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San Antonio Riverwalk 'Review'

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I appreciate the advice I received on this board so I thought I'd give a run-down of where I went and what I thought. I unfortunately didn't have as much time to spare as I thought I would due to a variety of circumstances, so had to stick pretty close to La Mansion and late dinners were a regular occurrence. Most places recommended were far out of my reimbursement rate for work, so sadly had to avoid them. It was shocking *shocking* how expensive everything was! Seattle at least has a good variety of places, even in the tourist core, and a variety of price ranges. All places I went to were in the $15-$20 minimum range no matter the cuisine or quality with the exception of breakfast at Pesca.

- El Colegio Bar in La Mansion. Absolutely the best Margatini I've ever had in my life. The bartender knows what he's doing. I had several. Also ordered a prawn skewer. This took about 1 hour to finally arrive at the table. It was semi-cold and dry as a bone. It had been grilled as promised, but no seasoning was added to it at all. The chutney came on the side (should have been brushed on while the prawns were still warm in my opinion) in a small dish and it was so cold and hard, it was like dipping prawns into hard plastic at first. Not good. The chips were from a bag (red, white and blue) and the salsa was just strange. Bean-dip type with little flavor. Go for the drinks, quite pricey but worth it.

- Rita's. I had the chicken enchiladas and talapia tacos. To their credit, they forgot about my taco and added an extra one for free. The enchiladas and tacos were quite delicious. The enchiladas were not drowned in sauce, and had a slightly smoky note in the background. The tacos were fresh, hot and wonderful. The rice and beans on the side were so-so and the magarita from a mix. What's with the chips and salsa issue in San Antonio? The chips tasted stale an the salsa, if I can call it that, was some of the worst I've ever had. The tomato base tasted tinny and canned with a strong background of carrot - yes, carrot! No spice to it at all. In fact, there was no Pico-Pica, no Tapatio anywhere I went, just tobasco. Is this typical of SA Tex-Mex? Good service here - very fast and friendly. I should have gone back here for more tacos before I left.

- Acenar. The wait, on a Tuesday night, took twice as long as we were told. It was not crowded. We waited near the bar area and were asked once, about 1/2 way into our hour-long wait, if we wanted a drink. We would have liked to be asked again, but sadly, we weren't. Not even offered water. The dining room left acoustics to be desired, and tables were very close together. Difficult for even the waitstaff to get through. Chips again, were hard and tasted stale. They had a pretty good mole-based salsa which was the best salsa I had the entire time. The house margarita was excellent. Too bad I finished it just as our food arrived and was never asked if I wanted another one. When ordering, I asked the waiter about what taco filling he suggested. I received a blank look and he said, "Well, the chicken is healthier." Um, no, can you suggest which is better, the chicken, beef or pork? "You can get all three." Ok, so I got all three. The pork was dry (Tacos Guaymas in Seattle does it sooooo much better), the beef pretty good and the chicken was the tastiest. Again, where is the flavor and the spice? They were a bit bland. The rice was standard, nothing outstanding and the beans just refried beans. Does anyone serve whole beans instead of refried? I never saw this as an alternative on the menu - probably should have asked. The toppings (cabbage/pineapple) on the tacos were meager and the taco shells cold. I left feeling like I paid too much for what we got with a server who disappeared after our dinner was served. Maybe I would have liked dessert or another drink!

- Paesano's. This was one choice that left me thinking about Rita's (but not the salsa). I've never, ever, seen so much cheese in my life. The "olive oil" was poured over a huge mound of grated parmesean in which we were meant to dip the bread. Terrible! The olive oil had zero flavor, so all it tasted like was wet cheese. The wine per glass selection was mediocre. Either you chose a cheap glass of cheap wine, or were charged almost double the cost for a decent wine. I chose the ceasar salad, and my two companions the regular side salad. The regular salads looked good. My ceasar came drowned in dressing and again, a pile of cheese. Scraped off, it was pretty good. But I missed the lemon tang and sardine flavor in the dressing so suspect it was from a jar. Also, the waiter wouldn't let me request that the crouton be left off the salad (pre-prepared?). Seconds after our salads were finished, we received our meals. One person had the tuna appetizer which was truly well prepared and fresh. Another had a spicy chicken penne, which was not spicy in the least, came with an unseasoned grilled (frozen) chicken piece and the penne was not fresh - I buy the same brand at my grocery store. I chose the beef ravioli and suspect it was also frozen. Lack of tooth in the pasta and the filling was not in any way fresh. The red sauce was a bit sweet, and guess what, mixed into the red sauce, more cheese! And brought to the table for me, on the side in case I need it? Yes, more cheese, a huge pile of it. Amazing. The food was serviceable, but not worth the price my any means. We did get dessert and this is what to come here for. The key lime cheesecake was a bit over-powered by the cinnamon/apple sauce and the cappucino chocolate pie was very good. Everything was probably pre-prepared, but the desserts survived it the best.

- Waxy's Irish Pub. Basic pub. Decent fries. I went here out of desperation for a fast, fast lunch. Had the beef sandwich. Which came with hard-to-eat chunks of too-fatty and too-greasy beef instead of strips of beef. I also think I got a case of food poisoning from the sandwich. No proof, but the timing of everything leads me back here.

- Pesca. Go here for breakfast. Go here for lunch. If you can afford it, go here for dinner. I was only able to go for breakfast, but both the lunch and breakfast menus are surprisingly affordable for the area. I had the smoked salmon omlette, which was more of a torte with the salmon on the top. They smoke their own salmon which was obvious. It was fresh, tender, and delicate. A top-rate job. The torte was maybe just a bit over-cooked, but it didn't matter as it was so well thought out. The potatoes were fantastic (spice and flavor-finally!). The toast was cold as a stone, the only problem. Good basic coffee. Since I was not feeling well by lunch, I wasn't able to go back. Would have loved to try the cevice and any of the fish dishes. The 45 minute quick lunch menu looked fantastic. I wish that there was more 'talk' about this place for b-fast/lunch options, not just dinner since I wasn't aware that it was mostly more than a dinner place. The service was good, but after all the food came, and I was full-up on coffee, and my bill arrived, my server disappeared. I waited a good 10 minutes before someone came by so I could pay...BTW, several people walked by while my credit card waited in the bill holder, peeking out and pointed out to the aisle...I was the only one in the restaurant...

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  1. Now you see why those of us who live here only go to the Riverwalk when we have out of town guests...and then not for dinner. If you could have ventured just a little bit from the river you would have found a wonderful restaurant called La Frite Belgium Bistro. It's in the Southtown area by Alamo and St Mary's streets. Rosarios is considered a good Mexican restaurant as is La Foccacia...all in the same area. Schilo's German Deli is on the river and it's good. Unfortunately tourists often get stuck downtown. Riverwalk restaurants seem to take advantage of that. Incidentally, I've been to Pesca for dinner and I wouldn't rave about that either.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fraucook

      That's why... when people ask for riverwalk reccomendations... I only reccomend Boudro's.

      I can't afford either Le Reve or Biga. Maybe someday I'll go... but there are plenty of great restaurants that are in my price range.

    2. Yes, I wish I had more time to get out and explore more. My work ended up taking too much time and my expense budget wouldn't allow for more spendy dinners, most all of which were the only ones recommended, Boudro's included. I had a great time overall and do remember already the several wonderful magaritas (hand made) and those in a way made up for the less than spectacular meals.

      1. For once, I hope this gets through to those wonderful folks who don't live in San Antonio. Nobody who lives in this town eats at a restaurant on the River.

        Next, when you are in Mexico, regardless of the city, you ask a cab driver for a restaurant recommendation. You don't need to do that in San Antonio.
        However, if you are going to wait in line for an hour just to get bad food at jacked-up prices, you certainly have the time to take a ten to fifteen minute cab ride to a restaurant in another part of SA. The money you save, and the great food you get, will more than make up for the price of the cab fair.
        Hey, Bon Apetit just voted Taco Taco the best taco restaurant in the U.S., and it is just a ten minute cab ride from downtown.
        I am 56 years old, and I have never eaten on the River. There are millions of present and former San Antonians who can say the same thing. What does that tell you?

        3 Replies
        1. re: puddin

          We are planning a trip to San Antonio in conjunction with a conference my husband is attending. We are staying at the St Anthony on Travis. I can't get a handle of how to get to places that aren't on the River. Are cabs the only option? I will keep sifting through the board for suggestions but how is the best way to figure out where these places are located in relation to the River. Since I haven't been anywhere that has the kind of Mexican/TexMex that people in the Boston area would love to have what is the best way to know what to order? TIA.

          1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

            Dear AGM Cape Cod:

            You are staying at a magnificent hotel. Teddy Roosvelt and his Rough Riders had a drink there - for real. Their Sunday brunch is stupendous, and is the best in SA - take your camera because they won't believe you back home.
            As far as where the Tex-Mex restaurants are located, your concierge will know how to direct you by heart. It is his or her job.
            Tex-Mex food orders can be broken down into two categories: combination plate, or a la carte. The combo comes with rice and re-fried beans, usually a taco, one or two enchiladas, some shredded ice-berg lettuce, a little diced tomato, and, for a little extra, some avacado guacamole.
            Practically every restaurant serves fried tortilla chips, and has a bowl of salsa/hot sauce on the table. These are brought out once you sit down.
            For al a carte, you can order one or two of anything you want. For instance, you can order a couple of tacos, wiith about fifty different combinations, which is what a third of the population of SA has for breakfast and/or lunch every day. And, you can order this with a side of rice and beans or anything else you want. Huevos rancheros is a standard breakfast order, which is one or two fried eggs served on a corn tortilla with some hot sauce on it.
            Whatever you order, do not, I repeat, do not be shy about asking the waiter or waitress questions about your food, how it is prepared, or what to order. You are about to visit one of the most truly friendly cities in the world. Please take advantage of this when it come to your meals. Welcome!!!
            P.S. Sorry, our public transportation system is one of the worst. Most
            folks just rent a car.

            1. re: puddin

              Feel free to consider me a skeptical chowhound, but I would never trust the concierge at any downtown hotel to direct me to good Tex-Mex and Mexican food. Of course, they can help with the logistics of getting from A to B, but they sometimes "direct," as in "suggest," some pretty bad choices.

              Cabs are options for getting around town, but so are streetcars and buses (http://www.sanantonioinsider.com/get-... ). If you have to eat downtown, there are some decent Tex-Mex and Mexican options, just maybe not on the Riverwalk. These older threads cover some of the better options:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358101

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361594

              Have a great visit!