Through a vibrant city center redolent of American frontier history, with the Alamo at its center ringed by Crockett, Travis, Bowie, and Houston Streets—each one named after a legendary figure from the Texas Revolution—winds one of America’s greatest public gathering places, the Riverwalk. With its origins dating from a New Deal Works Progress Administration project launched in 1938-9, the Riverwalk has expanded in stages and continued to improve ever since. Today it ranks as San Antonio’s most popular tourist attraction, ahead of even the Alamo, and with good reason. Few places in America bring together culture, entertainment, dining, shopping, and general, all-around good times with as much flare and excitement as does San Antonio’s Riverwalk.
River parades are a Riverwalk tradition dating back to 1936 and an event called “A Venetian Night.” In 1941 a river carnival was held by which time many of the present stairways and bridges were completed. The first restaurant opened on Riverwalk in 1946 and the first hotel in 1962. A flood—pun intended—of restaurants and hotels followed in subsequent years, including the Culinary Institute of America, which opened a Pearl Brewery location in 2006. Today visitors enjoy an abundance of enticing choices of places to dine and stay.
The Riverwalk was in fine form this past weekend celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The river was dyed green, as was much of the beer served at waterside establishments, while an exuberant parade of decorated barges motored by in the Riverwalk’s annual St. Patrick’s Day boat parade.
We enjoyed the scene while having dinner at water’s edge in the shade of sprawling Cypress and Magnolia trees at one of San Antonio’s best-loved restaurants, La Paloma Riverwalk, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Dinner was delightful, as was the service provided by our waiter, Angelo, who's been serving customers like ourselves at La Paloma since the dawn of the new millennium. We opted for a pair of seafood dishes centered around jumbo shrimp freshly harvested from the Gulf of Mexico—Camarones al Mojo de Ajo and Camarones a la diabla.
“This is one of the tastiest shrimp dishes I’ve ever had,” my dining companion exclaimed after his first bite of the latter dish, and I could have said the same thing about mine.
Wandering mariachi bands provided festive music along the entire length of the Riverwalk while a procession of fearless Mallard ducks waddled along the walkways and between the tables, giving their quacks of approval to the goings on in exchange for morsels offered by diners succumbing to their charms.
In 2011 a walkway opened connecting various elements of the Riverwalk complex and creating an interconnected array of public lands totaling 2,020 acres, larger in area than New York’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
For more information about the San Antonio Riverwalk, visit its official website: www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com
For more information about the La Paloma Riverwalk restaurant, visit their website: lapalomariverwalk.com.