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First Stop San Antonion then on to South Padre Island

Family & I will be heading to San Antonio & South Padre Island in July. Not sure where we are staying at either place yet.
I'm looking for BBQ, Chicken Fried Steak, Burgers, & Tex-Mex places in, around and on the way to both places. We'll obviously have a car & we don't mind a 30-40 minute drive as long as the food is good.
After searching the boards, I have a few ideas. I think we'll drive to City Market in Luling for sure though. Can anyone tell me how long of a drive it is from S.A.? My oldest daughter wants to go to Salt Lick, but it doesn't sound like it's worth the trip. What's the drive time to there from S.A. in case we indulge her?
We are planning on touring the Alamo & I read something about puffy tacos nearby. Are they like Indian Fry Bread?
We'll also hit the Riverwalk, what kinds of places are near there? Any street food/vendors?
I have no clue what's around South Padre, doesn't look like there is much but the beach.
We're not looking for anything fancy or expensive. We'll be spending alot of time at the waterparks and will be starving by the end of the day. We just want something delicious & satisfying & fairly quick.
I think that should get us started. Thanks!

City Market
633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

Salt Lick Restaurant
18300 Fm 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619

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  1. About one hour for both from downtown SATX. The Rudy's in New Braunfels was good and not so far out of the way. I liked their brisket a lot but did not like the prime rib, it wasn't red enough for my taste. There are other Rudy's locations but in that area it's the only one I've liked. I'm going to try the one out in Boerne again soon and see if it's improved.

    I can't recommend it but I'm going to try Lulu's in SATX one of these days.

    De Wese's Tip Top Cafe was pretty good, I'd go there again without hesitation.


    I think you are describing puffy tacos as I see them. It's like a fried thick tortilla. I don't care for them. I ate them at Los Barrios and they just left me cold. I ate the filling and left the dough. I was expecting a puffy taco as in a crispy puffy taco like they once served at Los Tios and El Patio in Houston.

    Have a great trip!

    Tip Top Cafe
    2814 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, TX 78201

    1. Padre - If you do get a chance to do a sit down meal, please try the Peanut Butter Shrimp at Scampi's. It is a "nice" restaurant but still pretty casual. The tables inside are all PVC patio furniture.

      Jakes Burgers is a good casual place for a bite.

      SA - I would pick Luling City market over Saltlick. I would pick Coopers in New Braunfels over Salt Lick and it is only a 30 min drive from SA. If you do go to New Braunfels, make sure you take the family down to Gruene. I usually let the wife and kids shop at the stores there while I have a beer at Gruene Hall.

      I did try they cinnamon roll at Lulu's and it was a fun treat for everyone to share. I hear their chicken fried steak is good.

      Salt Lick Restaurant
      18300 Fm 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619

      1. I agree that City Market in Luling is the place to go for barbecue. It should be your top priority. Get the brisket and the sausage.

        In San Antonio, Rosario's on South Alamo is good. Mi Tierra's is huge and hugely popular.
        In July, I would wait until later in teh day/early evening after it cools off some to go on the Riverwalk. San Antonio also has a great botanical garden

        City Market
        633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

        1. Ha, just noticed my typo in the title line. San Antonion....I need to learn to proofread instead of hitting the post button so fast. Here's a big ol' sorry for all you Texans!

          Thanks for the recs so far. I'm still checking out places to eat and am excited for my first taste of Texas bbq!

          3 Replies
          1. re: jcattles

            I'm curious... I see you're from Wyoming, and you're also going to be in Tucson. Is this a big (hot) road trip and are you driving to Texas from Tucson?

            That's a trip I made so often in the past. Lived in Tucson for six years. Family all in Texas and now I'm in Houston. If you're driving in on I-10 to San Antonio, I've got a few more recommendations.

            And for your "first taste of Texas bbq," a few recommendations:

            Get sliced brisket. In our family, we usually order some lean and some moist, for comparison. And a few hot links. Yes, we do other meats, most notably ribs and chicken, but that's not really what Texas is all about. And don't expect any sweet, sticky barbecue sauce, either. Or sweet beans, either for that matter. The beans are soupy cowboy-style pintos that you eat with a spoon. The sauce (if there even is any) is usually thin and spicy. And the best of the legendary Texas 'cue joints got their starts as meat markets, so don't expect bandanas and perky waitresses with short blue-jean skirts. More like grumpy old men in white butcher-shop aprons.

            Get back with us, okay? I can hardly wait!

            1. re: Jaymes

              Hi Jaymes,

              Nah we're not going for a long road trip. Tuscon was a quick getaway for my husband and me. San Antonio is our summer family vacation. It's shaping up to be a busy summer!

              Thanks for the explanation fo what to expect. I actually prefer bbq w/o all the sauce. I want to tast the meat & the smoke. The beans sound amazing too. I'm so excited.

              Out of curiousity has the oil spill in the Gulf affected the seafood down there at all?

              1. re: jcattles

                I haven't noticed it in Texas yet, although others might have. But if that oil keeps spreading...

          2. We live in San Antonio. Enjoy the riverwalk, lots of things to gawk at - but advise you get out of downtown for food, unless you are satisfied with mediocre at high prices.

            I Tried BBQ all over city. All that we have tried is nothing more than roasted meat with BBQ sauce poured over it. Nothing here compares to what you will get in Luling BBQ (709 E. Davis) or Blacks in Lockhart (about 1.5 hrs east of S.A.). These are tiny towns, so nothing else to do but enjoy the drive (take HWY 90 east) and eat. A few tourist shops, but those are not worth the drive. Salt Lick is fun to visit, food better than here in S.A., but won't beat that in Luling or Lockhart.

            For chicken fried steak - go to the Tip Top Cafe (www.tiptopcafe.com) - You better be ready to eat! Dare you to order their onion rings before the chicken fried steak arrives. Try to save room for a piece of their home made pies.

            There are a million Tex-Mex places here, and we've tried many of them. Each to their own taste, but I would really recommend that you get out of downtown if you want good food at local prices. Downtown places usually serve mediocre food at high prices since they know tourists come and go. Places outside of downtown must rely on repeating locals. Try the frozen margaritas (big and tasty) and food at Martha's (5822 Babcock Road). We drive all the way from N.S. San Antonio to Garibaldi's (6739 W US Highway 90, this is west of downtown) for their chicken enchiladas - not prety, just good food.

            If you remain concerned that the place must look pretty - a good compromise is Don Pedro's on 1526 Southwest Military Drive. Make their Sunday morning breakfast, if you can - great experience, good food, and again prices that will save you enough to pay to drive out of downtown.

            Regarding recreation in S.A. - don't know if you are hitting the water parks at S. Padre area or here. Compare what Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels with the one at S. Padre. The Ne Braunfels one is the original, and is HUGE. Don't know about the one at S. Padre.

            Hey, its HOT here in July, but try to make the S.A. Zoo early in the morning. Great place And take the silly little train ride nearby. Also, a COOL place is the Natural Bridge Caverns about 30 minutes north of town.

            Finally, an all-day event is Fiesta Texas - lots of rides (a number water-related), shows (where you can cool off). Again - food there extremely expensive - so bring eats (must leave in the car). There are picnic tables outside the park near the ticket booths where you can eat.

            Tip Top Cafe
            2814 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, TX 78201

            Salt Lick
            3350 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665

            1. Can anyone tell me the price range for bbq in Luling or Lockhart? We're trying to put our food budget together for our trip. Thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: jcattles

                I believe Luling is $9.99 per lb on Briskett and Ribs....not sure about the sausage They only take cash, so keep that in mind. Then you pay for your sides and drink up at the front. Beer is really cheap and they still serve the Big Red in the glass bottle I believe.

              2. One Mexican restautant that you shouldn't miss...Aldaco's in the Sunset Station complex.
                It is near downtown and you can take the trolley from your hotel, if you're in the downtown
                core. The Mexican food at the places in the Mercado is just okay, but the places themselves are something to see. MiTerra is a San Antonio icon. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but in a good, fun way.

                1. On South Padre there are some great places to try....For something fun and laid back go to Blackbeard's, they have killer seafood po-boys and burgers. For something dressy and a bit pricey try the Sea Ranch. There is also a great seafood restaurant as your leaving South Padre and entering Port Isabel called The Pirate's Landing, their food is great.

                  Pirate's Landing
                  110 N Garcia St, Port Isabel, TX 78578

                  Sea Ranch Restaurant
                  33330 State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597

                  1. We had a wonderful week in Texas. We actually spend most of our time in New Braunfels. We ate at The Gristmill in Gruene. My daughter's fried chicken was really good as was my hubby's Gristburger. Loved the french fries! They were more like thick sliced potatoes, fried to a crispy golden brown. I was disappointed with the sausage, it was really dry.
                    Another day we had Coopers BBQ in New Braunfels. We way over ordered, but it was just as good for lunch the next day. I really enjoyed the prime rib, sausage & brisket, but could've done w/o the beef & pork ribs. I've developed quite the craving for their beans though. The best I had all week. We got peach & blackberry cobbler. We all agreed the peach was delicious, but the blackberry trumped it by far.
                    We had to try a Whataburger too. It was ok, satisfied the hunger but I still prefer In n Out or Smashburger.
                    My cousins took us to a place in North San Antonio called the Scenic Loop Cafe. My daughter got the braised pork shank. It was seriously amazing. Fall off the bone tender & the flavor was so so good. My husband got the ribs, he said they were good, I didn't try them. I got a grilled chicken breast with avacado, tomato & melted cheese, with a side of roasted sweet potato. Not too bad.
                    At the Riverwalk, we stopped at Mad Dog for appetizers and to cool off. It was horrible. The onion rings were grease soaked, the wings were gummy and my half Guiness/half Harp was more like 1/4 Guiness/3/4 Harp. Not good. I figured the restaurants along the Riverwalk weren"t going to be great. There are so many tourists coming & going, they don't need to be. We ate dinner that night at Luciano's at the Rivercenter mall. While not the best Italian I've ever had, it was decent. Our waiter was super! Found out the Theater at the Rivercenter Mall sells movies tickets for $4. Granted the concessions are expensive but if you don't want popcorn or pop, it's a cheap movie.
                    After floating the Comal river most of the day, we drove to Lockhart. Smitty's was closed by the time we got there, but Black's was still open. We ordered more moderately this time. The brisket was FREAKING AWESOME!!!! I liked the fatty peices better, the rub, mixed with the melt in your mouth fat, mixed with the tender chew of the meat, was sublime! I didn't like the beans as well as Coopers but they were still pretty good. I wasn't crazy about the sausage either, but I wil have dreams about that brisket. We drove down through Luling & City Market was closed. I knew we should've left the river earlier, but the water was so refreshing! I'm disappointed I didn't try Smitty's or City Market, but that just means we'll have to come back.
                    On the Saturday we left, we had lunch at the Tip Top Cafe. Hubby & I shared the chicen fried steak. It was huge! The gravy was thick, peppery & just right. The steak was tender, no jaw breaking chewing needed. Would've preferred mashed potatoes, and didn't realize we could get them until a table behind us ordered them. Funny story: my youngest daughter took a bite of the chicken fried steak, shook her head and said "steak isn't supposed to be fried". Made me laugh, guess she's a purist when it comes to her steak. lol
                    One day we drove to Corpus Christi. We seriously shouldve skipped it. It was a long drive to visit the beach for less than 2 hours. We didn't stop & eat there. Most of it looked deserted and there were so many jellyfish in the water we couldn't swim. Oh well...
                    All in all, it was a good trip. Some really great food, some mediocre food, some really bad food. We hit most of the places we wanted to go. I feel like we drove all over Texas & back. I'd definitely go back, but maybe not in the middle of July! :) Thanks for the hospitality!

                    Scenic Loop Cafe
                    25615 Boerne Stage Rd, San Antonio, TX 78255

                    Tip Top Cafe
                    2814 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, TX 78201

                    Rivercenter Mall
                    , San Antonio, TX 78201

                    City Market
                    633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                    Comal Cafe
                    , Canyon Lake, TX 78133

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jcattles

                      Thanks for that wonderful report.

                      Yes, you must come back. And, as you say, not in the middle of July.

                      Come in the spring, when the weather is perfect and our glorious bluebonnets and other wildflowers blanket the hills with color.