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Monday, May 31, 2010

Jim's and Denny's: The Blanco Situation...

I almost don't know where to start. Of course, you all know that I no longer go to Denny's, what with the crappy service I experienced at multiple - okay, two Denny's - one near Lackland and the other at Culebra and Loop 410. I know, swearing off an entire national chain over the lack of prompt coffee or immediate recognition by wait staff is probably a little over exuberant in some circles, and I confess that I may have limited my own choice in breakfast destinations over that last several years. But dammit, sometimes, you gotta speak with your feet.

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of Jim's. I particularly enjoy the Jim's at 1604 and Culebra in Alamo Ranch simply because they have great service and serve up some fine vittles. So please keep this in mind as I tell you about what happened on Sunday.

There is a nice lady I work with who loves to hear dining recommendations so I am constantly advising her on the choice burger spots and such. Somehow, my disdain for Denny's came up and she told me point blank that I was dining at the Denny's on the wrong side of town. Always, she said, get north of Loop 410 before you consider a Denny's. I tucked that little piece of info in the back of my mind but in all honesty, had no intention of pursuing further.
Sunday, my wife and I needed to get some accoutrement for our backyard and it just so happened that the place we needed to go was on San Pedro. So, we decided to grab a little breakfast action, not at the Jim's on 1604 and Culebra, but at the really elegant Jim's on 410 and Blanco. Yes, the fancy, swanky Jim's at the new Park North near North Star Mall. For those of you not familiar, that is what used to be Central Park Mall.

We walk in and a hostess asks us "Table for three?" WTF? Have I gotten so fat that I actually count for two people at restaurants now? Uh, just two - if you have something that will accommodate us, thanks.
The lady gave us the option of waiting, or offered us seats at the bar, which we are cool with and took.

I know this happens all the time; signals get mixed, wires are crossed and hostesses don't always communicate with waiters. So we sat looking at the menu for longer than one would expect. Okay, my opinion is about 30 seconds on that, but my wife is comfortable with several minutes. Regardless, we had begun to memorize the daily specials when Eva made her intentions known. She was prepared to UnAss the AO the minute I gave the word.

Relax is my usual standby, but even I was finding the ritzy Jim's to be a bit unfriendly. Worse, a group of four people who came in behind us and were seated at a booth near us were now having their order taken. And that was all I needed to know. We UnAssed as it were, and found a Denny's directly across the street.

By the way. If I were a restaurant manager and some folks got up and abruptly left, I'd chase them down and ask why. That didn't happen, but if you are the manager of the Jim's at 410 and Blanco, E-mail me and I'll give you the full story.
The first thing that happened at Denny's was that a young man selling Sunday papers opened the door for us and with no pressure, offered a paper - which we gladly purchased and tipped for. Next, the second we walk in, what I assume to be a host is asking us "table or booth". We opted for booth and he immediately has us seated and takes our beverage order. The hell? This is precisely why I have boycotted Denny's for years - because the bastards would not give me a cup of coffee. Now, the guy who seated us within 8 seconds of our arrival has two cups of fresh coffee and little jugs of creamer on the way.
Justin was the waiter's name and once the coffee was delivered he was there to take our order. We were both shocked and confused to the point that we had to ask him to give us a minute. Friends, that's a good feeling after all these years.

We were not aware that Denny's offers a $2 menu, nor were we aware that the Grand Slam is now one of those build your own type of deals. You simply choose four items from their selection and they charge you the price of a Grand Slam. I fully recognize that some of you have got to be wondering what rock I have been living under for the last several years, but honestly, when I choose to boycott a particular restaurant, I mean it, for at least a while.
So in little to no time, my wife had a a snack from the $2 menu: Some SOS as we call it, or gravy on biscuits. Aside that, she had an order of well-browned hash browns. What a deal - a plate full of food for $2.
I built my own Grand Slam with some eggs, bacon, sausage and grits. Yes, I know, I should be penciling-in a date with a heart surgeon, because you just know at this rate, it won't be long. The eggs and bacon we great, sausage okay and the grits, by grits standards were a bit weak, but good enough for me to eat.

The most important fact here was the excellent, prompt and courteous service we received at this Denny's compared to the shockingly inexplicable lack of performance by the Jim's less than a block up the street. How does such a thing happen?

Of course, I've seen the business end of a fork or two at loads of restaurants, so I fully understand that sometimes you just show up when they are having an off day. We can all forgive the fact that a cook didn't show up or one of the waitstaff just got fired, but when you are having an off day, at minimum - at the very minimum, you acknowledge your customers and you let them know that help is on the way - even if it isn't. And in a well run place, a waiter who sees a table being neglected - even if it is not their assignment - will at minimum take a drink order if only to keep a customer from leaving before the real waiter can get to them.

Have you been to the Jim's at 410 and Blanco and had a better experience than we did? Have you been to that same Denny's and received crappy service? I'd love to know. Leave a comment won't you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Thousand Posts... That's a lot....

Yes; 1,000. And some of you have been here from the very beginning. Thanks for continuing to come back from time to time over the last three years. It never has been my intent to sell anything, just maybe turn you on to a good restaurant or two or maybe save you the agony of trying a place that is just bad. We can all use a Tasty Treat, and I hope I have turned you on to a few.

One of my favorite things is to share with you the oddities I find during my daily drive. I like to pay homage to Strange in San Antonio, a blog that is more focused than I am on the happenings around town. So when I have found something "Strange in 78250" I hope you always follow the link to even more good stuff around San Antonio. Cars crashing into houses and fences (and mail boxes) must be chronicled.

My layout is purposely big. A large font that is easy to read and pictures that somehow don't seem to always be centered the way I want them to. I keep threatening myself with changing the format into something a little more contemporary - something more newspaper like, but can you imagine going back and fixing 1,000 posts?

I tried to take a brief hiatus at one point but found that even if I didn't have the time to write, I still had things to tell. So the brief hiatus was really brief. Instead, I have learned that I just don't have to post something everyday, and if I go a full week without posting, life goes on. And yet, that small hand full of you continue to come back.


I hope you might consider checking out some of the blogs I link to; either in the Sites for San Antonio, Check This out, or Blogs I Visit sections. All you need to do is scroll down to the end of the page and click. And if you are a regular here with a blog I haven't linked to, why not shoot me an e-mail so I can add it?

Finally, one of the best things about having a blog is meeting folks. Eva and I have met some folks we consider to be great people and friends simply from the interactions here. Sid & Al, Matt & Leah, Pete & Lydia, Rick, Maureen and several more. Hell,
we didn't even meet Jacque (aka YellowDog Granny) in person, but she hooked us up for dinner during a visit to West, TX. Blogs are great for interacting with folks. If you don't have one, give it a try and send me the link. Oh, and feel free to follow me. If you have a Google account, you know the drill.

And that's it. 1,000.

Lunch Report: Jacala on West Ave.

Eva's sister Madelene retired from work this week and to celebrate, we enjoyed a family get together for lunch at a place I had never been to before over on West Avenue called Jacala.

Seated with husband Armando, Nena is ready for some relaxing time with her youngest son and her grandchild. If you look closely into Armando's eyes, he is secretly saying, "Have at it!"
Located in San Antonio's Art Deco District, Jacala has been a fixture since 1949 and has been serving up Puffy Tacos and Jacalitos to the masses since.
Two things stood out (beyond the nice setting) for me: The chips and the salsa. Yum! Seriously, get there and get some. If you don't order another thing, you must experience the freshly made chips and the house salsa. I promise, the salsa is not too hot for you beginners, but the taste is simply wonderful.

We had a table full of folks and I wasn't about to go plate by plate taking pictures, but it is worth showing off a few items of interest.
Uncle Adam ordered up a plate of chicken fajitas on flour. How good does that look? I'm not a fan of Bell peppers, but the chicken looks good.
Most of us had plates that included enchiladas and puffy tacos along with rice and beans. The one on the left has a chicken puffy taco, the one on the right is beef. Who doesn't like a puffy taco? Oh, and the enchiladas? Loads of government cheese and all kinds of yum!

I liked the place. I loved the chips & salsa and my enchiladas were quite enjoyable. Need more? The parking lot had a guard watching the cars. How can you go wrong?
Jacala on West Avenue is a fine place to celebrate a great career, and when it comes to vittles, it is clearly a Tasty Treat.

Nena, Congrats!

Please Consider the Guy Behind You...

I know, it is entirely too easy to yammer on and on about the driving habits of people in our fair city, but may I take just a brief moment to indulge you in something that simply drives me bonkers?

You know how at most major intersections, they have that Yield Lane on the right that allows people making a right turn to continue on their way while those of you who are going straight through the intersection have to wait? Well, that little right hand turn lane is of no use if those of you going straight won't have the courtesy to allow us people turning right to get into the lane.

Like today, I was at the intersection of Culebra/Grissom/Tezel/FM471. I know, that reads like two intersections, but actually, because of the naming conventions in San Antonio, it is actually a single intersection. Please, don't even get me started on that.

Anyway, I pull up behind a Lincoln Town Car that happens to be the second vehicle in line at the stop light. Now let me be clear: I have seen 20/20, Nightline, Dateline NBC and COPS. I know all about the need to keep a safe distance behind people at a stoplight or stop sign so that you have some room to escape in the event of a carjacking. But, when it means that you are blocking the line of traffic behind you so you can be safe, isn't there a cost benefit analysis that takes place in your mind? Like, could I be pissing off ten cars who don't want to carjack me to the point that they might want to shoot me just to make themselves feel better?
So I am behind the Town Car and I pull my truck up as close to the curb as I can hoping to squeeze by. No luck. I need another foot. If only the lady driving the Town Car would inch up and decrease the gap from the truck in front of her from a full car-length to say 7/8's of a car length. I flash my lights a few times to try to get her attention. I suspect she thinks I might be attempting to car jack her, so she maintains her position. I know this is a long light so I consider for a brief moment putting my truck in park and exiting my vehicle to walk up and discuss the matter with her, but of course, I can also see myself getting shot for cause at an intersection less than a mile from my own house, and I wouldn't have blamed her. So I flash my lights again.

Can one not make the connection between the vehicle just inches from one's bumper trying to get into the right hand turn lane and the fact that scooting up just a matter of a few inches would resolve the situation? The reality is, I suspect the woman was deep in conversation with the lady riding with her, and my flashing lights did nothing to cause any sort of speculation as to my desire for her to move forward.

So then I honked my horn very slightly. I hate when people honk, so I reserve my honking for only the most urgent of situations: Near misses, a shout out to talented sign holders advertising new subdivisions or wireless cell phone companies, and when of course some Lincoln Town Car is blocking my way.

I know, you think I might have garnered a dirty look or something, but the lady driving did not even blink. So I honked again, and this time with the authority of a Ford F-150 owner on his way to have his truck inspected. Technically, this was official state business if you want to get right down to it.

Again, she maintained her full car length and now, the people behind me wanting to also make the right hand turn were giving me looks like I was the cause of the back up. Some 96 year-old blue-hair actually gave me the bird through my rear view mirror like it was my fault that I couldn't get the lady in the Town Car to scoot an inch.

You have to learn to pick your battles. If I was going straight through the intersection or if I had been behind the 96 year-old, I would have to wait for the light anyway, so I did the smart thing. I cooled my jets and checked my e-mail on the Blackberry.
Until some cranky lady behind me started honking at me.

Oops. I guess the light had turned green while I was deleting spam.

Patience, lady.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strange on Culebra: Don't Forget the Sunscreen...

I routinely find at least one thing to generate a smile (or at least a hearty "WTF?") as I drive up Culebra each day on my way home from work. Today found me giggling at a stop light at the intersection of Culebra and Loop 410.
Injured? the sign reads. No, but I could use some extra sunglasses to shield my eyes from that blinding white belly. At least the guy is doing something useful while he is on the clock. Today was a perfect day to kick back and enjoy the sun and listen to some tunes. Is that a small cooler there? He is set!
Kickin' back, sunning himself, doing a little advertising for a retired lawyer. Strange? I say it's good work if you can get it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

LOST: The End...

When you have invested your time in a TV series, it is better I think to have an ending that gives closure. It took me several days to decide that the ending of the Soprano's was okay with me.

Last night we invested 4 1/2 hours on the end of Lost. I thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour interview with the stars sort of recap. Who knew Jin could speak such good English in only 6 years? We even liked the series of Lost focused Target commercials. The smoke-monster and the smoke detector ad was quite humorous.

Then, the actual final episode, more than a two hour finale, it went a full 2 hours 30 minutes. Yes, it was nice to see everyone in the flash-sideways figure it all out two at a time. Yes, there were tear inducing, Hallmark card moments. Just a thought, does Hallmark have a card the reads, "So, looks like I'm dead, and so are you. Wanna see a concert tonight?" I know, I won't quit my day job. But the point is, if this were the final episode of The Walton's or Happy Days, great way to wind things down, let everyone say their goodbyes and move on to the next big TV series. But this was Lost!

I have a question? How did the final episode explain all the crap these people went through for the last several years - pushing buttons, reusing empty Oceanic water bottles and ostensibly, only bathing when they could find a safe capsule or the keys to one of The Others house? Why would we go through all that only to find inner peace at the end?

Instead of a DriveShaft concert, I would have rather had that Dharma Initiative guy, Myle's father, stand-up and give us a solid 2 and half hours of Q&A so we could understand what the hell it is we've been watching for the past 6 seasons.

Don't get me wrong. You can never expect the ending to be as good as the British version of Life on Mars. But shame on the Lost writers and producers for not giving it a shot. I read a comment from someone (I'm sorry, I can't recall where it was this morning) who said basically, "After watching the best thing on TV for the last 6 years, I forgive you for this lame ending".

I agree. But don't let it happen again. I've got enough closure, I need answers.

Has It Really Been 22 Years: Happy Birthday, Roxanne...

My, how time flies... One minute they are just tiny little babies and the next minute they are all grown up.
Happy Birthday, Roxanne!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Little Bit About Me...

I was at work today and I was talking to one of my co-workers. Us older guys tend to tell the occasional war story about our experiences while we were active duty but this young lady asked me what life was like for me before I joined the Air Force at the age of 18. So I told her a small little story and I thought I would share some of it with you, my friends who stop by from time to time to see what it is I have eaten.

You see, I was born and raised down in Alabama on a farm way back up in the woods. I was so ragged that folks used to call me Patches. My father used to tease me about it because deep down inside he was hurt since, he had done all he could. My dad was a great old man. Come to think about it, I can see him with a shovel in his hand. He never had any real education but the truth is, he did wonders when the times got bad. In fact, the little money from the crops he raised barely paid the bills we made. Life had kicked my father to the ground and when he tried to get up, life would kick him back down.

I know, it is sort of amazing that I come from such humble beginnings. But there is more.

One day Daddy called me to his death bed where he put his hands on my shoulders and through tears he said to me, "Patches, I'm depending on you, son. To pull the family through." He told me in fact that it was all left up to me. What a load for a kid my age.

Two days later my father passed away, and like it or not I became a man that day. Basically, I told my mom I was gonna quit school, but she said that was Daddy's strictest rule. So each morning I would have a Slim-fast or something before I went to school. I would feed the chickens and yes, I chopped wood too.

Kids these days just don't realize what hard work it was. Sometimes I felt that I couldn't go on I wanted to leave, just run away from home. But I would remember what my daddy said.

With tears in his eyes on his dying bed. He could hardly speak at this moment but he said "Patches, I'm depending on you, son. I tried to do my best but now it's up to you to do the rest."

Look, I don't mean to open up like this but there is more.

You aren't going to freakin' believe this but one day a strong rain came and washed all the crops away and at the age of 13 I thought I was carrying' the weight of the whole world on my shoulders; and you know, my mother knew what I was going through. Every day I had to work the fields because the truth is, that's the only way we got our meals. Turns out, I was the oldest of the family and all the younger siblings (and my mom) depended on me.

Every night I heard my mother pray "Lord, give him the strength to face another day." I didn't have much time to go to church, so that was kinda cool.

So years have passed and all the kids are grown, my mom got really sick and the angels took her to a brand new home - I believe heaven, but you know, who knows?

Lord knows, people, I shed tears but my father's voice kept me through the years when he said to me "Patches, I'm depending on you, son to pull the family through, I'm out of here, your mom is next, we didn't have life insurance or a 401K and now, it's all left up to you". Jesus, Dad!

Man, that sucked. But I joined the Air Force and the rest is history.

Oh, one other thing. The first record I bought was by Clarence Carter. Give it a spin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dinner Report: BJ's in Alamo Ranch...

The other night I came in from work and my wife suggested we zip over to Alamo Ranch to try out the recently opened BJ's, a chain that seems to be one of those brew pub type of restaurants.
Food? Beer? Yeah!
We beat the dinner rush and were able to walk in and be seated without delay. The place is nice and open, high ceilings and lots of TV's with various sporting events being shown. It looks like they could easily handle a large crowd in this place.

We mulled over the menu - the selection is simply huge with everything from regular bar grub to seafood, to specialty flatbread things. Really, way more than I can ever wrap my brain around for a first time visit to a place. Burgers? Check. Chicken Fried Steak? Check. Fish & Chips? Of course.
Being a beer place, they also had a huge selection of beers to choose from. It is only when you see that each beer is going to set you back $5.00, that you realize you better choose wisely. I did like that the menu had good descriptions and even suggested pairings of food items.

And when they had a little daily pairing special - Monday being Fish & Chips and BJ's Brewhouse Blonde (
A light and refreshing pale beer in the style of a German Kolsch. Slightly malty with delicate hopping to balance. Bottom-fermented and well-conditioned for exceptional smoothness.), that was all my wife and I needed to know. The gist of it is, you get the entree and a beer for $14.95. That might seem a bit above your standard Chili's price, but really, it isn't.

I will tell you right up front; I tainted my wife's view of the entire place by asking her if she preferred these fish & chips over the fish & chips at Islamoroda. Had I not said a word, she would have raved about how great BJ's fish & chips were.
I believe that you are required by law to douse your fish & chips in malt vinegar and eat them hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth. With that as the standard, I thought these fish & chips were good and would have no qualms at all about ordering them again. My wife on the other hand thought the fish was bland - she does not go the malt vinegar route. She felt like the breading needed something. I suggested malt vinegar (did I mention that already?). One thing we agreed on was that the fresh tarter sauce was very good.

Our waiter was a good sport. The guy was very friendly and even listened with interest when my wife told him the fish was bland. At one point, she suggested he go eat at the the Bass Pro Shop. He suggested she try the chicken fried steak next time.

I think BJ's adds well to the mix of restaurants in the Alamo Ranch area. Honestly, we need at least four or five more full service restaurants like this to make the place suitable for weekend dining. I suspect the folks who live closer to Bandera Pointe are suddenly feeling some of the relief that the Alamo Ranch area has given them in their efforts to dine without waiting for an hour.

Are you a fan of BJ's? Have you tried the Fish & Chips or one of their burgers? Why not share with the group using the comments button below.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Missing Chicken Head in Bandera...

We took an impromptu drive up to Bandera Sunday just to get out of the house for a few hours and because my wife so enjoys being with two dogs in a confined space for two hours. The dogs enjoyed the trip because, as Eva and I ate a chocolate dipped cone from DQ, the dogs shared a plain Junior Brazier Burger.
Anyway, while there, we spied this special chicken vehicle parked in front of the Church's Fried Chicken. My wife happened to recall that some vandals had stolen the head some time ago. Obviously, they got the chicken head (or a reasonable facsimile) back.

The Hail You Say...

Last week it was tornadoes my son had to deal with up in OKC, yesterday afternoon, it was a huge hail storm. In the case of the tornado, he was lucky; yesterday was a different story.
Imagine a few of these little jewels coming down at high velocity.
Or a lot of them.

And this is the sort of thing that results.

Needless to say, living on the beach in Florida was a much more enjoyable military assignment for him...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wooden Nickle Unveiling Report: That's a Big Nickle...

We slipped over to the Ft Sam - Broadway part of town next to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens where if you look really closely, you can find a VFW post and the newly renovated Wooden Nickle Museum and the world's largest Wooden Nickle.
I was not aware that each year they resurface one side of the big nickle and put a new design on it. We got there with enough time to walk through the museum before sitting down to watch the unveiling ceremony.

The museum is small but filled with some interesting artifacts. It isn't just the displays of wooden nickles, there are lots of interesting antiques.

We thought this old fashioned player piano was interesting.
Admission to the museum is free so if you ever make a trip to the Botanical Gardens, you are pretty much obligated to swing by and take a look.
Outside, the folks had put together a small fair of sorts that would continue on during the afternoon. There were games and BBQ pits set up, and it looked like it was going to be a good time.
When it was time for the big event, the assembled crowd stood for the posting of the colors by a group of reenactment Buffalo Soldiers and characters from the old days. I assume they were reenactment actors. A young lady from a private school, I want to say St. Peters something or other, gave a nice performance of the National Anthem. Very well done in a Britney Spears sort of way.
The MC for the event was a dapper young man who, but for the modern aluminum crutches could have been right out of a Lonesome Dove movie set, thanked several different people and groups. The guest speaker was a man from the San Antonio area Fisher House's to explain how they help the families of military members visiting their wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coasties. What a great cause. Here in Military City, USA, we have a total of 7 Fisher Houses, three at Lackland and WHMC and four supporting Ft Sam and BAMC.

And with that, it was time for the unveiling!
We weren't able to stay and enjoy the festive event, but it was very nice to see the museum and all the interesting things inside as well as the fresh new Fisher House logo on the big wooden nickle.

About Your Host

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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