10 Hottest Restaurants in San Antonio

By Farah Fleurima
May 12, 2014
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


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- CostE
Biga on the Banks

American • Downtown

Food26 Decor26 Service25 Cost$50

American • Southtown

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
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