It's certainly not hard to find somewhere cheap to eat in San Antonio, but a restaurant that hits all the marks when it comes to flavor, quality, service, ambiance and affordability can be few and far between, or at least it used to be! Now, the city is practically bursting with restaurants showcasing talented chefs and fresh, local cuisine - good enough to compete with the more well-known foodie cities in the U.S.
Let's start with The Cookhouse, who serves up the finest New Orleans-style fare in the city. Chef Sypesteyn takes his craft very seriously. At the same time, he loves playing with food. He makes his own charcuterie, bread, cheese and pretty much everything else you'll find on your plate. With access to the freshest gulf seafood, and a talent for bringing authentic Louisiana flavors to Texas, this one is hard to beat when it comes to best value!
After a long day of shopping at La Cantera, The Whiskey Cake is an ideal choice for fabulous fare on the north side of town. They consistently serve great, affordable, scratch-made food that won't put a dent in your wallet or your time.
The downtown landscape can be somewhat daunting to out-of-towners, and frankly, even for locals. It's largely high-end restaurants and steakhouses or unsatisfying fast food. With new restaurants like O'liva, Rebelle and The Clean Plate, you can now eat well for both lunch or dinner!
Bakery Lorraine started out as a hole in the wall on Grayson street. Now at the Pearl Brewery in a much larger, more upscale location, they have earned a reputation as the cafe to go for the most delicious sandwiches and pastries. There is nothing more comforting or homey than fresh baked pastries made from scratch, and Bakery Lorraine puts a sprinkle of TLC on everything they make. Jeremy and Anne met while working for Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery in the Napa Valley, California and have been baking together ever since. They honed their skills in different kitchens around the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to San Antonio in the summer of 2010. In 2011 they established Bakery Lorraine, through which they wish to share their craftsmanship with you. Every item that they put out is handmade with the utmost care and attention to detail. ((210) 862-5582)
Tito's is your classic hole in the wall restaurant, but it's most definitely worth a visit. Located in San Antonio's acclaimed arts district, Southtown, Tito's is the place the locals go again and again and again. They put the T in Tex-Mex with some of their signature dishes, such as the Chipotle Cream Chicken Enchiladas or their delightfully juicy Crispy Beef Tacos. This is one of the best tasting and inexpensive places you'll find in San Antonio or, possibly, even in Texas. All of the plates come with rice, beans and tortillas. It's practically guaranteed you'll leave Tito's both full and happy! ((210) 212-8226)
Niki's Tokyo Inn
Niki's Tokyo Inn is probably the most authentic Japanese restaurant in San Antonio. Sure, it doesn't look so hot on the outside, but you'll quickly forget about all that once you have a taste of their sushi or any of the number of traditional Japanese dishes on their extensive menu. Niki's is run by a Japanese family and is most often frequented by the Japanese community. It's likely you'll see a few Toyota executives when you go. Their miso is heavenly as is their shrimp fried rice, but if you're a sushi fan, make sure to try everything you can manage. The eel is just about the best thing you'll ever eat and their portions are quite generous, the seafood fresh and the ambiance, well, unique! ((210) 736-5471)
Whether or not you're passionate about the delicious benefits of farm-to-table cuisine, do your taste buds a favor and make you're way over to the Pearl Brewery farmer's market in San Antonio, which takes place every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, and head straight to the new pop-up restaurant at Humble House - located across from Local Coffee shop! Treat yourself to a Frittata packed full of veggies, Mashed Browns made with roasted root vegetables and topped with braised collard greens and a farm-fresh egg, French Toast with local honey and lavender-infused whipped cream or a savory homemade soup. Everything at Humble House is made from scratch with the absolute finest ingredients. In fact, what's really unique about what Humble House is doing (even compared to some of the other vendors at the market) is they serve entrees made with ingredients sourced primarily from the farmers and ranchers that also sell at the market. What this means is that the food you're getting is as fresh as it can possibly be, and that equates to unbelievable flavor! (210-706-0067)
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!
Rebelle Restaurant in the newly-renovated St. Anthony Hotel has finally come to fruition and oh what a plump, juicy treat it is. Once, years ago, the restaurant at the St. Anthony was the place to go for dinner... and now it is once again! Executive Chef Stefan Bowers along with restaurateur Andrew Goodman, have already proven their talents at the successful Feast Restaurant in Southtown, San Antonio. With Rebelle, they're now well on their way to earning national attention. With Chef Bowers' gift for blending scintillating flavors and Goodman's aesthetic grace, this duo is a match made in heaven - which is what Rebelle looks like, if heaven is an enchanting, purple-hued dreamscape where the lusty libations and seductive cuisine never end. For Chef Bowers, it's all about the flavor. While the dishes are certainly thoughtfully put together, you quickly lose sight its beauty once you taste it. Chef Bowers calls it "high-risk" cuisine because if even one component of these highly composed dishes is not on point, it throws the entire dish off. The concept is shared plates of elegant, extraordinarily fresh and diverse cuisine. Rebelle is French for rebel and is their acknowledgement of the common use of French techniques used in the dishes, even though the menu is quite global. It's also the perfect description for these two men who are true to their own vision and no one else's. The menu includes the most succulent Char-Grilled Spanish Octopus with braised corona beans and basil pistou; a decadent 32 oz. Cote de Bouef (bone-in Ribeye with tarragon butter); perfectly-cooked Veal Sweetbreads with black trumpets and lobster knuckle butter and Rosemary and Red Pepper Spiced Goat Shank, to name a few. Bon appetit!
O'liva Healthy Local Cuisine & Tasting Room
O'liva is a new downtown restaurant offering unbelievably affordable, contemporary farm-to-table cuisine in a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere with a true open kitchen. They are working to revive the local food movement in a part of San Antonio that hasn't seen it for over a century, and doing it with an unrivaled pinache. Chef Chuck Hernandez, owner of O'liva, has accomplished an amazing feat with his new restaurant, located in the Plaza de Armas City Center building, just down the block from the historic Spanish Governor's Palace. Hernadez, who also owns Arugula Catering, practically invented the slow food movement. He's been sourcing locally and working with nearby farmers, ranchers and artisan food makers going on 30 years. It's nearly impossible to pin down the type of cuisine you'll find at O'liva, but it's always flavorful and creative. Hernandez describes it as country food, but in fact, the cuisine is quite international and features dishes from an array of countries, including Lebanon, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, India, the list goes on.Hernandez, also known as the Pesto King with a published book of recipes under his belt, is a traveler and lover of diverse cultures and cuisines. He's spent his entire career developing pestos with flavors that traverse the globe. Go for breakfast, lunch and dinner! ((210) 229-2638)
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)
Whiskey Cake is the first farm-to-table chain to open in San Antonio. With it's sizable bar and dining area offering seasonal and often locally-sourced cuisine, it's hard to believe how affordable it is. The cool, industrial space, fresh-squeezed juices and famous Whiskey Cake the restaurant is named after are just a few of the highlights. The consistency, service and overall dining experience are superb here. While it's fresh and local, that doesn't always mean its low on calories. The OMG Burger is piled high with all kinds of fixin's, including a big onion ring, muenster cheese, roasted criminis and more. The rotisserie "farm bird" of spit-roasted chicken along with cauliflower, mustard greens and carrots or the grilled Texas striped Bass are equally delicious, healthy and affordable. You won't be disappointed, that's for sure. If you are looking to splurge, definitely go for the fried green tomatoes or deviled eggs. ((210) 236-8095)
The Cookhouse just opened their doors in early September of 2014 but is already the talk of the town, which comes as no surprise as it's the only restaurant in San Antonio that showcases traditional New Orleans cuisine, the kind you might find at some fine dining establishment in the French Quarter. The roasted Duck and Dumplings made with an exceptional marjoram potato gnocchi and served with tomato confit and a red wine demi-glace is utterly divine. Other favorites include the Tomato Artichoke Canoli, made with house-made pasta, goat cheese, tomato confit, artichoke hearts and marjoram, not to mention the Grilled Trout Amandine with muniere butter, toasted almonds and fresh green beans. If you adore fresh seafood, you can bet The Cookhouse serves up some of the freshest gulf oysters and shrimp from here to the coast. The New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp is served in a pool of savory spicy garlic butter and beer sauce (a secret recipe!) and charred French bread that is ideal for dunking. So addictively delicious, you may find yourself wanting to drink it. It's okay, nobody's looking! ((210) 320-8211)
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.
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