Le Rêve: I love San Antonio for its local food, so I was wary of this new spot that tips its cowboy hat to France. Chef/owner Andrew Weissman came home from New York's Culinary Institute of America with a passion for classic fare. You'll appreciate his perfection in remarkable plates and top-notch service. To begin, I splurged on seared, buttery foie gras, which melts in contrast to its pedestal of crisp Granny Smith apple slices, with subtle orange-caramel sauce. After an elegant, simple salad came plump, pristine halibut veneered with panko breadcrumbs over ultra-creamy braised leeks. Andrew's fiancée, Maureen Solis, brought the tempting cheese course, but I hadn't paced myself for both that and a sugary finish. Andrew's chocolate trio won. So did I. Wine is unintimidating and affordable, with several by the glass. 152 East Pecan Street; (210) 212-2221. Entrées: $26-$37.
Paloma Blanca: If you prefer a more casual outing, head north of the River Walk to this Mexican eatery in Alamo Heights. Owner Blanca Aldaco moved here from Central Mexico 15 years ago and has shared that region's flavors in San Antonio restaurants ever since. Tortilla soup features a clear, rich broth with still-crunchy fried tortilla strips; chunks of velvety avocado; good, goopy, melted white cheese; and zesty fresh cilantro. Don't miss garlicky, fall-apart tender pork tips in brick red chipotle sauce with rice and borracho beans. End with moist, coarse, satisfying Tres Leches--cake made with milk from Mexico that hints of coconut. Though the fare is a solid notch higher than predictable Tex-Mex joints, the prices stay low. 5148 Broadway in Stewart Center; (210) 822-6151. Lunch entrées: $4.95-$6.95; dinner entrées: $6.25-$11.95.
Biga on the Banks: We Biga fans were distraught when Bruce Auden closed his restaurant a few years ago. He's finally back at a quiet spot on the River Walk. He's still interpreting Southwest cuisine in an unexpected fashion, and mixing in more world flavors--Italian, Asian, French. Some complexly described dishes were surprisingly plain, but two grabbed my taste buds for a dance. Asian-style radicchio and Boston lettuce packets cradled spicy, ground wild game (bison, venison, guinea fowl) with peppy chile sauces. And "enchiladas" of stacked blue corn tortillas, rabbit, deep red chile sauce, tomatillos, avocado, jìcama, and orange blended into a gentle, fiery feast. Tame it with sticky toffee pudding, a caramel celebration. 203 South St. Mary's Street; (210) 225-0722 or www.biga.com. Entrées: $17-$36.
Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio: Elegant hotel dining room with a yellow rose of Texas on each table and lots of local ingredients (Broken Arrow Ranch venison--with mushroom crust, sweet potato gratin, and red wine-lavender demi-glace) and wines (Becker Vineyards Fumé Blanc from Fredericksburg). Spectacular desserts, such as caramelized banana cream pie--much fancier than it sounds. Expensive. 112 College Street (River Walk); (210) 518-1063.
Blanco Cafe (downtown): Shorts-and-tennies spot for Mexican diner fare. Great place for breakfast before hitting the River Walk. Twenty-plus varieties of tacos made with soft flour tortillas. (I love the carne guisada--rich meat chunks in dark gravy.) Cheap. 419 North St. Mary's Street; (210) 271-3300.
Francesca's at Sunset, The Westin La Cantera Resort: The wide-open view reminds that you are not simply in a huge city but in the beautiful Hill Country. (It's a haul from downtown, near Six Flags Fiesta Texas.) Go ahead on the bread: awesome, fluffy jalapeño scones. The appetizer was the best dish I tried: steamed mussels in coconut milk and papaya-habanero broth. Expensive. 16641 La Cantera Parkway; (210) 558-6500.
This article is from the September 2001 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.