As much as San Antonians talk about how small our city feels, many of us end up retracing the same routes again and again on our way to eat, drink, and shop — after an hour trying to figure out what to do — keeping it boring. Here’s a new block to shake up your SA experience: West Commerce from Zarzamora to SW 25th St. This is best experienced on cushy bike lanes on your road bike, BMX, or chromed-out cruiser.
The strip starts with the best taco truck around, Taquitos el Guero. The surprise hit here isn’t the tacos, though. No, ma’am. This spot holds the best arrangement of ice cream, raspas, y fruta shenanigans you can think of. Pull over and try it: banana splits, pickled oranges, y todo. Get some all over your Westside-loving face!
As you roll on, you start to see some of the rooted vida of the Westside, the beauty of homes converted to restaurants, shops, y bakeries. One of those is Flowers + Tuxedos, where you’ll find prom tuxedos starting at $39.99. No joke, kid. Across the street you see a mint green shop called Garcia’s with a reputation for goodness. They only sell outfits for baptismals, first communions, weddings, and quinceañeras. Further west you will find keep-it-real life necessities at a local botanica: “break-up” relationship candles and copal incense to thank our abuelas y abuelos. Hopefully you made this a Saturday stroll, porque on the weekends you will catch yard sales like no other at every second home: bikes for seven bucks; almost-new microwaves for nine bucks; Spider Man costume? Ten bucks. It just keeps giving, I promise.
As you pull yourself away from second-hand heaven, you hit La Centro Americana bakery. First, this joint’s been here for 15 years. Second, the owner/baker, Leticia, will personally fulfill your fruitiest dreams. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a fresa-filled campechana that she’s spent all those years perfecting. It’s flaky yet not chewy, crisped and caramelized, the strawberries are sprinkled with just the right amount of not-so-good-for-you sugar. Don’t be offended if she doesn’t think twice before passing you up to serve a regular in a heartbeat, which takes the fucking cake for keeping it real.
Keep rolling past the neighborhood barbershop and dance hall that will forever serve set-ups for you and your “roommate.” Before you reach Our Lady of the Lake University, you’ll get punched in the face by the A&A drive thru. This burger joint and underrated music venue is where I first witnessed one of the best bands to come out of San Antonio, Robotrumble, and it only costs me a can of beans. No lie. Bring your can on a Thursday night, order a Tecate or Lone Star, grilled cheese or burger, and catch some of the rowdiest shows in the city.
As you push further west you start to see why it is that Westsiders get angry when city officials and corporate investors start to tear down homes and buildings all over their side of town. These buildings are the keepers of life stories. These places aren’t shopping centers or cookie-cutter KB Homes. Here on the Westside you will find nothing but real. And that’s how we should keep it. •