DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Riverwalk’s Museum Reach

NAO tacos at The Pearl Farmer's Market
Our Riverwalk destination: NAO tacos at The Pearl


So, on a bright Saturday morning, we strolled from the Hotel Contessa to the point where the Riverwalk connects with Museum Reach. We took a flight of stairs to the River level and made a right.

Morning on the Museum Reach

To our surprise, we pretty much had the Museum Reach all to ourselves.  We saw a few bicyclists and joggers, but in a tourism city like San Antonio we were amazed more travelers weren’t enjoying the river. (Maybe the others went to the VIA Informatiaon Office and were on trolleys.)  Forget tourists, why aren’t the residents flocking to this lovely pedestrian thoroughfare.

It was cooler down by the river.  An occasional River Taxi offered to take us further, but we were minding our pennies.  By walking we were able to enjoy the lock and dam.  We saw the VFW post I’d read about, but I guess it was a little early for their libations.  Gardens graced each side of the river and there were a number of interesting art installations, including some sort of grotto.

Lunch at The Pearl Farmer’s Market

It wasn’t a hard walk, but we were certainly happy to arrive at The Pearl when we did.  There’s a big hotel under construction right by the Riverwalk, so we had to do some maneuvering to get past, but I’m sure it will be great when the hotel is finished.

First, stop was the NAO taco stand.  NAO, the Culinary Institute of America restaurant, is one of my very favorites in San Antonio, but it’s not open for lunch.  However, they do serve tacos from a stand at the Farmer’s Market.  My research indicated that we had plenty of time to get our tacos, but we were hungry, so we headed on over there.  We didn’t find it right off, but we should have known, it was the booth with the big, long line.

We grabbed a bit of the sidewalk and shuffled along with the slow moving line.  You might assume that tacos from a food booth would be fast food, but there was nothing fast about the service.   They were making some sort of beverage by hand and the aroma of cooking meat was amazing.  The folks in line were both patient and congenial.  We wished for some shade, but were otherwise happy to be there.

Then someone announced there were only a few orders of left.  Five to be exact.  There were more than five people in line ahead of us, so I was terrified we were going to miss this treat.  Thankfully, in one group ahead, only one person wanted tacos.  Everyone else was there for the beverage.  Then the pair immediately ahead of us got an order of tacos to share and some beverages.  WE WERE IN!  We ordered our tacos and white sangria, paid the rather hefty price and were given a ticket for our tacos.  We approached the grill and traded small pieces of paper for heaven.

We found a table on the plaza, but were still wishing for shade.  There was a sort of arbor, but the vines they are trying to grow on it haven’t made much headway. (Note to self: bring parasol next time.)  Then we bit into our tacos and sipped our sangria.  All other thoughts disappeared.  It was suddenly well worth the trek to have the delicious treats.  There were only one or two orders left when we picked up our tacos, so we were grateful to the Riverwalk gods for getting us there in time.

There was a Farmers Market going on and I had planned on checking it out, but our stroll along the Museum Reach had used up our shopping time.  We decided to head back to the San Antonio Museum of Art, which was right across the river and catch a trolley there.  We still didn’t know when it would arrive, but we had all of the SAMA to enjoy while we waited.

Don’t Miss Dessert!

Lick, San Antonio, TX
Go ahead and take a Lick

On the way back to the river we did make one detour – Lick!  This little shop offers what they call “honest ice cream”.  Everything is organic, vegan, non-GMO, etc. and some of it is even gluten-free.  They use honey instead of sugar.  I’m not that big of a fan of ice cream (which is a good thing or I’d have more weight challenges than I do), but they did have chocolate, which I love.  Deb on the other hand adores ice cream and she assured me this was equal to if not better on the ice cream scale as the NAO tacos were on the taco scale.  I’m sure you can trust her opinion.

Next up?  The SAMA!  Will we or won’t we connect with the trolley?  Come back next week and find out!

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

NAO – New World Flavors in San Antonio

Mr. Bill hangin' at The Pearl
Mr. Bill hangin’ at The Pearl


A Culinary Gem in The Pearl

In San Antonio, two of my interests converged – The Pearl and food. The Pearl is San Antonio’s premiere event venue and it was at the top of my list, but I wasn’t sure what to do there.  On a weekend trip to San Antonio, the Saturday morning Farmers Market would have been a no-brainer, (In fact, if we’d stayed through the Saturday of the week we were there, we could have enjoyed their annual Tamale Festival) but we wanted to have a go at Dickens on the Strand.  So I settled for having dinner at The Pearl and so we wouldn’t miss it, I put it on our first night’s agenda.

NAO and the CIA

The Pearl used to be The Pearl Brewery, but it gave up it’s brewing a long time ago.  Now it’s a hip place for foodies and party people.  Along with a stable, there’s some retail and residential, as well as several educational facilities, one of them being the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).  As soon as I discovered one of the restaurants at The Pearl, NAO – New World Flavors, was run by the CIA, deciding which restaurant we’d visit got real easy.

As we left our hotel,  La Mansion del Rio,  on the way to The Pearl, Polar Express weather was making it’s approach to San Antonio, so the night was a bit chilly for strolling.  After parking (something of a challenge), we made a rather crooked beeline for  NAO, because it wasn’t the easiest thing to find.  You might have thought our bee was a little drunk.

Entering the restaurant, I was plenty cool and so was the atmosphere.  Hard surfaces dominated.  Brightly striped upholstery on the banquettes was the only relief from minimalist decor.  Seated in the center of the restaurant, we had a good vantage point for observation.  Things were quiet, but it was Wednesday night.

What’s for Dinner?

NAO, The Pearl, San Antonio TX
Yum yum yum

New World Flavors, in the case of NAO, means novelle cuisine with a South American twist – and can you say DELICIOUS? I chose the flower-covered fish with mushrooms and heart of palm slices.  Since I was trying to diet on this vacation, it seemed a safe choice.  The purple stuff under the fish was potatoes, but it was just a smidge of potatoes.  Bill ordered “the filet” and thought he was getting a steak.  Wrong filet.  But he only regretted his mistake up until the moment he took his first bite.

NAO, The Pearl, San Antonio, TX
Bill’s Filet

The entrees were so marvelous we couldn’t resist dessert. Bill even had an after-dinner cordial, something he never does.  The theme of the post-entree choices was chocolate, but I don’t remember their names and I forgot to take pictures.  That’s OK, there’s no way the pictures could have looked as good as everything tasted.

Of course you should go to NAO.  Bill said if we lived in San Antonio we might just give up cooking and eat there every night.  I wish I could tell you more about The Pearl, but it was just too brisk outside to do anything more than rush back to the car.  Come by next week for breakfast.