English and European Tex-Mex Virgins Hoping to Go Wild in San Antonio!!!
Hey there. I'm looking for a little help.
Once a year I meet up with a bunch of French gastronomes in an American city; this year we're in San Antonio. I'm an Englishman living in New York; since in their eyes I am The American, it's up to me to find good places to eat.
All of us live in fantastic food cities; when we travel, we look more for an *authentic* local experience than an international class gourmet meal. For example, in New Orleans, the big hit was Uglesicht's, and not one of the nationally ranked New American joints. People have recommended Le Reve to me, but the website made the place seem stuffy, and the menu didn't seem too exhilarating; I have no doubt that it's excellent, but we won't go (unless people INSIST that we do).
I was hoping for places with good flavour - we'd really like to learn about Tex-Mex food and barbecue, Texas style. I've poked around a bit, but there's so much here! I'm definitely going to check out Willard's for jerk, and there was a restaurant an hour and a half away which sounded like an adventure.
What I'd like is to hear from you guys where we MUST go. We have five dinners, and four lunches (extra points if anyone knows of good finds near the damned convention center (the pretext for our visit)): every one of them has to count! As I say, we're willing to travel for good food.
To recap, for us it's about authentic, local, atmospheric dining; a little dirt and grime doesn't worry us. Indeed, the French love that kind of stuff - more real!
I'm counting on you: I know you'll deliver the goods...
Thanks in advance,
I'm sure you'll get some good answers to your post. But be sure to scroll down to check out recent threads about chow in San Antonio and barbecue in central Texas. And the search function is your friend, as someone posted recently. If you type in terms like Tex-Mex or Mexican and San Antonio, or brisket and best, then limit your response to the Texas board, you'll get several good hits.
Here are links to some recent threads that might be of interest:
That ought to get you started.
One thing you'll find a lot of in San Antonio and Texas period is good food.
Here are a few recommendations I can suggest.
Mexican Manhattan (cheap Breakfast/Lunch)
Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery or Margarita's (Both are in Market Square aka El Mercado)
Casa Rio - near the convention center.
*Cascabels Mexican Patio - Great Authentic Mexico style menu.
Off the River in town.
La Fogata on Vance Jackson between 410 and I-10
Jacala on West near Hildebrand.
Guajillo off 410 near Blanco
Cha-Cha's on Babcock or Bandera.
As far as BBQ, I've never really tried any downtown, but here are a few places that come to mind.
Harmon's Barbeque in Alamo Plaza
County Line on the Riverwalk
and King Willie's on S. Alamo
If you'll willing to drive about 45 minutes up I-35 to Buda (near Austin) hit up the Salt Lick. One price, many options, all you can eat, great atmosphere and flavor.
You can hit up this site too and look around www.SAEATS.COM
Hope your trip goes well.
re: Mr Zero
No, don't go to the Salt Lick. It's the Disneyland of barbecue. If your idea of fine French food is the French restaurant at Epcot, maybe it's your place. If not, the best barbecue you can get in an easy trip from San Antonio is straight East on I-10 to the City Market in Luling. It's first class, authentic Texas Barbecue. In my book, one of the top five in the state.
re: Greg Spence
A trip to Luling is a great idea. Lately I've also heard very good things about the Gonzales Meat Market, which you could get to from Luling by taking 183 south to Gonzales. [Note: I haven't yet checked it out myself, but there's a detailed post about it on this board.] Taking 183 north would get you to Lockhart, which is deservedly a barbecue mecca.
I like most of Mr Zero's suggestions for San Antonio, but I do feel that you can do better than Casa Rio (which owes its success to a prime location on the Riverwalk) or Mexican Manhattan's (better cheap options abound).
Second the rec for Cha-Cha's, they have the best margaritas, in any flavor you can think of!
You've come all the way to San Antonio, do venture to Lockhart/Luling for the best of Texas BBQ. Search for either one of those cities and you'll find lots of good information.
Sounds like fun trips. In san antonio there are a lot of good dives. For fun local burgers The Lord's Kitchen or Chris Madrid's. For good soul food and fried chicken, Mr. and Mrs. G's, I always feel like I had Thanksgiving dinner after I leave. For tex-mex, Guajillo's is awesome but beware when they say something is hot. I also like Rosario's in King William which is not too far from the convention center, a bit trendy though not a dive. One thing you should do is go to Taco Taco Cafe on McCollough and Hildebrand and get breakfast tacos, chorizo, potato and egg or my fave A la Mexicana. They are only open until 2pm and are very busy in the morning. Texas Monthly gave one of its tacos top ratings in their best tacos in texas article. Luling is a must, but the bar b q at harmon's across from the alamo, by the Fudrucker's, is really pretty good and close. I also like the specials at Schilo's Deli at Commerce and presa. They have awesome homemade rootbeer and german food.
In my opinion, you MUST go to the original Blanco Cafe, a little Tex-Mex diner on Blanco near downtown. I lived in San Antonio for two years, many years ago, and have since eaten a lot of Tex-Mex all over the state, but there is something about the flavor of the chili gravy on the cheese enchiladas at Blanco Cafe that just says, San Antonio. To me, it is quintessential Tex-Mex.
Chris Madrid's, which is just a block or two up Blanco from the Blanco Cafe, has--in addition to their great hamburgers--really superb nachos.
I will agree with donnaaries on making the trek to Luling or Lockhart (or alternatively, Taylor) for great bbq, the best TX has to offer. City Market in Luling will be the closest and is great all-round. Make sure you go to the bbq place to the west of 183, not the copy cat on the east side. And keep in mind bbq is slow cook food and most places are oriented to serving at midday. In fact, Luling closes at 5pm and several other places at 6; make bbq at least one of your lunches. Don't get there just before closing, either; the pits may have been tamped down an hour or so earlier. The only unsatisfactory experience I've had at Luling was when I arrived about 4:30 and the meat was only lukewarm.
Make sure in your party there is brisket (sliced, not chopped or shredded), ribs and sausage - the triumvirate - so everybody gets to sample some. Don't worry about sides, if they're even offered; it's about the meat. All the best places mentioned make their own sausages but Texas sausage makers are a whole thread in themselves.
Some other dishes you may want to consider: Chicken Fried Steak with cream gravy and chili - a bowl of Texas red. I'll have to leave it to the Central Texas hounds to recommend the best of either. It's a cliche that the best chili is made at home and whether as a consequence or cause of that, restaurant chili is very often inferior, institutional stuff.
BTW, tell your French friends Robb Walsh, in his 'Tex-Mex Cookbook' alleges some of the best Tex-Mex in the world is available in Paris.
Jaze: To refer back to your original post I, for one, would insist that you go to Le Reve. Also, be sure to check out the chef's casual seafood spot, Sandbar.
Boy, these are GREAT! I've been cutting and pasting like crazy.
MPH - the search function was/is my friend, but so are you - your list of taco stands is fantastic! The problem with what I've found searching is that most of it has been too old, and also geared to people familiar with the city; I really have no sense of the lay of the land, of what's East and what's West and how long it takes to get anywhere.
I guess I should ask specifically for Tex-Mex recommendations in walking distance, or a short cab ride from the Convention Center. We'll be mostly on foot - only one of our number (a guy I nicknamed "Buck" because he insists on eating his dinner with a buck knife he carries everywhere), will be renting a car. Of course, because he's one of those deeply conflicted French Americaphiles, it's a Mustang convertible, entirely too small for our entire posse. I'll book a minivan one day so we can make at least one trek to Luling or Lockhart; I know that that will really hit the spot!
Oltheimer, thanks for the specifics! Your recommendations for the triumvirate are extremely useful; chicken-fried steak was absolutely on our list; I've only had mediocre versions.
Anyone have any specific recommendations for particular Must-Try Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes? Generally, I mean, not necessarily in a specific restaurant.
Finally, bhoward: what is it about Le Reve that makes you consider it a must? Everyone in my group is well-versed in extremely good French food, and I was a bit wary of committing one of our precious nights to a place that, even if it's very good, serves the kind of food we can experience in NYC or Paris. For some reason, I was put off by their insistence that men wear jackets; this is something that has started to really grate on me in recent years, as I feel it relates more to dining as lifestyle, rather than to dining as gastronomy.
As to the point about the quality of Tex Mex in Paris, I confess complete ignorance. One thing I will say: French beef, even the Charolais, is not a patch on good American meat...
Thanks all - I'm eternally grateful.
Jaze thanks for getting back to us on how we’re doing. I’m taking notes too since I seldom make it to San Antonio. How seriously should we take the ‘Tex-Mex virgins’ line in the thread title? Are you complete neophytes?
As for specific foods, to me Tex-Mex is comfort food rather than adventuresome fare and is defined by the combination plates offered by all Tex-Mex eateries. I find it hard to pass one up; they give a sample of several of the staple items including tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, refritos, Mexican rice, crisp tacos, tostadas, etc. I know others with have a different take but you may have time to hit more than one Tex-Mex place and a combination plate might be the best thing to try first. Other than that, for breakfast (you haven’t mentioned that meal), I love migas, which could be described as the Tex-Mex version of omelets (scrambled eggs, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, crumbled tortilla chips) and huevos rancheros. Tamales are common to all Latin cuisines from the Carribean to Central and South America as well as Tex-Mex but are taken for granted, I think, by many restaurants that serve mediocre ones. You might want to find a tamaleria (I’m sure the SA hounds can recommend one) and just chow down on some hand-made, fresh from the steamer tamales; you won’t have any difficulty understanding how such simple, peasant fare could become such a staple for so many peoples.
I understand many people think Chile Rellenos are perhaps the creme de la creme of Tex-Mex fare; poblano or Anaheim/New Mexican peppers, stuffed with cheese or other fillings, battered and deep fried. The problem is, many get grease-sodden; I’ve had so many bad ones I can never bring myself to order them but I’m sure the SA hounds can direct you to a place that does them well.
Fajitas are of course Tex-Mex, originating in the homes of S. Texas and northern Nuevo Leon.
Back to bbq for a sec; I should have noted Luling and Kreutz are closed on Sundays, Smitty’s in Lockhart is open only a few hours for lunch on Sunday; Black’s in Lockhart is open ‘8 Days a Week’ as they advertise. Just in case you were planning on making your trek out of town on Sunday. At these places, you pay for brisket and ribs by weight, sausage links usually are priced individually.
I like food porn and I like to share it so here are some pics: tamales from a tamaleria in Houston:
What I had my last visit to City Market in Luling – I hadn’t been there in a couple of years and really over-ordered. That’s 1/4 # of brisket, 3 ribs and 2 links, plus pickle, white bread, jalapeno and onion. Whew!, wound up having to bring a lot of that home to Houston.
Given that you want to stay within walking distance of downtown, Jeze, I suggest you use the first thread I linked to above (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358101 ) as a starting point. Mi Tierra gets a bad rap from some, but their menudo is excellent and their other caldos are quite good. Chorizo con huevo and other classic breakfast dishes are also good choices there. Go really late or really early to avoid a crowd. Panchitos has very good corn tortillas, guacamole, breakfast dishes, and gorditas (though they're more like crispy tacos than San Antonio's typical gorditas). Their brisket and barbacoa are also quite good, when they’re on the menu. Garcia's would have to be reached by bus, but all their cooking is down-home good, especially the flour tortillas, carne guisada, chorizo con huevo, pork chop tacos, and the brisket.
To me, Tex-Mex is comfort food, too, but as you can see, I have a different conception of what that means. I like tacos de cazuela, which are corn or flour tortillas filled with stewed meats: carne guisada, a kind of stewed beef; lengua guisada, tongue that's often been stewed with tomatillos and chiles; pollo en mole pipian, chicken stewed in a pumpkin-seed- and ancho-chile-based complex sauce; carnitas, rich, marbled pork slowly braised in its own fat and then finished by frying (in more pork fat) or sometimes by roasting.
I like tacos de la plancha, or griddle-cooked meats and/or vegetables. This includes most restaurant versions of pork tacos al pastor, seasoned with citrus and chile flavors; calabacitas or zucchini, often made with pork along with garlic, chiles, tomatoes, and herbs; or simply-titled things like “tacos a la plancha de res,” in this case, griddled, seasoned beef tacos.
Tacos al carbón (charcoal-grilled meats) or tacos de carnes asadas (grilled meats) are wonderful. In Texas, the phrase "tacos al carbón" often refers to grilled beef, including fajitas or skirt steak. However, you can also find delicious grilled lengua (tongue) and pollo (chicken).
My other favorite comfort-food dishes include gorditas, or thick tortillas made from fresh corn masa then fried, split, and filled; flautas, thin rolled and fried tacos, often filled with stewed chicken or beef; caldos or soups, including menudo, the classic slow-cooked spicy tripe soup; caldo de res (beef); caldo de pollo (chicken); and huevos rancheros, or eggs topped with ranchera salsa, usually served with fried breakfast potatoes and refried beans. Actually, I love most of the classic breakfast dishes, especially chorizo (a deliciously spiced Mexican breakfast sausage) with cubed potatoes or with eggs. You can also find frijoles—beans—con chorizo at breakfast; they’re very good. Brisket is often available as a special breakfast-taco filling. So is barbacoa, which should be slow-roasted seasoned cow’s head (usually cheeks), though real barbacoa de cabeza is hard to find these days.
I like some types of enchiladas. Enchildas verdes, or stewed chicken in green-tomatillo salsa, are delicious, as are red-chile enchiladas with cheese and vegetables. I agree with oltheimmer that tamales can be wonderful but are almost always bad at restaurants. I’d avoid them at almost every place in town. I have much better luck with chiles rellenos. El Mirador, for example, serves a very good one.
I hope this helps give you a sense of the many delicious choices that await you.
For a group REALLY into food I think it would be a shame, on the one and probably only visit to a city, to miss the best restaurant by far in that city. Le Reve is the best restaurant in the state. Gourmet magazine recently named it number 6 in the country! Although jackets are required the place is definitely not stuffy. There is only one seating per table per night so no matter when you dine you have your spot for the entire evening. The food is wonderful and on a par with what you would find at the French Laundry or the Inn at Little Washington in my opinion. Of course, if you and your group eat at restaurants of that caliber often it may not be so important for you to go there. In June of '06 Johnny Apple of the New York Times gave Le Reve a rave review. In summary, it is a "must" in my opinion because it is so far superior to any place else in the city or the area. Having said that, if you are going any time soon you have undoubtedly waited too late to get a reservation, making this entire debate moot.
We just did the tasting menu with the new premium wine selections at Le Reve saturday night. Everything was very well prepared, with excellent wine pairing. They did have some service problems, presumably related to the new menu, and we were there for almost 5 hours (usually takes 3). Keep in mind this runs over $250/pp with tax and tip.
For unique SA area food do try the
BBQ in Luling and Tex-Mex in SA.
One place I'd recommend (although with hesitation because I have no been there yet, but can barely wait) you check out in San Antonio is HOT SPOT BBQ, close to downtown (http://hotspotbbq1.liveonatt.com/home...). It features CABRITO AL PASTOR which is northern Mexico unweaned goat (kid under 30 says old) spit-cooked over open charcoal. The best is available in Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey in Mexico. Served with fresh corn tortillas and onions, there is nothing better ...
HOT SPOT BBQ features CABRITO AL PASTOR once a week, on Fridays I believe. Do make sure you get Cabrito Al Pastor (the charcoal spitted) as oppossed to other styles for a truly unique experience attainable otherwise only by a 3-4 hour drive to the Mexican border.
Has anyone tried HOT SPOT BBQ?
I highly recommend, for pure Tex-Mex, the Mexican Manhattan, downtown, on Soledad. You can walk there. Outstanding chili gravy, smoothe guacamole, and the best taco meat and refried beans in San Antonio. On the way there you might stop at the Esquire bar for an ice-cold Lone Star beer. I agree with the advice about Luling City Market; Smitty's in Lockhart (early in the day) is also outstanding, and is representative of the German influence on barbeque in Central Texas. For chicken-fried steak, I suggest Weese's Tip-Top Cafe. You'll need a car or cab, but it is well worth it. It is a genuine Texas cafe, the type once prevelant, in the days before liquor by the drink was legal, throughout the state. The CFS is delicious, and big as a Frisbee. They also prepare a mean fried chicken. Have a fabulous time in a good-eatin' town.
Sorry for the duplication .("Best Tex-Mex Recommendation").
To sumarize, there is no one place that serves excellent all around Tex-Mex, because everybody has their specialties.
For lunch on a cold and rainy day, go to Teka Molino on N. St. mary's street. Arthur runs the place and his aunt Josephine runs the cash register. Order the Teka Caldo soup or the Tortilla Soup.
Authentic "Mexican" soup for breakfast can be had, if you go early on Saturday to El Mirador on S. St. Mary's street. Every hung over lawyer and news reporter in town is there trying to detox their system.
For a life altering experience, go south of dowtown on Flores street to Rudy's Mexican Products. This is a tamale factory where they make the best state inspected chicken tamales in the world. If you go around 8:00 in the morning, you can get hot fresh handmade tamales wrapped in foil. Warning!! They are as addictive as heroin, and you are going to want to bring a case back with you on the plane, when you go back home.
For a Tex-Mex lunch experience, go the Malt House Restaurant and Drive-in, on Buena Vista street, and order one of the luncheon specials. They jack-up the price to $3.75, for a plate that you won't finish. You can also get fried chicken or fried fish, or the hamburger special with fries, and tea for $2.65. The clientele are poor latinos and fat cat politicians. And, of course, they make a killer malt shake.
The best fajitas are at Las Margaritas, if you don't mind sitting inside of a barrel with a hundred people, when you eat.
Henry's Puffy Tacos serves more tacos than any other restaurant in town, and for the record, we have over 300 Tex-Mex places in San Antonio.
For the best Q, everyone and their chihuahua goes to Kreuz Meat Market in Giddings, Texas. It is southeast of Austin, and closer than City Market in Luling. When you leave, you and your clothes will smell like barbeque. Also, Luling has as many oil wells as livestock, along with the smell that goes with it.
And, before I forget, when you eat at Casa Rio, you have to compete with the flies for your food.
When you go to La Fogata, you get very lousy service, high prices, and all the ambiance you want, along with a great margarita.
Mi Tierra's food stinks. They can't even make huevos rancheros, and do it right. However, they have a first rate mexican bakery, and they have the best bartender (Genaro) in San Antonio. I even invited the guy to my wedding reception.
While there are much better bakeries on the west and south sides of town, in my opinion, the one at Mi Tierra is a great suggestion for the OP [original poster]. He said that they would all have access to a car on only one day, when they’re planning a road trip to find the best 'cue.
You make a good point about seeking out specialties at different restaurants, puddin. If visitors need to stay within walking distance of a downtown hotel, however, I'd go for the menudo, other soups, maybe the beef fajitas that renz suggested, and a drink at Mi Tierra over anything served at someplace like Casa Rio. If you like menudo (and I realize that many people don’t), Mi Tierra makes one of the top three versions in town. I've never had a problem with any of their classic breakfast tacos, either, and I'm very particular about my chorizo con huevo. I can't recall the last time I had the huevos rancheros, though.
If you did have a chance to use a car at another time I would go to Taco Taco Cafe and get breakfast tacos, you can get a bag to go and bring them back to the hotel. Taco Taco is at Hildebrand and McCullogh, the easiest way to get there from downtown is take hwy 281 for a few miles north and exit hildebrand and turn left, go over the interstate. The restaurant is about a mile down on the other side of the light at mcCullough. I love their Taco a la Mexicana, egg, tomato, peppers, and onions. Chorizo, potato and egg is also really good. Make sure to get salsa and plenty of napkins they can be messy. I really love this place and I think it has a really cool, home town mexican diner feel. I always love reading the bullentin board by the checkout and look at the photos. I don't know if the take credit so you should bring some cash, tacos are around a dollar a piece.
That was a bit of a teaser, wasn't it? The other two can be found at Bandera Molino (which is now on Zarzamora Street, not Bandera Road, between Culebra and Fredericksburg) and Panchitos (the one on McCullough).
My idea of good menudo has very slow-cooked, tender, flavorful tripe, calf’s (or sometimes pig’s) foot, dried red chiles, hominy, oregano, cumin, garlic, and other spices. Onions and lime come on the side, as a garnish. Some people add masa harina to thicken their menudo, which makes it more stew-like. I like the traditional thin broth just fine. I prefer the versions that are more red than brown (red menudo is traditionally served in Texas and Northern Mexico, but there are other kinds). If the soup is good and red, they've used plenty of chiles. On the fattiness scale, menudo can range from having a thick layer of fat on top to being surprisingly lean. To me, the best ones are somewhat fatty.
Do not worry about not having a car to get to the places downtown...the trolley system is wonderful and for a few cents you can go on it most of the day! It runs from various hotels and well marked locations in the city to most of the restaurants listed on these posts. Hop on and off at will, with a transfer. One Mexican restaurant that was not mentioned is Aldaco's in Sunset Station....trolley does run to it. Ms. Blanca Aldaco serves the meanest tlapeno soup in the city. Tlapeno is made from chicken and chicken stock with a kick from chilpotle peppers, then comes with all the goodies to add...radish slices, scallions, cilantro, chick peas and whatever else they have in the kitchen. They also have a plate of enchiladas, one with red sauce; one with green that is scrumptious. If you are there on Thurs, I think they still make gorditos filled with potatoes, beef or chicken, and other goodies. Try her borracho (drunken) beans. You'll never forget them. Beer, beans, bacon, cilantro and I don't know what else but truly wonderful! Have a wonderful time. I know you and your group will eat well!
I can't stand it anymore. If you like drinking out of the toilet when you are so hung over that forming whole sentences is a major accomplishment, you will like Menudo. The plain version, which looks like light brown broth, tastes like dirty socks boiled in water. The fancy version has great root vegetables in it, which broaches the predicate that, if you are going make a great soup base, why would you want to put cow guts in it? Duh.
One more specialty that deserves major mention is Chicken Mole. Rita's on Bandera Road, near downtown, has it, along with a Caldo de Res (short ribs) that are first rate. The table tops are fifty-year-old formica, and the floors are linoleum. And, Rita is there to greet each table at lunch, so go early. There are many more restaurants that excel in these two dishes.
Not being a native Texan I can't comment on most of the places in this thread. However, I've lived most of my life in Colorado and California and love mexican food. One thing you should try while in San Antonio is the "Puffy Tacos". You can get them in alot of the local mexican restaurants. I've only seen them in San Antonio, I don't know why because they're really great.
You guys are fantastic! Thanks so much for all of this.
I've just got back from Paris, and have been too busy to check in until now.
You (or bhoward, at least) will be pleased to hear that I made reservations at Le Reve. I shall admit that I felt a bit guilty going the fine dining route when there are so many amazing un-fine dining places to try, and only limited time in which to try them. To make up for my transgression, when I'm at Le Reve, I'll be sure to order a puffy taco or some menudo...
Kruez Market someone mentioned is actually in Lockhart,Texas near Luling.
Harmon'sBBq downtown I haven't tried,but I have been to their location in Cibolo,which is just two miles from where i live.You have to take FarmRoad 78 from San Antonio-Kirby area
and go about 20miles to get there.It's located in an old store building there in downtown Cibolo.Rolando's Super Tacos are popular and really big in size.trying to think of some other places to go.I never eat downtown,so never been to Mi Tierras.
I stand corrected. The place for great Q, in Giddings, Texas, is City Meat Market (citymeatmarket.biz).
The place has been there for forty years. People would not be driving that distance, if it wasn't for a good reason.
Take IH 10 West going towards Houston. Once you pass Schulenberg, you will hit the junction of IH 10 and Highway 77. Take a left, and after fifteen minutes you will be in what passes for downtown Giddings. Then, take an immediate left at Austin Street, and you are there.
And, given that you may not get another chance, throw caution to the wind and order some of everything. Like I said before, you whole body will smell of barbeque when you leave.
Sorry for the mistake.
So, we came, we ate, we were conquered!
The demands of our conference were such that we weren't able to do as much damage to the 'hound list as we'd have liked, but we had some superb food.
The City Market in Luling was the highpoint of the trip - my French friends went nuts for its AUTHENTICITY! <rip M. Baudrillard>. Negotiating the place was a bit of a cultural challenge - none of us had any idea what we were doing, and there was vague confusion about the fact that we had no knives or forks, with none of us wanting to be uncool, but also not sure if we should just start eating with our fingers. The individually packaged stacks of Kraft American cheese by weight required a bit of explanation. The food - ribs, sliced brisket and sausages - was fantastic, the brisket easily head of the class; the sausage forcemeat had a nice coarse chop, but there seemed to be missing something in the flavour.
My next favourite thing was breakfast at Taco Taco. THAT was a real eye-opener - I discovered that I've never had really fresh tortillas before. The breakfast special taco with chorizo was amazing, as was the... I'm blanking on the name, air-dried beef - machacado? something like that. And incredibly cheap, too.
Dinner at Le Reve was excellent. I don't find the room very handsome, and I'm surprised that they had blocked off the view over the water (although I didn't see it in the light, so I couldn't really see what they were blocking off. OTOH, a good call to block off the view of the street, with its Bus Terminal traffic and whatnot. Service was good - one of the servers and the sommelier were French, so we were well cared-for - food very good (I loved particularly the ruby grapefruit and vermouth sorbet). I thought it a fantastic deal at that price.
We also ate at two Mexican restaurants. Aldaco's had an excellent Tjalapeno soup, but otherwise was kind of eh (we ate at dinner, and were the only people in the huge space at 8PM; maybe it's more of a lunch place). Barrios was quite good - my first puffy taco, which was interesting, but not sufficiently more marvelous than the slimline version that I'd really rush to seek it out - but it didn't blow me away. The enchiladas verdes were great, as was the steak milanesa, and my friends pronounced the margaritas the best they'd ever had. That said, the evening was kind of profoundly distorted by the presence of a loud Mariachi band throughout the meal. I have to say I don't understand that - why would you have loud, loud loud music blaring in the dining room, making conversation impossible. It went a long way towards spoiling the meal because we couldn't talk about the food.
All in all, we had a fantastic time - thanks for all your suggestions. On my next visit, I'll definitely hit some of the places we missed.
A THOUSAND THANKS!
I'm glad you enjoied Taco Taco. I love that place! Their tortillas and breakfast tacos are heaven. The crowd there is always fun too.