fish under the bridge

View from the boat dock when you're not looking at the bats.

—Lyle Rosdahl

Miche Monday! Tito’s.

Tito’s

955 South Alamo • 210.212.8226

($4.50)

Beer: ✪✪✪✪

  • Choice. I had a Modelo, my go-to beer. The other standards are also available.

Dressing: ✪

  • None.

Spiciness: ✪✪✪

  • Sadly not nearly spicy enough. It had a bit of a peppery punch but no real sting, which I appreciate in a michelada.

Color: ✪✪✪

  • Blonde. They don’t make these with tomato or clamato juice. It suffered because of it. A good michelada has a bit of color to it. Still it made for an airy summer drink.

Overall Taste: ✪✪✪✪

  • Light but better with a shot of tomato juice, which the bartender provided happily when we asked. I love Tito’s. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in San Antonio. This bumped up the star rating here. Still a good michelada has a little something  extra to it: celery, chili powder, olives, hell even shrimp. I mean, that’s a meal! Always visit Tito’s; just don’t think you’ll get the city’s best miche.

—Lyle Rosdahl

Miche Monday — Recipe

Welcome to Miche Monday where we review different micheladas (a cerveza preparada). It’s a lovely summery drink involving beer, lime, salt, pepper, tabasco, worcesterhire sauce and tomato juice (or some kind of combination of these ingredients and/or more).Here’s the first recipe (from Texas-Backyard-BBQ.com) and stay tuned (a little outdated, I know, but the micheladas aren’t and what’re you going to do, change the channel with the clicker?) for some reviews.

ℑℑℑ

  • 1 Lime
  • Kosher Salt For Glass Rim
  • Salt or celery salt
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Cajun Chef Hot Sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • Pacifica* Beer – (Some prefer a dark beer)

ℑℑℑ

*They mean Pacifico but the recipe is solid. Add as much or little beer as you like. Notice that there is no clamato or tomato juice. I prefer it with the former. We’ll get you another recipe to try next Monday. Enjoy!

—Lyle Rosdahl

A bar review in which I avoid tasteless rhymes: The Steer

Lyle Rosdahl

The Steer. The name conjures up some kind of beefcake club, but the actual bar, from the outside, calls to mind a strip club, all windowless cinder block and wood. The door, while itself a pretty standard sturdy bar door, is framed by the rust-colored wood presenting a strangely stately illusion, especially when coupled with the gas-lamp lighting fixture above it. The used car lot next door puts the finishing touch on the eclectic site. Ryan and I got our collective nerve up and walked into the dim bar at 735 SW Military.

The Steer

The thing with windowless bars is that, paradoxically, you never know what they’ll look like inside but somehow the interiors are always the same. It’s the possibility of something absolutely insane that’s vaguely unsettling but exciting. But since reviewing The Red Baron, another bizarrely square bar on Burr Road, I’ve had a suspicion that they all have one of those horseshoe shaped sunken bars at which you sit in regular height chairs. After moving around the L-shaped foyer, another staple of such bars — it keeps the bulk of the sunlight from flashing the customers — we took in the bar in all its immediate glory: bar and down a step two pool tables. And, yes, the bar is in fact sunken and three-sided (I’m batting a thousand). Mirrors barely reflected anything in the dimness particularly the diagonal swaths of mirror between the rustic wood in the corner where the tiny linoleum dance floor/stage clung to the floor.

The jolly woman bartender bounded up and asked for our IDs immediately, which was particularly odd considering the kid, eight or nine, wandering around inside the cool, quiet darkness. Whatever: he wasn’t drinking and sat quietly in the corner. We ordered a couple of Coronas and found out that the domestics went from $2.25 to $1.75 at four o’clock and that Kamikazes were on special at $3 (there was also an Apple Bootlegger, or something like that, up on the board for $1.50). The Coronas were $3 a pop. Ah, the cool vaguely beery taste of Mexico’s most famous beer.

We quickly made our way over to the pool tables for a couple of 75¢ games. We won’t dwell on the results, but rest assured that they were fairly one-sided. Then back to the bar and another round. On the TVs: Maury and Dr. Phil. Mercifully (that couldn’t possibly be the word) the sound was only on the TV showing Maury. The smattering of happy bar flies gabbed and made remarks about baby daddies and DNA (well, mostly baby daddies). Another round. Ryan and I listened in to bits and pieces of conversations, made our own witty banter.

It was so dark and cool in the bar that soon the hundred degree weather and blinding sunlight were distant memories. I can’t say that it’s a particularly pleasant feeling really. I love San Antonio because of the sun. I need my vitamin D. Give me a bright, airy bar any day of the week and I’m a happy bar fly myself. Still there is that subset of the bar fly group that thrives off the time-warping, temperature-thwarting necessity of cave dwelling forgetfulness. Unfortunately this same subset tends to also include lots of smokers. I’m pretty sure a Venn Diagram would show eclipsing circles. Needless to say my clothes reeked. That’s always a strike (or two) in my book.

Finally we staggered out, not from the drink but from the horrible nineties country pop which had suddenly accosted us, and then reeled from the combo punch of light and heat. The other drawback to these bars is that you have to emerge sometime (probably better to wait until darkness) thus compounding the sense of guilt at having been in such a place, which is ironically and cyclically assuaged by having been in such a place…

We blinked a few times to get our bearings and then we were gone, the little box disappearing into the clutter of SW Military Hwy.

The Steer Sign