San Antonio Eatin’!
San Antonio, a mecca for food lovers! So many restaurants and so many choices. In the mood for fine dining or pub grub? Tex Mex or authentic Mexican? Italian perhaps? Burgers or steak or BBQ? German bratwurst or sausage? British fish and chips or bangers and mash? Perhaps an Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage will fit the bill? Whatever your craving, you can be sure you’ll find it somewhere in San Antonio!
For us, having so many choices was like a double edged sword – a variety of options but so difficult making a decision. But somehow we managed. At least we didn’t starve during our stay! Hard not to overeat and spend a lot of money here!
Similar to other tourist areas, dining out can be very expensive, but we found that eating a late lunch is usually much less expensive than dinner choices. With a big, satisfying lunch, we didn’t need dinner, maybe just something quick and light. Another option is that many of the restaurants offer happy hours with not only reduced adult beverages but half price appetizers as well.
Being surrounded by Tex Mex and authentic Mexican food restaurants I was curious as to what the difference was between the two. According to my research, the differences are a little blurry but can be summed up in the use of a few key ingredients found in the US that are scarcely used anywhere South of the Rio Grande. These ingredients are: ground beef, yellow cheese such as cheddar (Mexican food relies heavily on white cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, queso asadero, queso Qaxaca, queso panela, or queso Chihuaha), wheat flour, black beans, canned vegetables (especially tomatoes), and cumin.” Interesting.
Back in Massachusetts (I wonder if they are still considered Tex Mex outside of Texas), Mexican restaurants were far and few between so we would have it maybe once or twice a year – on this trip we met our quota for the next four years! But I have to say that although we like Mexican food a little of it goes a long way, not something we want to eat every day. By the second week of our visit, hubby didn’t want to go near any restaurant serving Tex Mex! I didn’t object.
Restaurants Away From The Riverwalk
Taqueria Guadalajara, Roosevelt Ave
Located right across the street from Traveler’s World RV Resort where we were staying, this fairly small Mexican restaurant is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day (yes they serve breakfast) and supposedly offers Jalisco style Mexican food. Jalisco is a large and heavily populated Mexican state and includes Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd biggest city) as well as Puerto Vallarta on the coast. Most notable because it is where tequila is produced. Very popular restaurant with an always full parking lot. Stopping there for lunch one day after doing some sightseeing we were quickly served freshly made tortilla chips with a red and green sauce. I had the Plato Mexicano which was 3 cheese enchiladas and 1 beef taco ($7.49) while Rob had Enchiladas de Carne with either chicken or beef ($7.99). Very tasty and very convenient. We meant to go there again to try their breakfast but never found the time.
Mad Mack’s Burger Co., 2933 Roosevelt Ave
This cute, family owned restaurant is conveniently located about a half mile from Traveler’s World RV Resort. At the recommendation of one of the staff members at Traveler’s, we decided to give the resident cook a break (that’s me) and went here for take out on the first night of our stay. Our two Bacon and Blue Cheese Combo Burgers came with fries and iced tea or soda for the reasonable price of $8.49 each. Oh, and add in a side order of home made onion rings, please!
Burgers were delicious, nice and juicy, topped with lots of tasty blue cheese and bacon (of course, anything tastes good with blue cheese and bacon)! The thickly sliced, lightly battered, perfectly cooked onion rings were very yummy. Our only complaint was that the fries were cold, maybe they had been hanging around for awhile. Several other times we talked about going there again but it seemed they were always closed. During the week they close at 7:15 p.m. (8:45 p.m. on Fridays, 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays) and are closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Although they are known for their burgers they also offer fried fish sandwiches (Fridays) and grilled or fried “clucker” sandwiches. Looking for something different for breakfast, try their Breakfast Burger, a 1/3 pound cheddar burger, grilled ham, fried egg and veggies of your choice. A local TV ABC station, KSAT, featured this classic burger joint on the news in May during National Burger Month. Highly recommended!
Bobbie’s Cafe, 6728 South Flores Street
With its good food, good service and reasonable prices, this was a great breakfast spot. One of the few places we found around serving a plain old “American” breakfast. In fact, we liked it so much we went here twice during our stay in the area. On our first visit I had a huge western omelette ($6.25) and Rob had two eggs with bacon, hash browns and toast ($5.25). Recommend, especially if you are tired of Tex-Mex.
La Chinita’s,1012 Avondale Avenue
Tired of Tex Mex, we stopped here for lunch after touring the San Jose Mission. Didn’t have much curb appeal but there were a lot of cars in the parking lot so it must be good? Well the interior didn’t have much appeal either. Strange (for us) to see a combo Mexican and Oriental restaurant. Hmmm, want a taco to go with your Lo Mein or an enchilada with your Kung Pao?
Between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., they offer a daily special served with either Egg Drop or Hot and Sour Soup, Fried Rice, 1 Crab Rangoon, for $5.49. On this particular day, Monday, the special was Mongolian Chicken or Beef with Garlic Sauce. We both had the Hot and Sour Soup (which wasn’t that good) followed by the Mongolian Chicken. Although there was a lot of food, it was just mediocre. Not recommended.
Rosario’s, 910 South Alamo Street
On our way back from the SAS Factory Tour, it was time for lunch. We hadn’t topped our Mexican food quota yet so based on good reviews, we decided to stop at Rosario’s touted as the “Best Mexican Restaurant” in San Antonio, “Best Neighborhood Restaurant/Downtown-Southtown,” and Critics’ Choice for “Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Town Guests”.
With its numerous accolades, we were intrigued by the description that the “menu combines traditional south-of-the-border dishes with authentic house specialties, all prepared with a contemporary twist”. Quite the funky, festive and colorful decor. Once seated, the usual freshly made chips with two dishes of house made salsa. On the table was a small carafe of more salsa so no fear of running out. For lunch I had Pollo a la María which was a charbroiled chicken breast marinated in a cilantro pumpkin seed pesto, served with frijoles a la charra ($7.95). Rob had Enchiladas de Queso, which were three cheese enchiladas topped with chile con carne and cheese ($7.25). Food was quite good, ambiance was interesting and service was excellent. Recommended.
Known as a Mexican cafe and bakery with classic fare, margaritas & mariachis, Mi Tierra was opened in 1941 as a three table cafe for farmers and workers. Today this family operated renowned landmark with seating for 500 people is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
We were meeting our friends, Roy and Pam here but we all arrived too early for lunch so we had breakfast instead. We both ordered the Chorizo Mexicano Con Huevo which was fresh eggs scrambled with homemade Mexican sausage (a family recipe since 1941), served with refried beans, breakfast potatoes and tortillas ($8.25). I’m not a big fan of hot chocolate but when Pam raved about the Mexican Hot Chocolate ($2.75), of course I had to try it. Mmm, mmmm, good! Kind of like drinking a candy bar, not as sweet but more like a rich, dark, bittersweet candy bar with hints of cinnamon and a little spiciness to it. I could have had several cups.
On our way out, we stopped at the bakery where they have very tempting displays of their dulces (Mexican candies) and panaderia (pastries). See what they have online. Oh, my, what yummy looking goodies! Thinking that we probably would return at a later point in time, I didn’t buy anything. Unfortunately we never made it back there.
If you go, be sure to check out the huge American Dream mural which is a celebration to the achievements and success of Hispanic leaders in the community. Check it out on their website (you will have to scroll down to see the mural). When you mouse over each face, the name of the person will be displayed.
With the good food, excellent service, festive decor, and strolling musicians, this restaurant is well worth a visit. Even if you don’t eat here, it is worth visiting just to ogle at the decor.
Dining On the River Walk
Founded in 1946 by Alfred F. Beyer, this Spanish Colonial period hacienda was the first San Antonio business to open its doors to the River. The cedar door and window lintels, the fireplace, and thick rock walls, are still evident inside the building. With its outdoor seating and brightly colored patio umbrellas, this restaurant is probably one of the most photographed along the Riverwalk. With tired feet from parading up and down perusing all the restaurants, studying menus our hungry tummies were screaming for us to make a decision. Okay, let’s go to one of the most famous places along the Riverwalk – Casa Rio!
Being a beautiful day and not very crowded, no problem being seated outside. After much deliberation, we both settled on the Chile Relleno, a Poblano pepper stuffed with a choice of seasoned ground beef and cheese (we both had this), chicken and rice, or vegetables and rice, then deep-fried and served with borracho beans ($9.45). Surprisingly for such a popular touristy restaurants, the prices were fairly reasonable. The food was good but not great, the atmosphere outside however was unbeatable.
It was a special occasion on Sunday, November 27th, one that I would prefer not to recognize – I turned another year older. Even though I would like to forget this special occasion, I couldn’t pass up an excuse not to cook. Back at the Riverwalk we wandered around once again, finally settling on the Esquire Tavern for lunch. Opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition, this tavern has been a beloved San Antonio watering hole ever since, with a short hiatus from 2006 to 2011. Besides being known for being the oldest tavern on the Riverwalk, it also boasts having the longest bar in San Antonio. At 100 feet, the bar spans the entire length of the establishment from Commerce Street to the river. Everything here is house made including the condiments, the pickles and the buns. It was a little chilly so we opted to eat inside.
At the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered Fried Pickles ($6) as an appetizer, then I had the Texas Style Shrimp Toast ($11.00) which was beer-battered shrimp toast, Chèvre, spicy peppered jelly (the waiter described it as a shrimp version of a monte cristo) while Rob had the Chili Relleno with pulled pork, ancho chile-refried beans, ranchero sauce, white cheddar, avocado ($15). We don’t normally imbibe at lunch but since we were celebrating we sipped on a Moscow Mule for Rob and a Margarita for me. Everything was delicious! What a lovely birthday! Food was quite good as was the service. Little dark inside and there was loud rock music playing so that detracted somewhat from the atmosphere but still would definitely recommend.
Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery
Hopping on the Rio River Walk Taxi, we cruised to Museum Reach and the Pearl which is touted as a culinary destination. Although there are quite a few restaurants located here, all with interesting menus, our choice for lunch on this particular day was the Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery, located in the original Pearl Brewery, built in 1894. Neat place!
We both decided on the Cellarman’s Lunch Pail which had a choice of 3 entrees and served with a side and appetizer. We immediately ruled out the Fried Shrimp Sandwich and the Fried Chicken Wings choosing the 1/2 pound Shrimp Boil, “Boat Run” spicy Gulf shrimp with celery remoulade and drawn crystal butter ($12). Unfortunately they were out of the Jalapeno Corn Chowder so we opted for the salad as an appetizer and Gulf crab spiked mac ‘n cheese as our side. Delish especially the mac ‘n cheese, which was full of tender morsels of crab. Our leftover shrimp sure tasted good the next day! Very good food, excellent service, reasonable prices and a great atmosphere.
Now even though we couldn’t finish our lunch at Southerleigh’s, I had read about Lick Honest Ice Creams located nearby. Their motto is “honesty is the best policy even when it comes to ice cream”. Who could resist a visit to an artisan ice cream shop especially one that has such flavors as dark chocolate, or olive oil & sea salt, or goat cheese thyme and honey, or roasted beet and fresh mint, or sweet potato pie? After sampling several flavors, I had a scoop of cardamon pear cake topped by a scoop of coconut pecan rum cake. Rob had two scoops of double fudge chocolate. If you like a particular flavor, you might be disappointed when it disappears from the menu – flavors change with the seasons. Oh, my…..
Chart House Bar 601, Tower of the Americas
Tipped off by one of the River Taxi captains, we found out the 601 Bar at the top of the Tower of the Americas has a happy hour from 4:30-7:00 with very reasonably priced drinks and appetizers. The menu looked good and we were curious about the view so we decided to give it a try one evening. While there is a fee to go to the Observation Deck, there is no fee for the restaurant or the bar. We arrived just as the sun was setting. What a spectacular view! Great time watching the sunset while relaxing and enjoying some of the well prepared and tasty “tapas” type appetizers. The bar food is prepared by the Chart House Restaurant which is located one level below the bar and slowly rotates giving diners a continuously changing view. The bar does not rotate but faces toward the sunset and downtown areas.
Decent selection of appetizers on the menu which range in price from $4 to $7. We started with an order of Kim Chee Calamari and Fish Tacos, mahi blackened and served in a warm tortilla with cabbage, Jack cheese, pico de gallo and ranch dressing. Still hungry we then ordered Fried Artichokes with lemon basil aioli and Truffle Skinny Fries & More (shoestring fries, fried plantains, sweet potatoes). Everything was delicious perhaps because the flavor of the food was enhanced by the views of the gorgeous skyline of the city.
Being in San Antonio for 2 1/2 weeks gave us such a wonderful opportunity to try so many restaurants and sample some of the local cuisine. But we barely scratched the surface. Since we so enjoyed our stay here and most likely will return, we’ll have a chance to try a few more at some point in the future.
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Even after all these years, I still consider myself a transplanted Texan and I sure do miss my Tex-Mex and fresh, warm chips served with red and green salsa. Think I’ll make a trip to to mineral Springs Avenue and El Charro for a quick-fix at lunch today. Their homemade chicken tamales with lots of green sauce are to die for and their charro beans, whole pinto beans in pot liquor, aside from the sliced sausage, are wonderful. Refried beans at any restaurant are no more than just okay and black beans should not sully a Tex-Mex menu.
I surely miss Tex-Mex!!!