Season's eatings

San Antonio's 5 coziest comfort food restaurants are good for the soul

San Antonio's 5 coziest comfort food restaurants are good for the soul

Carnitas Lonja San Antonio
Carnitas Lonja is heaven in a tortilla. Carnitas Lonja/ Facebook

Truth be told, we’ve had enough of summer salads. We are going to have a fit if we see one more lifeless chicken breast plopped on a bed of brown rice. As the days get shorter, it’s time to conjure all the carbs, bring on the butter, and curl up with San Antonio’s best comfort food.

Carnitas Lonja
This tiny miracle of a taqueria really only does one thing. But who needs variety when you can eat San Antonio’s best carnitas for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner if it doesn’t sell out? Grab a friend and share a pound for $14. The pork, slow-cooked in lard in the Michoacán style, sings even before it's topped with escabeche, pico, and a peppery squeeze of one of the two salsas. But when it's wrapped with a spoonful of guacamole in a fluffy homemade corn tortilla, fireworks go off.

Hot Joy
This much ballyhooed eatery is a little flashier than most of the restaurants on this list, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t understand comfort. John and Jessica Philpot are both mischievous chefs, working Western ingredients like pepperoni into Asian dishes or adding Thai ice tea to an otherwise all-American ice cream sandwich. The result is food that feels familiar, even when guests get a taste of an ingredient they’ve never had before. The duck fat rice is further proof that everyone has been wasting their time with olive oil.

La Boulangerie
Most Americans don’t associate French cuisine with easiness. Just look at the thousands of home cooks who have stumbled through one of Julia Child’s books. Still, even in a devilish dish like consommé, much of it boils down to basic building blocks of pleasure — salt, acid, and fat. So, while few of us have enough of a watchful eye to make sure a béchamel sauce doesn’t break, no one should be kept from enjoying it. Start by having it on this downtown bakery’s velvety croque monsieur. Then say au revoir to plain old grilled cheeses.

Mr. & Mrs. G’s Home Cooking
This East Side soul food staple isn't fancy. Most of the ambiance comes from vinyl checkered tablecloths and a few potted plants, and the sides are scooped into styrofoam bowls with nary a parsley sprig to gussy it up. None of that set dressing matters when customers taste a luscious pot roast with thickly cut carrots and potatoes or the the vinegary pop of collard greens.

Radicke’s Bluebonnet Grill
First, there’s the chicken fried steak. It only takes a fork to slice through the tender beef, barely held together with a crispy layer of crust. Then there’s the jalapeño fried chicken, a dish that uses the pepper to add vegetal depth instead of bludgeoning the eater with heat. In this age of automated kitchen equipment, almost any restaurant can fake their way through both these entrées. It takes a three decade-old institution to make them feel like a revelation.