The Best of San Antonio
Navigating the numerous restaurants along the picturesque, 2 1/2-mile-long River Walk can be challenging--especially if it's your first visit. Not to worry. Check out these top picks. You'll quickly realize that competition among the many eateries definitely benefits the customer. This is one of those rare occasions when service and value are on par with the area's exceptional food.
If you're looking for a romantic or special occasion dinner, try Las Canarias Restaurant located in the La Mansión del Rio Hotel. A meal here falls squarely into the "worth the splurge" category. For one of the best views anywhere, grab a sweater, and dine on the riverside veranda. Chef Scott Cohen's seasonally driven and ever-changing menu blends Southwestern flavors and local ingredients in not-to-be-missed specialties, such as farm-raised venison loin crusted in cracked black pepper, which is served with sweet potato crisps and a rich red-wine sauce. Seafood lovers will relish the crispy, pan-roasted red snapper nestled in a hearty tomato and herb-based stew. The desserts are tempting to be sure, but I went straight for the restaurant's award-winning cheese cart. 112 College Street, San Antonio; (210) 518-1000. Entrées: $19-$32.
Ask any local for the best margarita around, and you'll be pointed in the direction of Zuni Grill for their famous electric-pink Cactus 'Rita. This downright quaffable concoction (made by marinating the pink fruit of the prickly pear cactus in gold tequila) makes an ideal late-afternoon refreshment. If you want to munch on something, order Zuni's fire-roasted red chile salsa and chips--the combination of the ice-cold margarita and fiery salsa is out of this world. 223 Losoya, San Antonio; (210) 227-0864. Appetizers: $4-$10.
When it comes to lunch and casual dining, this is the spot--hands down. The menu is simple but thorough, with portions suitable for even the hungriest of cowhands. Start with the Texas Tapas, a tasty sampler of Southwest-inspired treats such as grilled andouille sausage topped with a tangy barbecue sauce, a smoked duck tamale, and a skewer of grilled pork tenderloin and pineapple. But without question, the star of the show here is the wafer-thin Chicken Fried Ribeye. Not only is this pepper gravy-covered gem a steal at $8.50 (which includes garlic mashed potatoes and slaw), the generous dish may be the only meal you need for the rest of the day. My advice: Arrive hungry, or take a friend. 421 East Commerce Street, San Antonio; (210) 224-8484. Lunch entrées: $5-$12.
Don't let the dazzling decor of this hot new eatery fool you--prices are reasonable, and the menu is packed with soul-soothing Tex-Mex favorites. The tender braised pork tips (carne de puerco en chile cascabel), smothered in a mild red chile sauce and served with a side of refried beans and cilantro rice, is regional comfort food at its finest. The chipotle-seasoned shredded chicken and pork (copitas de picadillo) served up with lettuce cups is outstanding as well. 146 East Houston Street, San Antonio; (210) 222-2362. Entrées: $8-$21.
This article is from the December 2004 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.