Hungry San Antonians in search of authentic Lone Star State cuisine need only amble down to the River Walk for an all-new dining experience.
Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails, now open on the river level of Hotel Contessa at 306 W Market St., offers a culinary tribute to beloved Texas fare, from breakfast tacos to brisket and every chicken-fried delicacy in between.
Led by executive chef John Zaner, Ambler, billed as Hotel Contessa’s showpiece restaurant, aims to walk a fine line, offering a range of Texas classics alongside modern must-haves — but not solely relying on tortilla fare.
“It’s not just Tex-Mex,” Zaner says. “We are offering flavors that are rooted in Texas cuisine by encompassing house-made smoked meats, unique cuts of steaks, and innovative craft cocktails. Hotel Contessa has always been known for its stellar accommodations and service, and Ambler will only enhance that reputation with its one-of-a-kind ambiance and exciting offerings.”
With a menu that reads “like a culinary ode to the Lone State State — part sweet, part sassy, part old-school” — Ambler features unexpectedly reimagined favorites that Texans will definitely want to devour.
Locally sourced produce and products are highlighted across the menu, which includes dishes like roasted cauliflower and chorizo queso, chili-glazed short rib with potato enchiladas, and what’s sure to become a quick front-runner: chicken-fried Texas quail with spicy watermelon.
Carnivores will love Ambler’s menu of pasture-raised, grass-fed Texas ranch cuts, sourced from Augustus Farms in nearby Yoakum. And happy-hour nibblers won’t want to miss out on the many shareables gracing the Ambler menu, including the Texas Pantry Board with house-smoked duck and tasso ham, beef jerky, local cheeses, honey, and pickled vegetables.
Sunday brunch is also a Texas-sized event at Ambler, featuring everything from a breakfast burger (because who doesn’t need a little prime beef, fried egg, and bacon on a brioche bun to ease into Sunday morning?) to locally inspired chilaquiles, and eggs Contessa with green-chili Mornay sauce.
The Texas flair doesn’t end with the menu; Ambler’s ambience showcases subtle masculine elements alongside bright and cheery details that evoke a sophisticated yet casually cool air. Among the eye-catching décor items are local artworks, Texas cowhide pieces, and a large-scale Ambler branding iron.
Despite the welcoming and warm character of the recently renovated restaurant space, the true charm of Ambler comes from its River Walk-adjacent setting, with 32 seats of the restaurant’s 100 located on the riverfront patio.
It’s the perfect Alamo City spot to take in the surrounding River Walk liveliness while sipping one of Ambler’s agave-focused signature cocktails. In addition to its full bar offerings and array of imaginative margaritas, Ambler shakes up cocktail classics with a little Lone Star attitude.
High points include the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, a smooth, smoky iteration of the traditional bourbon drink made with Oaxacan mezcal; Remember the Alamos, a mix of Botanist gin, St. Germain, and lime with an Alamos Malbec float; and Spill the Tea, with green-tea-infused Tito’s Handmade Vodka, peach, salted honey, and lemon.
What’s better than enjoying Texas-style cuisine and cocktails along the iconic River Walk? A little local entertainment, of course. And Ambler doesn’t disappoint, with the restaurant hosting a variety of events all summer, including its Ambler Unplugged series featuring local musicians and its interactive cooking demos.
Ambler is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and bar service, and reservations are suggested.