Holiday hacks

7 secrets to eat on the cheap at San Antonio's priciest restaurants

7 secrets to eat on the cheap at San Antonio's priciest restaurants

Signature bar San Antonio
Sit at the bar to score some of Signature's best deals. Signature/Facebook

It’s no wonder that so many people greet the holidays with a big bah humbug. All the special events and gift-giving can make a big dent in the wallet, leaving little left over for some seasonal self-care.

Cheer up, Scrooges. A little planning (and maybe a hookie day from work), can give you the gift of good eats. With happy hour deals and early bird specials, these pricey San Antonio restaurants offer fine dining without the fine dining cost. Take a moment this December to treat yourself.

Biga on the Banks
Skip Starbucks for a few days and you will soon save enough money for chef Bruce Auden’s seasonal menu, available daily before 6:30 pm or after 9 pm. For less than $40, the back-of-house team selects three or four courses from the decadent menu to create a prix fixe just as impressive as the regular $120 eight-course tasting menu.

Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
The dinner bill at this downtown institution can often be eye-popping (yes, that 40-ounce porterhouse is really $125.95), and an indulgence few can afford on a regular basis. Still, the lunch menu surprises with some of the eatery’s most creative dishes, many priced well below $20. Dine on shrimp with saffron spaghetti, braised Akaushi short ribs over pappardelle, or the freshest lobster roll this side of the Atlantic. On a crisp white tablecloth, even a burger can feel like fine dining.

Don’t get us wrong, the dinner at this charming Pearl restaurant is a can’t-miss experience for locals and tourists alike, but the evening menu it is missing one of the most insanely delicious dishes in San Antonio. The Blue Ribbon Burger, only available in the day, is a tour de force starting with a patty made from a bacon and beef blend. Then, the kitchen layers sharp American cheese and gouda blend and a subtly sweet onion jam, adding depth to the carnivorous delight. Best of all, it will only set you back $8-$14, depending on the number of patties. Dive in with a half-priced cocktail from 3-6 pm during Cured’s Monday-Saturday happy hour.

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille
This upscale, Houston-born chain made its name on extravagant steaks, like a $89.95 tomahawk ribeye. We, however, live for the pork chop. It’s just as tasty as any filet and just happens to be one of the biggest bargains around. On Friday, a sensible portion served with whipped potatoes and housemade applesauce is only $14.95 from 11 am-4 pm. On Sunday between 4-6 pm, dig into the full monster chop — seven-fingers high and carved at the table — for $34.95. That’s a fair price on its own, but the deal also comes with a choice of six salads and a mini dessert trio.

With choice steaks and fancy dishes like Lobster Thermidor, Jason Dady’s chophouse attracts a crowd of besuited business types with generous expense accounts — but that doesn’t mean it lacks more affordable options. Go during lunch and order the $20 prix fixe, a two-course meal that highlights some of the best dishes from the kitchen. Start with a chopped salad or a wild mushroom bisque, then fill up on dishes like petite pan-roasted salmon, beef tenderloin bolognese, or braised chicken and artichoke ragu. For just $5 more, guests can even score one of Range’s famous steaks.

Restaurant Gwendolyn
Michael Sohocki’s sustainable showpiece has rightly earned press for its labor-intensive cooking and strict local sourcing, but those standards don’t come cheap. A dinner tasting can run as high as $95 before wine pairings, not exactly the ideal price when budgets are stretched thin. But the restaurant provides some relief with the early bird special on Tuesday-Thursday. Arrive with your complete party to get seated by 6:30 pm and enjoy $20 off every meal. For an even more economical option, go for lunch to try the chef’s delectable soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Even at the best restaurants, bar bites can be a second fiddle to alcohol sales. In the hands of Andrew Weissman, they are a distinct culinary experience. During Signature Hour on Tuesday-Friday from 4:30-6 pm, choose from creative dishes like truffle potato skins loaded with labneh and bacon bits; crispy fried chicken with buttermilk ranch and buffalo sauce; and fried cauliflower with a spicy Korean gochujang glaze, all comfortably priced under $10. And don’t forget a pairing. The menu includes cocktails and wine for only $7 and a trio of $5 beers.