For years, people have traveled to San Antonio from all over the state, even the country, simply for the amazing Mexican food that you find here. Traditionally, the Mexican food has been of the Tex-Mex variety, certainly not authentic Mexican cuisine, but a blending of American ingredients, Texas mentalities and Mexican influences. Jaliscos, popular restaurants which serve cheap Tex-Mex, can be found on almost every corner in San Antonio, but slowly, a small wave of culinary ingenuity is making its way across the city and influencing chefs and restaurateurs. The result is that there is so much more in SA than the usual fare. Sure, sometimes what you want is a fun, kitschy Mexican experience complete with Mariachi band like that of Mi Tierra, but sometimes you want something, well, just different. For mind-blowing, perhaps life-altering Mexican cuisine, Mixtli is it. While it may seem a bit pricey, it's worth every penny and then some. It's truly a progressive dining experience and perfect for an anniversary, birthday or special occasion for that foodie in your family. You will get to enjoy Mexican food in a way that you never have before and never will again. More traditional Mexican food can also be found at San Antonio staples like La Fonda and Cascabel as well as newer restaurants like Taps Y Tapas. Truly, every one of the restaurants on this top ten lists has something special to offer!
10 Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia
Mi Tierra is unique in that it never closes. Open 24/7, it offers a variety of menu options for all different times of the day. When you are looking for breakfast, this is one of the best places to go! Breakfast in San Antonio isn't breakfast without breakfast tacos! Mi Tierra knows this and delivers amazing fare to delight your taste buds. Whether you are looking for papa con huevo or carne asada breakfast tacos, Mi Tierra has it. You can also choose from other great San Antonio breakfast choices 24 hours a day. So if you are in the mood for menudo or Machacado (Mexican omelet), it is going to be available. (210-225-1262)
Acenar, located downtown on the Riverwalk, is a spectacularly innovative and contemporary Tex-Mex restaurant that Zagat has noted for their "killer food." Lisa Wong (who also owns Rosario's) and her partners took special care with this restaurant to ensure it could compete in style and taste with just about any other restaurant in any metropolitan city, and they did not disappoint. If you just want to check it out, they offer a Houston street-level bar called Atomar and a Happy Hour menu that's worth the walk. Although the regular menu is similar to Rosario's with a boost in price, Acenar offers items that are unique to it, such as the Buttermilk Fried Oysters, the Young Texas Goat served with Ancho Salsa Ranchera and the Duck Crepes. Looking for Tex-Mex with a twist? This is it! (210-222-2362)
8 La Fonda on Main
La Fonda is the oldest Mexican restaurant in San Antonio. Established in 1932, the restaurant has served at least two American presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon B Johnson). However, their primary focus is on serving the city of San Antonio and the locals love this place! The restaurant serves Tex-Mex as well as interior Mexican foods. In a casual atmosphere with colorful decorations, diners relax and enjoy themselves. From the Espinaca Omelet to Migas La Fonda, you will find the perfect Tex-Mex brunch here. You'll also find traditional sides in the form of hasbrowns and a fruit cup available. (210-733-0621)
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)
6 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)
5 Azuca Nuevo Latino Restaurant & Bar
Azuca Nuevo Latino is not just a restaurant and bar, but an experience. It's a local's favorite for their happy-hour mojitos and caipirinhas. Located just south of downtown in San Antonio's arts district, Azuca offers fantastic drinks you can't find anywhere else in town in a vivid and vibrant atmosphere. Their outdoor patio makes you feel like you're vacationing in some tropical location and not only minutes from downtown. As for the food, Azuca's dishes are an exotic synergy of delicious flavors from South and Central America with Chef Rene's innovative touch, including a wide array of seafood options, including some scrumptious ceviche! The bar area is separate from the restaurant, and on Friday and Saturday nights, you can enjoy their electrifying live music of Salsa and Merengue until your feet get tired. (210-225-5550)
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)
3 El 7 Mares
Imagine kicking back with a cold cerveza and a magnificent plate of fresh, bright shrimp and octopus ceviche marinated in lime juice and mixed with pico de gallo, avocado and Serrano peppers, the sound of the ocean waves lapping against the sand in the distance. Now, imagine you can have all that flavor right here in San Antonio and you've stepped into the world of El 7 Mares, a family-owned Mexican Seafood restaurant just a few miles west of downtown. The homemade family recipes are exceptional and the staff amazingly friendly. It's no wonder they've been around for 20 years and recently made Texas Monthly's top 50 Mexican restaurants list, a huge honor for this unassuming yet delightfully charming restaurant. Locals love the Filete a lo Macho of grilled tilapia with a creamy octopus and shrimp sauce, bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with crab and mozzarella and aguachiles with shrimp and scallops. Yum! ((210) 436-6056)
2 Cascabel Mexican Patio
Cascabel's is one of the best-kept secrets in San Antonio and sports a wonderful outdoor patio with umbrella-covered tables. It's different than every other Mexican food restaurant in the city because it features regional specialties from interior Mexico. You won't find the ubiquitous refried pinto beans here or even flour tortillas. Cascabel's serves everything with thick yet soft homemade corn tortillas and refried black beans that have an exceptional amount of flavor. If you want to try something unique, order the Birria, which is a rustic goat stew. If you want to play it safe, order the Huaraches, which are corn tortillas smothered in refried black beans, shredded cabbage, your choice of meat, a spicy red chile sauce and sour cream. Cascabel's will stimulate your palette without over-stimulating your bank account! ((210) 212-6456)
Mixtli is so much more than just a satisfying meal, it's truly a journey of the spirit and senses. Owners Diego Galicia and Rico Torres, also chefs, have developed a unique dining experience they're calling progressive Mexican culinaria, which is unlike anything in San Antonio, perhaps even in the U.S. Torres and Galicia know how to make great food, that's a fact, but what's more enticing is they know how to entertain you. If food were live theater, Mixtli would be a hit Broadway show. Everything is made from scratch, and they source many of their ingredients locally, mostly from farmer's markets, although some ingredients are imported from Mexico and South America, such as their cocoa beans. Mixtli, which means cloud in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, represents the ever-changing cuisine. While the emphasis is on Mexican food that celebrates traditional ingredients and cuisine, just like their ranching grandmothers used to make, they present each one of the dishes on their pre-fixe tasting menu with a fascinating explanation and such artful presentation that you may, if you're a serious foodie, shed a tear. (832.520.8928)
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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