Hailed by the San Antonio Current as being ?far too good to remain a local secret? thanks to a menu featuring ?some of the best New Orleans food this side of the French Quarter,? Mike's in the Village delights palates with the culinary traditions of Louisiana. New Orleans native Chef Michael Romano painstakingly transformed the space?a one-time bowling alley?into ?an attractive, low-key restaurant? whose charm is bolstered by ?tasteful decor [that] includes regional paintings by Buzz Heye?, an ?inviting bar,? and a ?welcoming patio? that doubles as a no-fly zone for sun-obscuring clouds. Within the restaurant?s bustling kitchen, Chef Michael and his team can be found deploying traditional recipes to forge zing-infused dishes such as New Orleans?style barbecue shrimp, crawfish ?touff?e, and chicken and sausage gumbo.
Albert Friedrich poured the first foamer at The Buckhorn Saloon in 1881. Early in his bartending days, Friedrich began accepting horns and antlers in exchange for whiskey and beer, leading to a unique collection now exhibited in The Buckhorn Museum. The historic tavern claims that Teddy Roosevelt once recruited Rough Riders from among its patrons, and it is also rumored as the place where Pancho Villa plotted the Mexican Revolution. An original handcrafted marble-and-cherry-wood back bar and other historic furnishings still reside in the saloon, where guests now swig locally brewed beers and challenge each other to taser duels. Visitors come face to face with the taxidermal heads and other artifacts from more than 520 species, including a 1,056-pound black marlin and a prehistoric irish-elk skull and antlers. The museum also lays claims to a preserved whitetail deer and the rattlesnake rattle artwork of Friedrich’s wife, which guests can show to their own pet snakes as a cautionary example of what happens to misbehaving reptiles.
Adjacent to The Buckhorn Museum, The Texas Ranger Museum houses Texas Ranger paraphernalia such as sawed-off shotguns, badges, and photographs. At Ranger Town, young whippersnappers delight in glimpses of life during turn-of-the-century San Antonio, as depicted by a re-created jail, smith, and telegraph office, as well as the Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, where a '34 Ford V8 Deluxe sits anxiously awaiting its next adventure. On their way out, visitors can drop in at a museum gift shop that traces its own origins to 1920, when it was a curios store.
Smashburger isn't just the name?it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden, which rests on 38 acres, not only dazzles visitors with bright sunflowers and roses, aquatic plants, and a glass display case filled with orchids, but it also teaches them about the local and world flora with informative exhibits. Four large, formal beds showcase seasonally rotating displays, and the Texas Native Trail features representative species from Hill Country, East Texas Piney Woods, and South Texas. Encompassing a wider array of biomes, the Lucile Halsell Conservatory boasts collections of tropical fruits and desert cacti housed within glass buildings that surround the sunken tropical lagoon.
Aside from these exhibits, the botanical garden also hosts summer-camp sessions, school-group programs, and classes for adults as well as children. These programs include lectures and hands-on lessons that discuss local plants and which garden insects are helpful and which are harmful.
Since 1993, the guffaws emanating from the Rivercenter Comedy Club have been sending ripples coursing through the waters by the River Walk. Located on the third level of the Rivercenter Mall, the recently renovated club keeps its calendar stuffed with nightly showcases by nationally recognized headliners and up-and-coming local jokesters. Past years have seen the likes of Carlos Mencia, Drew Carey, Jeff Dunham, and Chris Rock on the Showroom stage. Nightly shows at 8:30 p.m. and late shows on weekends increase the odds of catching the next rising star. All comedy shows require a two-item minimum, which can be used toward appetizers, entrees, and specialty cocktails from the club’s menu. The club will validate three hours of free parking at either of Rivercenter Mall's garages or heliports.
The low-hanging branches of southern live oak trees stretch out over the house and pavilion areas at Don Strange Ranch, dappling parties, weddings, and corporate team gatherings with splashes of sunlight. Since 1952, the 125-acre longhorn ranch in the Texas Hill Country has hosted myriad events, including scenes from the PBS music documentary series Live from the Artists Den and the wedding of country music stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.
More than just a picturesque backdrop, the ranch?s rugged natural surroundings host outdoor activities such as ropes courses and kayak trips down the Guadalupe River. And the friendly staffers who man 350- to 400-foot ziplines work to ease guests out of their comfort zones, like a mother bird pushing her young out of the nest for their first extreme base-jumping lesson.