Photo courtesy of Goldee's BBQ

Texans don't need much of a reason to hit the open road. Our state is brimming with natural beauty and charming small towns, but nothing motivates us to fill up the tank like a bonanza of regional foods.

There are renowned Texas flavors to be found throughout the entire state, from small towns like Round Top to the far west end in El Paso. And with meals ranging from Tex-Mex and barbecue to Frito Pie and kolaches, the Lone Star State is known for some of the most iconic foods in America.

When you hit the open road to explore (and taste) it all, know that a Hilton Hotel is nearby for a good night's rest. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or as a couple, the right room is waiting with a warm welcome.

Hope you're hungry, because here is but a small slice of some of the best.

Goldee's BBQ, Fort Worth
Few barbecue joints in Texas can make a name without serving the holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs. Still, the young chefs and pitmasters at this Fort Worth stop one-up the competition with unexpected sides like chicken rice and collard greens and crowd-pleasers like fish and chips.

Chicken Fried Steak
Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Carrollton
All Texans take their chicken fried steak with some degree of seriousness. We dare say this eatery — which originated in Carrollton and has locations all over North Texas — takes it the most seriously of all, with plenty of family-style sides to round out the table.

La Cocina, McAllen
Former oil worker Evin Garcia combines tradition and innovation at this McAllen haunt. Enjoy everything from birria tacos dipped in a luscious consommé to an octopus version served with traditional al pastor fixings like onion, cilantro, and grilled pineapple.

Elotes Fanny, Austin + North Texas
With locations in Austin, Fort Worth, and Garland, this snack shop mini-chain knows everything about corn. Get it by the cob or in a cup, and make sure to douse it in the fiery homemade Atomic Salsa.

Fried Chicken
Dolli's Diner, Nacogdoches
This diner does just about everything right, but the crowning jewel of the menu is undoubtedly the chicken fried chicken. It's served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh veggies for color and is best enjoyed with funnel cake fries for dessert.

Frito Pie
RD's Burger, Cibolo
This casual stop does its namesake dish with aplomb, but found pure magic in its Frito Pie. It's served with no muss or fuss and occasionally on the insanely delicious burger.

Slovacek’s, West
When it comes to kolaches, any bakery in West will serve the real deal. Relative newcomer Slovacek's gets the vote for its dozens of fruit flavors and creative klobasnek (the meaty cousin of kolaches) filled with boudin, pepperoni, or kraut.

Royer's Round Top Cafe, Round Top
No trip to Round Top's famous antique fair is complete without a stop at this darling cafe. "Pie Man" Bud Royer makes every visit sweet with pies like buttermilk, pecan, and the multi-fruit Troy's Junk Berry.

L & J Cafe, El Paso
This El Paso tradition is by a graveyard, sure, but don't let that deter you from enjoying its queso. The miraculous concoction made with roasted green chile, tomatoes, and onions is served with just-fried tostadas.

Leal's Tamale Factory, Lubbock
A Lubbock classic, this mainstay doesn't go for newfangled tamale flavors like sweet potato. Order pork, chicken, or cheese and rediscover the fundamentals.

Viet-Cajun crawfish boils
Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
Who knows what James Beard-nominated chef Trong Nguyen puts in his secret sauce. What we do know is that it's one of the most intensely flavorful experiences in all of Houston.

Texas knows no bounds when it comes to to where you can go (and eat). No matter where your next foodie adventure takes you, a Hilton hotel is waiting for you.

With over 550 Hilton hotels spanning across the state of Texas, the possibilities to earn more while exploring the Lone Star State are endless.

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana/ Facebook

These 12 San Antonio pizzerias add up in the perfect Pi Day equation


One wouldn’t know it from the yearly chain promos, but Pi Day on March 14 originally had little to do with pizza. Founded in 1988 by physicist Larry Shaw, its observance involved strolls around the circular spaces of the San Francisco Exploratorium and recitations of the very, very long number. For non-mathletes, it wasn’t exactly thrilling stuff.

While some of us can barely calculate how much flour is needed for a dough, we can agree that math has improved our lives exponentially. Whiz kids, keep figuring it out. We’ll raise a slice in your honor at one of these essential San Antonio pizzerias.

Black Laboratory Brewing Kitchen

Pizza and craft beer are legendary co-stars, so it makes sense that this East Side brewery would put both on the marquee. Local outfit 2-1-Dough handles the kitchen, churning out innovations like the "Elote Loco" with corn, Valentina hot sauce, lemon pepper, mayo, and cilantro. Perfect for a meet-cute.

Capo's Pizzeria
Specializing in maximalist Buffalo-style pizza, this spot piles the toppings on. The Vegetali — loaded with baby spinach, mushrooms, artichokes, Roma tomatoes, and red bell pepper — is better than a salad any day.

Cosa Nostra Pizzeria
Though omnivores will find plenty to like at this Huebner Road joint, it gets extra props for not making its plant-based fare an afterthought. This menu has three entirely vegan pies and cheesy garlic bread.

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana
Since 2007, Dough owners Doug and Lori Horn have been getting the Neapolitan equation right. 90 seconds at over 900 degrees equals thousands of happy locals. Try the prosciutto crudo with a tumble of bitter arugula dressed with a sprightly lemon-truffle vinaigrette.

Fiume Pizzeria and Wine Bar
This River Walk newcomer is putting a Texas spin on Neapolitan pies. Even the dough is made from locally grown grains from Barton Spring Mill. The toppings keep the theme with pizzas like the "Chroizo Quesa Flameado," a bubbling delight with roasted corn, poblano sauce, and Oaxacan cheese.

Il Forno
Chef Michael Sohocki’s DIY ethics are famously exacting. He even built the oven at this Southtown spot. But Il Forno finds him at his most playful. Check out the "Things Found Underground" pie with garlic, two onions, and leeks uprooted with preserved lemon.

Pizza Classics
No one will say that this San Antonio staple is reinventing the wheel. However, the infinite variety in the toppings can create strikingly innovative combinations. No matter what, we hope movie nights will be powered by Pizza Classics for decades.

Poppy’s Pizza
This is New York-style pizza in all its greasy, gooey glory. Go with "Hal’s New York" — a tantalizing trio of sausage, peppers, and onions — and fuggedaboudit.

SoHill Café
This neighborhood bistro makes a covetable burger and one of the best steak frites in town, but the pizza is the brightest star in its galaxy. The fig and prosciutto pizza bewitches with an unexpected crumble of pistachio.

Tank’s Pizza
This East Side gem brings the party with first-rate pies. While waiting for your take-out order, have a drink at the bar. The friendly regulars are a part of the Tank’s charm.

Trilogy Pizza Bistro
Pizza styles can be points of contention, so why not go to a place that bridges the divide? Trilogy excels at New York-style and Chicago-style served with traditional and newfangled toppings. Unity has never been more delicious.

Chef Ben Schwartz is wowing guests at Pearl’s Bottling Department food hall with no-frills pizzas like meatballs, pepperoni, and the "Green Monster" with shredded zucchini. Grab a whole pie and pair it with wine from Park Bar or grab a quick slice on the go.

Photo by Sara Hanna

Chicken salad chain spreads its wings with second San Antonio location in 2 months

the chicken and the egg

This Alabama chicken salad restaurant knows not to put all its eggs in one basket, so it put two in San Antonio, opening back-to-back. The first Alamo City location opened January 31, followed by the second (9610 State Highway 151 Access Road, Suite 101) on March 8. The restaurant welcomes the first 100 guests with free chicken salad for a year.

After opening day, the celebratory deals keep unfolding: Depending on what the first 50 guests on March 9, 10, and 11 buy, they can receive a small cooler, a branded tote bag, and a large cooler, respectively.

The concept is straightforward: 13 flavors of chicken salad are served on salad, on a sandwich, or to-go. These flavors include Southern twists like hickory smoked barbecue as well as more traditional combinations like egg and sweet pickle. There are also soups, sides, and desserts to round out the fast-casual deli menu.

“As Chicken Salad Chick grows throughout Texas and [farther] west, the brand never loses sight of its core values to spread joy and enrich the community," said San Antonio location co-owner Jeff Rochelle in a press release. He joins James Oberg and George Shaw in expanding the brand through San Antonio, with a goal of bringing eight Chicken Salad Chick locations to the area.

"After just a few weeks of having our doors open in Stone Oak, we have already seen these values in action," he continued. "We can’t wait to introduce more of our San Antonio neighbors to our fresh ingredients and made-from-scratch daily flavors."

A pre-opening event raised funds for The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Foundation, CHRISTUS Health.

Chicken Salad Chick Westover Hills will be open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. More information is available at chickensaladchick.com.

Photo couretesy of Torchy's Tacos.

Torchy's Tacos conquers more of Central Texas with first New Braunfels location


Hill Country residents will be able to get some "Damn Good" tacos much closer to home, sooner than you think. Torchy’s Tacos is opening its very first New Braunfels location on March 1.

The Austin-founded taco chain (with a few shifting San Antonio locations) will give New Braunfels customers a sneak peek at their offerings before the official opening, with a preview party on February 27 from 5 to 8 pm. This free event will allow guests to explore the 4,000-square-foot restaurant and outdoor patio while sampling a variety of tacos, beer, beverages, and more. The new location will also feature a full-service bar that offers guests a wide menu of handcrafted cocktails and weekly happy hour specials.

To commemorate the grand opening, Torchy’s will offer the first 100 guests in line a limited edition “restaurant opening” t-shirt. The shirt will serve as the guest’s ticket to get free green chile queso at the new location for a year. The offer only extends to in-person and pick-up orders, though – online, app, delivery, and Doordash orders aren’t eligible for the deal.

Another highlight of the beloved chain is its ever-changing Taco of the Month option. A portion of the proceeds from the Taco of the Month goes to charitable organizations such as Make-a-Wish Foundation and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Torchy's first New Braunfels restaurant, located at 229 FM 306, Suite 101, is the first in an anticipated 2023 Hill Country expansion. San Antonio is next on the list with a new opening on Hunt Lane scheduled for the end of March.

The restaurant's hours of operation will be:

  • Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm
  • Friday from 10 am to 11 pm
  • Saturday from 9 am to 11pm
  • Sunday from 9 am to 10 pm

More information about Torchy's Tacos is available at torchystacos.com.

Photo courtesy of Chicken Salad Chick

Fast and healthy chicken salad chain roosts in San Antonio with 2 new outposts

Same chickens, new coop

Texas is not exactly known for its delis, so Chicken Salad Chick may be a sight for sore eyes in San Antonio. The Alabama-based concept has been popular in Texas: It opened its 24th restaurant in the state and the first in San Antonio on January 31, following through on a 2021 announcement to bring eight locations to the area in the next few years. A second location is set come clucking in February, pushing the chain's total number of restaurants in the United States past 220.

For now, the first restaurant is in the Stone Oak neighborhood at 22831 N US Hwy 281, where it serves a dozen flavors including a traditional southern flavor with sweet pickles and eggs, and more adventurous flavors like buffalo sauce or lemon and basil. These come on lettuce, bread, and sometimes croissants (although these do not appear on the San Antonio menu online). With an order-ahead app and a drive-through window, this fast concept gets even faster.

"We are thrilled to introduce this unique concept to San Antonio,” said San Antonio franchise co-owner James Oberg in a release. “In fact, we love Chicken Salad Chick so much, we already have our second location in Westover Hills opening in just a few weeks and have plans for more. The brand sets itself apart with its made from scratch menu, core values focused on enriching the community and commitment to serving guests.”

The restaurant is taking this grand opening opportunity, starting February 8, to delve into that giveback goal with daily giveaways as well as a friends-and-family fundraiser benefiting the Children's Hospital of San Antonio Foundation, Christus Health.

On Wednesday, February 8, the first 100 guests will receive one large container of chicken salad every month for a year. One of those winners will be randomly selected to receive their prize weekly, instead. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the first 50 guests to make specific purchases will receive a prize: a tote bag, a small cooler, and a large cooler, respectively. Guests can arrive starting at 7 am for grand opening day only.

Oberg presents this franchise with co-owners Jeff Rochelle and George Shaw, who call San Antonio their hometown and have owned some Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers restaurants for almost 20 years.

Chicken Salad Chick is open now, Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. On Wednesday, February 8, guests may begin arriving at 7 am to check in for the grand opening, but will have to return later between 9:45-11:15 am, depending on their assigned time. Chicken Salad Chick will post more about giveaway terms on Facebook.

Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

Texas Wine Auction invites Texas chefs to compete for best paired dishes

Bids and bites

Going once, going twice; the Second Annual Texas Wine Auction by Texas Wine Revolution is back. This is more than an excuse to collect a few more bottles. The Fredericksburg auction on April 29 is accompanied by wine and food samples, and when buyers aren’t competing with each other, they’ll rate bites by competing chefs.

Not to be confused with the The Rare & Fine Wine Auction and Gala by the Wine & Food Foundation, this event is explicitly Texas-themed. The spirited night will raise funds for the health of Texas hospitality workers as well as research and development through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Programs, while spreading the word about local wineries to watch.

The culinary competition is new in the auction’s second year, enhancing the theme by drawing inspiration from the wines present, all made entirely from Texas grapes. Each chef will be paired with a winery to help inform their flavors in a dish that should pair well with each glass. Guests will then vote on the best pairing and best overall dishes.

Two of the competing chefs — Amber Rebold and Krystyna Cibelli-Pettus — will be visiting from Austin, known respectively for being a contestant on Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Next Level Chef and a dedicated instructor to other chefs. They’re joined by Angie Ragan of Lubbock (also a competitor on Ramsay’s show), Roshni Gurnani of Houston, Matt Church of Fredericksburg, plus two unnamed chefs for a total of eight.

“As a proud native Texan who has always celebrated our big bold flavors in my cooking, developing a dish to pair with Texas-grown wine will be fun for me,” said Rebold.

Her two-time competitor, Ragan, adds, “As a former medical professional, I am honored to participate in an event that will help bring healthcare to my colleagues in the Texas hospitality industry. Everyone deserves access to health services and the money we raise from the auction will go directly toward improving the health of others.”

Some of 2023’s featured wineries include:

  • Inwood Estates and William Chris Vineyards (2023's featured wineries)
  • Ab Astris
  • Kalasi Cellars
  • Kerrville Hills Winery
  • Pedernales Cellars
  • Texas Heritage
  • Texas Wine Collective

Auctions will be both live and silent, and along with the food and wine, attendees can look forward to musical performances.

The Texas Wine Auction will be held on April 29 at Vista Oaks Event Center in Fredericksburg, Texas. Tickets ($175 for individuals, larger tables available) can be purchased at texaswineauction.com.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 San Antonio-area chefs named James Beard Award finalists

James Beard Finalists 2023

Three San Antonio-area chefs are in the running for one of the food world’s most prestigious prizes. The James Beard Foundation has selected them as finalists for their annual Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Considered the Oscars of the food world, the awards recognize chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories ranging from Outstanding Chef to Best New Restaurant. Texas is considered its own region and one person will earn Best Chef: Texas.

The finalists for Best Chef: Texas are:

  • John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
  • Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin
  • Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
  • Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston
  • Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso

Other Texan restaurants and chefs in the running for national awards include:

  • Outstanding Bar: Las Ramblas, Brownsville
  • Outstanding Bakery: Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
  • Outstanding Bakery: La Casita Bakeshop, Dallas
  • Outstanding Restaurant: Lucia, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth
  • Best New Restaurant: Tatemó, Houston
  • Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Nancy’s Hustle, Houston

    Notably, all of this year’s finalists for both the national categories and Best Chef: Texas are new. None of them received nominations in 2022.

    The finalists are drawn from a pool of semifinalists that included 10 nominations each for Houston and Dallas, seven for San Antonio, six for Austin, and two for Fort Worth.

    Last year, Texans did well in the awards, with Houston cocktail bar Julep winning Outstanding Bar Program, Austin chef Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria) winning Emerging Chef, and Austin chef Iliana de la Vega (El Naranjo) winning the first ever Best Chef: Texas. In addition, two Texans won media awards — Austin chef Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due) for his cookbook, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs and Texas Monthly taco editor Jose Ralat for his Tex-Mexplainer columns.

    The Foundation will reveal its Restaurant and Chef Award winners at an awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Media Award winners will be announced on June 3.

    6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Stone Oak catches new Latin seafood spot


    Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our weekly roundup of essential food news.


    The owners of local mainstay Sabor! Cocina Mexicana have dived into seafood. According to social media posts, Arenas Marisqueria Lounge held its grand opening at 9903 Stone Oak Pkwy #202 on March 16. Led by executive chef Luis Vazquez Sr., the eatery serves Latin coastal favorites such as ceviche, aguachile, poké tostadas, and fish tacos. The atmosphere follows suit with oceanic mood lighting and an imposing octopus mural.

    According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, the popular Chinese eatery Ming's is planning a new thing. Project details filed with the state reveal that a new location is in the works at 10772 Fiesta Texas Dr., Bldg 400 #106in La Cantera Heights. Construction on the 4000-square-foot eatery is set to begin in early April and wrap up in July.

    The race to fill the San Antonio area with chain coffee shops continues with Scooter's Coffee. The Nebraska-based franchise has submitted paperwork with the state for a drive-thru location at 2606 FM 1103 in Cibolo. The brand is best known for its maple waffle sandwiches filled with egg, Cheddar, and "just-enough-spice sausage. Take that last descriptor with a grain of salt. The Midwest is hardly known as a hotbed of bold flavors.

    An Austin-based chain is hoping to make a splash near Sea World. A sixth outpost of Torchy's Tacos debuted March 29 at 602 Hwy 151 #101. Like the other locations, the spot will serve fusion tacos alongside salads, burritos, cocktails, and the brand's signature queso.

    Other news and notes

    Food site Mashed has named local taquería Little Taco Factory its pick for the best taco in the state. According to the write-up, the site factored in "reviews, recommendations, awards, and other forms of recognition" to determine the winners, which must have been a daunting task. Particular kudos were given to the chorizo and egg breakfast taco, evocatively described as "an absolute fiesta in your mouth."

    Need a little liquid courage to conquer a fear of heights? The Tower of the Americas is hosting Wine Fest on April 15 from 2-5 pm. The $50-$90 tickets include tastings from 24 Sonoma Valley wineries paired with light bites. VIP passes add early entry and access to an exclusive lounge.

    Classic River Walk restaurant unveils stunning new revamp


    Millions harvested carrots in FarmVille, the Black Eyes Peas turned up every wedding reception, and belts grew in inverse proportion to scarves. Few touchstones from 2009 had staying power. By providing a quiet respite from the rowdy River Walk, Zocca Cuisine D’Italia managed to outlast them all. Still, we can’t begrudge the long-running restaurant for getting a little work done.

    After a meticulous renovation, the Westin Riverwalk has unveiled the revamp of its signature restaurant and bar. Dallas-based design firm Waldrop + Nichols drew inspiration from San Antonio and Italy to create a warm, neutral palette accented with metallic flashes and rich textures.

    The team opened the space to include a sumptuous lounge outfitted with overstuffed alcove banquettes and chunky contemporary seating. Earth-toned abstract frescos and glistening parabola fixtures lend brio to the otherwise minimalist space.
    Naturally, the interior took advantage of the River Walk views just beyond the walls. Retractable windows catch the breeze and allow patio guests a peep into the restaurant.

    Not resting on its laurels, the Westin Riverwalk also recently appointed executive chef Ron Mays to reinvigorate the menus. While firmly rooted in Italian cuisine, Mays brings a playful approach to dishes like ossobuco di Agnello, shrimp and polenta, and a tiramisu affogato.

    “The opportunity to breathe new life into an iconic establishment such as Zocca is an absolute honor,” said Mays via a release. “I am excited to share a palatable, yet approachable menu made for everyday dining with an elevated experience attached.”

    The cocktail menu fits in the same mold. White Lotus habitués will surely find succor in the two Negronis or a tropical take on the Aperol spritz. Guests who have wondered what those imposingly tall bottles of Galliano are used for should check out brunch. A fern bar mainstay, the Harvey Wallbanger, is reinvented with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Zocca is now open daily from 6:30 am-10pm on weekdays and 7 am-10 pm on weekends. Bar hours are 11 am-midnight daily. Guests will be serenaded with live music during Sunday brunch from noon-3 pm and Thursday nights 5-6 pm.

    “Zocca has an established reputation for creating authentic dishes with a relaxed al fresco Italy-like atmosphere conducive for socializing, relaxing, and connecting,” said Maria Martinez, general manager of the Westin Riverwalk, in a statement. “We’re pleased to revive the vision and spirit of the restaurant, a true River Walk staple, and we’re proud to share this concept with our hotel guests and locals alike.”

    Zocca San Antonio

    Photo courtesy of the Westin Riverwalk

    Zocca's bar plays peekaboo with the River Walk beyond.