Thursday is when I decided I had had my fill of workshops and cut out early. My husband, Bob, wanted me to pick him up some Rocky Erickson. So I took a cab over to Hogwild Records, the local hipster record store by the college. I found Bob a Rocky Erickson CD set, so mission accomplished. I picked myself up some vinyl: Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Roy Head, Jane County, Instant Funk, and some compilations. I also got an interesting documentary on Tacoland, a famous bar which was the heart of the San Antonio scene. Its much-loved owner and mascot was recently shot dead during a robbery.
I caught a cab just as big fat, warm raindrops started splashing on the windshield. When the cabbie noticed my interest in the older restaurants, he insisted on taking me to Armadillos, which he professed was one of the best and oldest hamburger places in town. He even offered to turn off the meter. It looked a bit yuppified, not Roadfood-looking at all, with hip bright southwestern colors and the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen in my entire life, including my own.
Apparantly the place has been there for fifty or more years. The new owners bought the place and fixed it up 2 years ago. But they kept the original cooks and recipes.
They had something on the menu called "Armadillo Eggs'. I thought they would be deep-fried jalapenos. I ordered a side of them to eat in the car. The hamburgers were served up in 1/3 pound, half pound and full pound patties. The conversation I had with the server went something like this:
"I guess I'll have the 1/3 pound because I'm not that hungry. I don't want a very big burger."
" But they are all the same size."
" No. There are three sizes."
" But they are all the same size."
" But they are not. There is the 1/3, 1/2, and 1 pound burger."
" Right. But they are all the same size."
" You mean diameter?'
" I mean size."
Who's on first? I gave up.
As I was leaving, I noticed lettering on the ceiling saying, " A WET BIRD NEVER FLIES AT NIGHT." I asked, "What does that mean?" The manager said, "We don't know. It was there when we bought it and we decided we'd better keep it there."
Snugly back in the cab I opened the syrofoam container holding the "Armadillo eggs" and immediately started laughing my head off. Nestled Inside the container was perhaps the most creative presentation of snack food I have ever seen...fried round tortillas were sprinkled with jalapenos and blanketed with white cheese. In the center of each tortilla was a little squirt of melted Velveeta that served to make them look uncannily like fried eggs!! And they tasted spectacular. I piqued the taxi drivers' curiosity and soon the two of us were happily driving around town with the meter off, looking at little restaurants and munching on armadillo eggs. They were so spicy we even stopped at the gas station for milk. I know if I lived in San Antonio, my husband would be tormented at work by my demands to stop and pick up armadillo eggs for me on the way home. I can hear the whining echoing inside my head as I imagine their spicy goodness.
When I got back to the hotel, I opened up my second styrofoam container and again was surprised and delighted. This flying saucer of a hamburger filled the entire container. It must have been seven inches in diameter! That's why the waitress kept harping on size! I guess it does matter. Crispy, greasy, charred to perfection, with a soft squishy bun, it was the quintissential cheeseburger experience. Thank you, dear Mr. Cab Driver, wherever you are!!!
I fell into a grease-induced coma. My friends called, imploring me to go hit the bars, but I was out for the night and cuddled back into bed. That's the beauty of hotel rooms. Eating in bed. Greasy sheets just magically disappear the next day.
Friday I felt it was my responsibility to Roadfood, nay, to the world at large, to investigate as many places as possible before catching my plane. First I decided to see if Pat O'Briens was serving “authentic” New Orleans food. Even though the one IN New Orleans is not anywhere I would normally eat. I ordered the appetizer sampler platter. The fried gator was fine, tough like gator tends to be. It paled in comparison (as it often does on a mixed platter) to the richer, lighter, and flakier catfish strips. The shrimp rolled in Pina Colada mix and coconut was pretty good, and the Bloody Mary wings were an interesting take on the usual. But no hurricane-coated food? It came with about 5 dipping sauces. I called the waitress over, "No remoulade?" She hurried out with a cupful, because five dipping sauces just arent enough for a girl like me.
There was a barker standing by the back door, hollering at little old ladies to hurry up and cross the street. What seems so plebian on Bourbon Street seemed bizarre and out of place in Texas.
Next I just had to see what was up with this 8.99 steak over at GM. It is a cross between cafeteria style and a pick-up counter. I picked up a slice of Boston Cream pie, which seemed ubiquitous around San Antonio. I started eating it while I waited for my order. Wow. soft,fresh cake, rich custard filling and a smear of chocolate frosting on top. It was amazing. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the steak. It was not the toughest steak I have ever had. I just don't think you should ever have to sneak any of your food into a napkin because you got tired of chewing it. But that's just me. If you visit the Alamo, I would recommend GM as a nice stop for iced tea and pie, and they have an intriguing breakfast menu, including breakfast tacos.
I had to rush off to the airport, so I didn’t make it to Shilo's, the deli that had been recommended by a fellow Roadfooder. My taxi driver stopped at a drive-up ATM for me and was stunned when I leaned the top half of my body out the window to reach it. He said in a strong East Indian accent, “Tell your husband he is a very lucky man. I wish I had a wife at home who was so bendy.” On my way into the airport, I saw yet another "Don't mess with Texas" sticker. I could no longer resist. I reached over and playfully tousled Texas' hair.
I hope you've enjoyed your trip. May I check your bags?
Mr. Ice Cream 423 E Commerce St 210-224-5749
Olmos Pharmacy 3902 McCullough 210-822-3361
Armadillos 1423 McCullough Avenue 210-226-7556
GM Steakhouse 211 Alamo Plaza 210-223-1523 (Closed Tuesdays)
Hogwild Records 1824 N. Main
Every other restaurant: On the Riverwalk
Thanks to Bushie for hosting my pics!!!