Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rebelle

Early October

The Bur-gal had a conference downtown over weekend.  Feeling fancy on a Friday night, we went with some of her co-workers to the beautiful St. Anthony's Hotel to eat from the new menu at Rebelle.  Eric, Gina, and Angela joined George the alligator and us for dinner.


Service and Setting
The best I can do to describe the ambience is "Teen-Vampire Homecoming."  One is greeted at the entrance by a full-size, disco-ball-mirrored lion.  The dining area is dimly lit with some neon-blue hues, and several chromed-out table decorations (we had a 2 ft long alligator named George).  I used a thesaurus to find the word 'tawdry' because it sounds like a classier way to say 'tacky.'  Service was knowledgable and hospitable.

Menu
The new menu aspires to be a top seafood restaurant in San Antonio.  Oysters, ceviche, octopus, and beef tartare for shareable starters, backed by hearty potions of different gulf fish and shellfish.  They do serve several chops, which emboldened my choice to order a burger.  I was not going to miss out on the seafood, so we asked for the burger to be divided into quarters and served as an appetizer.  Prices are in line with other high-end restaurants.

Beverage
They have a hefty list of house cocktails with a variety of flavors.  Most of the group was happy with their drinks.  I do not often peruse wine lists, so my best guess is that this one is on par with other hoity-toity restaurants.

Sides
The burger comes with cottage fries. They were under (or perhaps un-) seasoned.  Texture was a bit off.  They were not very good.   The other shareable sides on the menu are not necessarily designed around the burger.  They ranged from salty and mediocre potato dishes to rather interesting and delicious in the case of what can only be described as space-spinach.

Patty
The patty had tasty, good-quality beef cooked appropriately to enjoy the flavor.  I suppose a victim of the upscale, circumstance, juices are kept to a minimum.  Overall, it was probably the strongest feature of the burger.

Dress and Bun
Fontina cheese left a wonderful goo trail from the serving plate to mine.  While it added some savory quality, the fontina flavor did not match well.  The bun was unremarkable.  The produce was bright and fresh.  The pickles were closer to their pre-evolved cucumber state than brined.  The bacon added an additional salty crisp, but would not say it was a cut above.  It was cryptic from the itemized bill, but I think they up-charged us like $7 to add bacon and avocado at the server's suggestion.  That made me finish the meal with a groan.  If that was the case, I would recommend skipping it entirely for what started as an $18 burger.

Gina’s take: "The potato side was too starchy for me."

The Verdict
The new menu gives a good downtown option for seafood among innumerable steak restaurants.  That said, the burger is below average compared to the rest of menu we sampled.  This good-not-great burger earns 3 spurs.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Francis Bogside

Francis Bogside
Late September


I think this bar made one of the "hot lists" in San Antonio for restaurant openings.  Being from Chicago, people often ask me about the differences between it and San Antonio.  In Chicago, the foodie magazines write articles titled "Top 10 restaurant openings this month."  In San Antonio, the foodie magazines write articles titled "Top 10 restaurant openings this year."  So given the rarity of a new find, the Bur-gal and I headed to the newest bar from the Blue Box group, Francis Bogside.



Service and Setting
It is an Irish-style pub that has an irregular shape with plenty of nooks.  Dimly lit with several booths,  it is adorned with classic booze bar signs/advertisements and a proud display of spirits.  They have no TVs, but given it was earlier on a Saturday night, they did play a college football game on a projector.  They had a two band line-up starting at 10.  Service was fast and attentive.

Menu
I would describe it as high-end bar food.  Burgers, wings, pretzels, and pizzas with a couple surprising Thai dishes.  It is limited in number, but they are interesting.

Beverage
They have an excellent draft list with some IPA favorites of mine like Jai Alai and Space Dust.  As expected, they have a good Irish whisky offering.   Cocktail list is half classics and half new attempts.

Sides
The burger comes with house chips and a $2 up-charge for fries or coleslaw.  I was very happy with the fries.  A nice deep cook giving a thick crisp.  Their house ketchup has a little something extra to give it more flavor than Hines fancy ketchup which was enough for the Bur-gal.  I asked for some hot sauce to go with that and they brought out an awesome mango-habenero-like sauce that went great with the ketchup.

Patty
The waitress was unsure about the size of the patty, but it looks like a quarter pounder.  Feeling hungry I went double patty and egg.  Being a thin griddle paddy, there wasn't an option for doneness - it didn't matter.  This burger was so savory I am having flashbacks that are making my mouth water.  That perfect juiciness homogenized all of the other ingredients to coat the pallet and kept me napkin dabbing the corners of my mouth.  Excellent flavor coming from the grill.  One bite and I was in a state of burger nirvana.

Dress and Bun
They do a high-gloss egg wash bun with that small amount of sweetness that makes the burger sing.  It would overwhelm a single patty, but works well with the double.  American cheese, egg, and mayo topping gel everything together.  The produce was sliced a bit thin, but tasted fine.

The Verdict
I don't often write burger poetry, but some meals turn you back into a burger-romantic.  I give it an enthusiastic 5 spurs, and one I'll be recommending it to other aficionados frequently.



Saturday, September 29, 2018

Down on Garyson

Down on Grayson
Mid September

On a rainy Friday night, some friends were looking for a beverage and some food.  Cam, Grant, Moos, Webb and Audrey came joined me to head over to the Pearl to eat at Down on Grayson

Service and Setting
DoG has a beautiful patio and good looking bar.   I acknowledge a group of 6 is difficult to sit, but we had to wait well over an hour.  Service was attentive, though there was some confusion on dish placement when they arrived at the table.

Menu
I was really impressed by the variety and affordability on the menu.  They have mostly American standards with a few Mexican dishes.  They have anticuchos which is a marinated steak dish my wife and I had for the first time in Peru earlier this year.  DoG declares them "San Antonio's favorite," but I am not aware of another restaurant that serves them.

Beverage
A decent draft beer list of mostly Texas craft brews.  Cocktails run $7-10.

Sides
The fries were offensively salty.  Though thinner with a good crisp, no one at the table are more than half of their fries because of the over seasoning.  The chips and coleslaw did not look a whole lot more exciting.

Patty
1/2 lb ground-chuck patty char broiled.  Not much attention paid to the doneness of the burger.   Moist but flavorless.  Ironically, salt would have helped, but I think they ran out seasoning the fries.

Dress and Bun
I like the top toasted bun which retained a nice smoky flavor.  The cheddar cheese ran like water.  Produce was decent, but shredded lettuce is only surpassed by wheat buns as far as burger sins go.

The Verdict
A nice restaurant with entirely mediocre food.  The fries were ruined, and the burger was low on flavor.  Pretty surprised to only pay $12 for a burger and fries at a restaurant this nice, but it seems in the end we got what we paid for.
3 Spurs




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks
Early September

NFL kickoff on a Thursday night. The guys were looking for TVs and beer.  Justin, Cameron, Grant, Ian and I headed to Twin Peaks for what was my first, and most likely last visit to Twin Peaks.

Service and Setting
Pretty packed for the NFL kickoff.  There are a lot of TVs.  I think there isn't a spot in the bar where you can see fewer than 2.  They also do that sports bar pro move of muting commercials for music.  I think just behind NFL punter, DJing for commercial breaks of football games is one of my dream jobs.  Service was actually very attentive and always ready for refills.

Menu
Bar food.  Several burger options.  Maybe I don't eat at enough chains, but I was surprised to see the calorie counts on the menu.  In case there was any doubt, I am sure I have not made a wise decision for my long term health by eating a minimum of one hamburger per week.

Beverage
Domestics on draft, with a few locals.  They boast a live thermometer reading of their keg line.  While I appreciate the cold 22oz beers, it kind of puts you in a designated driver no-man's land.  I can reliably have 2 pints over 2 hours at just about any bar and safely drive home.  The idea of drinking 44oz before getting behind the wheel was a risk I wasn't willing to take.

Sides
Closer to a steak-fry style with a good amount of potato fill.  They are stingy with the ketchup cup.  Still, a pretty good accompaniment.

Patty
An embarrassment on a bun.  This burger made me mad at food.  Why should I risk love-handles for something so bland and dry it could have its own Netflix original series?  They asked how I wanted it cooked as a mere formality; it arrived grey.

Dress and Bun
I got the avocado burger.  I think they put just the legal-minimum of avocado to maintain the name.  The arugula greens and tomato were no help.  The Swiss was fine.  A sun-dried tomato mayo did add a little bit of flavor.  The bum looked better than it tasted.

The Verdict
If you need a tall beer and 100 TVs, you can consider Twin Peaks.  If you need a burger, go anywhere else.



Monday, September 3, 2018

Chester's

Chester's
Labor day weekend

My friend Phil was in town from New Mexico and had a hankering for one of our mutual favorite burger spots.  He and I used to eat there when we worked together, and Chester's is a depot of many good memories of fries with friends.


Service and Setting
Located on several major access roads to San Antonio highways, you're never too far from a Chester's.  You order at the counter and pick up a few minutes later.  The beer is on display in a several door cooler behind the counter.  Employees have always been friendly on my visits.

Menu
1/3 lb griddle burgers are offered in multiples with options of bacon, chili and green chilis.  Fresh cut fries and onion rings  accompany your meat.  They also have options for ice cream and shakes.
I got a green chili burger once; I hope it was just a miscommunication because they served the chilis in a plastic container on the side.  Fish basket and grilled cheese are the only veg options.

Beverage
The bottled beer selection rivals that of Specs.  They have everything from ciders to porters, coming from California to Brussels.  I'll say the only problem is that you have to view it from 10ft away through a cooler door.  No pricing scheme I can figure out before you order it, and pretty difficult to read subtle differences between varieties offered from a single brewery at that distance.  Also, no glasses or mugs, so everything is imbibed out of the bottle.

Sides
Fresh cut french fries done right.  Nice and crispy that keep their potato flavor instead of just oil.  I had a hot dog on the side.  They slice it the long way and dress with onions, relish and mustard.  I had to ask for additional mustard.  I didn't taste like 100% beef which offends my Chicago roots.  It was fine.

Patty
1/3 lb fresh beef cooked on the griddle.  It is probably the only burger place that can actually make a medium-rare griddle burger.  Excellent griddle flavor with a good amount of juice.  Make it a double if you're hungry.

Dress and Bun
Their poppy seed bun is iconic.  Always fresh, always delicious.  Good produce and good pickle slices.

Geoff's take: "Hard to say it's on the same level as Big'z."

The Verdict
In reality, I should probably abstain from giving a rating given the sentimental over-valuation Chester's has for me.  Despite this, I'll put journalistic integrity aside for a reliable and friendly spot that I will alway associate with San Antonio.  5 spurs it is.






Friday, August 31, 2018

Feast

Mid August

Audrey and I headed to Southtown mostly for Boozys Ice Cream, and Feast seemed like a good warm-up for dessert.



Service and Setting
Situated on Alamo St in King William, Feast sits among several good dining options.  Parking can be difficult, but with all of those new scooters around, maybe it would be best to park far away and take a $2 scooter ride to dinner.  The restaurant is decked out with white tables and clear chairs with blue icicle lights in the trees.  It's a little tacky, but about as cool as things get in San Antonio.

Menu
Self-described mediterranean-inspired American.  It's small menu of small plates.  The last item on the menu is the burger.


Beverage
A hoight-toighty beer list with some unique options that appeal to a hipster like me.  Great national craft selections that can match about any taste.  A good and reasonably priced cocktail list as well.

Sides
Here's a picture of the eggplant croquettes which were delicious.  I guess I shouldn't call them a side-item per se, but we ate them immediately prior to the burger.  The fries were only decent, but the house-made ketchup was awesome.  Great tomato flavor with a little bit of heat on the back end.

Patty
Quarter pound patty offered in single and double options. A thin girdle patty of premium 44 Farms beef.  They boast 44 Farms Beef, and for good reason.  It had a great savory quality.  Juice level was appropriate, and mopped up by a generous bun.

Dress and Bun
At first glance, we were concerned this sesame coated, burnt potato bun would over power the burger beneath.  We were pleasantly proved wrong.  It was soft and fluffy and held up to the mess of the American cheese and burger juice.  The pickles were very good.  The house sauce was probably the weak point.  It was a bit of a strange sweet sauce.  Probably like the Szechuan sauce popularized by Rick and Morty.  There are monster strips of bacon barely contained by the plate.  The pickles and cheese were generous and rounded out the flavor profile well.

The Verdict
Feast does just about everything well, and the burger is no exception.  A super-savory burger that even goes well after tuna tartare or eggplant croquets or whatever high-class small plate preceded it.  I would recommend ordering it without the house sauce.  A very respectable 4 out of 5 spurs.




Sunday, August 26, 2018

Topgolf

Mid August

One of the reps at work threw an event for a work milestone, and invited a bunch of us for happy hour at Topgolf.  Audrey and I went for some free food, free drinks, and they didn't even charge for the frustration of proving my inadequacy with a golf club.  So put on your funny pants and privilege, we're taking a swing at some golf metaphors for food blogging.


Service and Setting
Easily visible from the I-10 - 1604 interchange, Topgolf is a national chain of high end driving ranges that caters well to groups.  Golf clubs are already at your bay which have TVs, a table or couch, food and drink service and unlimited balls dispensed from a divider between bays.  It's pretty low effort and low stress and I think golfers and non-golfers alike tend to enjoy the activity.  Ordering food and drink at your table is essentially the same as at a restaurant.  It is outdoors, but there is plenty of shade and high powered fans to cool things off.  Parking is kind of a mess.

Menu
I'd compare it to a poor man's TGI Friday's.  They have nachos, wings, pizzas, and burgers.  They do that hip-ifying thing where every food gets a one-off.  Sliders outnumber burgers, wings are boneless, pizzas become flatbreads.  I feel cooler having eaten there.

Beverage
I am not a golfer, but to me it seems that drinking is an imperative for the enjoyment of the sport.  This observation is not lost on Topgolf management.  There is equal menu space for alcohol and food.  The beer list has just about every national domestic, and a few local options.  They have elaborate punch bowls and a full bar as well.

Sides
Fries and tots with Heinz ketchup.  Fries had pretty good flavor with equal crisp to filling ratio.  Tots are for mini-golfers.

Patty
I ordered the classic burger medium-rare.  They even put an official looking flag in the bun to confirm my doneness.  The patty was like a smile is at a country club - for appearances only.  The taste was a hard slice into the rough - entirely devoid of flavor.  The kitchen stumbled into a water-hazard with the only moistness in the burger coming from whatever icicles and frost from the freezer melted back into the burger.  I have had better veggie-burgers.

Dress and Bun
The bun was about the only positive aspect of the burger.  Nice egg-finish to give it eye appeal.  I have no qualms about the cheddar cheese either.  They left the green for the astroturf as the lettuce was only white with brown spots.  I would go on, but it's clear this burger is not redeeming itself with tomato or pickles.

Audrey's take "Give me the nachos back."

The Verdict
I have had an internal struggle about reviewing this burger.  Not on its grade, it was far and away the worst burger I have eaten since beginning this project.  The question is whether the burger is under-par or over-par?  Sticking with the golf analogies, it should be a double-bogey, but if I'm comparing it to other burgers, it's sub-par.  English is tricky sometimes.  Anyway, the activity is fun, the beer is good, and the nachos were better than decent, but the burger is a sand-trap of disappointment. Our first 1-spur burger.