Late January, I jumped at an opportunity. February 1st, I changed jobs. Went from working in the rather-happening downtown San Antonio area to taking the back roads to my new job out in Helotes. Quite a bit of a change; traded in my slacks and heels for boots and jeans. As it turns out, I also had to say goodbye to all of my favorite downtown eateries. Over three years of being spoiled by great restaurants (most within walking distance) filled with variety, culture, flavor and scene. I knew I would miss them, and I sure do. However, I probably have saved more money and calories by not having them so close by!
Although, Helotes isn’t lacking on their restaurant spots either. Other than El Chapparal, nothing really stands out on my trusty Yelp. But I’m sure there will be a Top 5 post in the future regarding this area!
In the few months I have been away from my old office, downtown, I have come to crave a few spots. So much so that I decided this post must happen.
Yeah a simple little sandwich shop tops this list. You’ll probably spend around $8 for a sandwich combo, but they make it worth it. They have countless options, healthy and the less healthy for your choosing. My favorite: the chicken salad sandwich on wheat chibatta topped with black beans, corn, pico and chipotle mayo. And then to make it a combo instead of a side and chips, I did make it a double-side-salad with avocado, black beans, corn, pico, sometimes a hard-boiled egg, and topped with jalapeno ranch dressing. *Served with lemonade of course. Seriously so much love for this lunch combo. And they have big salads and wraps too. To top it all off, I’d get it to go and meet up with my best friend, Lana, at the tables outside of the Vision Works building to enjoy the fresh air while we ate.
Well another spot Lana and I frequented. Stella has been a fave of mine since they opened. Located in the Blue Star Brewery area of Southtown, this place is beyond cool. I would love to sit in there for a couple hours with my laptop just to enjoy their vibe.
They have a lunch special that includes a pizza and salad for $10. First off, I don’t say this often, but their salad is bomb. Perhaps my favorite salad ever. Kalamata olives, shredded carrots, sliced red onion and a maple balsamic dressing served over a bed of spinach. Mmmm so hungry for that right now. And then this paired with a pizza. Their pizza selection is terrific. You can stay in your comfort zone or venture out. The Wild Mushroom is a favorite and when I’m feeling crazy, I go for the Bee Sting with serrano peppers and drizzled with honey. Weird but yummy. Outside of work hours, I have enjoyed their beer and wine selection. They are constantly switching things out and did I mention they try to be as local as possible. Bonus!
On beautiful days, I loved to take my book, get a table on the patio, order up the mole enchiladas, chalupas compuestas or the citrus salad and munch on chips and roasted salsa as I paged through my book. Rosario’s off of St. Mary’s is fabulous, but Acenar owned by the same people (last I knew) is practically identical, just within walking distance from my old building. Acenar is on the river walk but can also be accessed off of Houston street by the Valencia hotel. My only complaint about Acenar is the dang birds. If they see you on the patio, they are likely to come and harass you for your chip crumbs. Freaks me out, but I love the atmosphere so much I continued to go back anyway.
Confession: I have only been to The Clean Plate twice. But I was so impressed by it, that it made the list. Simple and unassuming looking from both outside and in, I was blown away by the flavor. The Clean Plate will run you a couple more bucks than the others on this list, but they pride themselves in using fresh ingredients sourced locally. From what I remember, their menu changes seasonally.
The burger I had was tremendous. Flavor beef from 44 Farms. Funny thing is I have been to a bull sale at 44 Farms. I have always loved that place going back to my days working with the Beef Cattle Short Course. Anyhow, super burger. The fish tacos were fresh and memorable, which isn’t common with fish tacos. Normally you get a couple chunks of fish that is totally void of flavor and furthermore covered up by a seasoned mayo that is meh. But not with these bad boys. And surprisingly, their chips and salsa are extremely satisfying.
Picking #5 for me was a hard one. So many good choices. But I went with what I visited most frequently out of the remaining 3 places on my list. Zinc was another good place to visit when the weather was lovely out. They have the cutest patio and if you don’t mind a little sun, it is perfect. They have super pizzas and burgers too. And three words: sweet potato fries. Also for those of you fellow Catholics, they have a Portabello Patty Melt that is superb. All-in-all, this is a little fancier, a little more on the white tablecloth dining level, but they have a great lunch menu that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
- South Alamode – 1420 S Alamo St (paninis & gelato, what more to say?)
- Smoke Shack – 3714 Broadway (bbq… you need to go)
Sooner rather than later, I’ll have to find myself downtown again to visit these favorites. Lunches at these restaurants, my trips over to St. Mary’s for noon mass, my runs on the river walk and being able to go on walks with friends have me missing my 45 hours/week downtown. But then I drive to work and hit zero traffic and the feeling dissipates. Looking forward to finding Helotes favorites!