ALL ABOARD?

Virgin guides talk of high-speed trains between Houston, Austin, and San Antonio

Virgin Trains may be speeding into Texas. Photo courtesy of Virgin Trains

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by John Egan.

You've likely heard of the proposed high-speed "bullet" train that would connect Houston and Dallas, as well as the proposed transportation-in-a-tube concept that would link Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Laredo.

Now, another possible alternative to planes, Amtrak trains, and automobiles has chugged into the picture.

Virgin Trains USA, a transportation startup that plans to trade its shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange, is exploring two high-speed routes in Texas — one tying together Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and the other between Houston and Dallas. All four of those cities are plagued by ever-increasing traffic tie-ups.

There's no word yet on when these routes might take shape. At this point, they're merely ideas, and ahead of the company going public, officials at Virgin Trains are staying mum.

In all, Virgin Trains has outlined seven potential routes in the U.S. beyond what it already has on the drawing board.

"Our goal is to build railroad systems in North America that connect major metropolitan areas with significant traffic and congestion," the company says in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Virgin Trains aims to tie together heavily populated cities separated by 200- to 300-mile distances that are "too long to drive, too short to fly." It wants to run the trains along existing transportation corridors — rail, highway or a combination of the two — "to cost-effectively build our systems, as opposed to developing entirely new corridors at potentially significantly higher costs."

If the Virgin name sounds familiar, it should...

Continue reading on CultureMap to find out about Virgin's other transportation investments.


WEEKEND GETAWAYS

The best places to visit in San Antonio

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

One of the great mysteries of Houston life is that so many locals don't take better advantage of San Antonio. Not only is the Alamo City a cultural jewel with more than 300 years of history proudly on display, it is also a strikingly modern city with chic boutique hotels, innovative restaurants, and some of the best shopping in Texas.

In a time when cities across the world are starting to feel numbingly the same, San Antonio has kept its identity. What's travel if not a chance to experience some place unique?

Where to eat and drink

Eastside Kitchenette

After a long period spent renovating its 1906 building, this project from owner chefs Jenn and Jeff White debuted in January with a comforting menu melding the best of Southern and Hill Country cuisine. The dishes — catfish, meatloaf, and even spinach artichoke dip — certainly appeal to traditionalists, but Eastside doesn't exactly deliver home cooking. That catfish is stuffed with sweet blue crab, the meatloaf comes with a side of black garlic broccoli, and the bacon Parmesan streusel topping the dip was never in a Junior League cookbook.

Jet-Setter

The newest player in the downtown bar scene is literally underground, giving it an exclusive speakeasy vibe. Still, once revelers descend the steps, it's clear that its head is in the clouds. Taking style cues from midcentury airports, the lounge has vintage vibes without looking like a Mad Men set. The cocktails are fully contemporary, using ingredients from destinations all over the world.

Lala's Gorditas
The owner of this Southside restaurant, Steve Pizzini, is San Antonio restaurant royalty. His aunt Ernestine Pizzini Chapa founded Teka Molino in 1938 before father Herman Pizzini launched Taco Hut in 1958, and both quickly rose to become some of the Alamo City's most beloved concepts. That's a lot to live up to, but Pizzini rises to the occasion with extravagantly overstuffed gorditas, shatteringly crisp puffy tacos, and deep caramel flan baked every day.

Swine House Bodega
This downtown sandwich shop is serious about its sourcing, using only ethically raised breeds from area farms. For owner Joe Saenz, it's not just a matter of being a responsible global citizen. Pasture-raised meats also taste better, a fact readily apparent in the Swine House's New York-style subs and biscuit sandwiches. Be warned that the shop is only open weekdays for breakfast and lunch. What better excuse to extend a weekend day trip?

Continue reading on CultureMap to find out the best places to shop.

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