Saturday, May 23, 2015

La Sorpresa Cafe, Pleasanton Road

Though the weather reports may state otherwise, I was merry with the warm glow of the sun as I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant I didn't expect to see. Some of the best decisions are made at the last second, and as I rolled down Pleasanton Road in south San Antonio, I had a feeling I would eye a humble eatery and pull over suddenly to the chagrin of the drivers behind me.

Earlier this week, I drove north on this road to pick up a cake at Lucy's (another great place with locations on SW Military and SW Loop 410) and noticed several Mexican establishments to my left and right. That's not a surprise at all, but I basically made the decision then to revisit the area this morning and see what it had to offer.

Oddly enough, though, last night, when I slowly scrolled down the road on Google Maps, I didn't spot a single place with great reviews, or at least none that really sparked my interest. That, of course, is fine, and so, after a trip to the gym, I got back in my Accord and just drove down Pleasanton, determined to simply turn one way or another and have breakfast. Sometimes, you need it. Yelp is not infallible.

And as I headed southbound the road seemed to lack the abundance of restaurants that I at least imagined was there. One place closer to Military, Rocky's, caught my eye for a second, but I decided to keep going. When it appeared my options were fewer than previously thought (two theories: the cafes are more toward Moursund Boulevard and 410, or I was just hungry and/or hallucinating), I pulled my first u-turn and headed back toward Rocky's.

However, as luck would have it, my peripheral vision spotted a place to my left as I was driving in the other direction. It was called La Sorpresa, and there was really nothing flashy to tell you it was there. Just a plain sign and a few cars out front. So I said, "Screw it," and busted a second u-ey (rather unsafely) at Drury Lane (right by the muffin man) to check it out.

Again, nothing about the place sticks out, and I'd say that's what I was looking for. Cars were parked there, and I had a good feeling, which got even better when I walked in.

It felt like home. I love these places where the kitchen and dining area are kind of meshed into one, and it certainly had this familial aspect to it, with plenty of hugs and besitos

I was still slightly jazzed from working out, so I sat at my small table by the window, drank my coffee, and was pretty content by the time the pangs of hunger came. 

Let's take a look at the menu:

Pretty standard, I'd say, and I went for the Machacado & Egg plate. Last week's first taste had me craving more, and this is what I got:

Holy crap, was this good. I know very little about Machacado, but it was juicy (though I don't know if dried beef is supposed to be juicy), delicious, and went well with the eggs, onions, tomatoes and peppers, wrapped in some of the best tortillas I've had in San Antonio. The corn and flour were equally good, and the red salsa burned wonderfully and brought it all together. 

The joint is aptly named. It was a pleasant surprise and a great way to start the weekend. Couple it with friendly, fast service, and it's one of the best places I've visited.

I took a menu home just in case.


Price Breakdown:

Machacado & Egg
Four tortillas


3215 Pleasanton Road, 78221
(210) 977-8775

Taquería Aguascalientes, North Loop 1604

My taco interests typically lie within the first loop, but that's not to say there aren't good Mexican eats on the outskirts of town. I learned this some time ago when I tried a place on Babcock Road near 1604 with a friend. It was good, certainly up to my (not so high) standards. However, I did not take notes on the place (I don't even remember what it was called.), which only means I'll have to choke down their Al pastor and salsa one more time. Woe is me.

And since this same friend and I were in her neighborhood near UT San Antonio last Saturday morning, it was proposed we hit up a place we both hadn't visited, Taqueria Aguascalientes, a busting Mexican eatery at the northwest corner of the outer loop, right next to Hills and Dales Ice House.

Like always, the full lot was a good sign right off the bat. I had to park my car across the street, and we walked into the place to see a family of four waiting to be seated. I don’t typically run into such problems at these places. Full dining area, sure. Waiting to sit down, not so much. We were, however, shown to the end of a table after just a few minutes. We shared the mesa with another group, which didn't bother us. Kinna made us feel like we were at a more trendy, communal establishment (although it’s not exactly one of those).

We were pretty hungry, so we scanned the menu right away. Unfortunately, I only got a picture of one page, but it gives you an idea of what they have. Nothing out of the ordinary, I don’t think.

I was in the mood for tacos (shock), so I went with three: Machacado (shredded dry beef, eggs, and peppers), potatoes with chorizo, and “country and egg” (also known as sausage and egg). I noticed off the bat that, perhaps due to how busy they were, the service was quite terse, the hurried coffee pouring that nearly leaves a few drops on the table. I wouldn’t say I mind that much, but I’m not sure how necessary such curtness is. Breathe. Tranquila. Make it easier on yourself.

And I was pretty tranquilamente in a food coma after throwing these down:

The tacos were good. I quite liked the Machacado, but that’s likely because I hadn’t had it before. It was like a breakfast taco made tastier with beef jerky. Whether it was high quality Machacado or not, I don’t know, but I was full and pretty happy. The chorizo was dark with a strong flavor, and the country and egg was…well…sausage and egg with nothing that particularly stuck out, at least not at this point a week later.

All in all, good food. Certainly a popular spot, but not exceptionally rico. Muy rico, though? Yes, I’ll give it that. A good option for UTSA students or anyone else looking for an affordable breakfast or lunch.


Price breakdown:

Don't remember. However, it will not wipe out your weekend.


15409 White Fawn Drive, 78255

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Los Angeles Tortilleria Y Panadería, N. Zarzamora Street

Last night as my head hit the pillow, I was already excited for the next day, a free Saturday morning when I could head one way or another and probar a Mexican eatery of my choosing. I think it was especially exciting because I hadn't done it in so long. This is what happens when #1: You start a new job. #2: Your classes take up more time. And #3: You get lazy. But for Pete's sake, what kind of tool bag is too lazy for tacos? Step up to the plate, John, and eat tortilla chips and chorizo like you should.

I was wanting to try a place on Zarzamora Street. I had heard this or that about one joint or another on this road, and they're prevalent in this particular stretch of town. I just didn't know which one to choose, and after such a long absence, I wasn't keen on going with a dud.

I decided on a decent-sized, popular place called Los Angeles. There are a couple of them, one here at North Zarzamora and West Commerce, and "#2", on Commercial Avenue. So, with great enthusiasm and an empty stomach, I cruised over to the West Side, passing a few other, elaborately decorated joints before approaching the full parking lot of LA.

I had never seen a parking attendant at a place like this, but for some reason, they have one, which you can attribute to their popularity, or for keeping out patrons of the Garden Inn across the street. 

Upon entering, the first thing you notice is the gentleman walking around, playing the 9:30 in the morning. I liked it already. 

Walk past the bakery and tortilleria at the front to a spacious, festive dining area, replete with decorations hanging from the ceiling and inspirational posters about cuddling, caring, and laughing. Upon ordering my coffee and taking a look at the breakfast plates, I couldn't fight the urge to have chilaquiles. The decision was kinna made before I got there. Menu looks pretty standard and good. Come Monday through Friday, and you can have two breakfast tacos and café for $2.99.

It was simply enjoyable to sit in my booth, relax, sip my coffee, and take in the Saturday. The dude was playing, people were clapping, kids were running around. It all put a smile on my face, and this plato cranked the good vibes up to 11:

What's better than eggs, fried tortillas, and melted cheese? Eggs, fried tortillas, and queso fresco. Man, this was good, accentuated by more-than-adequate tortillas (flour was a little better than corn) and tasty salsas. The red was delightfully picosa and went well with everything. Good refried beans, good potatoes, no complaints. Tack on a nice conversation with Yulisa, my waitress from El Salvador, and my morning was complete. 

So there you go. Another quality choice for chips, cheese, eggs, beans, taters, salsa, tortillas, and probably everything else on the menu. Or just go listen to the guy. His voice ain't bad.

$ Bite For Your Buck $


Price Breakdown:

Four tortillas



300 North Zarzamora Street, 78207