Since opening in 2003, The Tasting Room has morphed from a wine bar to a full-service restaurant with four locations—all while retaining its wine-bar charm and racking up numerous awards and accolades. Diners can select libations from a list that boasts more than 200 wines, pairing them with contemporary dishes whipped up by executive chef Jonathan LeBlanc. TTR offerings run the gamut from small plates of mini grilled sandwiches and classic bruschetta to entrees including creole-spiced quail and Jamaican jerk chicken breast, which diners can savor at windowside tables or on the plant-ensconced patio and garden area.
The eatery doesn't just sate hunger for eclectic classics and thirst for fermented grapes. It also hosts live music, meetings, and events such as 2011's Grapes vs. Grains, which pitted beer against wine in a liquid wrestling match. The owners have their hands in other culinary enterprises, too. There's the Houston Cellar Classic, for example, an annual celebration of food and wine. Also popular is MAX's Wine Dive, a destination for gourmet comfort food best defined by its slogan—"Fried chicken and champagne? ... Why the hell not?"
Visitors to Aspen's Brew might forget they're inside a coffee shop at all, as the family-owned cafe cultivates an ambiance of low-key comfort reminiscent of a classic, all-American living room. Guests can admire and purchase the unique artwork on the walls while lounging on the couch, kick back with the morning paper on an upholstered grandfather chair, or handwrite their emails at one of the wooden tables. As the morning sun gradually suffuses the cozy space with natural light, baristas rustle up six award-winning micro-roasted brews from Dillanos Coffee Roasters while the on-site bakers usher out scones, muffins, croissants, and cinnamon rolls. To add even more homeyness to the mix, they also serve up bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and squares of Grandma's coffee cake, a from-scratch pastry that comes from a secret recipe whispered between generations during games of Telephone at family reunions. In the afternoon, the kitchen staffers keep the hospitality coming with fresh, made-to-order sandwiches and paninis, as well as homemade soups, specialty coffee drinks, and desserts such as carrot cake and brownies.
The folks at Aspen's Brew also cater this down-home cafe fare for events, whether for morning meetings, lunch, or afternoon gatherings. To ensure these special occasions go off without a hitch, they deliver anywhere in the greater San Antonio area.
Bacon-covered burgers, chili-cheese-soaked fries, turkey-stacked sandwiches, syrup-slathered pancakes, and meat-melded comfort food dance across the pages of Norma's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu. Welcome the sun back to its rightful place atop the sky's throne with a three-egg Spanish omelet (with onions, bell peppers, cheese, and salsa; $5.50). Or ease into the evening with chicken-fried steak ($6.95), which is "as big as the plate it’s served on, and with a good, crunchy crust," according to D magazine. But Norma's real forte is her thick slices of mile-high cream or fruit pie; some say they're the best this side of the Mason-Dixon Line (there is one better pie directly on the Mason-Dixon line, but it's covered with bees).
Shore Club Restaurant & Bar serves up both gourmet food from the land and sea and a picturesque view of Volente Beach at Lake Travis. While staring out at the rippling water, diners devour Texas rib-eye steaks of marbled Angus beef and black-and-blue bacon burgers. From the sea comes barbecue bacon-wrapped shrimp—stuffed with jalapeños and glazed with Myers Rum barbecue sauce—as well as lobster mac 'n' cheese with lobster claw meat sautéed in spiced coconut oil.
Shore Club Restaurant & Bar encourages folks to come in for a full meal in the restaurant or a quick bite at the bar in between jaunts to Shore Club Volente Beach's sprawling water park. After a day out on the water, many diners head to the bar's outdoor patio to sip cocktails and toast to not running into any krakens.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.
For 30 years, the skilled bakers of Cox's Bakery have provided customers with a massive variety of cakes, cupcakes, donuts, and baked goods. Their custom decorations artfully spruce up any birthday party as cakes sport designs of bands, cartoon characters, and landscapes. Cupcakes sport mounds of colored frosting and sprinkles, while a variety of donuts include éclairs, fritters, and maple bars. Other items include brownies, cookies, and bread pudding.