Exceptional Seafood Becomes More Common Fare at San Antonio Restaurants
By Kimberly Suta
San Antonio Local Expert
San Antonio chefs are taking this city by storm and they're not leaving the seafood behind. When you think of SA cuisine, most people don't often imagine seafood, and yet they have access to some of the most amazing bounty due to its close proximity to the Gulf Coast.
Just recently at a special dinner at Luke as part of their Visiting Chef Dinner Series, they featured an array of the most delicate, mouthwatering seafood that included American caviar, a bycatch crudo, soft shell crab amandine with squid ink pasta and grilled gulf tuna. Luke is also known for having some of the best and freshest oysters in town. You can enjoy them raw, fried and often charbroiled.
Starfish is still one of the best kept secrets in town, but not for long! Chef Diego Fernandez is making some of the most unique seafood dishes - works of art that make you regret just a little bit (but not too much), that you have to eat them. Starfish recently opened up for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and the new menu includes fun entrees such as fish and waffles.
Southerleigh, located at the Pearl Brewery as part of the new Emma Hotel development, cannot be overlooked when it comes to seafood. Although they're certainly not exclusively seafood-focused, Chef Balfour has done exceptionally well at translating his childhood upbringing at the beach in Galveston into divine cuisine.
10 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)
9 Pappadeaux's Seafood Kitchen
For all things seafood pared with a Creole flair, head to Pappadeux's. From the warm waters of the Gulf to the icy currents of the Alaskan coast, from the mighty Atlantic to the blue Pacific, they'll go to any depths to bring you the finest quality seafood available, all year round. Their passion for seafood can be tasted in their mouth-watering creations, made by innovative chefs. Pappedeux's is also the place to go for the most unusual of seafood, such as alligator. Evidentally, alligator has been playing a starring role in New Orleans cuisine for decades, and that tradition continues at Pappadeaux's. (210-340-7143, 877-277-2748)
8 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)
7 La Frite Belgian Bistro
Typically, San Antonio is as far away from European as you can get. That is until you walk into this quaint little bistro in the heart of the Southtown arts district. With its warm, inviting décor, wide array of wine selections and French-inspired cuisine, you feel like you might just walk outside and see the Eiffel Tower. Zagat rates this bistro with the "best mussels since Brussels," and they offer a half a dozen different delectable sauces. Tres Bon! Regardless of how much you order, you will want to get an order of frites (French fries) on the side. They're the best in town, possibly all of Texas! (210-224-7555)
6 Il Sogno
What could be better than Italian seafood? Il Sogno, located at the historic Pearl Brewery, is a five-star Italian café that offers homemade Italian classics created by the well-known restaurateur, Chef Andrew Weissman. The space is bright and modern, fun yet classy. The menu features Italian fare found in Rome and Florentine trattorias and osterias. For lunch, Il Sogno's offers a fantastic spread of antipasto as well as pizza, salad and other delights. For dinner, your palette can enjoy anything from homemade ravioli to their pan-seared halibut. You'll definitely want to pair your Italian delicacies with one of Il Sogno's fine beers, wines or desserts! (210-223-3900)
5 Sushihana Japanese Restaurant
There's a reason why Sushihana, which opened in 2003, continues to be one of San Antonio's premier Japanese restaurants. Simply, the staff is exceptionally passionate about everything they do. Sushihana's Japanese fusion artfully combines freshness and finesse to create sushi, sashimi, and entrees that are as delicious as they are impeccable. From the vibrant Crudo to the Spicy Salmon Poke, delicate tempura and succulent Ribeye, made with an orange, ginger and arbol teriyaki sauce, there's absolutely nothing they serve that's not worth coming back for again and again. While the menu isn't constantly changing, it seems like there's always something new on offer. Even the desserts are sweet surprises, such as the house-made Carrot Cake with cream cheese foam and caramel. If you're adventurous, kindly ask Executive Chef Mario Ramos and Sushi Chef, KC Chong to prepare a tasting menu and brace yourself for a truly delightful culinary experience! ((210) 340-7808)
4 Sandbar Fish House & Market
Sandbar Fish House & Market is an upscale oyster bar from San Antonio's renowned restaurateur, Andrew Weissman. It's located on the west side of the Full Goods Building at the Pearl Brewery, a great place for a little shopping and sightseeing after a spectacular lunch. You're not going to find many seafood restaurants in San Antonio that can hold a candle to Sandbar. Weissman is an exacting individual with impeccable taste. The lunch menu offers Seviche, Soups and Salads as well as raw options such as the Tuna with Soy and Wasabi or the Scallop with Yuzu and Ginger. You can also get a more traditional American lunch with their Shrimp Roll or Crabcake Sandwich. For something a little heartier, try the Wild Salmon or Fish n' Chips. Of course, there are always oysters on the menu, if you're feeling frisky! (210-222-2426)
3 Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery
Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery is a restaurant and brewery located inside The Pearl's historic brewhouse and is the place to eat in San Antonio for a delicious, fine dining experience. Southerleigh serves up incredible East Texas home-style cuisine that's very coastal and is also influenced by other southern states. These hearty, flavorful dishes are part of a farm-to-table menu that is constantly changing because they use as much of the whole animal and seasonal produce as they possible can. Large plates might include Whole Crispy Gulf Flounder with parsley and drawn butter or Brick Griddled Diamond H Quail with pickle mustard chow chow. They also offer an assortment of Boils like a Shrimp Boil with pork jowl, okra, corn and potato as well as a long list of savory sides such as dirty rice and wood-fired creamy grits. Beer connoisseurs will likely appreciate Southerleigh's commitment to honoring the tradition of this historic brewery by brewing their own craft beers like Big Shell Coconut Porter, Seawall Belgian Wheat and Conjunction Curry Porter. No matter which way the winds are blowing, Southerleigh is bringing in some phenomenal cuisine to San Antonio and raising the culinary bar here just a little bit higher! ((210) 455-5701)
2 Starfish Global Seafood
Starfish is one of the newest restaurants to open its doors in San Antonio's popular arts district, Southtown, a bourgeoning foodie district as well. While it can sometimes be difficult finding fresh delicious seafood in the Alamo city, it doesn't seem to be a problem for Starfish, which is owned and operated by a father and son team. Starfish looks like it was plucked from the streets of New York City and the cuisine could easily compete with any of the seafood restaurants found in the Big Apple. The "boundless cuisine" of Starfish focuses on seasonal fresh ingredients, particularly seafood and ingredients unique to Texas. For those wanting something a bit heartier, Starfish makes sure to offer some excellent alternatives, such as their Pork Chop, Aged Flat Iron Steak and Duck Pot Pie. Although seafood lovers should most definitely explore the ocean's bounty, artfully prepared by Chef Diego and his stellar team. From the Steamed Halibut with toasted cous cous ratatouille to the Striped Bass with dirty rice, savory Bouillabaisse, or Sea Scallops with celery root and apple puree, beet gel and orange thyme veloute, each dish is an edible masterpiece. (210-375-4423)
Luke is celebrity Chef John Besh's first restaurant outside of Louisiana and is run by locally-renowned chef, John Russ. Luke is truly one of the best restaurant's on San Antonio's famed riverwalk. The menu features authentic Old World cuisine, combining classic German and French cooking techniques with a New Orleans touch. Locals love their happy hour which features amazing drinks for half-off and some of the most incredible oysters you'll find in Texas or even beyond - you can get them raw, charred or fried. You'll not regret getting a taste of all three! The restaurant is quite large with an old-timey feel. You wouldn't be surprised to see gentlemen lounging in their linen suits, smoking cigars. The menu is always changing and Chef Russ likes to feature the freshest local ingredients whenever possible, but you can always find delicious seafood dishes such as Jumbo Shrimp with jalapeno cheese grits the always classic Mussels with Fries. ((210) 227-5853)
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.