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The Short Version: The Cove provides couples in San Antonio, Texas, with a laid-back dining experience that allows them to be themselves. For nearly 20 years, The Cove has been a unique mix of a live music venue and restaurant that specializes in organic, local, and sustainable cuisine. The Cove has something for everyone, including a family-friendly playground, an outdoor area to enjoy the beautiful weather, and nearly 60 beers from the state of Texas. For its relaxing atmosphere that fosters fun dates, The Cove has earned our Editor’s Choice Award.
Not many couples can say they’ve enjoyed a date at a car wash, laundromat, live music venue, and restaurant. But The Cove in San Antonio, Texas, has been that all-in-one, quirky spot for many couples for nearly two decades.
Owner Lisa Asvestas said it all started back in 2001 when she and her former partner first purchased the car wash and laundromat. They decided to start serving ice cream and hot sandwiches to the customers who stopped in, and she soon discovered how much she loved the hospitality business.
From there, Lisa, who has three children, decided to add a playground. And, because she loved live music, she began booking acts to perform. Then, in 2003, she started studying Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga that helps people live well by eating right.
That’s when she decided to devote her burgeoning business into a restaurant that served organic, local, and sustainable cuisine. When Lisa bought her former partner out of the business a few years ago, she also focused on creating a supportive environment for her team of employees and developing a relaxed vibe that couples could enjoy.
“I hear a lot of stories about first dates here, and it has something to do with our energy. It’s super-eclectic,” Lisa said. “It’s definitely a place where you can people-watch, and there’s an energetic vibe because so many people are there.”
The Cove’s menu is filled with delicious foods, including tacos and burgers — but with a twist. Most of their ingredients are local, organic, and sustainably sourced.
“What I love is that there’s something for everyone on a date. We have grass-fed meats and gluten-free food, lots of vegetarian and vegan options,” Lisa said. “We work with local farmers and ranchers, so we’re sourcing local food.”
Lighter bites include the kale and avocado spinach salad with a homemade celery dressing, bean and cheese nachos, and a Mexican lentil stew topped with cilantro pesto. For a heartier meal, tacos are a big hit and come stuffed with fish, shrimp, tempeh, or a sampling of all three.
The menu includes plenty of burgers as well. Diners can order grass-fed beef burgers, chicken, lamb, tofu, brown rice patties, and portobello varieties. Vegetarians and vegans can choose from many different sandwiches, and daters can even order a burger on a salad instead of a bun for a healthier option.
There’s also an affordable children’s menu, with plenty of kid-approved options.
For dessert, a vanilla soft-serve ice cream is a throwback to the origins of The Cove and is free of hormones and antibiotics.
And, because all of that great food can make anyone thirsty, The Cove features nearly 60 different Texas beers to try while enjoying a date with that special someone.
Throughout each month, Texas musicians and bands entertain crowds from the stage at The Cove.
“You can always catch a Texas act here. People love that for date night,” she said. “I’m always grateful because it’s amazing and wonderful.”
It also schedules weekly events, perfect for a low-key evening with a date. On Wednesdays, professional musician John Malgald oversees a live jazz orchestra. Wednesday evening is also Military Appreciation Night, with discounts for veterans.
A wine tasting is held on the third Thursday of each month, allowing participants to sample five different wines. On the fourth Thursday of the month, a beer tasting helps daters figure out which of The Cove’s 57 Texas beers to order.
“The Cove is where you feel free, because kids are running around and because there’s music,” Lisa said. “It’s a laid-back vibe where you could just be yourself. I love that. It really is a place to celebrate whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or just life.”
Small groups can reserve sections of the restaurant for parties, too. Rental rates and a catering menu are available on its website. Lisa said there was even a wedding at The Cove for a couple who had their first date there. And there is plenty of nearby parking.
On a recent day in February, she said that the dog-friendly patio was filled with people enjoying the beautiful weather that let everyone wear T-shirts and sandals. They were celebrating life in San Antonio, Lisa said.
Besides just serving sustainable foods to couples in San Antonio, Lisa said she also prioritizes the well-being of the people on her team. For example, when customers leave a tip after their meal or when they order a drink at the bar, the money doesn’t just go to the server or the individual bartender.
The Cove’s policy is to pool tips, so that bussers, dishwashers, cooks, and everyone else working that evening can be paid a living wage.
Lisa has also implemented a wellness program for the staff based on Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic book “The Four Agreements.” The spiritual manual encourages readers to be impeccable with their words, not take anything personally, not make assumptions, and always try their best.
“It’s important we look at where we spend our money, that we’re conscious of their practices,” she said. “It’s important to align where you’re spending money in places that align with your values.”
Lisa also owns another restaurant in town, and wants her businesses to be positive examples for the community and beyond. And people who visit The Cove for a date or a pleasant afternoon can tell that the employees are cared for by their smiles and great service.
“To me, it’s about building an amazing team that’s personally thriving,” she said. “It’s made a huge difference, and the customers can feel it. I call it energy, and you can feel it when you walk in. It’s a different place to work.”