Brookfield Place Is Hosting the 5 Borough Challenge: Best Brews of NYC
Swanky rooftop bar with modern decor and panoramic city views
SA’s first rooftop bar offers not only a dramatic view of the city, but also a good look at its see-and-be-seen crowd. And why not? This town is resplendent with laid-back icehouses and tequila bars; sometimes it’s nice to have a reason to spend a little more time in front of the mirror before heading out for the evening. Bonus: The bartenders definitely know their business.
Dimly lit speakeasy with strong drinks and a great happy hour
The word most often associated with this cozy cocktail bar is “swanky,” and with good reason. This upscale, modern-day speakeasy employs only the best of the best behind the bar, and it shows in every drink they create. The selection of alcohol contained in such a small space is mind-blowing, as is the creativity on display; try a seasonal cocktail, or opt for a classic.
Well-known dive bar with a large outdoor patio
Once a distinctly blue-collar bar where bikers gathered, this open-air establishment is now drawing a more diverse crowd. Even with a decided uptick in hipness, Hills & Dales has managed to retain its neighborhood-joint vibe -- a necessary quality for staying in business in this part of town. If the decor -- candy-colored retro shell chairs -- and the extensive craft beer list seem familiar, it’s no surprise; H&D’s new owners are none other than the folks behind the venerable Friendly Spot. Still, Hills & Dales manages to create its own buzz, separate from its Southtown cousin’s.
Pearl Brewery spot with inventive cocktails & live music every night
An extensive, global wine, beer, and spirits selection and a tight, Southern-inspired menu pair nicely with the live jazz, blues, salsa, and Texas swing showcased in The Pearl’s first-ever music venue. Open since July 2016, Jazz,TX hit the ground running with live music Tuesday through Saturday nights and a steady stream of events to keep things interesting. Ten house cocktails offer a spin on classics; try the Somewhere in South Texas, a vodka gimlet made with a spicy Dr. Pepper reduction and cilantro salt.
Conveniently located microbrewery with live jazz nights
Blue Star has been brewing in SA since 1996 and offers a range of beers for every palette, from the dry Texican Lager to the knock-you-on-your-ass barley-wine-style King William Ale. Located in the Blue Star Arts Complex, the brewery is a beloved part of Southtown’s history and the perfect place to stop in for a cold one while navigating the Museum Reach district.
Southtown bar with a stacked jukebox and diverse cocktail menu
Originally launched in 1942 as a cafe, Bar America has seen some menu, format, and even location changes over the years. But it has stayed in the Ramirez family, beginning with the current owner’s great-great grandfather. The vibe is relaxed and welcoming, drawing guests from all walks of life. The one thing you won’t find at Bar America is unruly or rude patrons, who by strict policy will be asked to leave. So pull up a stool, follow the Golden Rule, and enjoy one of dozens of draft and bottled craft beers selections and some tunes from the jukebox or DJ.
Local brewery with some of the best views, beer, and pizza in the city
A relative youngster on the local brewing scene, Freetail manages to broadcast the laid-back attitude of its SoCal-bred founder while still feeling 100% San Antonio. Its signature beers, which are produced at the company’s Southtown brewhouse and available for sampling there, include the always-popular Bat Outta Helles Lager, Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout, and the summer-only Peach Bexarliner.
Popular watering hole for young professionals & UTSA students with fried food galore
There’s no shame in being a novice two-stepper, but thanks to weekly dance lessons offered at The Well, there’s no excuse for not getting better. With its nod to old-school Texas dance halls and thoughtful, substantial food menu, The Well is a welcome addition to a Northwest Side that can lean heavily toward chain restaurants. Throw in more than 80 beers on tap and some expertly crafted house cocktails, and we have a well-rounded winner.
Looks like a library, but serves excellent cocktails
If you haven’t noticed, craft cocktails are having a moment in SA right now. One of the folks at the epicenter of this renaissance is Jeret Peña, the man behind several of the Alamo City’s most prominent bars. The Last Word is one of his newest, but it definitely holds its own in the family. Designed to resemble a library, the bar is charming and comfortable. Happy hour prices are fabulous, and so are the innovative libations.
North Shearer Hills
Welcoming neighborhood bar owned by members of a local band
A dive bar on a grand scale, Bang Bang is the brainchild of former Martini Ranch-owner Jamie Hoppe and two members of beloved SA indie band Girl in a Coma. Several months after it opened in early 2016, BBB garnered some press by introducing a turkey-leg Bloody Mary for brunch -- typical of its fun, why-the-hell-not approach. Bang Bang doesn’t take itself too seriously and might be the perfect place for those seeking a little grit to balance out all the pretty, pretty cocktail bars that garner so much attention around town.
Swanky lobby bar of the Hotel Emma specializing in cocktails
This rustic cool bar, located in Hotel Emma, has soaring ceilings and no shortage of wooden accents or intimate sofas. Craft beers, carefully selected wines, and handmade cocktails pair perfectly with small plates or conversation. The top bartender recommendation is The Three Emmas, which combines gin, gran classico, apricot, and absinthe.
San Antonio's cocktail mecca since 1933
The Esquire is perhaps SA’s best-known bar, and why not? It opened its doors in 1933 on the day Prohibition ended, and has been a cool, welcoming respite from the crowded Riverwalk ever since. The food is fun (try the sweet and spicy Wildcat Burger or the famous Pimento Grilled Cheese), and the cocktails demonstrate how the bar has evolved while staying true to its historic roots. Taking someone out for their first time in the Alamo City? Have it here.
Award-winning, retro cocktail bar with creative takes on classic drinks
Relaxed but sophisticated, elegant and cozy, warm and inviting -- the list of positive adjectives to describe this modern speakeasy is a long one. Even so, the best thing about The Brooklynite is its drinks. Made with only the finest ingredients, cocktails here are creative and fun. Take the Killer Parties Almost Killed Me, made from bourbon, amontillado sherry, house pecan cordial, pumpkin butter, and angostura bitters. If there’s a better use of fall’s most celebrated squash, we have yet to find it.
Popular beer bar serving hundreds of beers and greasy pub fare
A suburban strip-mall location and status as part of a Ft. Worth-based, six-state chain belies the unique personality of The Flying Saucer in Huebner Oaks. What truly stands out here -- aside from the sheer volume of beer varieties offered -- is the attentiveness of the Saucer’s staff and the passion its always-knowledgeable bartenders have for their jobs and their bar.
St. Mary’s Strip
College student go-to for reasonably priced cocktails
Tiny TBA stands out on the St. Mary’s Strip for its thoughtful approach to cocktails and its attention to detail. Think dive bar, but without the bathrooms you’re afraid to use for fear of disease. While it’s a true neighborhood hangout, TBA’s bartenders make an effort to engage anyone and everyone who walks through the door. Feeling sluggish? Wake up your mind and body with A Farewell to Hef, made with Diplomático Blanco rum, cherry, coffee bitters, and pink peppercorn.
Riverwalk joint with a diverse wine menu
Though not directly on the Riverwalk, Zinc is surrounded by it on all sides. That means it is a haven for tourists, but locals shouldn’t let that keep them away. With an elegant, European vibe, Zinc Bistro has a simple yet eclectic bistro menu and an impressive liquor roster, but it especially excels when it comes to wine. You won’t find a better vino cache in the entire city.
Beautiful brewery with some of the city's best beer
ALAMO began brewing its Golden Ale in 2003 and now produces three other year-round varieties and six seasonals. In 2015, it opened this brewery and biergarten in the city’s emerging Eastside district, where it sits in the shadow of historic Hays Street Bridge and offers one of the best views of Downtown you can find anywhere in the city. The compound is big and beautiful -- really well-designed and one of the few breweries that would be an equally ideal venue for an upscale wedding or grabbing a quick beer after work.
San Antonio's best outdoor drinking spot with famously decadent cheese fries
This is the most aptly named bar ever; you’ll always find a mix of hipsters, families, dogs, and tourists of all ages, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and races chillin' in the brightly colored retro lawn chairs. It is all outdoors, offers 250+ kinds of bottled beer and nearly 100 on tap, serves a mean Michelada, and is an ideal place to watch a Spurs game under the stars on TFS’s huge screen. From October through May, there are few better places to while away a Sunday afternoon.