Cancelled Fiestas, waning tourist traffic, rising food costs: The last two years have been a bummer for the San Antonio restaurant community. It amazes us that they still manage to serve so much everyday joy.
That's why we are thrilled to give a little of that glow back. Our nominees for the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Award for San Antonio Restaurant of the Year have somehow made a rocky year feel normal. Each is where we celebrated job promotions and birthdays, where we reunited with friends, and where we sought relief from our worst days. Every one of them deserves a round of applause.
Read about them below, and honor their hardworking staff with a big tip. Then join us to announce the winner at our inaugural San Antonio tasting event and awards ceremony at The Espee on April 26. Tickets are on sale now.
The force behind this barbecue joint was a backyard griller long before the James Beard Awards noticed his fire. And that familial spirit still shines in pitmaster Esaul Ramos' food. The holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs are done with just the right amount of bark and bite, no doubt perfected over years of get-togethers. The sides are a pachanga — macaroni with chicharrones, pickled nopales, and Mexican street corn.
Brasserie Mon Chou Chou
In certain quarters, fine dining is judged by its fussiness, sauce squiggles and curlicues that do more for Instagram likes than the overall experience of the plate. This Pearl hot spot knows better. Under the direction of chef Laurent Réa, Brasserie Mon Chou Chou impresses with shatteringly crisp duck confit or a simple raclette sandwich topped with Bayonne ham. So what if the luscious escargot isn't conventionally pretty? Substance trumps style every day.
Curry Boys BBQ
If it weren't for the shocking pink paint job, this St. Mary's strip shack would be easy to miss. What can't be overlooked are the bold flavors that come out of the kitchen. With Curry Boys, the teams behind Pinch Boil House and South BBQ have accomplished the near impossible: fusion without gimmickry. As it happens, oak-smoked brisket adds heft to a zingy Southeast Asian curry, and crispy chili oil tastes fantastic on everything.
Located in downtown's sleek Thompson hotel, Landrace brings destination dining to casual San Antonio. Chef Steve McHugh's menu honors Texas regional fare, but not without a bit of dazzle. Wild-caught scallops swim with humble corn and luxury truffle orzo pasta, and a New York strip's poivre comes from chili pequin. Rare or common, every ingredient is necessary. And that makes the restaurant a special occasion, even during a weeknight meal.
Maverick Texas Brasserie
There's a bit of a vegetal bent to this Southtown brasserie's comfort classics. Sure, few would grumble at a well-done rotisserie chicken. But when accompanied by broccolini, mushrooms, and pickled cranberries, it becomes a dish. It becomes a craving when paired with a Gamay or Gruner Veltliner from one of the most creative lists in town. It becomes an event when served in one of Alamo City's most effortlessly chic dining rooms.
Pinch Boil House
Necessity has always been the mother of invention in Texas cuisine. Still, the state's most famous mash-up, Tex-Mex, sometimes overshadows its other culinary collision. This Alamo Heights spot aims to change that with pitch-perfect versions of Viet-Cajun boils. Bracing spice, achingly fresh seafood, what more could a local want? Maybe one of the feisty rice bowls topped with honey Sriracha-glazed shrimp or Korean Buffalo chicken.
Keeping true to its name, no San Antonio Restaurant is quite as fun as Stefan Bower's downtown pizzeria. The pies themselves are exuberant, pairing standby pizza meats with surprises like Calabrian honey. Still, the always on-point food is not the only star of the show. Bowers has created a scene with an irreverent menu, an enviably stylish staff, and dance music pumping almost every night. Want more fun? Dive into the strawberries and cream served during the recently introduced breakfast service.
Southerleigh Haute South
This casual cousin to one of Pearl's most popular restaurants knows that standards must come with ease. This Rim eatery may have a relaxed menu of fried chicken, comfort sides, and sandwiches, but it goes head-to-head with the other restaurants on this list. Try the shrimp po'boy and the sweet bacon jam-garnished deviled eggs. Then, be thankful you can enjoy such quality food in shorts.