San Antonio Eats
I lived in San Antonio for about 15 of my formative years, and my favorite resteraunts weren't the fancy ones, they were the ones who got it _just right_.
Bill Miller's BBQ looks like a lame, brown, chain kind of place. And is has the BEST FRIED CHICKEN you will ever taste.
Taco Cabana (PINK! sings and buildings) is like taco bell only good and they make their own tortillas from stratch. Awesome breakfast tacos.
Rudy's BBQ has brilliant brisket by the halfpound, tasty BBQed chicken, and a very folksy atmosphere.
Eat at these places because I live in the Pacific northwest now and don't know when I'll ever get back to taste the things which say to me "home."
On a business trip last week, I just happened to dine with colleagues at two of the three Texas-based chains mentioned above: Bill Miller's BBQ and Taco Cabana. While I'll agree that fried chicken is the best dish at Bill Miller's and Taco Cabana is good for a chain, I would not personally rate either of these as "top restaurants" in San Antonio. You can find much better fried chicken at local places like Mr and Mrs G's Home Cookin' or even DeWese's Tip Top Cafe (though the folks at Tip Top desperately need to start adding some salt and pepper to their food, much of which is fried). Superior breakfast tacos can be found at most local taco joints. Cristan's on Hildebrand and the Original Taco and Donut Shop on Fredericksburg come immediately to mind. There are many more options way off the beaten track, and there are also a few places of the sort that garner raves in the national press. While I'm not a fan of Rudy's at all, the fact is that San Antonio's 'cue options are painfully limited. If you really love barbecue or just want to see what all the fuss is about, I think it would be worthwhile to make a day trip to Luling's City Market or even the Gonzales Meat Market. You can click on the "search this page" link [at the top left of this page] to find more information on these choices.
I had very good recent meals at Jacala (which serves downhome Tejano-style Tex-Mex with housemade flour tortillas) and Acenar (which is self-styled as "modern Tex Mex," but may also be thought of as Nuevo Latino). A separate chow report will follow in the next few days. There were also some good suggestions made recently in this thread:
They're coming to san antonio and you're sending them to taco cabana and bill miller?
Look, restaurants like those have their place. They are perfectly servicable. I eat at both when I'm on the road and hungry. But, come on! They are not a good represenatation of our city.
If It's 2 in the morning and you've been up all night, partying, a snack at the cabana is fine... and can hit the spot.
where are you staying? will you have a car? what is your price range?
breakfast.... the gunther house has amazing stuff. also, magnolia pancake house is out of this world. but, both would be off-limits of you don't have a car, and are staying on the riverwalk.
lunch? silo on austin highway has great lunch specials... but again...if you're on the riverwalk with no car, it'll be tough. Chris Madrid's is the quinticential san antonio hamburger joint... but it's north of downtown.
dinner? le reve is the best restaurant in texas, but it's darned expensive, requires a jacket and a three hour time commitment. just sayin....
thankfully, both taco cabana and bill miller are not on the riverwalk.
I'd say that Guenther house is walkable from Riverwalk. It is about 1 mile through some nicely restored old houses. Very pleasant Saturday or Sunday morning stroll if the weather is cooperating. And we loved the food and the setting of the house. Be prepared for a wait once you get there, though.
We will be in S.A. this coming Friday--and are staying at the Flying L Dude Ranch. Yes, we will have a car. Thanks for all the great suggestions; we already had Ruth Chris' and the Melting Pot (fondue) on our tentative list. Have you been? W/all of your additional responses, looks like we have some "winners"---that are recommended by several people. Wonderful. Looking forward to coming on down!!!!
The flying L is in Bandera... northwest of san antonio.
I don't know if people comprehend how BIG texas is. Be prepared to drive a lot. I would say... guessing... bandera is more than a one hour car drive to downtown san antonio.
That being said.. bandera is a beautiful part of the texas hill country.
I'm just trying to think of something a little closer than a one hour drive. In Boerne, to the east, there isn't a whole lot of great food. I enjoy going to the dodging duck brewery, which sits along the river... has good brew and grub. There's also the bear moon bakery, which has some good sweets.
south of boerne on i-10, is the original rudy's bbq. I know rudy's gets a bad rap on this board of bbq snobs, but it's the best you can get in this area. I like it a whole lot... and it's worth the trip imho. In the same area of Rudy's, off Boerne Stage Road, is Fralo's.... which is DARNED good pizza. I drive up from San Antonio to get pizza there.
Also, a little south of boerne is the Scenic Loop Cafe, which is excellent. I don't go there enough, because it's north of san antonio. Very good grub.
South on highway 16 is El Chapparel. It's a tex-mex place that serves some great fajitas (which were invented in san antonio) and equally good beans.
Also on highway 16 in helotes is floore's country store. a great place for music and cold beer. It's a true texas legend.
I'm just trying to give you some options that are a little closer than 1+ hour drive to san antonio. bandera is far out there. beautiful, but far from san antonio.
Shouldn't Bill Miller's etc be under "Chains". I really think that when people want advice re: restaurants they aren't asking about fried chicken which you can get anywhere. Restaurants I think have a nice San Antonio vibe are Boudro's, Acenar, Fig Tree, Biga's, Le Reve, Azuca, Rosario's, La Fogata. I always take guests to the Chart House for a sunset drink beforehand.
wait? you go to the top of the tower of the americas?
You couldn't pay me to go up there!
the elevator gets tuck, like, what? once a week? stranding passengers?
The tower is a trap. you couldn't pay me to go up there. and I'd never bring guests. imagine being trapped in an elevator for hours.
for a drinks at a place with a "good san antonio vibe," try la tuna.
I'm not sure what's in Bandera or Boerne since I don't get up that way much anymore.
Go and check out on the net if the town of Bandera has a website which lists local places.
Yeah,with a car you can drive to Luling and Lockhart depending on the length of your stay here.
Now,f you want to drive and go into San Antonio to shop and explore the area around town,here are some places. Mamma Margie's
I think it has two locations and a website-Tex_mex,
Texas Pride BBQ in Adkins,Tx near St.Hedwig an old Polish settlement
Harmon's BBQ in Cibolo,Tx,Aurora's Cafe also near Adkins
Rolando's Super Tacos several of them in town.They have these really big tacos.
Picante Grill on Broadway near the Witte Museum has mainly interior mexican dishes,
Liberty Bar and Grill on East Josephine.
Aurora's Cafe near the St.Hedwig-Adkins Area doesn't have a website, but the other places do.