This spring, we have been celebrating the bars, restaurants, and people that make San Antonio such a dynamic and nationally celebrated food scene as part of our 2018 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. Now that list, selected by a panel of expert judges, has been narrowed down to the best of the best.
On April 12, emcee and Central Texas television personality Taylor Ellison crowned the winners during a blow out party at Austin's Fair Market. The diverse crew included both newcomers and industry vets. If you weren’t able to make it to the event, please join us in raising a glass to this year’s cream of the crop.
Restaurant of the Year: Battalion
The latest feather in the collective cap of Stefan Bowers and Andrew Goodman, Battalion specializes in approachable Italian served inside a firehouse redone in the restaurateurs' unmistakable contemporary style. The menu offers hearty meats; vegetable dishes that stand on their own; and affordable house pastas (the Trenne Bombay with gin, cream, and dill pollen is a must). Need an extra excuse to get fired up? Order a tipple off the well-stocked amaro cart.
Chef of the Year: Pieter Sypesteyn, The Cookhouse
You could say New Orleans cuisine is in Pieter Sypesteyn’s blood. Before working with acclaimed San Antonio chefs Thierry Burkle and Andrew Weissman, he grew up in the kitchens of New Orleans' restaurateurs. Since branching out on his own, he has been singularly focused on bringing that food to San Antonio, first from a wildly successful food truck, Where Y’at, and now from a trio of restaurants (The Cookhouse, NOLA Brunch & Beignets, and Bud's Southern Rotisserie) that have become some of the hottest tickets in town.
Best Bar: Downstairs at the Esquire
The walls of this subterranean lair are a little spooky, decorated with taxidermy piranhas and a few framed bugs, but you wouldn’t be out past bedtime if you didn’t want a little bump in the night. What a surprise then that from this darkness comes such light. Once you settle down to order, you’ll find the offerings effervescent, from the carefully selected menu of bubbles to clever takes on cocktail heavyweights (the martini gets its lift from orange bitters) to the extravagant charcuterie board.
Best New Restaurant: Tenko Ramen
This fast-casual concept in the Pearl Bottling Department food hall from noted chef Quealy Watson proves that good things come in small packages. It may not have a cocktail program (although wine and beer are available nearby from the separate bar), nor a maître d’, but the ramen is delicious — especially the double mushroom — and simple dishes like chicken karaage and kimchi always excel.
Favorite Coffee Shop: Bakery Lorraine
Pastry wizards Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell are perhaps best known for their baked treats — including the cult macarons that are de rigueur on any San Antonio Instagram account. Far less talked about is the experience they have created with co-owner Charlie Biedenharn. Each of the San Antonio shops has its own stamp (the millennial pink at the new Rim shop is a particularly nice touch), but they share the same commitment to quality and service. And, yes, macarons for breakfast are pretty cool.
The April 12 ceremony also honored the best of the Austin food and beverage scene. Here are the highlights from the 2018 Austin Tastemaker Awards:
- Restaurant of the Year: L'Oca d'Oro
- Chef of the Year: Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye
- Bar of the Year: Nickel City
- Best New Restaurant: Be More Pacific