10 spots to rustle up a meal during the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo
And we’re off. San Antonians have barely had the chance to catch up on post-holiday emails before filling up the calendar again with annual traditions. The first, of course, is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, the nearly month-long celebration of mutton bustin’, live music, and fried food.
The latter holds a particular fascination — and it’s sacrilege to suggest that rodeo revelers shouldn’t sample a rattlesnake corndog, bacon bomber, or a deep-fried Snickers. But let’s face it, giving a little bit of uh uh during the Nelly set takes more than empty carbs.
What to do? Build a foundation by eating a proper meal at a nearby or on-premise restaurant. Consider this a pregame plan for putting more yeehaw into your visit. Fuel up for a long day of fun, then let’r buck.
Take advantage of this eatery’s rambling patio on sunny days to share Japanese street food like gyoza, yakitori, and crunchy karaage. Snuggle up inside during a cold snap with a bountiful bowl of ramen. The tonkotsu always hits with a generous slice of pork belly. Then there’s the umami slap of the tantanmen. Whichever way you go, start with an Old Fashioned for that preshow oomph.
It’s almost impossible for newcomers to break into the local taco pantheon. However, owner Hugo Garcia was more than fit for the task (yes, 2019 still counts as "new" in the city’s taco game). Traditional fillings like picadillo and carne guisada have uncommon zip, and the flour tortillas perfectly seesaw between the fluff and chef. And should one down too many Bud Lights during a rodeo jaunt, there’s no better restorative than fideo loco.
Food aside, this East Side icehouse is as snug as an old sweatshirt. That alone makes it a welcome respite before being dazzled by carnival lights. But it also dishes out solid comfort food like pizza, tacos, and loaded fries. Yes, that’s the type of bar food one craves with a pint. The Dakota does it one better, mixing shishito peppers with kielbasa and spooning Wagyu chili on a Frito pie.
This is Texas, dagnabbit, and we like our burnt ends. Perhaps that’s why this East Side shack throws them in any dish imaginable. The beefy bits crown a baked potato loaded with sharp mac ‘n’ cheese and anchor a melt with the unexpected crunch of sliced pear. They festoon corn chips and potato rolls and can be munched alone by purists. That’s probably enough, but we haven’t gotten to the must-try hot chicken.
The Frontier Club
Don’t miss a minute of the action by grabbing a bite at this on-site restaurant, conveniently located in the Hall of Fame breezeway. Though it is open to the public for weekday lunch, spring for a membership to enjoy the raucous honky-tonk nights. It’s $100 and benefits the Junior Livestock Auction and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Scholarship Fund. Three real ones can be invited as guests.
The little bistro that could paused in January for a refresh, so there’s no word yet on what menu chef Jŭngsūk “Sue” Kim has dreamed up for its return. Past hits have included luscious lamb ragu, chili-flecked pork belly, and airy milk bread. Expect the same mix of European and Asian flavors served during the February bookings — paired with one of the city’s most captivating wine lists.
There’s not much information available about this new food court attraction. But it will serve Surtierra Tequila, the San Antonio Rodeo’s official libation. That’s good enough.
Bring a little balance to your rodeo diet by lunching at this health-minded spot. From veggie po’boys to blackened salmon, the menu has plenty of giddy up — though it is hard to resist the gooey three-cheese mac. Even that is gluten-free, and the sides are both decadent and vegan. A little lightness is a blessing before a spin on the Zipper.
Tucker’s Kozy Korner
Nudie suits, patchwork poly shirts, and fuchsia Rocky Mountain jeans. This East Side staple has probably seen it all. Trapped in midcentury amber and with an impeccably curated jukebox, it’s the perfect time warp hangout before seeing a nostalgia act like Bret Michaels or Ronnie Milsap. Pan-Asian treats like brisket eggrolls, pork dumplings, and bún bowls are relatively new but take nothing away from the retro glamor.
Van de Wall Fajita Corral
Hundreds of volunteers dish out tons of steak, chicken, and brisket tacos at this long-running attraction adjacent to the food court, all in service of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition Inc. Scholarship Fund. Plus, there's ribs! Yes, Belinda Carlisle, heaven is a place on earth.