I was looking forward to San Antonio’s River Walk. When I’d googled San Antonio, the pictures of it had looked pretty, and it seemed fun. Little did we know the exasperation this watery labyrinth would cause us…
In the beginning it was fine. In contrast to New Orleans, San Antonio was clearly a well-maintained city, but very similar in the aggression it showed pandering to tourists. Walking around the river walk felt like walking down Bourbon in that it was a battle through a constant stream of tourists. But instead of everyone being white, middle-aged, and drunk, this crowd was generally Hispanic young couples either on dates or with a brood of toddlers. There was a general congestion caused by a fleet of riverboats giving tours, and the long cues waiting for their turn to board.
The river itself was a maze of dead-ends, forks, and loops. When one side proved unnavigateable, you’d have to cross a bridge to the otherside. In hind-sight, this arrangement spelled our doom, but still at this point we were blissfully ignorant of the trials that lay before us…
One end of the river comprised a mall and some souvenir shops. The usual stuff.
Texas hot sauce-
River Walk/Alamo salt shakers-
Cowboy boots salt & pepper-
There was some sort of Native American-type band playing. Live music is always nice outdoors in the evening.
But we were getting hungry. Further down the river, at the start of the truly confusing layout, tables lined the banks, looking colorful and inviting. It was getting darker, and the lights reflected in the water.
Unfortunately, the most colorful-looking restaurants were also the most asinine. Their menus had about the gormet-appeal of a chilis. We did not come all the way to Texas to eat some kiddo quesidilla on a placemat I could color with crayons. However, the hoards of families probably appreciated the bland, lifeless menus so that their toddler wouldn’t throw too great a strop at being switched off their usual chicken nuggets and mashed peas to something with character or flavor. Trying to find a decent restaurant then resulted in an expedition up and down the river bank, back and forth, trying to vet the menus for something we would enjoy. By the time we settled on Iron Cactus, we’d walked several miles and hours since we first arrived. It was dark in the sky, though still bright on the river, when we settled into our table.
Now what I am about to relate to you I can only describe as the most disfunctional meal I’ve ever eaten. Let’s give me some leeway in our judging when we consider that previous to this point we had driven seven hours and walked around that devil-water for at least two. When the waitress arrived, we ordered two appetizers to split: Chile Con Queso and Lobster Tacos. We also ordered a Strawberry Cactus Marguerita to share. Now on an empty stomach, after all this walking, our drink comes. First of all, it’s not a margarita. The menu was very deceptive in placing it under the heading margarita, but apparently half-way down the list just switches to tequila drinks. The official description is, “El Jimador Silver Tequila with Cointreau, Prickly Pear Puree, and Fresh Strawberry”. Rachael and I are sipping away on our salt-rimmed, but not margarita, drink, and it is delicious. But I am the most pathetic of light weights. And starving, and tired. Next our waitress brings this course, which the a human possessing normal mental capabilities would describe as “chips and salsa”.
I, however, am apparently completely retarded by this point, because in complete honesty I took this picture whole-heartedly believing this was our chili. A false belief I held firmly all the way to the end of the meal when our real chili arrived. I literally was like, “Oh how interesting, they eat their chili with chips here. It’s so tomatoey and all vegetables, how nice.” And then I ate it with a fork. Ohh, but it will only gets worse. Next come our lobster tacos, “Three mini flour tortillas filled with sautéed lobster, Monterrey jack cheese, served with sweet red pepper coulis and pico de gallo.” By this point I’m getting tipsy, and still starving, because salsa-“chili” is not a very big meal. There are no pictures, because I gobbled these up. They were the most delicious things in the world. We should of ordered 20 of them, and nothing else. But I can’t even trust my own judgement here, because clearly I was pretty off that night. My rave review could have been the alcohol talking. It certainly had a lot to say about the next dish, because suddenly a waiter brings a skillet of cheese. Literally just a skillet of cheese. Still under the impression that my salsa was chili, I’m thinking, “What the hell is this? Free food?” Then Rachael, acting with more intelligence and less inebriation identifies this strange cheese monster as our chili. What? My mind is blown. The salsa was not chili. Cheese is chili? We read the description in the menu again- “Chile Con Queso: A blend of white cheeses, Hatch green chiles, pico de gallo, and fire roasted jalapeño peppers.” The chili is not chili… it’s cheese with a little chile pepper. We had assumed we were getting chili, and the listed description was just the garnish. Well I don’t speak much spanish, but in my opinion that dish should have been titled Queso Con Chile then. But I guess chili and chile aren’t even the same thing, and this restaurant has been tricking us right and left from the start, so I’ll take the blame on my exhaustion-addled brain, once-again. At this point I’ve finished my half of our drink, eaten a dish of salsa and one and a half little tacos, and have the full on drunchies. The restaurant has defeated me, and there’s nothing to do to make the best of this bizarre cheese-skillet. In my state I don’t even care anymore, I just pour salsa on top of the cheese to try to make it slightly less monotonous, and drunkenly munch away on the chips. It was one of those strange drunken experience where you’re not enjoying the food at all, and you know it’s so bad for you, but you’re starving and there’s no stopping you from eating it. Ug.
Finally we escape from this den of deception and are on the loose again. We decide the only way to salvage this night is to get some ice cream. I take the lead on navigating us back to the ice cream parlor at the beginning of the river walk. Bad idea, obviously. I’m charging full steam ahead, as confident in my directions as I was that the salsa was chili. We miss a bridge-cross over, and end up in the dark, deserted section of the river where the hobos live. I’m on a roll this night. We decide to climb the stairs to street level, and try to walk ourselves to the beginning above ground. Now we are wandering through what has, like Bourbon Street, at night has magically transformed into bar-land, drunko-ville. Except strangely, there are a lot of horse and carriage rides, with the carriage designed to look like Cinderella’s transformed pumpkin. But we don’t have enough energy to waste wondering at this strange world, we are on a mission. Lost for sure, but we’re going to get where we are going. And eventually we do- we make it all the way back to a closed ice cream shop.
But we won’t give up! Forward march, back down the river, to the restaurant area where more ice-cream parlors reside. Our attitude towards traversing this river has escalated from giving slow-moving tourists a deserved shove out of our way into the water, to scaling the walls to escape this hell, to spider man swinging from bridge to bridge, to taking a bazooka and just blasting our way through the walls. We’ve had plenty of time to elaborate on these fantasies as we power walk through the twists and turns. At least I’m burning off some of that cheese skillet.
Finally, sweet success. Justin’s Ice Cream Company. We were so tired, but it’s hard not to enjoy sitting by the water, eating some delicious ice cream. I had pesca (peach), and Rachael had some incoherent word we translated to probably fancy vanilla. They were cold, sweet, and my favorite consistency for ice cream: so soft it’s just on the edge of melting.
But the memory of all our travails was still fresh in our mind. Here is a visual representation of how we felt about the San Antonio River Walk. And that was the end of that.