Ah spring! The wildflowers are blooming, the sandals are coming back, and our celebration of the best of San Antonio hospitality — the Tastemaker Awards — is once again heating up the night.
For the past few weeks, you’ve read about all the stellar nominees, then voted for your favorite new restaurant in a hard-fought tournament. Now, it's finally time to unveil the winners.
On Thursday evening, the all-stars of Alamo City’s restaurant and bar scene gathered with their hungry fans at the Briscoe Museum for our second annual tasting event and awards ceremony. Guests feasted on delicious bites from some of the area’s best restaurants, before applauding the proud winners.
And what a crew they are. Our 2023 CultureMap San Antonio Tastemaker Awards winners represent the crème de la crème of the city’s red-hot culinary scene. Meet them below and join us in raising one last glass to the Tastemakers. Drum roll, please.
Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
There's no reason to pretend otherwise; you've had this food before. Maybe it was over a few beers at a backyard barbecue or a buzzing Rio Grande restaurant, but it is as familiar as a family group text. This Pearl spot's genius was in giving South Texas fare the respect it deserves. Instead of being fettered by the honey assumptions that regional foods should be cheap, Carriqui fires Wagyu on custom Mill Scale grills. Instead of settling for hominess, it announces South Texas as a destination.
Best New Restaurant: Reese Bros BBQ
With the cult-like status that some barbecue joints enjoy, some hot spots have forgotten there doesn’t have to be so much bite with the bark. Make no bones about it; the licorice black crust that forms on the brisket is as mouthwatering as it comes. But that alchemy is not just a flex obscuring the other parts of the operation. Reese Bros excels at sausage, flour tortillas, and simple market sides. It also excels at hospitality, not letting endless acclaim harden into an ego trip.
Chef of the Year: Robbie Nowlin — Allora, Arrosta
Casual San Antonio offers scant opportunities to dress up, so we’ll give you a reason to wear a jacket. Though no jackets are required, Arrosta’s offerings invite one to be a little more buttoned up. Nowlin’s Reggis Ova caviar is the most luxurious dish in town, even if it’s served on a humble fried dumpling. Even the fried potatoes are so gorgeously presented that they demand some decorum. Can’t imagine wearing hard pants? Waltz next door to Arrosta to experience the chef’s prodigious fare in a much more casual setting.
Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
It's there in the name. This Southtown lounge delivers everlasting romance courtesy of velvet curtains, fuchsia lighting, and orchids languishing on the edge of coupes. The atmosphere gets a little steamier after a couple Bella Noche shots. Suddenly, disco thumps through the speakers, inamoratos file in, and the back booth becomes the most inviting spot in Alamo City.
Best Brewery: Künstler Brewing
The owners of this Southtown hot spot, Vera and Brent Deckard, are exceedingly well-traveled, a fact that informs their magpie approach to beer. The descriptions read like a travelogue — taking drinkers from San Diego beaches to Ecuadorean farms to hikes near Aschau, Germany. The flavors are equally international. Head brewer Vera works in dozens of styles, using her sharp palate to deliver inventive creations like a matcha milkshake IPA and a briny oyster stout.
Neighborhood Restaurant: The Magpie
This newly expanded East Side bistro is hard to describe. Chef Jungsuk “Sue” Kim doesn’t let genre hold her back, dishing out Korean specialties like dak galbi and Italian rabbit ragu. The wine list has an equally well-stamped passport, exploring traditional and low-intervention winemaking in equal measure. The Magpie doesn’t need to be easily categorized to make an impact. Guests happily gobble up whatever comes into the nest.
Pastry Chef: Sofia Tejeda — Hotel Emma
An alum of Mixtli and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Tejeda was the first San Antonian to be nominated as “Outstanding Pastry Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. It’s easy to see why. Her dishes combine cultural specificity (see the German and Mexican influences) with a luxury fitting of the boutique hotel. We think Emma Koehler — the property's namesake — would be proud.
Wildcard: Best Burger — Last Place Burger
Maybe owner Mark Villareal stumbled upon a djinn. It seems impossible that five simple ingredients could produce so much flavor. We do know that one of our three wishes would be a never-ending supply of this food truck's astoundingly great OG burger.