When it comes to San Antonio's hottest restaurant neighborhoods, the Pearl may be the first spot that comes to mind. But equally enticing is Southtown. This emerging restaurant enclave’s development has been more organic, but no less fun to watch. Here's a taste.
There have always been anchors in the city’s first historic neighborhood, foremost among them El Mirador, a Mexy Tex-Mex joint recently taken over by entrepreneur Chris Hill of downtown’s Esquire Bar fame. (Changes are coming slowly.)
Rosario’s, with its slightly more contemporary twist on Mexican cuisine, got its start here too — and recently established a toehold off Loop 410. Tito’s adds its version of occasionally updated Mex to the mix. Nearby, Liberty Bar moved from a location near Pearl to the motherhouse of an old convent — keeping its classic menu but painting the new digs bright pink. South of Blue Star, La Tuna Icehouse, its patio famously paved with beer caps, has long been a favorite, grab-a-brew hangout.
Anchored by the Contemporary Art Museum, Blue Star comes the closest Southtown has to a Pearl-like environment. Its first gastro component was Blue Star Brewing Company, the gleaming tanks visible from a dining room specializing in casual, contemporary cuisine. Next to appear was the harder-to-find Bar 1919. Down some unmarked stairs, veteran barman Don Marsh has assembled the city’s most impressive collection of scotches, along with top-flight cocktails.
Stella Public House, specializing in upscale, wood-fired pizzas and craft beers on tap, has made itself right at home here, and it shares a kitchen with coffee-and-cocktail oriented Halcyon. A few steps away, South Alamode Panini & Gelato Co. provides exactly what the name implies. Recently opened by the folks at the brewery is Blue Star Provisions, a specialty grocery store. The newest addition is Sukeban, a sushi bar and Champagne parlor.
More to Southtown
But wait, there’s more. The Monterey may have closed, but the same group’s Hot Joy, a hotbed of tweaked Asian cuisine continues to rock. Up the street, Jason Dady has cobbled together a barbecue joint called B&D Ice after the divey bar that formerly occupied the space. Across South Alamo, The Friendly Spot‘s tree-shaded patio is family- and dog-friendly, and its many taps help lubricate a menu of casual eats such as spiked hummus and lamb sliders.
Closer to town, there’s a restaurant concentration anchored by Chef Rene Fernandez’s Latin-themed Azucar; next door is his son’s brand-new restaurant Hearsay (formerly Starfish). And across the street, La Frite turns out Belgian-accented mussels and more along with impeccable fries. Heading south, Chef Mark Bliss’ eponymous restaurant is housed in a handsomely repurposed service station that seems to perfectly suit his contemporary cuisine. A block away, Bite offers equally fresh creations and hosts a much-appreciated brunch.
Okay, this is it: South Flores on Southtown’s western flank is also beginning to develop, and on it we find Pearl’s Johnny Hernandez doing another take on Mexican with La Fruteria. And, bear with us, a couple of blocks down this very long street we find Dorcol, an award-winning distillery/bar centered on producing a Balkan rakia, or apricot brandy. Once again, Stone Oak, take that.
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