Guide

10 Hottest Restaurants in San Antonio

By Farah Fleurima
May 12, 2014

It’s hard to resist San Antonio’s summertime charms, especially in light of the recent rise of cool new gastronomic greatness, from Downtown to Southtown, high-end to low. Our guide will point your taste buds in the right direction; just promise us and yourself that you won’t casual-dine along the River Walk (although there's prime fine dining there, like at Biga on the Banks).

  • The Granary ’Cue & Brew

    Why It’s Hot: It’s a barbecue joint brimming with smoked meats and a brewery. What more do you want from a place?
    Must-Order: Pastrami’d meat - and there’s a lot. Short ribs, beef ribs, brisket and the latter are piled into mile-high sandwiches.
    Insider Tip: From 4:30 to 6:30 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays, Social Hour takes over, with bar service and a small menu of snacks and beer specials.

    602 Avenue A; 210-228-0124

  • Mixtli 

    Why It’s Hot: This tiny former boxcar that only seats 12 people made quite the splash at the recent Austin Food & Wine Festival. Handmade ingredients are the focus on the tasting menu, with the kitchen making masa and even chocolate (pictured) in-house. The menu is meant to travel like the clouds (which is what Mixtli means in Nahuatl), with each iteration sticking around for only 45 days.
    Must-Order: Hard to say with the ever-changing menu, but it seems like anything with chocolate would be sublime.
    Insider Tip: Mixtli doesn’t take reservations, as diners must snag advance tickets. Don’t expect to leave stuffed, either; the $80 meal, which includes beverages, is about the artistry and craft of the food.

    5251 McCullough Ave.; 832-520-8928

  • Ray’s Drive Inn

    Why It’s Hot: It’s the spiritual home of the authentic puffy taco, little seen outside of SA and well worth the drive. Arturo Lopez, Ray’s brother, originated the deep-fried wonder, and now it’s trademarked and, thankfully, still delish after all these decades.
    Must-Order: The puffy tacos, of course!
    Insider Tip: Ray’s is a cash-only operation. Also, it’s well away from the city center.

    822 SW 19th St.; 210-432-7171

  • Esquire Tavern

    Why It’s Hot: Not only is this handsome tavern the oldest bar on the River Walk, but it also boasts the longest wooden-top bar in Texas: more than 100 feet. The craft-cocktail program is among the best in town (and we enjoyed samples during January's San Antonio Cocktail Conference), and naturally sourced eats keep the leather seats filled.
    Must-Order: The deviled eggs and grilled pimiento cheese sandwich (add bacon!) are standouts.
    Insider Tip: The cocktail menu thoughtfully lists how each drink is prepared (shaken or stirred) and served (up, long, on the rocks, etc.)

    155 E. Commerce St.; 210-222-2521

  • Umai Mi Modern Asian Fare

    Why It’s Hot: After success with concepts like Tre Trattoria and Two Bros. BBQ Market, San Antonio chef Jason Dady is trying his hand at a Pan-Asian-fusion concept with modern touches. He doesn’t take himself too seriously in this genre, even calling his menu of regionally influenced cocktails “authentically absurd.”
    Must-Order: Crispy fried chicken wings in red curry paste is a fine starter, and tamarind-glazed brisket is a melding of Asia and Texas.
    Insider Tip: Dim sum rules this roost on Sundays, 11 AM to 2 PM.

    555 W. Bitters Rd.; 210-496-0555

  • Cured

    Why It’s Hot: Cured not only represents how the restaurant treats its meat in-house, but also chef-owner Steve McHugh’s triumph over cancer not long before opening this showcase. The eatery is in the Pearl Brewery complex.
    Must-Order: The outstanding charcuterie plate is a fantastic way to get the lay of the culinary land, selecting from options ranging from local lamb and citrus terrine to 120-day aged Duroc pork belly. Full plates like corned beef tongue and cabrito sliders have won raves.
    Insider Tip: Cured isn’t located quite in the midst of the Pearl enclave but a few paces north of the main hubbub.

    306 Pearl Parkway; 210-314-3929

  • The Monterey

    Why It’s Hot: Because it’s all about the fun of eating. To that end, the former gas station’s menu is a veritable party, using all-natural, seasonal ingredients creatively (lamb-fat toast!), and the beer list skews heavily toward craft and microbrews. The King William neighborhood spot also puts a ton of thought into its well-curated wine list.
    Must-Order: Off-menu specials rock, like this jalapeño-cheddar breakfast biscuit. Regulars like deep-fried Brussels sprouts and sake clams and beer-can fried chicken speak to the fun the kitchen has.
    Insider Tip: It’s closed on Mondays, and reservations are email-only and follow a strict schedule.

    1127 S. Saint Mary’s St.; 210-745-2581

  • Photo by: Farah Fleurima

    The Liberty Bar

    Why It’s Hot: Housed in a former convent, this hot spot, around the corner from the Blue Star complex, is renowned for its chef-crafted fare with Mexican influences. An array of coffee drinks, a full bar, live music and happy-hour specials keep fans coming back. Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern’s recent jaunt through the King William eatery has renewed interest in the funky spot.
    Must-Order: Everything and anything with mole on it. Also, the blackberry-covered mound of geranium cream with housemade shortbread cookies is killer. Zimmern loved the goat cheese with chile morita and piloncillo sauce.
    Insider Tip: If you happen to encounter manager Katie McKee, your day will get about a hundred times bubblier; she’s full of terrific historical tidbits.

    1111 S. Alamo; 210-227-1187

  • Feast

    Why It’s Hot: Bubbling since its opening in 2011, this Southtown spot with European style serves dishes like cornmeal-dusted fried oysters and duck-breast tostadas.
    Must-Order: The Jack Cheese Mac, the all-rib-eye burger and any special of the day featuring a fish that’s flown in; the kitchen shows a deft hand with its seafood.
    Insider Tip: Request the house fries with a Nutella olive oil sauce (!!!).

    1024 S. Alamo St.; 210-354-1024

  • The Brooklynite 

    Why It’s Hot: Because owner-bar master Jeret Peña and his team craft some of the city’s most wondrous and heady cocktails, which we became friendly with during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.
    Must-Order: The Pinche Fresa, with pisco, strawberry shrub, Cocchi Torino and rhubarb bitters.
    Insider Tip: We realize this list is for restaurants, but the bar is too good. Bonus: food trucks perch themselves outside if you need to fill up between cocktails.

    516 Brooklyn Ave.; 210-444-0707

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Places Mentioned

The Esquire Tavern

Bar • Downtown

Atmo.25 Decor23 Service20 CostM
 
 
 
Liberty Bar

Eclectic • Southtown

Food23 Decor19 Service22 Cost$31
 
 
 
The Monterey

American • Southtown

Food- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
The Brooklynite

Bar • Downtown

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Two Bros BBQ Market

Barbecue • North Central

Food19 Decor14 Service21 Cost$20
 
 
 
The Granary 'Cue & Brew

Barbecue • Tobin Hill

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
Biga on the Banks

American • Downtown

Food26 Decor26 Service25 Cost$50
 
 
 
Feast

American • Southtown

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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