MEET THE TASTEMAKERS
6 best San Antonio restaurants for 2021 keep the dining scene thriving
First things first: Here’s a shoutout to every single Alamo City restaurant, café, fine-dining establishment, coffee shop, diner, and bistro for braving the unprecedented challenges of the past year and a half. You’ve been tested in unrivaled ways and proved your mettle, ensuring that no matter the disadvantages, your customers would be served.
We have unshakable faith in San Antonio’s restaurant scene to bounce back from the pandemic, and we will be there every step of the way to champion these culinary warriors.
That’s why we’re overjoyed to celebrate the best San Antonio restaurants and bars — and all they’ve accomplished — at the 2021 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
Read about our San Antonio Restaurant of the Year nominees below, then join us August 5 at Fair Market in Austin, when we’ll announce the winner and celebrate their success. Tickets are on sale now.
This oh-so-darling neighborhood restaurant is a seasonally inspired gem that serves up stunning globally influenced fare. It’s also a family affair, with husband-and-wife duo John and Elise Russ bringing their vast culinary expertise to the plate. Don’t let the modest Castle Hills strip mall exterior throw you. Inside, you’ll be welcomed into a cozy and colorful dining environment and offered a glass of wine, or perhaps something from the Bubbs menu to match the sparkling experience. Chef John Russ’ dinner menu features petite bites like fried quail with fermented plum mayo, as well as fresh veggie-forward sideboard selections, and more substantial entrée platters like Gulf red snapper and chamomile-brined spatchcock chicken. If you’re just too hungry to make a decision, go for the “Feed Me” option and chef Russ will create a special seasonal feast just for you. And definitely partake in some of pastry chef Elise Russ’ delicately prepared desserts, like the Clementine Crunch Bar and the lemon souffle tart.
There’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying a hearty breakfast while also supporting a great cause. That’s what they’re serving up at donation-based nonprofit restaurant Comfort Café, which supports addiction-recovery programs with a heaping side of, well, comfort food. From huevos rancheros and stuffed French toast to dreamy sweet cream pancakes and tons of omelettes, Benedicts, and scramblers to egg you on, there’s literally no bad breakfast choice here. Comfort Café also serves specialty salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers, too, but the morning fare is particularly “egg-cellent,” just ask San Antonio Yelpers, who recently helped launch Comfort Café to the No. 1 spot on Yelp’s Top 100 Brunch Spots in the United States.
Chef Steve McHugh has the cure for whatever you crave. Housed in a renovated historical building at the Pearl, Cured is all about the craft. McHugh’s polished and meticulous approach to regional ingredients — “farmhouse fare,” as they say at Cured — makes for some striking charcuterie and cheese plates, sandwiches, savory mains, salads, and other specialties (try the heritage hog poutine!). McHugh, a James Beard Award finalist and nationally renowned chef, has the Midas touch with all things cured, and that’s apparent in every bite of his beautifully presented food. Trust us, after this epicurean experience, you’ll never look at charcuterie the same way again.
These boys sure know how to curry favor with Texas barbecue lovers. Here, Southeast Asian curry meets smoked Texas ’cue. Served up in a bowl with a variety of tender, smoked meats and fragrant curries, these flavor explosions are dished out of an unforgettably pink takeaway shack alongside a good dose of Texas hospitality. A pandemic project for Andrew Ho and Sean Wen of Pinch Boil House and Andrew Samia of South BBQ & Kitchen, Curry Boys are bowling everyone over with their fusion concept, so we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay.
The only thing that goes better with great pizza than fun times is a tasty adult beverage. Put them all together at a hip joint with a lounge-y below-ground bar and you’ve got, well, a playland. At Playland, chef Stefan Bowers cooks up some awesome-sauce 13-inch pizzas, and some unexpected yet must-have apps (farro salad, beef and ricotta meatballs). The bar menu also came to play, and features all the pleasurable selections that pair perfectly with pizza and good times, from frozen margs to signature cocktails, seltzers, and plenty of beer and wine. Whatever you fancy, here, it’s all in play.
Sangria on the Burg
Craft sangria and poppable sliders and tacos lovingly created by imaginative chef/owner Ceasar Zepeda? Yes, please! Sangria on the Burg, the eclectic Fredericksburg Road bar and grill, specializes in all the flavors Texans crave: barbecue, Mexican spices, and margaritas and sangrias for days. The taco offerings run the gamut from brisket to grilled fish to smoked pork belly, so go all in on a couple orders. But save room for a slider or four, as these hardly diminutive sammies are well worth the calories. Try the buffalo chicken slider or SA Cheesesteak slider for a deliciously messy feast. Then wash it all down with the tastiest sangria in town.