San Antonio's Culinary Scene is Exploding with Exceptional Restaurants and Visionary Chefs
By Kimberly Suta
San Antonio Local Expert
The San Antonio culinary scene is exploding with passionate, trend-setting and extraordinary Chefs who are showcasing their sexy and scrumptious dishes at some of the newest restaurants in town. Even the restaurants which have been open for a while are rolling out new menus, new dishes and new concepts. Los Angeles and New York had better put on their fighting gloves because there's soon to be a battle for the best foodie town and San Antonio, often the underdog, is gaining momentum and soon to be the favorite! Restaurants such as Boiler House and Arcade are taking advantage of the growing community of hip foodies at the Pearl Brewery Complex, located along the riverwalk, and showcasing innovative dishes often using locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, many of these restaurants are doing their best to offer farm-to-table cuisine whenever possible. Some, such as Tejas Steakhouse, even grow their own ingredients on property, which is easy when your restaurant sits on a 73-acre ranch and rodeo complex. Tejas has coined the phrase "Ranch-to-Table," to describe their out-of-this-world elevated steakhouse menu. The Clean Plate is proud to be San Antonio's most complete farm-to-table restaurant and Sustenio, located within the stunning Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa, features artisan dishes created by celebrity chef, Stephan Pyles. While the quality of these restaurants is practically guaranteed, the cuisine is as versatile as it is delicious, from Mediterranean to French, Korean, New American, Mexican and good ole Texan, which is practically a country unto itself!
10 Saveurs 209
If you're looking to experience an afternoon or evening in Paris right here in downtown San Antonio, all you have to do is go to Saveurs 209, the new contemporary, family-owned French restaurant you won't want to miss! Although they've only been open a few months, Saveurs has already garnered a number of loyal local clientele, and we know why. The menu is short but distinctive, allowing the Chef to offer dishes that are heavenly and unlike anything else you'll find in San Antonio. This fresh and light cuisine is created with a level of care and precision that leaves no doubt in your mind that Chef Nykiel's skills have been honed in Michelin Star restaurants. Her special flair for inventing unique culinary creations is something the Nykiel family and San Antonio should be very proud of. The menu includes some stellar seafood dishes and is always evolving, depending on what ingredients are in season and locally available. Although in the states, we are just now catching on to the local farm-fresh craze, this is how they've been doing it overseas for, well, since the beginning of time. (210-639-3165)
9 The Clean Plate
While the concept of farm-to-table hasn't quite caught fire yet in San Antonio, the fact is, for many people as well as restaurateurs, farm-to-table is the only way to go. There's no doubt that while your farm-to-table choices are limited in the Alamo city, you can be sure that the ones we do have are nothing short of excellent. The Clean Plate, which recently opened its doors, is at the top of this list and you'll see why. This small but cozy restaurant is dedicated to serving dishes made with locally-sourced and often organic ingredients that are as delicious as they are wholesome. They are doing more than their part to support local farms, ranches and other specialized vendors. They have no interest in using ingredients that are mass produced. Owners Chef Cat New and Melissa Polinard are passionate about the importance of utilizing local, sustainable ingredients. All of their proteins are locally-sourced and humanly raised while 95% of their produce is locally-sourced. If that doesn't impress you, the flavors certainly will!
8 Taps Y Tapas
Although Taps y Tapas is new, it's already on its way to becoming a huge success. Located in a house built in 1883, this fantastic restaurant and bar on the south part of North Flores, has taken the tapas concept to the next level. Not only do they offer an assortment of made-from-scratch tapas, such empanadas, tacos, tortas and our favorite, Fried Chicken Mole Lollipops served with Oaxaca cheese mash topped with micro greens, they offer 24 beers on tap, mostly local and micro-brews. The cuisine is inspired by authentic central Mexican flavors and ingredients, such as those commonly found in Oaxaca and the Yukatan. Taps Y Tapas is the perfect place to kick back and relax with friends or family after a fun day of sight-seeing. The venue is charming and homey, the staff is exceptionally friendly and the food is outstanding! They also have a fantastic patio where they play live music every weekend. ((210) 277-7174)
7 Minnie's Tavern
San Antonio's reknowned Chef Weissman has done it again! Locally, Weissman is the one to beat and Minnie's Tavern has only raised the bar. This delightful restaurant is perfection culled from the French countryside -- rustic, comforting and delicious! We've heard it said that it's the best French brasserie food outside of France. The menu is small, but that only means it allows Chef to give each dish his fullest attention. Expect delicacies such as Duck Confit, Rainbow Trout, Skate Wing Grenobloise, the classic Croque Madam with super fluffy bread and scrumptious Mornay sauce, Steak and Frites as well as Mussels and Frites � and we're talking some of the best French fries you'll have in your entire life. On top of everything else, the candlelight in this leaning (but very safe) structure lends to it a fantastic ambiance that will make for a night to remember! ((210) 220-1890)
6 Ilsong Garden
This family-owned and operated business is led by Young Chu Cacy who learned how to cook traditional Korean food as well as Asian fusions from her mother, Sun Nam, who was born in Korea. Il Song Garden primarily serves traditional Korean food and you can expect to find your favorites here, including Bulgogi, marinated thin strips of tender ribeye steak cooked over an open flame, Kalbi, marinated beef short ribs, Spicy Bulgogi, Baby Back Ribs and other Korean delicacies. Locals can't get enough of their unique Vegetable Pancake, a crispy pan-fried concoction of veggies and seafood. You can add oysters, kimchi or shrimp to your pancake. Yaki Mandu, their version of pan-fried dumplings filled with a mixture of beef, noodles and fresh vegetables is also a great way to start your meal. The menu is extensive and also offers an assortment of Japanese entrees, such as Chicken Teriyaki and Shrimp Tempura. ((210) 366-4508)
5 Bella on the River
Bella's inviting staff and intimate atmosphere set the tone for one of the finest meals you'll ever have while visiting San Antonio. Owner, David Snyder, has combined his love and experience abroad with the genius of Executive Chef, Sean Fletcher, to create fresh authentic Southern European and Mediterranean dishes that are to-die-for! From the paella, with its fragrant flavors and velvety texture, to the (off-menu) Branzino, grilled to perfection with roasted garlic and grilled lemon, the cuisine is off-the-charts delicious. They take advantage of seasonal ingredients by offering dishes like the watermelon and heirloom tomato salad, but you can't go wrong with starters such as the decadent Eggplant Josephine. There isn't one item on this menu you won't savor and remember. What really stands out about Bella's is a true appreciation for quality and simplicity where the ingredients themselves are allowed to shine in a perfectly balanced symphony of flavors. ((210) 404-2355)
4 Arcade Midtown Kitchen
Arcade Midtown Kitchen is that rare and wonderful find in San Antonio. Not only do they source their ingredients locally whenever possible, which isn't too difficult when inspiration lies right outside their front door at the Pearl Brewery's Farmer's Market every Saturday, but they do something else even more extraordinary. Arcade knows how to artfully showcase the farm-fresh ingredients and flavors that they use. Executive Chef and owner, Jesse Perez, has a passion and great respect for his ingredients, such as the Diamond H Texas free-range quail he procures from nearby Bandera, Texas. Arcade's delectable Americana cuisine is influenced largely by Chef Perez's South Texas upbringing as well as his exposure and experience working with Southern, Californian, Mexican and Italian cuisines. Ahead of the curve, Arcade's appreciation for farm-to-table is not only about quality but about the relationships being built with the local farmers. Prepare for some divine dishes! ((210) 369-9664)
If you don't have the pleasure of staying at the beautiful Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa, make sure to include dinner plans at Sustenio on your itinerary. One of the perks is complimentary valet service for all restaurant guests, but that's just the beginning. The decor is beautifully contemporary with classy yet comfortable seating and fashionable light fixtures. The menu is an amalgam of influences from Chef Pyles' travels to Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon and showcases ingredients often sourced locally. Farm-to-table is a natural fit for Sustenio being that the "Ripe" Farmer's Market takes place at Eilan every Sunday. Sustenio uses approximately two dozen of these fabulous vendors, including a purveyor of Texas-raised Wagyu beef. Dishes range from fresh and light, such as the Whole Roasted Branzino and Grilled Swordfish to rich and decadent, such as the Berkshire Pepperoni De Arrabbiata (house linguini), the gluten-free Gnocchi with scallops and brown butter, and the Cinnamon and Ginger Spiced Pork Osso Bucco. ((210) 598-2900)
2 Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden
Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden is a true Texas original. Situated in the historic Pearl Brewery complex on the San Antonio River Walk, this wine-centric restaurant occupies the former "boiler house" which powered the adjacent brewery. The menu focuses on grilled items from local farms and markets, with a focus on "Texas ranch-style" cuisine. The good news is they have a wide variety of gluten-free dishes and are clearly noted on the menu. These delicacies are paired with extraordinary wines from around the world (all available by the glass, bottle and "to-go"), live music and a casual yet energetic atmosphere. The unique list of wines features pricing based on a "retail" model, and boasts some of the lowest prices in the area. (210) 354-4644)
1 Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon
Many have tried but few have been able to capture the spirit and taste of Texas the way Tejas Steakhouse has so perfectly. Situated on a ranch the owners call the Cowboy Playground, this entertainment complex features a rodeo every Saturday night, including a mechanical bull for daredevils! However, the real gem of this place is the Steakhouse, run by Executive Chef Tyler Horstmann, who's rolling out a new menu featuring 11 different kinds of meat. He's created dishes such as Beef Tongue Tostadas and Rabbit and Venison Fondue that are fresh without being trendy. Horstmann, a member of the Chef Cooperative in San Antonio, has taken the concept of steakhouse to the next level by using ingredients grown on property or locally-sourced whenever possible. "I'm calling it the Ranch-to-Restaurant program," explains Horstmann. "It's our take on farm-to-table. How many people do you know have a restaurant on a ranch?" ((830) 980-2205)
About Kimberly Suta
Kimberly A. Suta is a professional freelance writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur with a background in marketing, advertising and social media. Her first business, Midnight Sun Innovations, involved a partnership with Regal Cinemas, the largest theatre chain in the world. Kimberly has written, directed and produced several films that have screened at Texas film festivals and she produces an annual film competition at the popular Alamo Drafthouse theatre. She recently published her second novel, The Rain Queen, which can be found on Amazon.com. Kimberly currently lives and works in San Antonio, Texas, a place of much inspiration to her.
Read more about Kimberly Suta here.