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

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.

Bland at Blue Star Brewing Company

Blue Star Brewing Company

1414 S. Alamo, Suite 105 • 210.212.5506

$5.00

As we rolled into the Blue Star Arts Complex, Lyle commented that the sidewalks along S. Alamo are going to be expanded in order to meet the needs of a large pedestrian population. Being that it was 2:30 on a Monday afternoon, pedestrians were nowhere to be seen and parking was ample. Approximately 8 – 10 people dined on a late lunch, while the bar remained unpopulated. We took a seat and ordered a Blue Star Michelada.

Beer: ✪✪✪✪

  • Your choice. Currently, according to their website because I can’t remember what was actually posted in person, Blue Star offers six house-brewed beers on tap: Texican, Pilsner, Apache Amber, Smoke Dark, Stout, and Pale Ale. Both, Lyle and I, opted for the Texas conceived, Mexican inspired, playfully named, Texican.

Dressing: ✪✪

  • I’ve only found chile powder dressing at two places as I am presently in the infant stages of my michelada hunt. Instead, salt dressing is the norm. I can’t fault Blue Star for going the salt route, but let it be known chile powder earns one more stars.

Spiciness: ✪✪

  • The bartender didn’t skimp on his pepper pouring with each sip offering plenty of punch. Unfortunately, due to the beers solely being on tap, Blue Star doesn’t provide michelada minions the usual portion of beer remaining in the bottle. Otherwise known as the chaser, used at times when the michelada gets too spicy.

Color:

  • Our micheladas looked like iced tea with shards of pepper. This unappealing color stemmed from the noticeable absence of tomato juice/Clamato  from Blue Star’s recipe. Moreover, the mountain of ice initially heaped into the glass quickly watered the color of the beer and the michelada’s other ingredients (Worcestershire sauce, lime, possibly soy sauce).

Overall Taste:

  • What a disappointment. For starters, they don’t use the necessary tomato juice. There was entirely too much ice that caused the beer to quickly deteriorate from its intended taste. In other words, I left Blue Star with the feeling that I had paid extra to have someone water down my Texican, and in the process dump some pepper on the beer water.

I’m assuming the impending renovations will increase foot traffic to-and-from the Blue Star Arts Complex. That being said, I can guarantee no one’s going to be running to the Blue Star Brewing Company for a michelada.

Next, please.

— Ryan Sachetta

The Monterey’s Michelada

The Monterey

1127 S. St. Mary’s • 210.745.2581

$3.50

Beer: ✪✪

  • Pearl – the faux-Texas beer. No longer brewed in San Antonio, Pearl is brewed by Miller Brewing Company in Fort Worth. I noticed a gentleman seated at the bar drinking a michelada with a can of Brooklyn Brewery’s Summer Ale. Thus, I’m not sure if you can request a substitute beer (possibly for an additional charge) or maybe the patron at the bar is a regular.

Dressing:

  • The glass lacked dressing (salt/ chile powder) around its rim.

Spiciness: 

  • This michelada lacked that smack of spicy. I probably said “this could use more pepper” on several occasions.

Color:

  • Personally, I prefer micheladas with an indistinguishable red color (that way I don’t have to ask the bartender if tomato juice is included in their recipe). The Monterey’s was a faded tomato red, highlighting its perfect beer:tomato juice ratio.

Overall Taste:

  • Despite this michelada’s poor showing in individual categories, its overall taste was indisputably refreshing. The light, is-this-even-beer-taste of Pearl coupled with the tomato juice made for a quenching summer drink. I appreciate a spicy michelada and The Monterey’s completely lacked in that department. Nonetheless, at only $3.50 in the comfy confines of The Monterey, it’s well worth a try.

— Ryan Sachetta

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

Speedys/The Steer

Departing from Lyle’s Southtown abode, we headed east looking for food to eat at a place we’d never been before. Preferably, a place we’d never heard of. After driving a five-mile lap past unappealing places or now vacant spaces that once billed good food, we changed our trajectory and headed west.

Speedy’s Chicken is located on S.W. Military Drive among a sea of fly-by-night businesses, payday loan predators, fast food franchises, and the necessary H-E-B. The white exterior of Speedy’s has the nondescript look you associate with a space that’s been through several tenants. The interior walls of Speedy’s are this beach bathroom looking white tile coupled with occasional lines of smaller red tiles. I commented to Lyle that it felt like I had entered a locker room.

I’m predictable when it comes to chicken strips. Bill Miller’s is my usual choice because it’s relatively inexpensive, large portion, and the chicken’s battered in-house. That being said, I’d like to switch my allegiance to Speedy’s Chicken. I ordered the # 1, which comes with three (gargantuan) chicken strips, one side (I got french fries), dinner roll, side of gravy, and a gas-station sized soft drink. All for five dollars and some change.

The Diet Coke I sipped on while I waited for my order was flat, but fountain drinks are often inconsistent. Within five minutes, I had my meal in front of me. The cumulative size of the three chicken strips could easily hold its own against any mainstream competitor – Bill Miller’s, Popeyes, Church’s, etc. The strips were generously battered, but not to the point that it overwhelmed the chicken. Gravy proved creamy, but not too thick. I wasn’t impressed by the french fries that lacked in salt. Then again, I’d rather a fried chicken establishment concentrate a majority of its energy on the namesake chicken rather than defrosted and eventually grease-dropped french fries.

In short, if you are looking for above average fried chicken at a decent prize, hurry to Speedy’s Chicken. Order the iced tea, according to their menu it’s 46-cents. (Does it not come with ice? Because right next to tea on the menu it reads there’s a charge of 46-cents for a cup of ice.)

I’m glad I wore athletic shorts to eat. Forget luxury, spandex is a necessity after consuming the generous portions at Speedy’s.
Lyle and I decided to stop in for a few beers at The Steer, a dull, boxy looking bar we passed on the way to Speedy’s. I had my doubts about going in for several reasons. One, it had no windows. Two, it looked like a seedy strip club that, assuming the strippers walked to work, had less than five cars in the parking lot. (Digression: Who wants to be that guy who finds out he’s just walked into a deserted strip club at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon?)

Laughs were shared, but Lyle and I eventually walked into the Steer. Coming inside from the blinding sun light proved disorienting for a moment as my eyes required adjustment. As soon as you walk into the Steer, a seat at the bar is less than five foot steps away.

Beer selection is sparse, Corona might have been their fanciest beer. There was a Bud Ice sighting, you know, the good stuff. After sitting at the bar for about five minutes with beers in hand, and the handful of other patrons glued to the Maury Povich show, Lyle and I opted to play pool. A game of pool costs 75-cents, which doesn’t sound bad. However, that doesn’t include the opportunity cost of having to go find the sole piece of cue stick chalk.

Admittedly, I don’t know if I have much to say about the Steer. Would I go back? Probably not. Between the meager beer selection, suspect television programming, the man who requested country on the jukebox, the lingering smell of smoke that glues to you worse than the awful baked smell one wears when they leave a Subway restaurant, and the child left sitting in the corner while his father drank at the bar, it was only as good as the company one brings.

My opinion of the Steer is meaningless. For the few patrons I saw while I was there, it was their comfort spot. A place to find a sliver of community. Silence and shade from the rigors of daily life.

The Steer was a place I’d never been to nor heard of.

I found what I had sought.