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San Antonio--can't misses?

I will be in San Antonio for 5 nights in mid August. Staying at the Hotel Menger downtown. I have a car and will be driving to the CIA for cooking classes each evening. I'm up for almost anything, except tripe. I'm a San Diego native so Baja border Mexican food is familiar. I'm hoping for different Mexican, southern, BBQ or just San Antonio traditions. I'd love a splurge dinner for Sunday night and breakfast/lunches M-Th. I will be eating alone, so if the neighborhood is rough, let me know.

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  1. For your big night out, I'd recommend Le Reve. Expensive, but so worth it... here's the link. http://www.restaurantlereve.com/ make a reservation asap.

    Rosario's is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. The salsa is the best and the fish veracruz is yummy.

    Liberty Bar is very SA. and they have a fig appetizer that rocks. Chris Madrids for burgers, Tip Top Cafe for Chicken Fried Steak. Tre Trattoria is a new favorite... tuscan inspired rustic Italian.
    Breakfast tacos at Taco, Taco Cafe on Hildebrand...

    Lastly the ultimate touristy late, late night SA tradition.... Mi Tierra. Open 365 24/7. The queso flameado will take a year off your life but wow. It's a great place to hit at 1AM before the bar closes.

    Hope this helps... Lots more.... have fun!

    3 Replies
    1. re: 22foodfan

      Into Korean? Ilsong Garden (www.ilsonggarden.com) is the only Korean that made Zagat's best list in the country. Dragon's Eggs are marvelous. The Shrimp Pancake is good (it's greasy ... needs a tad of soy sauce on top ... and lotsa cold beer. The Hite beer from Korea is just another copy of Budweiser ... I prefer the Bass Ale ... YMMV). I wasn't blown away by the BiBimBap ... but betcha the Bulgagi would be dependable. If you aren't used to Korean BBQ, most dishes come w/ several side dishes ... it's easy to over-order. I was also eyeing the Sweet & Sour Fish. They have lunch specials. Dessert is either Green Tea Ice Cream or Fried Ice Cream ... do 1 or the other, not both. The Green tea's subtlety is lost next to the Fried ice cream.

      For Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch, try Los Antojitos 3330 Culebra (W of Memorial) on the S side of the street ... teensy parking lot. If you find someone there who speaks English, it won't be staff :-) Hrs: M-Sa 0700-1500 VERY Mexican (can be greasy), different daily specials. NOT TexMex.

      Re: the BBQ tour ... I know folks who live in Luling who go straight to Lockhart for their BBQ ... and I've compared the 3 majors in Lockhart ... Kreuz's failed miserably in a blind taste test w/ friends. Of course, it mighta just been that day. I'd recommend BlacksBBQ.com & SmittysMarket.com ... for me ... Smitty's was best for sausage ... Blacks for the Brisket. DO NOT LEAVE there just w/ it in a "to go" pkg. You've GOTTA have some on the site ... it can be great heated at home ... but there's no comparison to having it hot off the smoker.

      BBQ inside SA ... the best I know is at Willard's Jamaican Jerk BBQ ... just a butcher's shop w/ a couple of tables out front. (AVOID Bill Miller, Rudy's & Grady's & all the other chains) All of Willard's meat is great straight off the smoker ... but he doesn't do fatty brisket as well as Lockhart (I wish!) ... but his ribs are to die for ... and if you happen by when he's pulling off the smoker ... order that! IF Willard asks you if you want it hot ... he's not asking if you want the meat heated up ... he's asking if you want the hot jerk seasoning. I recommend getting that on the side so you can dip or not. He's at 726 E Mistletoe (just W of the N end of St Mary's near the 281 freeway). 736-5375.

      Fond of a good beer? Take some Willard's 2 blocks S to San Antonio Homebrew. Only 6 taps ... but ONLY "beer drinkers beers" ... Corona, Bud, etc are not allowed on the premises. 210-737-6604 ... call to make sure they are open ... I think it's only Th-Sa 1200-2100 at 2809 St Mary's

      How about Mexican Seafood? I recommend El Siete Mares ... 2 locations ... www.elsietemaresinc.com. I've only been to the Northern location ... but it was excellent.

      Want to take a tour of Tx beers? Best variety would probably be at The Flying Saucer ... www.beerknurd.com

      As to Mi Tierra ... I recommend the Cabrito.

      I second Taco Taco ... tacotacosa.com the El Norteno for $4.59 is a full meal 0700-1400 7days a week

      For Nachos & Fajitas, you don't have to spend a bundle. I think the largest variety & decent top-shelf margaritas are at Chachos ... several in town ... I go to 7870 Callaghan just a stone's throw W of IH-10 in the NW side of town (just a cpl miles S of Flying Saucer
      )Make sure you load up on condiments to tweak your nachos.

      Someone mentioned Chris Madrids (bad part of town ... guarded parking lot ... probably best to go there in daylight. A line forms quickly for lunch. If your idea of a good burger is grease running down your arm ... it's great. Otherwise you can do better. But you can get burgers anywhere.

      Beto's Comida Latina has some pretty decent fish tacos & empanadas. 210-930-9393 @ 8142 Broadway www.betoscomidalatina.com

      I believe you'll be studying very near Central Market ... www.centralmarket.com ... a great cheese section ... talk to Jen for her recommendations. (or ask me for my favorites there) The olive selection is great, but sometimes they don't take as much care of the olives as they could. Great selection of fresh breads.

      Broadway Daily Bread is a great bakery ... The chocolate covered chocolate brownie should only be eaten w/ 3 cups of coffee ... and 80 units of Insulin. But they have some great scones, muffins, and marvelous breads (even better than Central Market). www.broadwaydailybread.com

      For Indian, I like a place recommended by a vegetarian Indian friend: www.sarovar.net.

      What types of food are you into? What are you learning to cook? Maybe we can lean you that direction.


      1. re: EdLagniappe

        Went to Willards for lunch today around 11:45, place was still closed. I called and he said they don't open until 11, when I told him what time it was he sounded completly surprised! Guess I'll try to get some to take home for dinner tonight, I love me some jerk chicken, spicy mon!

        1. re: saeyedoc

          Went back at about 4:30, Willard was outside his shop, immediately had me pegged as the guy who called earlier. He opened up for me, gave me tastes of all of his sauces and his brisket. I got a whole chicken with hot sauce, some mild BBQ sauce on side and 1/2 pint of slaw, beans and potato salad.
          I thought the chicken was really good, although not as spicy as I like (he told me he has a hotter sauce he makes for himself, didn't have any yesterday). I was pleasantly surprised that all of the sides were really good with a fresh, homemade taste. Will definitely go back! Thanks for the reco

    2. Splurge on some night other than Sunday and go to Le Reve.

      1 Reply
      1. I'd very strongly suggest that you get into your car one morning and take the quick scoot east on I10 to Luling, and get some barbecue at City Market. Be sure to try the hot links, too. As far as brisket goes, I usually get a little of the moist and a little of the lean, and you might try that to do a comparison and see which you prefer. If you've got the day, and you've started early enough, take another half-hour or so and drive north on 183 to Lockhart - home of Smitty's, Black's and Kreuz. The traditional Central Texas "Barbecue Tour" requires that you just eat samples at all of these places to determine your favorite, which you can then visit at a later time.

        Then cut west through the back farm roads to San Marcos for a little tubing. New Braunfels is a few miles southwest down I35 toward San Antonio, and you can get some German food there.

        All in all, would make for a pretty terrific Saturday.

        But remember that most of these famous Central Texas barbecue joints began life as German meat markets, not restaurants, and they can sell out of the most popular things early. So don't plan on doing dinner at them.

        1. Bistro Vatel in Olmos Park (not too far from Downtown) is always a good bet. Tre Trattoria on Broadway (just north of Downtown) is a sure thing as well. For Mex, La Fogata is a bit of a drive but the food is great (more interior mexican than tex mex) and the Margaritas are famous. You might also consider Fredericks which is farther north on Broadway. Le Reve is a pretty big splurge and I am not sure how great an experience it will be eating there alone. If you order the tasting menu prepare to be there for at least 3 hours!

          1. Go to La Tuna. Very San Antonio. Just south of Blue Star (king william/southtown area) Outdoor place, picnic tables and the like, mostly beer, some vino. Cash only at bar (but very inexpensive). Then off to one side is La Tuna Grill. Most amazing burgers. Buttery and cheesy and so very delicious. http://www.latunagrill.com/

            The Cove (near the intersection of Cypress and San Pedro, just north of downtown), offers you a car wash, laundromat, music venue, bar and restaurant all in one. Organic and local food. Grilled mushroom and sweet potato tacos with a bit of goat cheese.....very yummy. http://thecove.us/cove/index.php

            Dough Pizzeria. http://www.doughpizzeria.com/ People rave about this one. Have not been myself, but do hear it can get really crowded/busy at night. Lunch is faster if you are able.

            3 Replies
            1. re: deelindsay

              Dough Pizzeria is excellent but is very small and gets really crowded in the summer when no one wants to sit outside. Their pizza is certainly worth the trip to 410 and Blanco. I recently ate again at Silo Restaurant on Austin Hwy and it was great (as usual). I haven't tried the new addition (Nosh) but it got a very good write up in the paper recently.

              1. re: san antonio eater

                For home cooking--Tip Top Cafe is awesome. There is always a line. Order your pie when you sit down! On Fredericksburg Road.

                1. re: san antonio eater

                  I'm not sure if they still do it, but you may be able to reserve a table for 6 or more on weekdays.

              2. i'd offer a second for la tuna for lunch. a plate of the deep fried mushrooms as a starter for three or four would be a nice start to the fish tacos (served with non-slimy nopalitos...substitute on request)

                world-class food at le reve.

                bohanan's used to serve the best fois gras in the city. not sure if it is still on the menu, but if it is, enjoy it. have a plate or two between three or four with an apertif. if you love beef, stay for dinner (it's a steakhouse, nothing extraordinary nor disappointing. although local, there are adequate steaks to be had anywhere in the city...the palm, morton's fleming's ounce, etc.)

                1. Ms. Verde,

                  I'd really like to read your report on SA food/restaurants when you've finished with your trip. Have fun!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: 22foodfan

                    Again, thank you for your suggestions. As it turned out, I didn't have time for a full scale splurge on Sunday night. I ended up at Boudro's because it was close and they had a table in the air conditioned dining room. I had a steak, nothing special. The prickly pear margarita was good, though!

                    I had some rental car troubles so my plans got curtailed, but I did make it to Mi Tierra for breakfast. The pork chili dish was ok, but I loved the candies orange half in the bakery.

                    Another day I tried Schloss' Deli, again, close to my hotel. I loved the atmosphere and root beer. I would have liked to return for their german food, but..

                    Central Market was wonderful! So many interesting prepared foods and sauces. If I had had a fridge i the room, I would have tried more items.

                    I was directed to an old diner/drive in on Austin Hwy, called Bun and Barrel. Reallly enjoyed the brisket plate and cherry limeade.

                    Taco Taco didn't blow me away, but that may be because we have lots of good small mexican restaurants in San Diego. I got the dish the waitress recommended--El Norteno.

                    Paloma Blanca had an interesting chile relleno stuffed with meat and potatoes which was tasty. The beans in a pot on the side were fantastic-as was the margarita. I thought we knew margaritas in San Diego, but you folks were 2 for 2 on those.

                    They are expanding the cooking school at Pearl Brewery, so I may be back in a year or two. Next time I'll be more adventurous and do the BBQ tour.

                  2. Another place you might like over near your cooking classes ... just off Broadway ... is Frederick's www.frederickssa.com 210-828-9050
                    7701 Broadway #20? (@ Nottingham) in back of Dijon Plaza
                    The website should give you a good idea. I like his background.

                    1. Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I just got my confirmation for my CIA courses, so I'm allowing myself to get excited :-)

                      In response to Ed L., I love a wide variety of cuisines, but I am looking for regional food on this trip. I'm throwing away my calorie watcher for the week, so I'm prepared to clog my arteries. We have really good border/Baja Mexican food, seafood and Asian due to immigration to the city. What we don't have is much BBQ, interior Mexican and southern cooking. I have to wait for our county fair each year to get wood pit "Texas-style" BBQ from a vender, so I'm hoping to get some great brisket/chicken. I understand that there is a German tradition in SA, so I'd be interested in that, too.

                      I'm taking the 2-day "Skills Development" and a 2-day "Hors d' Oeuvre" Boot Camp courses. I've done several of the Food Enthusiast/Career Discovery courses from CIA in Napa Valley. This is my first time at the new campus. I'm hoping they will give a Latin tilt to the curriculum, since that is their mission.

                      I promise to report back on my restaurant experiences. You have given me so many interesting suggestions that I'll have to plan a return trip just to cover the highlights!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Ms. Verde

                        I forgot to mention, Andrew Weismann (Le Reve) just opened his new restaurant Osteria Il Sogno at the Pearl Brewery. Since you're in the neighborhood, you should definitely add that to your list.

                        1. re: 22foodfan

                          Good luck getting in. I went for lunch today and there were several people waiting when they opened. The dining room was full within a few minutes. I hear dinner has been mobbed.

                          1. re: saeyedoc

                            From trial and error, for a guaranteed dinner seating be at the door by 5:30-5:45. Otherwise expect a significant wait, the food is definately the best italian I've had in SA., no question.

                      2. Boudro's on the Riverwalk and Cappy's on Broadway just south of Alamo Heights. Also, Josephine Street Cafe off of St. Mary's near downtown, and El Mirador on South St. Mary's.

                        1. Dough off of 410 and Blanco (I think) is phenomenal. Go before 6 pm, and definitely get the burrata. Chef Horn is a CIA grad, and spoke at our graduation (at the CIA Pearl Brewery). Their pizza is incredible, but that burrata....yowza!