While Austin is now widely recognized as a highly rated food city, the scene in San Antonio is just starting to take off. A short road trip to the Alamo City is a perfect weekend getaway for adventurous eaters looking for a new dish to marvel at. No longer are your options limited to TexMex and tourist traps, the food scene in San Antonio is gaining more and more national attention for branching out from the usual tropes to offer some truly unique dining experiences – not to mention a food truck culture that rivals Austin’s very own.
The restaurant scene in San Antonio is finally starting to get the national attention it deserves. In 2012, the influential online culinary publication StarChefs.com highlighted the talents of four local chefs. Chef Jason Dady was celebrated for his string of restaurants that includes Tre Trattoria, Bin 555 and Two Bros. BBQ Market. His recent venture into mobile dining with the DUK truck is widely regarded as one of the best.
Young chef Quealy Watson has made quite the name for himself since he debuted his own cutting edge cuisine at Monterey in the Southtown neighborhood. His unique flavor combinations marry local ingredients in innovative ways, resulting in such mouthwatering dishes as winter squash, smoked maple, blue cheese, black pepper vin and pepitas or Meyer lemon pound cake, black pepper-lemon thyme goat cheese, berries and toasted almonds.
No trip to San Antonio is complete without a stop by Michael Sohocki’s Restaurant Gwendolyn. Named for his grandmother, a farmer during the Great Depression, the restaurant embraces the concept of limitation. As such, all techniques and ingredients are limited to what was available in San Antonio before the industrial revolution. In a move that can be read as extreme farm-to-table, Sohocki only sources perishable ingredients from farmers he knows personally within a 150-mile radius from the restaurant. In addition, you won’t find anything in Restaurant Gwendolyn’s kitchen with a plug. Luckily for diners, these limitations in preparation never transfer to limitations in flavor. Popular dishes have included stuffed quail, potato galette, oyster mushrooms and marsala jus as well as a golden beet salad with broccoli sprouts, mustard vinaigrette and butter-fried pecans.
After dinner, be sure to hit up one of San Antonio’s celebrated cocktail bars. The San Antonio Cocktail Conference was the first cocktail convention to be hosted in Texas. The event models itself after similar gatherings in New York City and New Orleans, and celebrates the vibrant cocktail culture in Central Texas. To get a taste of the scene yourself head over to Esquire Tavern, where mixologist Jeret Pena has dreamed up such creative offerings as the Texecutioner (mezcal, xtabentun, cocchi americano, grapefruit) and Capone’s Revolver (Templeton rye whiskey, Kona coffee liqueur, Fire & Damnation bitters).
San Antonio is just a short drive southwest of Austin and it is home to one of the hottest up-and-coming food scenes in America.