MEET THE TASTEMAKERS
Even though the past year and half has taken a real bite out of the restaurant industry, some enterprising San Antonio restaurateurs have stepped up in the face of overwhelming disadvantages to open new eateries that feed our cravings and champion the spirit of the city.
These new restaurants have become our bread and butter, our nourishment during the toughest times, and the places where we most look forward to celebrating a return to normalcy. Simply put, these eight new restaurants are the cream of the crop in San Antonio right now.
Our annual Tastemakers tournament starts with eight nominees, but only those with the most votes advance to the next elimination round. Read about these new stars of San Antonio’s restaurant scene below, and vote for your favorites once a day through August 3.
Then join us August 5 at Fair Market in Austin for the 2021 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, where we’ll reveal the winner live during our awards ceremony and celebrate the delicious achievements of San Antonio’s restaurants and bars. Tickets are on sale now.
Best Quality Daughter
When it comes to good Asian American cuisine, you can’t go wrong with Best Quality Daughter. The word “best” is in the restaurant’s name, after all. Popular dinner pop-up series turned brick-and-mortar restaurant at the Pearl, Best Quality Daughter is a culinary reflection of co-owner Jennifer Dobbertin’s travels and the comfort food she cherished in her youth as a second-generation Chinese American. From small dishes like crab boudin egg rolls to heartier fare like the thick noodle short rib dish and family-sized portions of Salt-N-Pepper Shrimp, Dobbertin’s menu elevates classic Chinese cuisine with modern approaches and impeccable flavors.
Brasserie Mon Chou Chou
This darling of an eatery at the Pearl showcases French food that highlights simple, earthy flavors and pays tribute to the three founding Frenchmen’s homeland cuisine. Featuring plenty of long-held family recipes, Brasserie Mon Chou Chou serves up a menu of rich, decadent, and perfectly enticing fare so good that you’ll be thrilled to forgo your diet in favor of dishes like the broiled double lamb chops with red wine sauce, crispy duck confit, and just about every cut of steak imaginable. Check out the Sunday brunch for classic escargot in garlic butter for a full French culinary emersion.
Cuishe Cocina Mexicana
When you’re rediscovering what a locally crafted Mexican culinary experience can be, you may be inclined to bug out. And at Cuishe Cocina Mexicana, where dishes inspired by locales like Guadalajara and Veracruz shine, that’s highly encouraged, as the menu features a variety of insect-forward bites like bichos (salted and fried scorpions, chapulines, and agave worms served with guacamole and tortillas) and escamoles (sautéed ant larvae). But if your culinary journey doesn’t include plans to nosh these little delicacies, that’s okay, as Cuishe offers lots of approachable fare too. Try the lobster-heavy Guacamole de Langosta and any variety of enchilada. Pro tip: Don’t forget to order a spectacular mezcal or tequila cocktail.
There may not be a more aptly named restaurant in Alamo City than Jardin, as this gourmet spot is nestled in the historic Sullivan Carriage House amid the lush San Antonio Botanical Garden property. Celebrated chef Jason Dady capitalizes on the outdoor environment with his Mediterranean-inspired, produce-embellished menu of mezze dishes (the white cheddar-stuffed dates are dang good) and sharable plates, focaccia pizzas, and heartier entrées (the saffron-glazed roasted half chicken could hold its own against any smoked barbecue version) that are far from garden variety.
The recipe for an excellent signature restaurant: Start with a sleek new downtown hotel (Thompson San Antonio), add one wildly successful local chef (Steve McHugh), create seating areas overlooking the River Walk, and curate a menu that emphasizes regional and locally sourced ingredients, and cook it all up on a wood-fired grill. This is Landrace, where, from the imaginative starters (hey there, Hopi blue corn hushpuppies) to mains like wild-caught scallops and slow-cooked bison short ribs, and specialties like lamb T-bone and baked spinach lasagna, every last morsel honors the flavorful bounty of the earth.
Little Em’s Oyster Bar
At this adorable, pastel-hued seafood spot owned by local restaurateurs Emily and Houston Carpenter, the world is your oyster. After the couple’s dream took shape over oysters in Paris, they opened the doors to Little Em’s Oyster Bar in late 2020 and shucked together an impressive menu of eats, anchored by a rotating selection of East Coast oysters, ceviche, seafood specialties, and crisp-fresh salads. The burger, lobster roll, and crab cake dishes will leave you dreaming about your Little Em’s meal for days. And while you’re there, spring for some caviar for a truly imperial experience.
As pretty much all of San Antonio knows, nobody does Caribbean street food better than chef Nicola Blaque. The culinary genius behind Mi Roti (as well as flagship Caribbean joint The Jerk Shack) is on a personal mission to elevate and modernize Caribbean fare, and we’re here to say that mission has been accomplished. At Mi Roti, whether you opt for a bowl or a wrap featuring the popular Caribbean flatbread — roti — you’ll want to pile on proteins like jerk chicken or grilled steak, add some coconut or cilantro-lime rice and a variety of veggies, then choose a house-made sauce (trust us, try the mango chutney) and a side for an authentic taste of the islands.
Southerleigh Haute South
Let’s face it, San Antonio: No matter how cosmopolitan your tastes, sometimes you just want some good, old-fashioned Southern-style comfort food. And at casual eatery Southerleigh Haute South, it’s totally cool to pair fried chicken (some of the tastiest the city has to offer) with a side of freshly shucked oysters and a whole lot of signature honey fried biscuits. From the fried Gulf seafood (fried crab legs!) and other coastal plates to the soul-soothing Southern starters (yep, they’ve got fried mac and cheese) to the excellent sandwiches and even the fried hand pies for dessert, whatever you order here may make your britches feel a bit tighter and will definitely leave you hollerin’ “Bless their hearts!”