The Flavor of the Neighborhood - Blue Star

by Dan Radcliff

Where the “cool” started. The idea of turning an old warehouse into art galleries, condos, restaurants and retail stores was unheard of in 1986, when the Blue Star Art Space first opened. Now, a development isn’t considered cool and trendy without mixed-use. The Blue Star remains a food and entertainment destination, with art galleries, handmade retail stores, and restaurants. In keeping with my motto, “Eat where you live,” you can walk down S. Alamo Street to Blue Star and have a nice night out at these places.

South Alamode Panini and Gelato Company. I live with a tough gelato critic, who once ate 1-euro scoops of nocciola gelato every day after Italian lessons in Florence. She says the nocciola gelato – that’s hazelnut ice cream for those of us who haven’t had Italian lessons – at South Alamode is just as good, but it costs more than 1euro. South Alamode small batch recipes sell out quickly, so don’t get too attached to one flavor – like nocciola and someone I know. They have panini on offer, too. The Havanese panini—it’s as if an Italian immigrant to Miami made a Cub an-press for their family back home: prosciutto and porchetta instead of the ham and salami, fontina cheese instead of the swiss. For a vegetarian, the Luigi is pretty darn good: grilled portabella mushroom, roasted red pepper, smoked goat cheese, with arugula dancing all around. Heck, even meat eaters would like this flavor-packed little number.

Wednesday-Sunday, noon-10pm, closed Monday and Tuesday. southalamode.com

Halcyon Southtown. Halcyon is a mythical, idyllic and peaceful time in the past. Halcyon coffee is mythical, and morning coffee on the deck overlooking the San Antonio River, watching the neighborhood wake up, is about as idyllic and peaceful as you can get. Halcyon has more than just coffee, Chicken and Waffles with a side of bacon will put you in idyllic, peaceful food coma. You could spend all day here, which many do on their computers.

Monday-Saturday, 7am-2am; Sunday, 8am-2am. halcyoncoffeebar.com

Stella Public House. Wood fired pizzas, salads, desserts and locally crafted beer is what you get at Stella. The Burrata Board with creamy hand-made mozzarella, marcono almonds, balsamic fig compote, and honeycomb comes with flatbread fresh from the wood fired oven – a pretty darn good appetizer. They have some creative pizza recipes, such as the Bee Sting, made of soppressata (aka dried salami), serrano chili, and honey.   

Monday-Wednesday, 11am-10pm, Thursday, 11am-11pm, Friday-Sunday, 10am-midnight. stellapublichouse.com

Sukeban. This sushi and champagne bar invites you to the world of manga, anime and samurai. Pairing sushi, nigiri, sashimi and tempura with champagne works for me, but if you’re a real traditionalist, they have sake. If you think sashimi is a foreign word for “bait,” try the chicken or rib-eye teriyaki: good flavor, filling, includes rice and salad. Bubbly champagne is totally refreshing on a hot day. The scallop nigiri, delicate slices of tender scallop, each topped with a single, thinly sliced sliver of lime, was equally refreshing.

Tuesday-Sunday,3pm-10pm; closed Monday. sukebansa.com

Blue Star Brewing Co. You can’t beat a burger and a beer from Blue Star. The Bacon Cheddar Burger, a side of fries, and a pale ale keeps me full and happy. The outdoor deck keeps the dog Qasper happy, although the waiter had to improvise on a dog bowl for water. There are other interesting-looking things on the menu, but really, does anyone get anything other than a burger and a beer?

Sunday-Monday, 11am-9pm, Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday, 11am-1:45am. bluestarbrewing.com

On Thursday, August 2, Mockingbird Handprints is hosting an art opening with a local artist, Shea Youngblood, who has several plein air paintings of the neighborhood. Walk on down, grab a bite to eat, go to a gallery, and you’ll see that the Blue Star has still “got the cool.”

Albert Smith and his co-owners are not new to their location at 1035 S. Presa St.  In 2008, they opened Bubblehead there and subsequently sold it.  When Albert and his wife, Sara Smith, along with Urban Pradipasena and his wife, Kristine Vu, learned that the location was again available, they were eager to open a Thai restaurant.  

In the November 1944 edition of The Vegan News - which coined the term “vegan” itself - animal rights advocate Donald Watson wrote, “we agree that to eliminate all dairy produce creates personal difficulties which vary in magnitude from one individual to another.” Regardless of the personal difficulty you see in giving up meat or dairy products, we highly recommend the vegan fare at Señor Veggie on S. Presa St.

While we try to limit meat in our diet, your reviewers appreciate good Texas barbeque and the occasional cheeseburger. We also appreciate any type of good food, and Señor Veggie does their vegetables and braised wheat glutens proud. Señor Veggie is not just good for a vegan restaurant, but really has become a good, sanely-priced restaurant - something that we desperately need in the greater Southtown area when the fridge runs low on a Wednesday night.

Sitting at Liberty Bar for our official review visit recently (as the restaurant closest to our house, we’ve made...many visits), we tried to decide what kind of restaurant it is. American? The puntas norteñas contradicts that. New American? The pot roast sandwich disagrees. Well, it’s a bar, right? Part of it.

Our answer came from the omniscient Google on the iPhone: “Eclectic Restaurant.” Ah, bingo.

We return for our second edition of “Savoring Southtown” with a restaurant that we’d review every month, if we could. Since moving to San Antonio three years ago, Feast has been one of our favorite places. Nevertheless, we’ll do our best to remain unbiased. (Even your favorite haunt can slip up or loosen its standards.)

Keeping the strictest journalistic standards in mind, Feast is still the bee’s knees. We sat inside on a chilly evening, puzzling over pieces of the funky decor. Feast is certainly loud inside, but that’s just a good reason to scoot in closer to your dining partner.

Welcome to our first restaurant review for the newsletter (or for any public forum)! Your correspondents are young foodies, but pretty much will eat anything and find as much joy in taco trucks as we do in upscale sushi restaurants. Recently we paid our first visit to Starfish, the creation of Diego Fernandez, and one of the newest places in the hood.

Starfish welcomes patrons with an inviting vibe and decor. Impressive jellyfish chandeliers cast a warm light, and the space hits all the right notes of the contemporary, upscale, but jeans-are-totally-cool restaurant. Staff welcomed us immediately and sat us at one of the few open tables. We were pleased to see such a boisterous crowd on a late Thursday evening. The restaurant can be loud, though the amount of wine flowing at neighboring tables plays a factor in total volume.

The waitstaff at Starfish are very good. Don’t swing by here if you’re looking for a quick bite, or if you’re leaving the house at 7:00 and must make an 8:00 curtain at the Majestic. We worked through our cocktails and a tray of bread before our vegetable escabeche appetizer arrived. The kitchen is currently promoting a “fall menu,” and we were glad to see generally in-season vegetables on the opening dish. Red, white and yellow sauces (that were not ketchup, mustard and mayo) complemented brussel sprouts, radishes, carrots and cauliflower.