In early March, we began rolling out the nominees for the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2020. Days later, the world changed. The festive ceremony, originally scheduled for April, was canceled as COVID-19 swept across the country, and our team's focus pivoted to covering the community in the midst of a global pandemic and social justice uprising.
We have since returned to our Tastemakers coverage, revealing the nominees selected by our panel of expert judges back in January. Like everything else, the stories themselves are a bit different — bars are closed, some hospitality pros have been furloughed, and we've included ways to support the restaurants with carryout or delivery options. But the spirit of the Tastemakers remains the same as it always has: a celebration of San Antonio's hospitality community.
On Thursday, July 23, we revealed the winners of this year's Tastemaker Awards with a special virtual event hosted by Bun B. For those of you who purchased a Tasting Tote, we hope you enjoyed the delicious bites and specialty sips. And now, let's raise a glass to this year's winners.
Restaurant of the Year: Meadow
There is plenty of high-end techniques to go around in chef PJ Edwards’ menu of comforting Southern fare, but don’t mistake the soignée presentation of his blackened Gulf Cobia or the decadent addition of chicken skin and pepper jelly to his buttermilk biscuits as a sign of pretension. At its core, the food at Meadow makes you feel like you’ve just been welcomed home again, to a place where you can relax and enjoy some familiar flavors prepared exceptionally well.
Currently: Open every day but Monday for dine-in and contactless curbside pickup.
Chef of the Year: Esaul Ramos, 2M Smokehouse
Chef Esaul Ramos is a hometown hero and the pitmaster San Antonio deserves. Though his early career led him to rotating briskets in the Capital City, Ramos eventually returned to his native San Antonio with 2M Smokehouse. Ramos is always sure to shred his pork shoulder with just the right balance of fat, lean, and bark. Even without his delicious sides of buttermilk potato salad or Borracho beans, Ramos’ cuts are heavenly, and only add to his growing reputation.
Bar of the Year: Little Death
Little Death: Hey, now. We see what you did there. Brought to you by Chad Carey, owner of Paper Tiger, Barbero, Hot Joy, Rumble, and Midnight Swim, this unique wine bar offers vinos you won’t find at H-E-B. Like its drinks, Little Death is in a class by itself.
Currently: Little Death is currently closed due to a statewide order.
Best Queso: Tlahco Mexican Kitchen
Tlahco Mexican Kitchen — also nominated for San Antonio's Best New Restaurant — has been open less than a year, but it's already attracting buzz thanks to its near-encyclopedic menu, which offers both breakfast and lunch. Like Tito's, Tlahco offers a version of queso flameado, which is topped with either chorizo or rajas, and served with a side of homemade tortillas.
Currently: Tlahco is open for in-house dining with limited capacity.
Best New Restaurant: 225 Urban Smoke
This barbecue spot, located just east of Alamo Heights, walks the line between Texas traditions and innovative Southern smoke, offering dishes for purists and adventurous eaters alike. Co-owners Daniel Jimenez and chef Samuel Ransom Jr. pride themselves on using the highest quality meats to craft their edgy spins on all things barbecue.
Currently: 225 Urban Smoke is open for in-house dining and delivery.