1. Hotel Emma
Housed in the original Pearl Brewery, built in 1894, Hotel Emma is named after brewmaster Otto Koehler’s tenacious wife, who kept the company afloat during Prohibition. Keep an eye out for repurposed industrial trimmings: valves that creep up the lobby’s walls, giant bottle labellers turned chandeliers and the floors, laid with Mexican Redondo tiles, like those from Otto’s office. In the Sternewirth bar you can kick back inside an old fermenting tank, now dressed up with cozy cocktail banquettes. At the day’s end, put on a seersucker robe and slip under the cloudlike comforter with a book from the property’s two-floor library.136 E. Grayson St., 210-448-8300, thehotelemma.com
2. Market Square
Get ready for sensory overload, complete with a mariachi band, heaps of shoppers and multicoloured aisles overflowing with pottery, sombreros, jewellery and Mexican blankets. With over 100 shops, this is the largest Mexican marketplace in the United States. Locals know that the on-site restaurant and takeout shop Mi Tierra is open 24 hours a day. (Look up at the festoons of thousands of metallic ornaments and strands of coloured lights.)514 West Commerce St., 210-207-8600, getcreativesanantonio.com
Plonked on top of the Phipps law firm building, Paramour is San Antonio’s first rooftop bar. (To get there, walk through the ground floor office and head up to the fourth.) Catch the action as staff trained by master drink concocter Chris Ware prepare cocktails like Me & Mrs. Jones (cognac, averna, orange marmalade, rosemary sprig and lemon). Then, step onto the terrace strewn with pillows, loungers and rugs for twinkling views of downtown.102 9th St., 210-340-9880, paramourbar.com
4. Mezcalería Mixtli
The few tables at Mixtli are dotted with terracotta plates and Virgen de Guadalupe prayer candles, set for an unfussy Mexican meal. Order chef Diego Galicia’s esquites (possibly the best outside of Mexico), consisting of sweet corn, mayo, Cotija cheese and lime, then wash it down with a Paloma made of grapefruit soda, key lime, salt and your choice of tequila or mezcal, off an extensive list.5313 McCullough ave., 210-320-1660, mezcaleriamixtli.com
5. The San Antonio River Walk
After the river flooded in 1921, the city resolved to create a flood bypass channel, now the 24-kilometre cypress-lined River Walk, one storey below the streets of downtown. Book a boat tour at twilight (request Jeff Quin, king of the punchline) to see how the tunnels’ art installations, like the hanging larger-than-life school of fibreglass sunfish, light up the water. At Commerce Street, hop off for a drink at the Esquire Tavern, built in 1933.210-227-4262, riosanantonio.com
3 spots to get your sugar fixin'
At Hotel Emma’s Supper, try chef John Brand’s sweet and savoury Ricotta Seada pastry with apple, fennel, marmalade, pickled blackberries and a sprinkling of celery.
136 E. Grayson St., 210-448-8351, supperatemma.com
Bakery Lorraine’s homemade Pop Tart, with fresh strawberry filling and macaron-shell shavings in flavours like “cereal milk,” is a nostalgic delight.
306 Pearl Pkwy., #110, 210-862-5582, bakerylorraine.com
Get in line (it moves fast) at Mi Tierra’s takeout counter for homemade Mexican specialities like conchas, or try a Texan classic – the Pecan Praline might be the most decadent treat to ever pass your lips.
218 Produce Row, 210-225-1262, mitierracafe.com