After you battle your way through hordes to see the Alamo, you deserve to feast like a king. And luckily, dining in Alamo City will surprise you; in fact, it extends far beyond barbecue, Tex-Mex, chili, tacos and deep-fried everything. Hide from the camera-toting throngs who overrun the River Walk and faux-Mexican Market Square and explore the real San Antonio, Texas’s most underrated food city, completely tourist free.
Don't let the fact that this crave-worthy Latin American street food spot starred on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives deter you: Locals love Beto's for the freshly made empanadas (they run through 1,500 to 2,000 a week, and the calabacita con puerco and chicken poblano are a must), the famous fish tacos and the signature Chalupa Cabra, a savory, curry-stewed cabrito served over a guava-and–cream cheese empanada roll. You may spot the stray tourist, but you can't fault an out-of-towner who's this well informed.
Located in the Pearl, the epicenter of San Antonio's culinary scene, Cured is known for its charcuterie, which, when you think about it, is like Texas barbecue's elegant cousin. Chef/owner and James Beard nominee Steve McHugh is at the helm, turning out seafood, pork, bison, lamb, fowl and beef using a whole-animal approach. Menu highlights include the pork cheese poutine, chicken and waffles, and the Blue Ribbon Burger, which was named one of the 50 Greatest Burgers in Texas by Texas Monthly.
With great food and ambience, chef Stefan Bowers's Mediterranean-influenced FEAST in Southtown serves up a rotating selection of small plates, including grilled duck breast tostadas and Texas quail with fresh corn polenta and a red wine-bacon vinaigrette. Located in the King William Historic District, San Antonio's artistic hub, FEAST is also popular for brunch, thanks to its cool crowd of locals and its Southern staples like pancake-battered sausages, sweet maple bacon and rib eye burger.
④ Local Coffee and Bakery Lorraine at the Medical Center
Local Coffee and Bakery Lorraine, located side by side at the Medical Center both use coffee from celebrated local roaster Merit Roasting Co. Chefs Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, who started Bakery Lorraine, met while working for Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery. Their welcoming bakeries across San Antonio (there are locations at the Pearl, too) have earned a reputation for their rainbow-colored macarons (in flavors like Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate cassis), homemade pastries (including Pop-Tarts and cinnamon rolls) and cozy vibe, which is perfect for breakfast and lunch.
"Old school but incredible" is how San Antonians describe Chez Vatel Bistro, the relaxed yet refined French restaurant helmed by chef Damien Watel and located in an Olmos Park strip mall. Chef Watel's spot-on dover sole meunière, duck confit, coq au vin, escargot and steak frites, as well as his obsession with warm hospitality, make this beloved hole-in-the-wall the place where "every billionaire in town eats," Watel says. Billionaires, sure, but regulars, too.
Local oenophiles know that High Street Wine, located at the Pearl, is one of the best places in town to imbibe. Under the direction of lauded sommelier Scott Ota (a '14 alum of Wine & Spirits magazine's Best New Sommeliers list), High Street curates a broad selection of bottles that range from domestic favorites (like B Wise Vineyards' Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma) to international gems (like Laherte Freres Grand Brut Ultradition Champagne).
If you must hit the River Walk, the best place to eat is Restaurant Gwendolyn. Chef, owner and James Beard Award semifinalist Michael Sohocki channels an 1850s mind-set, devising an American menu from perishable goods all sourced within 150 miles and prepared without motorized machines. That means: no blenders, mixers, choppers, ice cream machines, deep fryers, burr sticks or anything else with a motor—or a plug. Gwendolyn's menus, which rotate monthly, pay homage to Sohocki's interest in the pre-Industrial Revolution era of American history and feature dishes inspired by the Thirteen Colonies (clapbread, corn pudding, pan-roasted quail) and the Gulf Coast (boudin po'boys and Zanzibar shrimp).
Pack your passport—and an appetite—as we hit the world's hottest culinary destinations on and off the grid all month long. Now Boarding: your next trip to paradise.
Marisel Salazar is a contributing writer for Tasting Table, who comes to NYC by way of Panama, Hawaii, and Japan. Follow her on Instagram at @BreadButterNYC.
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