San Antonio Trip Report (May 22-27, 2008)
Spent a long weekend in SA and managed to hit a number of places that may be of interest to others:
Silo (Alamo Heights)
Pretty uninspired. Got the sense this place has some buzz judging by articles on the wall and the crowd. My sense is any hype is overdone. I asked about the fish special ( flounder) and its provenance. After a trip to the kitchen (ostensibly to ask someone who’d know), the waitress returned to tell me “Dallas…a seafood importer”. Sigh.
Ordered blue crab spring rolls to start. Okay but a bit greasy and a bit light on crab. The presentation of separate sweet and peanunt butter dipping sauces in two Chinese style ceramic spoons was cute but not so practical for dipping.
The flounder special was served with linguini, fresh tomato, spinach, oil, and an herb or two I couldn’t positively identify. A bit of an odd combination in the first place but thought I’d give it a try. The fish was okay at best and too much butter used in cooking.
The prices are reasonable but to me this place illustrates perfectly the difference between value and inexpensive. The former is when you receive disproportionate quality relative to the cost. The latter, my experience here, is just about price when quality isn’t really the main focus.
Magnolia Pancake House (near West Road/Bitters intersection)
Very interesting place. I love breakfast and had read so much online about this place including the many writeups proclaiming it best breakfast in San Antonio. So I went in with high expectations. Forewarned, we tried to get there a bit early on Saturday morning but didn’t make it until just after 8. The wait was only 15 minutes though.
My high level is that it mostly met expectations with one major exception that absolutely shocked me. Originally from the Northeast/New England area, I grew up on real maple syrup with fresh cakes, waffles and French toast. Magnolia doesn’t only not serve real maple syrup but actively promotes the fact that they “make their own.” Our waiter was confused by my request for “real” maple but very willingly agreed to ask his manager for more information. It seems their homemade syrup includes corn syrup (horror!), some other type of vegetable/fruit based syrup I didn’t catch and REAL MAPLE. This was utterly shocking to me—that a pre-eminent place would take real maple and use it as an ingredient alongside corn syrup?!?! But this ended well as, once clear on what was going on with the syrup, the waiter kindly brough me a pitcher of it without charge. Incredibly, he’d never before been asked for this?
- standard hotcakes w/ side of poached eggs (cakes were great, poached eggs a bit vinegary)
- german apple pancake with a long name—pretty good, remined me of something called a “Dutch Apple” they used to have at Bickford restaurants in New England years ago
- scrambled omelette with an odd red pepper sauce that none of us liked
All around, a very good breakfast with nice atmosphere, very high quality pancakes and real maple in the house if you ask for it. Eggs didn’t seem as good so I might stay away from those when here.
Rudys BBQ (New Braunfels)
Great feel coming into this place. The stacks of firewood. The smoky smells emanating from the simple, red-barn colored structure, picnic tables surrounding the pit and the very visible support for the area’s large military community.
Eight of us went hungry after a day on the river and tried most everything. My half rack of baby back ribs were good but overly peppered and overly dry. Good sides of creamed corn and beans. Friends got the brisket, which was better. The pork sausage was also tasty. And, I always appreciate BBQ places anywhere that serve IBC or the better brewed root beers.
Acenar in the Valencia Hotel (Downtown River Walk)
We had a hard time finding a decent place for an early dinner downtown before the NBA conference finals game Sunday night. The first 3 places we drove by were all closed which finally brought us to this hotel Mexican where we got a seat on the balcony overlooking the river. Good. Guac made at the table was more than respectable and nicely tailored to our tastes. A chile relleno filled with beef and pork was satisfying if not especially different than many, many other Mexican places. Good value given the location.
Relative to other Big 4 sport arenas and stadiums, I give AT&T a solid thumbs up. It was my first time there; a few of us went to catch Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. I appreciate venus that have a) sauerkraut available with dogs (nothing annoys me more than the many baseball parks across the country that don’t), b) branded concessions like the Whataburger here (not an especially great burger but it is an arena and I’d maintain these to be better than the more typical generic food service variants from providers like Sodexho and Aramark) and c) extra points for healthy options like the turkey dogs here. AT&T had all that so it gets my enthusiastic nod with an acknowledgement that there were probably other great options I never saw because I was too glued to the game. Of course, also nice to be there the one night so far that the Spurs played like they’re really capable of doing, blowing out LA by 20.
Cappy’s (Alamo Heights)
We had a late breakfast here Sunday and really enjoyed it. We were the first ones there at 10:20 am but they graciously seated us early at a nice outside table. Eggs benedict with blue crab were very respectable with more crab than filler and properly poached eggs. When I saw one of my dining companions got real maple syrup served in larger sized pitchers, I ordered a short stack also and thought them to be surprisingly good. The orange juice tasted fresh-squeezed on location.
Paloma Blanca (Alamo Heights)
The non-scientific search for SA’s best Mexican took me here to this popular lunch spot in Alamo Heights. The guac was fresh and chunky with just a bit of heat. Enchiladas Verdes were a satisifying combination of peppers, chicken, freshly made tortillas and excellent green sauce. Liked it better than Acenar the day before.
Places on my list not visited
There are lots of first hand accounts on this place (“new southwestern”) on this board and, even though I didn’t make it there this time, I wanted to include it because it stoked strong divergent feelings among friends and colleagues in SA ranging from “overpriced Mexican” to “one of the very best in the city.” My bottom line is that it’ll be high on my list for next visit.
A friend whose restaurant filter I respect proclaimed this place the “best brunch anywhere” which immediately piqued my interest and skepticism, especially the latter when I found it was in the Omni Hotel. As best I could tell from this board and other sources, it’s an over-the-top buffet with top quality across the board. For the price, I convinced myself it’d be no better than a typical Four Seasons brunch which, though great, wasn’t the regionally interesting type of place I was looking for on this trip.
1133 Austin Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78209
Magnolia Pancake Haus
606 Embassy Oaks Ste 100, San Antonio, TX 78216
Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q
936 Loop 337, New Braunfels, TX 78130
Acenar Comida Mexicana
146 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX 78205
5011 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209
Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine
5800 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209
Thanks for the great trip report, nwdchound. I've been wondering if Silo is worth re-trying, even though I wasn't impressed with it the last time I ate there. Your review suggests that it should stay at the bottom of my list.
FYI: Despite the name, Magnolia Pancake Haus does a better job with waffles, in my opinion. I also love their greasy sausage patties. Should you head this way again, another good option might be to sample the waffles, pancakes, and/or biscuits & gravy at the Guenther House. (Just be sure to bring your own maple syrup.)
Ha! Don't think I haven't considered carrying some maple with me around the country. But I don't mostly due to a perhaps silly principle that a truly great breakfast place should have it and, if they don't, they're just not top tier. It amazes me how so many places outside New England the north central part of the country don't even know what it is. Thanks for the suggestion on Guenther House. Had heard about it some and will give it a try next time.
Thank's for the reviews. Haven't tried Cappy's but will for lunch maybe sometime.
Will pass on Silo.I may try Paloma Blanca,since I see the commercials all the time.
Haven't tried the Rudy's in Selma yet. Did get some from the Rudy's in New Braunfels.the brisket was okay,and sinc e I got sides for just one person,seemed kind of pricey. If I feel hungery for BBQ this weekend,after I get off from TJMAXX,I may go Saturday to Goerke's out in Marion for some ribs and briskett.they also have steaks,chicken and other stuff.Been there for years out in the country.they also have various lunch specials during the week and are closed Sundays.
It's too bad that visitors keep getting directed to Paloma Blanca. The city is filled with great food, and chilaquiles that don't cost $14. Paloma Blanca is consistently uninspired and overpriced, but I suppose provides an environment more suitable to its clientele. As for authentic or tasty food? Take a drive down Fredericksburg and you'll find dozens of better options.