Madison Square Park is definitely off the beaten track. Nestled in downtown San Antonio near the Baptist Medical Center, this 5-acre park doesn’t have the visibility of other downtown parks, like Travis and Milam. I predict it won’t be on the lowdown for very long, though. Madison Square Park has something for everyone: walking trails, a children’s playground, fitness equipment, picnic tables and a dog park.
On the day I was there, some park visitors sat on benches, enjoying the beautiful day. A mom and dad pushed a stroller carrying their child. Kids played on the playground. Dogs frolicked while their owners chatted. One of the dog owners lives in the adjacent Cadillac Lofts across Dallas Street. She said the dog park gets packed after 5 p.m. with downtown dwellers and their pooches.
Just across Camden Street is Madison Square Presbyterian Church, which has overlooked the park since 1882. The church’s Gothic Revival architecture stands out among the more modern buildings nearby. According to the historical marker in front, the church helped Trinity University move from Waxahachie to San Antonio in 1942. Madison Square Presbyterian Church’s mission is to be “a community that is open and welcoming to all people, without regard for nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.”
Madison Square Park, within walking distance of the Interstate 35/McCullough at Quincy Starbucks, is located at 400 Lexington. On VIA’s #7 Sightseer Special route, it’s open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily. Grab a cup of coffee before heading over to the park to sit, sip and watch the world go by.
El Milagrito, a Tex-Mex restaurant located at 521 E. Woodlawn at St. Mary’s, has been open since 1969, 10 years before I settled in the Alamo City. I started going to El Milagrito while I was a student at nearby Trinity University. The inexpensive food was a draw, but the real reason I went to El Milagrito was to be waited on by Gilbert, the owner’s son, who had more tattoos than I had ever seen. Gilbert never met a stranger. Before he’d take your order, he’d look you in the eye with a twinkle in his and say, “Lookin’ good!”
Though Gilbert stopped working at the restaurant after his parents sold it to a family from Monterrey, his presence remains. A portrait of Gilbert hangs on the wall, and it’s a nice reminder of his charming self. Rumor has it that he now works at an auto supply store on Rittiman Road, so I’m going to drop in one day.
These days, I head to El Milagrito after my Zumba class at the TriPoint YMCA. I pick up bean and rice tacos on corn tortillas to eat at home. The tacos come with a green salsa that is more typical of northern Mexico. I prefer a red salsa, so the new owner is nice about switching it out. Two tacos set me back $3 and hit the spot. More proof that San Antonio is a great city.
The $5.99 daily specials are further proof: Huevos Rancheros with a Pork Chop or a Chilaquiles Plate, both served with coffee, for breakfast; and Chicken Mole or Chicken Mole Enchiladas, both served with tea, for lunch. If that doesn’t suit you, El Milagrito’s menu is extensive. (Click on the pages to enlarge.) You’re bound to find something you’d like. I didn’t realize El Milagrito served hamburgers until I did reporting for this post. They looked yummy.
Those eating at El Milagrito may dine indoors or out. Indoors contains some of the best gumball and ball machines in San Antonio. Bring quarters! Plus, colorful art by Naomi Leissner brightens the walls. Outdoors boasts a covered patio where you can watch the world go by on St. Mary’s Street.
El Milagrito is open seven days a week. Their Monday through Saturday schedule is 5:30 a.m. until 2:45 p.m., and their Sunday schedule is 7 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. Call (210) 737-8464 to place a to-go order.
To perk up a dreary day, I met a friend at Ocho, Hotel Havana’s pan-Latin restaurant. Ocho doesn’t host a Happy Hour, but we didn’t let that stop us.
Sitting in a glass-enclosed sunroom that overlooks the San Antonio River Walk, we ordered mojitos, traditional Cuban highballs, and dreamed of white sand beaches and sparkling blue water. Not really, but in hindsight, it seems like we should have. The lime juice, rum and mint were just what we needed to beat back the weather blahs. We sipped and caught up on the latest in our lives.
After taking a look at the menu, we decided to order the Huitlacoche Quesadillas with avocados and poblano sauce along with a couple of Shiner Bocks. The quesadillas arrived, and we dove in. They were absolutely delicious, and we practically licked the plate clean. If I’d known they were made of corn smut, I’m not sure that I would have ordered them. Some things are better left unknown. Don’t let this revelation dissuade you, though. I would order them again. However, first I want to give breakfast a whirl. Texas Monthly voted Ocho’s as one of the best in the state.
Hotel Havana is one of Liz Lambert’s Bunkhouse hotels that have been featured in The New York Times. My husband and I took a look-see around Lambert’s Marfa spread, El Cosmico, not too long ago, and we liked what we saw.
Ocho is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
My love affair with San Antonio began in 1968 when my parents took one of my brothers and me to the World’s Fair, HemisFair, to soak up the region’s confluence of civilizations and celebrate San Antonio’s 250th birthday. Forty-six years later, there’s even more reason to love San Antonio. Name another place where can you enjoy a $5 glass of wine at the top of the city’s tallest building with a breathtaking 360-degree view. I thought so.
Happy Hour at the Tower of the Americas, Mondays through Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., has been on my to-do list for years. Over the holiday break, a good friend and I finally made the trek. We parked just off of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and walked to the tower, which is surrounded by a lovely water garden.
If you are headed up to the Happy Hour, make sure you get in the elevator line for the Chart House Restaurant. Another queue is for the observation deck. Standing in line, I enjoyed seeing a portrait of Mr. HemisFair himself, Bill Sinkin, who turned 100 on May 19, 2013. Sinkin, the president of HemisFair, went on to become a tireless proponent of solar energy, which resulted in San Antonio being named a Solar America City. For those who want to learn more about renewable energy, check out the Opportunities in Resilience Conference that will place in February 2014.
On the way to the top of the tower, which was designed by architect O’Neil Ford, who also designed Trinity University, I noticed that construction is underway to the east of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center all the way to the McAllister Freeway. A little research revealed that a $325 million expansion is taking place.
When we arrived at the top, we found a place to sit at the bar. My friend settled on the Pomegranate Tini, and I chose the Cabernet. We also ordered the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and some Calamari. The waitstaff was attentive, and our order was ready in no time. We dug in, and we didn’t leave a speck on the plates. The people sitting next to us said that they do the Tower HH quite often, and they recommended the Prime Rib Sliders on our next visit. And, yes, there will be a next visit.
Cheers to that!