People may be strange whenyou’re a stranger, as Jim Morrison eerily crooned, butthere’s no reason to feel estranged in friendly ol’ SA. Spread out we may be, but nearly every corner of town has a few student must-haves and hangouts. From affordable salons to body modification to comic-book stores, let us introduce you to your home away from home.
Sam’s Burger Joint
Burgers, beer, and badass tunes. Is there any better combination? Sam’s remains a jewel in the eye of many San Antonio bands and musicians. Playing a weekend gig at this notoriously selective club means free food, a good-sized audience, a sound-guy that actually knows what he’s doing, and good pay.
At Sam’s the weekend usually guarantees top-notch local bands at a moderate price. During the week, the venue keeps the music coming with low-priced theme nights: Sam’s Swing Factory Mondays ($5), Puro-Slam Poetry Tuesdays ($3), Indie Rock Wednesdays ($5), and Blues Thursdays (free).
While you’re there, don’t forget to try one of the half-pound burgers (they also have whole-pound burgers if you’re game). 330 E. Grayson, (210) 223-2830, Samsburgerjoint.com
Just a stone’s throw away from the UIW, Trinity, and SAC campuses, the venue caters to those with tastes in indie and college rock. We give the Limelight props for a clean bar and hip atmosphere, but a minus for parking. 2718 N. St. Marys, (210) 735-7775
The White Rabbit
The Rabbit remains the central hub in San Antonio’s bleeding-heart emo/hardcore scene. But with the addition of a pizza shop and semi-known national touring acts, it also taps into the college crowd. 2410 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 737-2221, Sawhiterabbit.com
There’s a reason why it used to be called “college rock”: We scholars finally have the freedom to be independent. But all too often we waste it in places that sell washing machines or groceries. The truth is, San Antonio offers dorm-dwellers (and anyone else) plenty of options to exercise the syllabus-granted right to shop for creative music at creative, non-store-in-a-box places. Here then, are three local, independently owned and operated music shops that cater to collegiate taste (and budget). Because there’s something sick about buying a Fugazi album at Best Buy.
Jesse Garcia’s shop takes its name from audiophile-weight vinyl, and if anyone would feel at home in 180 grams, it’s a turntable nerd. The small shop on San Pedro is dominated by its excellent, diverse wax — rows of free-jazz records (a lot of Pharoah Sanders here), funk, and hip-hop sit above crates of well-worn 45s, and a double-deck system connected to two massive speakers in the corner continually blasts an eclectic mix of indie rock, ambient, dub, and funk.
What sets 180 Grams apart from its competitors isn’t its tiny CD bins — you don’t come to 180 grams for the compact discs — but the prevailing mission of the place to act as a musical watering hole for San Antonio artists and musicians. Work by local artist David Alcantar fits between the dozens of band posters on the walls, and an entire room of the store is dedicated to a rotating exhibit featuring San Antonio artists (currently, the helicopter-driven acrylics and foam sculpture of Pedro Luera are on display). Already home to about three shows per month, mostly by out-of-town experimental-music bands, Garcia hopes to use the store as a jumping off point to build a network of bands and fans of music criminally under-represented in San Antonio’s punk and metal dominated scene. This live-music drive, along with the constantly spinning records and the couch in the corner, emphasizes the central charm of Garcia’s store: This is not only a place to buy music, it’s a place to listen to it, and love it. 2120 San Pedro, (210) 320-8534, Myspace.com/180grams
This one’s basically a San Antonio institution, loved for its massive inventory, 25-year punk-and-metal foundation, and surprisingly diverse selection. Though the bins labeled “metal/hardcore” are by far the longest in the shop and Dead Kennedys buttons are everywhere, it’s also pretty easy to find a “Goth” section and a Morrissey T-shirt. 1824 N. Main Avenue, (210) 733-5354
The house that Trinity grad Brent Evans built is a sleek compact-disc repository of current indie-rock releases. Vinyl is used, limited, and hilarious — I swear I saw Jermaine Jackson next to the ubiquitous Elton John — but the staff picks are always impeccable, and the selection is excellent. 4714 Broadway, (210) 826-2737, Myspace.com/musictownsa
COMICS AND GAMING
Voted number one in the Current’s Best of San Antonio comics category two years in a row by our readers, Bob’s Comics is quite simply comic-nerd heaven. Whether you’re gaga for Superman, loyal to Marvel or DC, or just saw 300 and want to read the Frank Miller graphic novel, Bob’s will scratch your itch. Run by comic lovers for comic lovers. 11781 West Ave., (210) 524-9821, Bobscomics.com
Atomic Comics & Gaming
Staffed by friendly comic know-it-alls, Atomic comics carries a wide array of titles. If you’re into Magic or other card games, the shop is “officially sanctioned” and hosts in-store tournaments. 4904 Broadway, (210) 826-3223, atomic-sa.com
Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy
With locations in San Antonio and Austin, this store features comics, manga, and graphic novels. Open till midnight except on Wednesdays and Sundays, the Dragon’s Lair is the perfect place for the comic addict. 7959 Fredericksburg #129, (210) 615-1229, Dragonslairtx.com
TATTOO + PIERCING
In college, tattoos are a dime-a-dozen, often the only reminder of that drunken bender gone wrong. But tattoos (other than tribal or barbed-wire arm bands) can also serve as personal statements or works of art when done right. Dandyland boasts a clean environment and talented roster of trained tattoos artists and piercers with portfolios posted online. The shop is consistently ranked in the top three in our annual reader poll. 1821 Bandera Rd., (210) 432-5747,
It’s hard to argue with our readers. Voted runner-up in the Current’s annual readers’ poll, Platinum Piercing employs a knowledgeable staff that aims to make your next piece of body art your best. 5545 NW Loop 410, (210) 682-5239
Mr. Lucky’s Tattoo
Another great shop, Mr Lucky’s isn’t that far from UIW or Trinity and turns out quality tattoos that won’t disappoint. Dig the trippy Grateful Dead vibe on the website. 2710 N. St. Mary’s, (210) 736-6900, Mrluckystattoo.com
Shag the Salon
It’s common for college kids to let their locks go untouched for months (with their pockets hanging out of their pants after scraping up change for food and books). Shag the Salon offers the perfect medium between overpriced salons and the $5 clip joints that results in borrowing your roomate’s baseball cap. Get a trendy or funky ’do for a reasonable price while chillin’ in the swingin’ ’60s atmosphere, chatting it up with the friendly hairdressers — they’ll even serve you cold beer or hot coffee while you wait. 1010 Warren, (210) 222-1700, Shagthesalon.com
Doo or Dye
Doo or Dye spawned Shag in a break-up saga worthy of its Quentin-Tarantino ethos. Stylish cuts and color for a great price. Fabulously unpredictable atmosphere. John and Briana Cano founded the city's first fashionable alternative to high-priced attitude and risky bargain cuts more than a decade ago. Doo or Dye, 331 W. Mulberry, (210) 738-8089 Dooordye.net or Myspace/com/officialdoorordye
A one-woman shop spawned in turn (and with less drama) by Shag, Chop Chop’s Ashley Horky puts beauty (including elegant eyebrows) within reach of the student budget. Located in up-n-coming SoSoFlo — trés convenient for UTSA Downtown students. Myspace.com/salonofthegoddess
Candlelight Coffee House & Wine Bar
Coffee houses are traditional havens for getting a paper done, studying for an exam, or just plain killing time. Our city is stacked with super little places to sip some fresh roasted brew. You’ve just got to know where to go. For those of you taking courses at San Antonio College, Trinity, University of the Incarnate Word, or UTSA’s downtown campus, you’re conveniently located near one of the city’s best-kept secrets where joe is concerned. Candlelight Coffee House and Wine Bar on North St. Mary’s is a cozy, well-furnished place to relax. It’s got a vintage indoor atmosphere with plenty of couches and chairs arranged in mini living rooms, and a quaint little patio surrounded by vines and old trees. They even offer a full menu of great food to snack on while you hang. They’re closed Monday and Tuesday, but open Wednesday-Sunday until midnight. 3011 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 738-0099, Candlelightsa.com
Ruta Maya Riverwalk
If socializing is on your agenda, Ruta Maya on the Riverwalk is the place to go. Its unique atmosphere makes an exciting place to sip imported 100-percent organic Arabic coffee, and enjoy live music and open mic nights. Ruta Maya’s not just about coffee either, a hefty selection of beers are also available for swiggin’. 107 E. Martin St.,
(210) 223-6292, Rutamayariverwalk.com
Trinity students are within walking distance of Olmos Perk, located in nearby Olmos Park. Perk offers free WiFi, four workspaces, comfortable couches, and delicious coffee. The shop’s comfy ambience encourages relaxation. Just keep in mind it’s an early-bird place: open at 6:30 a.m., closed at 5 p.m., so don’t bet on late-night cramming. 5223 McCullough Ave., (210) 858-2956
I know some people tire of good old Starbucks, but the one in the Quarry is open 24 hours. It’s always a good choice for those late-night cram sessions that must be done at least a mile away from your bed so that fluffy pillows and warm blankets aren’t calling your name. 255 E. Basse Rd., (210) 828-3818, Starbucks.com
Guadalupe Street Coffee House
Located in the heart of the West Side, Guadalupe is a community place — and in true San Anto fashion, they play hard. You should’ve seen the all-ages team they brought to the August 4 First Annual Lawn Sports Gala. Featuring regular local artist shows, too, plus just as much free internet and WiFi as the North Side. 1320 Guadalupe St., (210) 212-6508, Myspace.com/guadalupecoffeeshop