I made my first trip to San Antonio this week and as you know, finding great dining options is always a high point on my list of things when visiting a new city. Googling “Top New Restaurants in San Antonio” let me to an Eater.com article from last year outlining The 13 Hottest New Restaurants in San Antonio. I read through the quick descriptions, checked out the menus and booked a few dinner reservations. Not all of the places I dined were on this list, but they’ve all be recommended by Eater.
The restaurants I visited, along with the Eater notes and my impressions are below.
Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
What Eater Says: The latest brewery to open in San Antonio, Weathered Souls is gaining followers with flights and inventive one-off, small-batch brews. Though the Malterial Girl dry-hopped ale has garnered attention from Madge’s lawyers, the brewery is hoping to weather this storm.
What I Say: A strip mall brewery with interesting, but not innovative beers. The burgers were quite tasty and the service was genuine and welcoming. It was a decent schlep from the main tourist area and the Riverwalk. For a quick trip to San Antonio, I say skip it.
What Eater Says: The Empty Stomach Restaurant Group (Hot Joy, Barbaro, the Monterey) turns its attention to Mexican fare with Chisme (Spanish for “gossip”) on the St. Mary’s Strip. Housed inside a former Tex-Mex institution, Chisme is winning fans over with a fun brunch (think barbacoa bennies and fried chicken and churros), massive micheladas, and free chips and queso during happy hour.
What I Say: Fried Chicken and Churros – need I say more? Their take on chicken and waffles was really good and I’d order it again in a heartbeat. The salsa and the guacamole were so mild and bland, they reminded me of something you’d get while in hospital. The service was really warm and welcoming and the Bloody Mary went down a little too easily – I did stop my self at just one though.
What Eater Says: As the third concept from the team that opened Feast and Rebelle, Battalion had to deliver great results from the get-go. Chef Stefan Bowers and his team take a modern approach to Italian fare with shared plates of housemade pastas and charred squared meatballs, all served inside a renovated former firehouse in the city’s Southtown area. Two words that seal the deal: amaro cart.
What I Say: I’m a sucker for a good pasta dish and when you start off with daily housemade pastas how can you go wrong? Well, you start by overcooking your pasta like the folks at Battalion. My lasagna was very overcooked – not quite to a paste level, but close plus the sauce was used so sparingly. My dining companion had the bucatini and his sauce was mostly water and wouldn’t stick to the pasta. We split the Veal Piccata and it was so salty we couldn’t finish it. It was tender but the only flavors we got were salt – and salt licks are great for cows, but not for me.
What Eater Says: After receiving accolades from Texas Monthly, the San Antonio Express-News, and the San Antonio Current, Rebelle’s holding its own inside the St. Anthony Hotel. Chef Stefan Bowers (Feast) and his staff are adding French techniques with global flavors to the dining scene within its glam and upscale walls (most San Antonians still reserve it for a special night out). It’s by far and away the biggest opening of the year since our last heatmap.
What I Say: I loved the space – it was fun, modern and exciting. The service was pretty slow – all the servers appeared to spend their time hanging out by the central bar area and not their sections. Water was never refilled without asking for it twice. We should know better, but don’t trust the servers here with wine recommendations. Paired very poorly. The wine service itself was just off too – opening the bottle you ordered at the bar, serving one guest out of a tasting glass, the other out of a proper sized glass, the bottle kept being removed from our table and put back near the bar – we finished that bottle much quicker than we thought we should have (maybe others were helping us reach the bottom).
What Eater Says: The crown jewel” of the Pearl offers dishes like hot goat sausage and catfish mortadella while incorporating San Antonio’s Mexican culture with items like masa-fried oysters over sopes with black beans and avocado mousse.
What I Say: Loved this charcuterie. Four of us split the large charcuterie board and about half a dozen other items, including a steak. The service was attentive, but not oppressive. The drinks were unique and delicious. I loved my final drink of the night: My Sherry Amour with sherry and mezcal. I’d return here in a heartbeat too.
What Eater Says: If the Esquire helped turn San Antonians into cocktail hounds, Downstairs, the not-so-speakeasy bar below it, is turning them into refined bar-goers. Seating is limited in this intimate establishment that retains details of its sister bar with taxidermy fish, but with a cocktail menu dedicated to corn. Elaborate charcuterie boards and excellent service make Downstairs feel like you’re more than five feet away from the kitschy River Walk.
What I Say: This was my favorite spot in San Antonio. We just had a couple of stellar cocktails and perfect oysters. The bartender, Hank, was really knowledgeable and welcoming. My dining companion wanted hot sauce for the oysters and the servers were a little snobby about it – commenting on how hot sauce would just destroy the flavor and your tastebuds for future cocktails (which they are right), but they could have been a bit less judgy. I really loved this place and would return just for the Sazeracs alone – I tried both the regular and the reserve versions and while both were great, I think you can just stick to the regular – amazing and quite a bit cheaper.
In addition to these places, we stopped off for drinks and snacks at various places along the Riverwalk, none of which are worth mentioning here. All in all, I will say, I was pretty disappointed in my dining selections in San Antonio. For a city with 1.7M people (the 7th largest in the US), I was expecting something a little brighter. Many of the folks I spoke with had the same feelings, but my sample all come from major food cities like New York, LA and Chicago – it’s tough to compete with the restaurants in those markets. That being said, there’s got to be something else we are missing.
What are your favorite places to dine in San Antonio? When I return, where should I eat? What’s a popular restaurant that you think is overrated? Did you know that San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the US – I KNOW!