9 essential San Antonio restaurants that capture the spirit of Southtown
Gone are the days when Southtown was San Antonio’s best-kept secret, but the eclectic neighborhood still feels worlds away from the touristy hub of downtown. Full of electric nightlife, visionary galleries, and breathtaking architecture, it retains its artsy allure, even as locals and visitors alike flock there every weekend.
A neighborhood with that much traffic naturally needs to feed its guests. From funky neighborhood mainstays to a vibrant freshmen class, these nine eateries capture the free-thinking spirit of Southtown.
Say what you will about prolific San Antonio restaurateurs Andrew Goodman and Stefan Bowers, but they know how to make an impression. This former fire station is one of the most unique spaces in town with a red-hot color scheme and theatrical touches like a rolling amari cart. The food just happens to be some of the best Italian in town. The housemade pasta, whether a simple cacio e pepe or a more new-school trenne with gin, tomato, and dill pollen, is a steal at $10 per plate. Don’t skip out on the grilled rainbow trout either, an entree made lavish with field pea ragu and a scoop of spicy ’nduja sausage.
This handsome eatery from serendipitously named chef Mark Bliss was a pioneer in bringing seasonal, contemporary fare to San Antonio. The best dishes effortlessly draw connections from disparate global traditions, but they are far from the clunky collisions usually grouped under fusion. Instead, Bliss’ melding of diverse techniques and ingredients just seem like common sense.
Forget dividing a menu into appetizers, mains, and sides. Chef Jacob Gonzales wants to take guests on an adventure. Need some comfort food? Head for the “humble” section for a Wagyu flank steak with a sumptuous black sesame bearnaise. Feeling a little spicy? The “heat” menu sizzles with red harissa chicken kebabs.
Irish pubs, at least as executed by Americans, can be uninspiring, serving soggy fish ’n’ chips that need a bath of malt vinegar just to be palatable. This cozy charmer on St. Mary’s Street doesn’t go for such shenanigans by giving their fish enough seasoning to be enjoyed sans sauce and making cross-cultural mashups like the Bogside Eggrolls with beef, carrot, and cabbage. Even international dishes like arroz con pollo and pizza have made it to the eclectic menu, proof that the restaurant is far from being a stereotype.
La Tuna Grill
This funky Southtown staple has been around longer than most, having made its debut in 1992. Though the neighborhood continues to change, La Tuna continues to draw crowds with easygoing sandwiches like roasted lamb with peach and mango chutney, addictive nachos güeros with grilled chicken and white bean chili, and, of course, one of the best chicken fried steaks in the Alamo City.
After a short but notable slump, this former convent is back on its game serving comforting mains like a pot roast bowl, insanely juicy burgers, and Mexican fare like a beefy chile relleno en nogada. The weekend brunch, however, steals the show with traditional plates like huevos rancheros, pillowy French toast, and one of the best chilaquiles in a town rife with competitors. Seal the deal on Sunday Funday with one of several mimosas like the tropical pineapple or the fresh grapefruit.
Maverick Texas Brasserie
This elegant newcomer has only been around since February 2018, but its appeal is timeless. The elegant dining room, full of luxe touches like velvet upholstery and monumental pendant lighting, is the perfect place to swan before a gala. The wine list is upscale while still keeping an eye toward affordability. And the delicate gougeres disappear almost as soon as they hit the table.
Rosario’s Mexican Cafe y Cantina
Ask any local for a margarita recommendation and this Tex-Mex icon is guaranteed to be on their list. Still, one cannot live on tequila alone. Absorb some of that booze with gooey enchiladas, a sizzling skillet of camarones al mojo de ajo, or lighter options like a quinoa chile relleno topped with pan-seared cauliflower, sautéed spinach, and tangy tomato chipotle sauce. Then, circle back around for a very potent nightcap.
An instant classic when it debuted in 2016, this pizza joint specializes in approachable pies like pepperoni, pineapple, jalapeño, and the tried-and-true Margherita. Though those get top billing, some of its most successful dishes don’t involve any crust at all. The tender veal osso bucco feels celebratory with a base of velvety risotto, the meat lasagna is crowd-pleasingly rich, and the calamari friti are weightless without a slick of grease.