Saturday, April 15, 2006

River Walk is not Enough

As my conference in San Antonio draws to a close I plan to focus this posting on a review of the city overall via a range of topics:


I travel to many cities throughout the year and sadly San Antonio's restaurants stand out as "lacking" when benchmarked against other cities I have experienced. Here is the roster of restaurants I dined at this week:

Delores Del Rio -- I just wanted a simple meal of a side salad as a starter and their antipasto appetizer plate described as having "a variety of cheese, vegetables, and meats..........." Based on the English I was taught the word "variety" means "more than one" so seeing one type of meat on the plate was disappointing -- completely defeating my reason for ordering the antipasto. While the waitress was attentive she reminded me of a drug dealer since she kept pushing me to have more garlic bread ;) This restaurant sits along the famous River Walk and offers live entertainment in a nice setting but the menu is lacking so they receive a "2" rating.

Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe - just a short walk from the St. Anthony Hotel this is a friendly, semi-loud atmosphere due to the neighborhood feel of the restaurant. Clearly people knew each other and were enjoying themselves here. The customer service was above average and my salad and soup were tasty although the plate for the salad was not appropriate since everytime my fork hit the salad pieces of lettuce and olives would fall on the table -- that is one way to lose weight. Again a "2" rating overall.

Cafe Ole' - Located along the River Walk. When I have to wait for the hostess to seat me while I watch 5 or 6 wait staff standing in the background does not help to start dining experience in a good light. Advice to restaurant managers --- cross train your employees to work as a team (see Yokunyu review below). The restaurant is known for its fajitas so I ordered the beef version which were tasty but not exceptional since the beef lacked taste and all the fat was not trimmed off which combined with the very poor table location (one less table for two which they placed right at a doorway would not hurt their revenue stream) leaves me with on a "2" rating for this restaurant.

Yukonyu Sushi - this "restaurant" has the unique honor of receiving my first ever "0" rating!!! They are located about 1/2 block from the St. Anthony Hotel but you would do yourself well if you just keep walking down Navarro Street to explore the restaurants along the River Walk. After attending Good Friday church services at a Catholic Church (their obvious idolatry reminded me why I am Lutheran!) I just wanted a light sushi meal so I started with a salmon skewer followed by green tea ice cream. Finally after waiting nearly 30 minutes (I was reading a book so I lost track of time a bit) for my ice cream I left my table to ask the host to get my bill but he informed me "I am only the host so I don't have access to the cash register......." so I had to wait for my waiter to get the bill and ultimately the restaurant manager. The waiter blamed the kitchen and I informed that manager that I planned to write a review on my blog and that he should focus on building some team work since this was "by far the worst dining experience I have had for at least a year............" Did I mention they receive a "0" rating for poor service, marginal food, and overall incompetence :) ? Downtown San Antonio has too many empty store fronts (caused by the area shopping malls my cabbie informed me) but I am afraid the Yukonyu Sushi building will be empty in the near future unless they improve.


Per my earlier comment downtown San Antonio has numerous empty store fronts but some potential if they get organized. Perhaps it exists but if not then a "Houston Street Merchants Association" should be created to revitalize the area. They would do well to look into the "Main Street USA" program created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for assistance. Since the River Walk area is a very short walk away Houston Street should work to create signage and perhaps even a trolley route to shuttle people to the area from River Walk. One example of revitalization needed is the renovation of the Majestic Theatre. This is a substantial landmark on Houston Street that is currently playing the "Lion King" but the store front has peeling paint - perhaps renovation plans are underway but there is no signage detailing their "master plan".

The other aspect of downtown that stands out for me is the area around the St. Anthony Hotel which includes Travis Park which apparently is a gathering spot for the city's homeless, very poor residents which coupled with the homeless gathering on the steps of the Travis Park Methodist Church across Navarro Street from the hotel leaves the area looking a bit run down especially given the garbage left behind in the park. Were I the owner of this hotel I would reach an agreement with the City of San Antonio that my employees would adopt Travis Park to clean it up daily, landscape it, etc. as a first step to improving the area but I am not confident the hotel management/ownership cares enough given their own customer service. The St. Anthony Hotel's concierge leaves at irregular hours -- 5 pm one day and 8 pm another day -- and the front desk staff is not very well trained as substitute concierges. In addition their "fitness center" should be called the "fitness closet" since the room is too small for the equipment they have packed into the space plus the staff rarely stops by to clean the room since the work out towels were always in complete disarray each day I used the gym. Your back up option is to visit the nearby "Spectrum Gym" on Travis Street but they close at 7 pm which is not very convenient if you are in town for a conference.

I have been to San Antonio several times over my career but do not need to return anytime soon. The defenders at the Alamo did not surrender but today's downtown San Antonio appears to have raised a white flag.

Ready to go home,


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