Postgrad Indulgence by an Outdoor Elevator – $5 Catfish at Lone Star Cafe

I chose my current residence with the goal of saving money to further pursue my endeavors. Though perseverance in a whole week of miserly doesn’t exactly nurture a calm that facilitates a productive workweek, or weekends that leave you dreading and anticipating the upcoming Monday.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Downtown’s potentially expensive. I realize the Starbucks a minute from work charges a little more, and “little” adds up to a good twenty bucks, if mainstream macchiatos are your thing. I also realize that amidst the quiet dives hiding behind salt rocks and contemporary abstract hotel sculptures, good deals can greet in the open. And if you’re working Downtown, a fulfilling though affordable Friday lunch can feed your weekend excitement A thing to look forward to on Mondays as you conquer your workweek.

I’m raving about the five dollar catfish buffet at Lone Star Cafe, off Losoya Street, by McDonald’s and Fuddruckers.

For some, Lone Star is a bit hard to find, but my first week of training, it was all coworkers and supervisors could recommend. On Fridays. No one ever asked if those in my cohort or myself were “fish people,” though I’m aware catfish has a tendency to polarize, depending on how it’s prepared. Breaded, blackened, seasoned, plain.

I typically say “meh” when it’s fried. Not at Lone Star.

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I was informed it was a “catfish buffet,” so I thought I’d walk into a room filled with fine wood tables boasting heaps of golden batter on silver trays, livened with the glow of a modest flame and made approachable by five or six pairs of scattered tongs. This is what I’m used to when dining buffet style.

But as you walk down the street, there’s a host that greets you by an elevator painted white. You’re offered the choice of dining indoors, or out. I live near the unpopulated side of the Riverwalk, and already accustomed to what I call confetti-ized (or confetti-sized) tourism (the authentic calling your name in crowds of the gimmicky, and vice versa), I thought it refreshing to sit from above, look at the trees, and note all the colors down below.

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Fortunately, my first trip was nothing like this past weekend, bogged down with flash flood warnings. I visited in early March.

I was told by the waiter that simply, I finish my plate, and he brings another. While I readied myself for a greasy feast all too iconic of Long John Silver’s, my fish arrived easily managed. You’re left to enjoy several pieces of modestly sized fish with a whiteness and flakiness that left me thinking, “This isn’t American catfish.” But it is.

IMG_1395Maybe, in limited experience, I’ve just had crappy catfish. I realized I arrived a bit judgmental. The admittance was repeated as I bit into a sweet roll. They’re not frozen.

In training, we were given fifteen minutes extra when walking out for lunch. So I used it the best I could, warming up, studying branches, craning my neck to hear what people were laughing about at the outdoor bar several steps down.

I didn’t have to ask, and my plate was replaced. And replaced. And replaced.

Actually, I sat through three plates of catfish, several inhalations of dough rightly baked, and playful dips in tartar sauce.

I can be iffy on tartar sauce. And restaurants. Tourism. Work.

I fished out my tip, feeling that my bill, in total, ought to have been around $14.99. It was a little over six after tax. And of course, add the tip that I prefer giving in dollar bills, quarters, and dimes.

Truly, there are places to foster my frugal hesitance. Some I’ve passed, everyday, unaware without the prodding of those who like me, dance for Friday, and sulk on Monday mornings.

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Braised Comfort and Sips of Miso Soup – Kimura

“How do you survive?”

A common question, as I poke my fork at lightly salted Easy Mac most days at work. Currently, I’m re-living high school, a time of contentment with simple things like oranges and microwaved tuna casserole. I stretched out my checks earned as a tour guide, and I hope to do the same now.

But living a little hardly hurts.

I live a street-and-a-half away from work. A convenience for both the lackadaisical and eager as I leave thirty minutes before office hours start, slipping on pants with a speed not pressured. I count chain restaurants at each stoplight. Not many, but I find few little enclaves I plan to visit again.

IMG_2850Modest at its antiquated outset, Kimura’s offerings of Japan and satisfaction restored my spirits during one of my more stressful weeks these first months at the job. It’s tiny, yet accommodating to commiserating coworkers and childhood friends meeting up, if just for once within the past ten years. There’s a bar to the left as you open the door, though seating to the right against well-shaded windows grants a mellow reprieve.

IMG_2840I arrived around noon, seeking reunion with miso soup I forgot the taste of as barbecued pork, pasta, and Nutella sandwiches were swallowed in weeks prior. I looked to the waitress, pointing to a tall, frosted bottle. “It’s vodka!” she joked. I laughed in my usual awkwardness, asked for water, and she giggled, pouring me a glass. It wasn’t vodka, but it was invigorating.

Recently, my Asian dining has been limited to pho. Which is wholesome and widely accessible here, though I craved pork, which is hard to find at good quality. I’m always one to request tofu, or the vegetarian pad thai. It’s really more of a texture thing, my aversion to most meats. But oddly, I don’t mind pork. Cue the Chashu Don.

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Like the establishment, the dish wields a humility that goes a long way. Along with the soup and calming neutrality of cucumber sunomono, you get a bowl graced with braised beige and sprinkles of green onion. I’ve always preferred steamed over brown rice, so I spent my hour quite fulfilled, taking my time to slice through the meat with the same wide spoon I used to sift through my soup. I could never feign mastery of chopsticks, and I’m still too shy to request forks and knives when the setting brands them anomalous.

IMG_2834Here, you witness conversations familiarized by small-towny shows like Gilmore Girls. I haven’t dined here to the point of assessing the restaurant’s likenesses to Cheers, but Kimura’s no stranger to handfuls passing by. The girl who makes my coffee at the shop across Starbucks stopped to say “Hello.” A person in an office two floors below me smiled to ask, “Is it good?” as he opened a sturdy menu. I found myself looking around. At well-shaded windows, hues of glossy red, the uncrowded enthusiasm in those around, sipping their shoyu, chewing on bean sprouts.

IMG_2836It was a humid day. Gray, but unwilling to welcome rain. I walked to work with a cup of Easy Mac wedged between folders bent in my bag. But it’s not exactly the chicken soup that soothes. Chashu Don’s a close counterpart. Actually, it’s something more.

Acquaint yourself with Kimura, and if you ever find yourself in Downtown San Antonio, do give them a try!

“Fragola Granola”

I take many sayings a bit more seriously than I should, but I admit I can be a bit dismissive when people say that breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. It’s time I take this to heart, and go back to some wonderfully simple treats I made a long time ago, now that I’ve purchased a blender. What you see is “Fragola Granola”. It’s a smoothie of sorts, topped with your favorite brand of granola, cereal, chopped fruit, or any other of your preferred toppings. I can see this being liked by children and teens during the bustle of busy mornings. I can also think of several adults, including myself, who could use a quick, nutritious breakfast made in ten minutes’ time.

The recipe: 

1 1/2 cups of skim milk (or whole milk. You can always customize).

1 cup of Strawberry Gelato (use your favorite brand. I typically buy my local grocery store’s generic kind. There are low-fat varieties too).

1 Tablespoon of Laura Saddler’s Natural Peanut Butter (the texture is lovely, almost like a peanut butter milkshake. Try it! But Jiff and Skippy do the job too).

1 medium-sized banana (not the one you use as a comedy phone).

NOW: 

Mix these ingredients in a blender. For something smooth and milky-like, blend on high. For a treat that resembles a smoothie or healthy shake, blend on low to medium. Blending usually takes me 2 to 3 minutes no matter the consistency I want.

Lastly, top this creation with your favorite granola. Or, let me restate: Your favorite cereal, chopped fruit, a dash of cinnamon, and even chocolate syrup for a decorative touch and a dash of decadence.

Breakfast can be a chore, and is often overlooked. But don’t underestimate its importance, especially as you grow older!

Do you eat breakfast regularly? If so, what do you usually eat?