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What restaurants shout "I am San Antonio"?

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  • avi Apr 10, 2007 03:31 AM

I'll be taking a couple of foreign visitors to SA soon and would like them to experience as unique a SA experience as possible, so, of course, we'll visit the river, the missions, McNay. But cultura y historia are not enough; one must eat. What restaurants shout out "I am San Antonio"? ... metaphysical explanations will be gratefully accepted.

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  1. I've only lived here a year, but here's what I've discovered so far:

    Chris Madrid's for macho tostada burger
    Tip Top Cafe
    La Fogata
    Mi Tierra (late night)
    Rudy's in Leon Springs on a nice Sunday afternoon ( I know it's not the best BBQ in the area, but short of driving 1 1/2 hours, it's not bad)
    Mr. & Mrs. G's Home Cooking

    The "real' S.A. may be some of the hole-in-the-wall mexican joints on the SS that most tourists would never think of going to, something along the lines of Mendez Cafe.

    3 Replies
    1. re: saeyedoc

      I grew up in SA and really like saeyedoc's list (although I have never heard of Mr. and Mrs. G's Home Cooking...wonder how I missed it?). I would add:

      Alamo Cafe- massive Tex-Mex place on 281. My parents have eaten here every Firday night for the last 27 years...their picture is on the wall. The tortilla soup, tortillas, panchos, and chicken fried steak good.

      Las Palapas- A SA institution with many locations. Open 24 hours, but closed on Sunday (like all self-respecting, family-run, Mexican food places are). Love the Taco Nortena and the Muy Macho Burrito.

      1. re: saeyedoc

        Where's Mendez Cafe? What do you like to eat there?

        1. re: zorra

          Zorra,

          Mendez Cafe is on the south side of town, at 201 Bartholomew Avenue (just off Quintana Road). Their freshly-made and hand-rolled flour tortillas are delicious, and I've never had better refried beans. They also do fine traditional breakfast dishes (huevos rancheros, chorizo con huevo, migas).

          Here are links to a couple of older threads about their chow:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320296

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/91380

          Best,
          MPH

      2. The original (as far as I know--I first went there about 28 years ago) Blanco Cafe, on Blanco Road about a block or two closer to downtown than Chris Madrid's. The flavor of the chili gravy on the cheese enchiladas is quintessential San Antonio. It just doesn't taste like that anywhere else. Platonic Tex-Mex.

        4 Replies
        1. re: zorra

          Zorra, how you doing? I am not sure I want Platonic food. After all, I plan to eat, not just love and admire it.

          1. re: avi

            Oh, but love and admire it you will.
            No stinky tofu there, alas. :)

          2. re: zorra

            I second Blanco's for some of the finest most simple old school tex mex I have had anywhere.
            Also, Henry's Puffy Tacos for....well puffy tacos.

            1. re: jscarbor

              Yeah, I know lots of people would say Henry's Puffy Tacos or Karam's, but I confess I've never been to either. I so seldom get to SA now, I just head straight for Blanco Cafe whenever I'm there.

              The nachos and burgers at Chris Madrid's certainly deserve attention, too. I haven't been there in a couple of decades, but I doubt they have changed.

          3. I always make it to the Alamo Cafe on the north side of SA whenever I am in SA.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rhohltjr

              I'm pretty new here but I'd say that Mi Tierra, La Margarita, Las Canarias, Tito's, Guenther House, Rosario's, El Mirador and Azuca all feel very San Antonian to me

              1. re: bronwen

                alamo cafe looks good... but i'm just not a fan of the food there. i'm not the only one to trash their tortillas. food wise, i've never had a great experience there. in the metaphysical sence, their margaritas are blah.

                when friends are in town, it's the only time i go down to mi tierra... it's pretty puro. good flavor of sa... even if it is touristy. that's a definate hit.

                for a long time, la fogada was the defacto chamber of commerce stop into town. it's more for the margaritas... and the roasted salsa. the rest is.... eh. i guess it's fine... but if i had out-of-tonwers who wanted mexican, it would probably be mi tierra. besides, i think el sol makes the margaritas better.

            2. We wound up at Mi Tierra for lunch of course. The foreign guests were impressed, especially by the atmosphere and the mariachi performers. The food was as expected - nothing special, including the dried refried beans. I was, as usual, satisfied with the menudo which no one else in our group would go near.

              The mango ice cream at the Menger Hotel dining room (a beauty in itself) was creamy and tasty; just the thing for a post-Alamo break.

              Dinner at the Little Red Barn was an exotic and unique SA experience in terms of the space. But the food was understandably awful except for the ever reliable green goddess-laden salads, considering the prices - $7 to $10 for steaks. What kind of quality meats can one demand at those prices? The only passable steak in fact was the NY strip, but barely so. Since opening some 40 years, they have never been great, but I have noticed a huge deterioration in the past few years. Still, the Little Red Barn serves its distinctly gormand public as well as ever, providing plentiful food for next to nothing prices.

              My guests from the Mediteranian area never did find a SA espresso that met their standards. They love America, but hate America's coffee.

              1 Reply
              1. re: avi

                I tried Karams for the first time this weekend and have to say I was really surprised. I loved it. I went with a friend and we just wanted a snack so we got some outrageously good flaquitos that are pretty much picadillo and cheese fried pastries. So bad for you but who cares. Also, the Puffy Tacos are legendary and worthy of the praise they get. Solid margarita.
                As a side the tostados were the lightest yet crisp corny chips I can remember. These might be my favorite chips!
                As a comparison, Blancos (the original hole in the wall closer to downtown on Blanco) might have better food but no puffy taco. For atmosphere/food combo Karams wins.

              2. i know that this is an old post but for anyone that will be coming to san antonio after this......
                must go to tip-top cafe. anything there is awesome. was shown on diners drive ins and dives. it is a sa treasure that not many know about.
                if traveling out to Fredricksburg for shopping during the day, you must stop in Welfare, Texas on the way back to San Antonio and go to Popo's restaurant. they have a very unique atmosphere and wonderful pork chops or fried chicken or chicken fried steak. my wife and i had our first dinner as a married couple there and return every year on anniversary. even get the same table every time.
                for awesome breakfast in san antonio i always go to magnolia pancake haus. get the cinnamon roll. just one enough for at least 3 people. they have a couple location locations.
                last place from me is tower of the americas in downtown sa. real touristy so i only go with special fam/friends for special occasions but you get to see all of sa while you eat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: simple_simon

                  This is a 2007 post folks! Six years later some of these places are gone, and some are nostalgia rather than food-worthy.
                  In 2013 my advice is look a bit past the riverwalk for the best of what's happening in SA today. It's more than tacos and BBQ these days. If you feel compelled for the tower experience, go for drinks at the lounge and eat elsewhere.