Ocho — Oh So Beautiful!

Fellow blogger, Shannon Ahern, recently posted a wonderful article about the new Ocho Lounge at the Hotel Havana.

Based on her story, we just had to pay a visit. The scene is absolutely delightful. The architecture is its own form of entertainment and the views to the River Walk below are fantastic. With cooler weather, it will be a wonderful walk along the newer stretch of the San Antonio River Walk from The Pearl to Ocho for a scrumptious brunch.

Their menu is inspired by Cuban and Latin Cuisines. Our little group of foodies definitely voted top awards for their breakfast items. Our favs were:

The TOASTED JO’S BANANA BREAD with Chunky Peanut Butter, Sliced Banana and Honey. (I asked for the peanut butter on the side 🙂 ) The banana bread was toasted on a griddle and had honey spread on top. The recipe came from their other restaurant, Jo’s Coffee, on the Hotel San Jose property in Austin. Absolutely scrumptious, and…

The SWEET PLANTAIN GRIDDLE CAKES ($14) with Mexican Crema, Blueberries and Maple Syrup. We had to exceed our $10 limit on this item because it was soooo worth the mention! You’ll taste the flavor of the plantains in these griddle cakes and the Mexican crema is made in-house. Oh, how I love FRESH! To top them off, the blueberries are marinated in agave nectar.

Andy Erdmann, the Food and Beverage Manager of the Lounge, said you certainly don’t have to be a Hotel Havana guest to stop by their restaurant. All Ocho guests are special guests!

Be sure to read Shannon’s blog, at The Long Table,  for more details and a great interior picture. This is definitely a YES place for breakfast (especially for the sweet items) when you are ready for a leisurely treat. They are actually open long hours and their All-Day Menu is intriguing.

Ocho Lounge at The Havana Hotel – 1015 Navarro St., San Antonio


Honoring A Bit of San Antonio Dining History

Featuring locally owned restaurants is our specialty. We love focusing on the epicurean entrepreneurs — the owners and their families — who dig deeply into their daily existence to serve fresh food every day their way.

A slice of  San Antonio entrepreneurial history can be found at Earl Abel’s Restaurant on the Austin Highway.   We recently came across this video the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce produced because Earl Abel’s Restaurant has been a participating member since 1933! We could tell you wonderful things about the faithful staff and great food at Earl Abel’s, but the video says it all. Simply click on the picture below and enjoy!

Congratulations to Roger Arias and the great staff at Earl Abel’s!


Food Truck Throw Down This Weekend

Food Truck Foodies unite!  It’s a “Food Truck Throw Down” this Friday through Sunday in San Antonio  (July 29th – 31st) at  Boardwalk on Bulverde (preferred haunt of the Rickshaw Stop)!   All food is affordable and the entertainment won’t stop. We hear that 28 food trucks from all over the state will be there with cuisines as varied as the towns in Texas.

Here are a few of the regular food trucks at Boardwalk on Bulverde.

K-Hill BBQ

Rickshaw Stop

KC’s Cones

Watch for the Duk Truck (random rotating cuisine), Guilty Pleasures (comfort food) and Tapa Tapa (small plates, but especially fresh fruit with pop rocks) along with many others.

If you fall in love with Boardwalk on Bulverde, return for “family-friendly fun,” on Kid’s Movie Night each Thursday this summer. Friday and Saturday evenings include a DJ who brings the kids in on the musical fun, too.

To Boardwalk on Bulverde

(click on map for full view)

*We recommend: 1) Evenings in the summer month, and 2) Sample a little of everything!


Will This be Your First, First Friday?

What’s First Friday? Think  FUN, FOOD, FRIENDLY and FABULOUS.  The first Friday of the month is a Southtown fav for area foodies who want to spark up their night life with extra food choices, events, people and traffic. Okay, the traffic doesn’t sound too exciting, but it comes with the package.

Map of SouthTown - south of downtown San Antonio

Granted, First Friday’s original focus was art exhibits in the area, but our focus  is FOOD and many San Antonio Southtown restaurants participate in First Friday. Why not??

Knowing Frank’s Hog Stand has a unique venue, as the world’s first ride-in restaurant, we decided to check in with them to see what they have going on. Naturally, they’ll have live music starting at about 7:30, featuring Bear Fax. This is a big biker night, too, so you weekend bikers can cruise on over and compare your wheels.

Not a biker? No prob. Believe it or not this is a family friendly spot with yummy food in hearty portions. In fact, they’re offering up Blue Bell ice cream cones for 50 cents each this summer. Naturally, I had to sample a strawberry cone, just to be sure I could recommend it with authority. 

New manager, Samantha Solis, is making things happen over there. Even in the middle of a weekday afternoon, guests were pouring in — a good testimony about any restaurant. The always friendly staff surely has something to do with that, though the continuously playing ’50’s music adds to the fun.

While there, Samantha and I set up some great new $5 Deals for the next few months. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook to snatch up these bargains each day.

Frank’s is already offering incredible weekday lunch deals for $6.99. Any weekday, you can order up a shrimp poorboy, mushroom-swiss burger, country fried steak, two hot dogs, chicken fajita salad and more. All come with a side and a drink! I assure you, you won’t leave hungry.

New Manager, Samantha Solis

Can you picture yourself there yet? Good food. Good fun. Good location. Friendly folks.

And, if you’re ready for your first, First Friday, Frank’s Hog Stand is worth the trip. More pics of their “First Friday” events can be found in their Facebook photos.

Other Southtown restaurants include MadHatter’s Tea House and Cafe and Taco Haven Mexican Restaurant.

Happy Dining!

Cyndy Bartelli

Tilapia Dinner w/ Homemade Cole Slaw

The Revival of a South Town Diner

Frank Arevalo at Frank's Hog Stand

When area businessman, Frank Arevalo, decided to “reincarnate” the historic Pig Stand on South Presa, his inspiration came from a connection between the Pig Stand and creating a local dining destination for “Hogs”. Hence, the new Frank’s Hog Stand. For those unfamiliar with the label, a Hog is a nickname for a motorcyclist — particularly a Harley Davidson biker.

Awesome Shakes & Splits

Another underlying motivation for Frank’s new venture may stem from fond childhood memories of creatively earning change for his next Pig Stand milkshake. These efforts for his beloved milkshakes may have birthed the entrepreneurial spirit in him and ultimately resulted in the revival of this great shake and malt diner!

Bring your bicycle or motorcycle

The new Hog friendly eatery is the perfect spot for South Town motorcyclists and bicyclists to pull up to one of the cozy outdoor tables (designed specifically for bikers of all kinds) and order up one of those famous shakes from the past.

The original Pig Stand, noted as the World’s First Drive In, has the new tag of World’s First Ride In. Its appeal to recreational bikers extends to families and area business people as well. After all, who can pass up a Hog Heaven Appetizer Platter or a Heavy Throttle One Pound Burger?

One pound Angus burger

We had the privilege of sampling a number of items while shooting photos for the $5 Dining website. Known for their burgers, shakes and banana splits (all awesome) I’ll throw in my vote for the pork chop dinner,

Pork Chop Dinner

too! This two chop plate has crunchily crusted chops with sautéed onions and mushrooms crowning the feast. The mashed potatoes had a few little lumps for authenticity. Mmm. Since it’s all made fresh to order, be sure to count on a few extra minutes preparation time.

First Fridays are especially eventful at the Hog Stand and, thanks to its proximity to downtown S.A., there are plenty of special events in the works for the future! We’ll be tweeting the news as it happens!

With manager, Jerry Torres (of  the Taco Haven Torres family), visitors can count on good service and an efficiently run operation. Be sure to let Jerry know about your experience and give him a “hello” on your next visit. 

6 yr old Ella

“I thought the chicken tender kid’s meal with curly fries, was really good. The chicken was crunchy. I like that. The curly fries were awesome and really curly. They were a little spicy, so if kids don’t want spicy they can order regular fries.  They gave me a shake, too. I thought I was going to faint cuz it was so good!”         Ella


Excited about shake


Their 40′ Pit Makes the Magic Happen

I just spent the good part of an afternoon with Tanya Ollerbidez, at The Smokehouse in San Antonio.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure that I’m not dreaming about this awesome job I have. Could it be considered “work” when I sit and chat with restaurant owners for a while, sample their great food and then have the privilege of telling their stories to all of you? This ain’t bad!

Tanya Ollerbidez

The meteoric success of this little smokehouse is definitely a story worth telling. In 2004, Tanya’s enterprising father heard of the availability of this BBQ location and grabbed the opportunity — provided Tanya was available to bring her extensive restaurant experience to  manage it. Within four short years (with long work days), The Smokehouse was noted by Texas Monthly Magazine as one of the “Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas”. By that time, they’d also received numerous other accolades including, “The Critics Choice Award for Top BBQ” and “Best BBQ” by San Antonio Magazine.

40' Indoor Pit

Tanya says the secret lies in that 40′ indoor pit you’ll see when you place your order. Larry James (a 40 yr smokin’ veteran), rubs their meats with a special mix that only they know about and then smoke each piece for 24 hours in Mesquite. The result — BBQ magic.

Their extensive menu includes the traditional chicken, short ribs, spare ribs, turkey breast, sausage and brisket. However, they also smoke huge turkey legs and lamb ribs daily. Everything I tasted was great. The rib meat fell off the bone, the smoked turkey leg was awesome and the chopped burger (brisket) was a sauce lover’s fantasy come true. However, I woke up this morning thinking one word — BRISKET!!!

Brisket & Pork Ribs $8.30

I’m talking about pure undefiled sliced BRISKET.  Do I dare say it? Don’t even put the sauce on it ’til you’ve taken your first bite. The secret rub and the mesquite flavor are outstanding on their own. Cast your sauce vote after savoring a bite or two.

All sides are made fresh every day and I’m throwin’ in my hat for the Spanish rice. LOVE IT.

Conveniently located near the AT & T Center, once you’ve discovered The Smokehouse you’ll want to pop on by before a SPURS game or on your way to the next big event.

Irresistible Assortment

Celebrate San Antonio

Texas' Largest!

We’ve always loved San Antonio, and one of the many things we’re crazy about  is the great fun you can have on any budget. It’s a beautiful place to visit — especially this time of year! If you’re really adventurous you’ll make plans to attend the biggest annual New Year’s celebration (that’s FREE) in Texas! Here’s the scoop:

Ticket Cost: FREE
Location: 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way, San Antonio, TX 78205
Link: http://www.celebratesa.org
Times: 6:00 PM – 12:30 AM
Phone: 210-212-8423
Event Date: Friday, December 31, 2010

Celebrate San Antonio

This event has something for everyone. The huge downtown fiesta begins on S. Alamo Street between Market and Durango and throughout historic La Villita. Admission is free and festivities continue until 12:30 a.m. The highlight is the countdown to midnight and the spectacular Fireworks Extravaganza showcasing the Tower of the Americas.

This is a great way to usher in the new year. Organizers stress that it is family friendly, with a focus on good entertainment and safety.

Not interested in a big party? We would be remiss not to mention the great food and wonderful service at our $5 and $10 Dining restaurants in San Antonio.

However you plan to spend your big weekend, we hope that you and your family will have a fun and safe celebration, and that your New Year will be prosperous and blessed.

Happy New Year

The $5Dining & $10Dining Team