La Tuna/ Facebook

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.

Openings and closings

The family behind La Tuna Icehouse & Grill is opening a new concept this summer in Government Hill. According to San Antonio Business Journalreporting, the owners have decided not to extend their lease at La Tuna past December, although the business expects to attract new operators. The Ridge on the Hill will be located at 2119 I-35 Frontage Road, the former home of Eastside Kitchenette and 88 Cerveceria. The new spot will be family friendly, but there’s no word on the cuisine. A nascent Instagram profile shares no details.

Another local restaurant has bowed to post-Covid pressures. Long-running Tex-Mex spot Martha’s Mexican Grill took to its Google Business page to announce it was calling it quits. The owners explained that pandemic hardships coupled with the overall state of the economy made the eatery unsustainable.

Iced tea stand HTeaO is keeping San Antonio hydrated with two new locations. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations show the Texas chain is building a new storefront at 9711 Potranco Rd. with construction set to wrap up by the end of June. Although that location has yet to appear on the company website, another spot at 4120 N. Foster Rd. in Universal City is. There’s no word yet on when that outpost will debut.

Other news and notes

Visit San Antonio has announced it is serving the second annual Tasting Texas Wine + Food Festival on October 26-29. The event, a partnership between VSA, Culinaria, and the James Beard Foundation, promises a lineup of top U.S. and Mexican chefs. While still keeping mum on the headliners, the event is now selling tickets to the grand tasting for $60-$120.

Downtown’s Landrace is getting into the takeout game with its new Box’d Lunch meals. Each portable provision includes two Fire Roasted Chicken Salad Sandwiches, house-made blue cheese potato chips, and brown butter chocolate chip mesquite cookies. The fancifully ribboned packages, retailing for $50, arrive on Memorial Day weekend.


The 10 best restaurants in San Antonio are shifting the tide of local food culture


After being heralded as the next big thing for a decade, San Antonio's dining scene is blossoming thanks to an unprecedented burst of culinary diversity. Wandering around Alamo City, one can find a Sichuan restaurant that embraces modern design and house beats, a minimal charmer serving Jewish-Balkan cuisine, and an Italian coastal eatery dishing enough glamor for an Amalfi Coast resort.

With increasing zeal, local chefs are battling the notion that San Antonio is just a Tex-Mex and barbecue town. And that makes this year's CultureMap Tastemaker Awards more electric than ever. The nominees for Restaurant of the Year don't just represent culinary acumen; they represent the point where Alamo City finally arrived.

Read about their indelible contributions below, then join us on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum downtown, when we'll announce the winner and count our many blessings. Tickets for the blow-out event are on sale now.

Bliss San Antonio


Restaurant of the year: Bliss

Blindingly white with washes of sunrise yellows and orange, this Pearl hot spot immediately inspires wanderlust. While staying in an Amalfi villa may not be in the cards, that doesn't mean guests can't still take the trip. Seafood is the specialty, done as humbly as anchovies dotted with pistachio pesto or as luxuriously as a saba and brown butter-drenched flounder. But chef Robbie Nowlin has just as much fun on solid ground. The roasted cauliflower, sweetened with wine-poached sultana and caramelized onion, is perhaps the city's crowning vegetable dish.

Best Quality Daughter

On paper, this Pearl darling seems high concept. Owner Jennifer Dobbertin created the eatery, in part, to address South Texas' sparse representation of Asian-American woman chefs. At one of the earliest pop-ups, she collaborated with artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk to bring a Chinese laundromat to life. Like so many chefs on this list, Dobbertin mixes the personal and political to create cuisine that resonates with the mind as much as the palate.

As a category, New American restaurants have gotten a bad rap, sullied by green chefs who mistake fancy for creativity. Mark Bliss' eponymous eatery is why the genre exists in the first place. A travelogue of global flavors, the ever-changing menus stop to consider Mexico in a corn fritter, Japan in Hamachi tostadas, and Spain in charred octopus. Still, the showstoppers reveal it's all grounded in French technique. Need more reason to reassess? Order the duck with foie gras. Its flamboyant accompaniments of strawberry sambal and blueberry gastrique are why seasoned chefs should be allowed to play.

Brasserie Mon Chou Chou
They call it a sandwich, though that undersells the sensual coupling of fat and carbs. Nonetheless, few local offerings have captured the town's attention as quickly as this brasserie's raclette. The bubbling and blistered cheese embraces a toasted baguette, offset by a smear of smoked paprika aioli. It almost seems like an embarrassment to welcome the (not really) optional Bayonne ham.

There's no reason to pretend otherwise; you've had this food before. Maybe it was over a few beers at a backyard barbecue or a buzzing Rio Grande restaurant, but it is as familiar as a family group text. This Pearl showcase's genius was in giving South Texas fare the respect it deserves. Instead of being fettered by the honey assumptions that regional foods should be cheap, Carriqui fires Wagyu on custom Mill Scale grills. Instead of settling for hominess, it announces South Texas as a destination.

Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar
San Antonio isn't exactly known as a hot spot for considered Chinese cuisine, but don't tell that to the owners of this strikingly contemporary eatery. Though the centuries-old flavors and techniques of Sichuanese fare are well-represented, Dashi hardly preserves them in amber. Cumin lamb is reimagined as a lollipop, and egg drop soup becomes "boujee" with beef and shiitake. It's a reminder that for all the time-honored traditions, dining out should still be fun.

The historic Sullivan Carriage House is darling, and it's hard to think of a better view than the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Truth be told, we would probably brunch at Jardín regardless of the food quality. Luckily, chef Jason Dady's menu has enough oomph to distract from the stunning surrounds. He is adept at balancing flavor profiles, layering tangy dill crème fraiche with a sweet caponata jam. But his humbler dishes somehow speak louder. He makes one heck of a soft scrambled egg.

This Pearl newcomer bills itself as a "modern Mediterranean grill house," an undeniably apt tagline. However, it doesn't begin to tell the story of Berty Richter's food. Ladino doesn't just celebrate the dynamic seaside region and its panoply of cultural influences. It is deeply rooted in the Sephardic traditions of the chef's youth. One doesn't need familiarity with the region's culture to understand the immediate thrill of saffron chicken paired with labneh. But when chefs give of themselves, it is made all the more meaningful.

Though this restaurant anchors San Antonio's sleekest hotel, there's a certain rusticity to chef Steve McHugh's regional Texas fare. The steaks, though they may be Akaushi, bring backyard pleasures thanks to the charcoal grill. The sides are minimally flourished, letting the integrity of a carrot or mushroom shine. Arguably the city's most lauded chef, McHugh doesn't have a trace of braggadocio. The ingredients do all the boasting for him.

Stixs & Stone
The strip mall façade may not be inspiring, but don't let that keep you from walking through the door. Chef Leo Davila doesn't need all that flash anyway. Instead, the Latin-Asian flavors do the talking in dishes like street corn dressed in Green Goddess and the chicken and Hong Kong waffle with sweet potato drizzled in soy chile honey. We're taking notes for our next Thanksgiving feast. That kind of finesse should be on every table.

Photo courtesy of Seasons 52

Seasonally focused wine bar and eatery breaks ground at the Quarry


To quote the great Miami troubadours Exposé, “seasons change, feeling change.” Once dominated by the garish flair of TGI Friday’s, the U.S. casual dining landscape has shifted as upstart chains enter the market with healthier ingredients and more contemporary corporate ethos. It also doesn’t hurt to add a little booze.

The latest nail in the southwestern eggroll comes from Seasons 52, an Orlando-based chain hawking fresh ingredients and 52 wines by the glass. The first San Antonio location will land at 255 E. Basse Rd. in the Alamo Quarry Market on May 20.

The concept hinges on offering meals under 595 calories. True to the name, Seasons also rotates its offerings to take advantage of peak produce — promising that the vegetables never hit the freezer shelf. Meats and fish are responsibly sourced, but most of the pricing is well below $20 per dish.

While triggering all the Pavlov responses of a Food Network-weened customer base (Ahi tuna! Preserved lemons! Korean barbecue!), the menu has a vaguely Californian bent. Options range from flatbreads to more upscale entrées like cedar plank-roasted salmon, Kona coffee-crusted lamb, and wood-grilled filet mignon.

Seasons also boasts an, erm, seasonal menu that changes four times a year. Local managing partner Jennifer Patterson and executive chef partner Brandon Kimball will welcome Alamo City’s first guests with summery dishes like watermelon and tomato salad and wood-grilled corn, aged Cheddar, and spiced bacon flatbread.

Not defining health as deprivation, the eatery also offers eight “mini indulgence” desserts, diminutive versions of classic desserts like pecan pie, raspberry cannoli, and Belgian chocolate s'mores. And, of course, patrons are free to get sauced.

Wine is the primary focus of the beverage program. Guests can discover new favorites with “Drink Them Before They’re Famous,” a collection of wines from emerging producers. Or they can indulge in one of the seasonal rotating wine flights. Cocktails are also available. Summer menu exclusives include a watermelon margarita and a Bourbon sour.

Once open, Seasons 52 will serve lunch and dinner daily while offering a 3-6 pm happy hour Monday through Friday. Reservations are recommended, but the eatery will accept walk-ins. Patrons can also opt for Green Boxes of grilled tenderloin or roasted salmon, take-home meals for four to six people.

And, yes, the mini indulgences are available as a flight — 595 calories be damned.

Seasons 52

Photo courtesy of Seasons 52

Cedar plank-roasted salmon rings up a modest 550 calories.

Courtesy of Sangria on the Burg

The 9 top chefs defining San Antonio's restaurant scene


If you ask us, there’s a reason why San Antonio keeps getting so much buzz. Our culinary scene is overfilled with talent. Any number of pros could have been nominated for Chef of the Year. We wish we could write valentines to all of them.

But that’s how awards go, so we’ve whittled down the contenders to nine finalists. Read about them all below, then join us for a lavish tasting event and awards ceremony held on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum.

Ceasar Zepeda - Sangria on the Burg
Born in a tiny South Texas town, Zepeda knows the value of community. He is often the first to sign up for a nonprofit fundraiser and is always eager to lend a hand to chefs in need. That spirit shows up in his food too. He’s much more concerned with feeding guests good food than impressing them with artfully placed micro greens. Still, though dishes like a crab cake salad and chicken verde tacos may be accessible, his flavor finesse makes them new.

Diego Galicia & Rico Torres – Mixtli
The Nahuatl word “mixtli” translates to “cloud” in English, a tidy summation of this dynamic duo’s approach. Their constantly changing menus drift overhead to explore the myriad culinary traditions of Mexico. Sometimes the weather can be stormy — as in the current Guatemalan-inspired prawn dish with moody chocolate chile. Sometimes, it’s clear skies with a lemongrass yogurt and passion fruit helado.

Jesse Kuykendall- Milpa, Ocho
Arguably San Antonio’s hardest-working chef, “Chef Kirk” runs two eateries simultaneously while still finding time to be a UNESCO chef ambassador. Oh, and they absolutely destroyed the competition on an episode of Chopped. Somehow, they still find time for innovation, always finding new interpretations of their other’s South Texas fare. Their sweetbread taco, garnished with a tangle of pickled onion, has already entered San Antonio’s pantheon.

John Russ – Clementine
It takes no small amount of chutzpah to showcase thinly sliced raw white mushrooms as a signature dish of an upscale eatery, but such is the confidence of this New Orleans-raised chef. Sure, Russ can spatchcock a chicken and whip up cavatelli in a flash, but his cooking is at its best when the produce is unadorned. It’s an ethos shared with his wife Elise, the restaurant’s playful pastry chef — and an integral part of why the Castle Hill’s eatery always winds up on “best of” lists.

Johnny Hernandez - La Gloria
Call him Mr. San Antonio. The city’s culinary scene wouldn’t be half as developed without Hernandez’s hefty investment. Not only does he help some of the buzziest hot spots in town (Burgerteca and The Fruteria are also under his umbrellas), but he also founded one of Alamo City’s most enduring food festivals — the must-attend Paella Challenge. And he is providing for the future, too, through his Kitchen Campus nonprofit for aspiring culinarians.

Leo Davila - Stixs & Stone
Davila may not have won 2022’s Big Restaurant Bet, but we would be glad to wager on him anyway. The chef’s Latin-Asian fare is everything we crave for a weeknight dinner. One of the city’s least pretentious chefs, he views food with a much-needed wink. Consider the Big Red and barbacoa taco flight. It has chef-y accompaniments like pickled watermelon rind and chile de arbol salsa. But the tortilla and a partnering jam are made with San Antonio’s most puro soda.

Robbie Nowlin - Allora, Arrosta
Casual San Antonio offers scant opportunities to dress up, so we’ll give you a reason to wear a jacket. Though no jackets are required, Arrosta’s offerings invite one to be a little more buttoned up. Nowlin’s Reggis Ova caviar is the most luxurious dish in town, even if it’s served on a humble fried dumpling. Even the fried potatoes are so gorgeously presented that they demand some decorum. Can’t imagine wearing hard pants? Waltz next door to Arrosta to experience the chef’s prodigious fare in a much more casual setting.

Stefan Bowers – Rebelle
First, let’s pour one out for Playland Pizza, Bower’s much-missed triumph downtown. Thank goodness his cuisine is still ringing loud and clear at Rebelle. The St. Anthony Hotel restaurant is simply the spot for seafood in San Antonio. Much of it is informed by the hallowed traditions of New Orleans — from blackened redfish with a crab-jalapeño maque choux to char-grilled Gulf oysters. But he’s too talented to go fully doctrinaire. The cioppino is an absolute stunner.

Steve McHugh - Cured, Landrace
The Susan Lucci of San Antonio’s culinary scene, McHugh has been nominated for more James Beard Awards than we can count. Local diners already devour his charcuterie at Cured and Texas regional fare at Landrace. So, we’ll say this: give the man the damn medal already.

Ceasar Zepeda
Courtesy of Sangria on the Burg

Chef of the year: Ceasar Zepeda.

Photo by Zach St. Ward

One of San Antonio's best brunch spots is set to unbox a second location in La Cantera


One of San Antonio's most popular brunch destinations doesn't want to be boxed into Yanaguana Garden. Via a release, Box Street All Day has unveiled plans to open a second location in the La Cantera area.

Owners Edward Garcia III and Daniel Treviño debuted Box Street Social as a mobile eatery in 2015. Although the pandemic delayed their growth, the duo transitioned to brick-and-mortar in late 2021. Box Street All Day was an instant hit, thanks to its sunny atmosphere and Garcia's creative but accessible fare.

The La Cantera location will build on that success, starting with interiors designed by newly named partner Caroline Garcia-Bowman. Planning is still at the beginning stages, but the restaurant will include a pup-friendly patio. Assumably Garcia-Bowman will also incorporate other hallmarks of the Box Street brand, such as a graphic use of color paired, natural accents, and a poppy vibe.

The menu will also follow a similar format to the Hemisfair original. The release promised the return of bestsellers like the cherry compote-topped Thicc Boy Pancake, milk bread doughnuts, and the signature smash burger served with house-made accompaniments.

Although the team did not reveal any other details, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records places the outpost at 17038 Fiesta Texas Dr. #112. The filing says the renovation will wrap up in October, but the partners have yet to pinpoint an estimated opening date.

While eagerly waiting for more news, fans of the eatery can show their support by voting in CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards' best new restaurant bracket. The winner will be revealed at our annual party on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum downtown.

Box Street All Day San Antonio

Photo by Zach St. Ward

The new Box Street All Day will have a familiar menu.

Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

These 16 contenders battle it out as San Antonio's best new restaurant


San Antonio is currently experiencing an unprecedented boon of new eateries, making it challenging for any restaurant to stand out from the crowd. Choosing the 16 nominees for this year’s Best New Restaurant has taken a ton of debate, a secret ballot, and a year’s worth of exceptional eating.

Our judges — a few editorial staff and some winners from 2022 — have spoken; now, it’s time for you to pick your standouts. Vote for your favorites in our annual bracket-style elimination challenge. To vote, click here. Don't delay: The first bracket ends at 11:59 pm on Friday, May 5.

From May 2 to May 17, you can cast your vote once a day, every day. Then, you’re invited to celebrate the winner of the 2023 Tastemaker Awards during a blowout party at the Briscoe History Museum on May 18. Nominated restaurants and chefs will show off their best bites and the winners in each category will be revealed. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you to the impressive list of contenders.

When longtime chef Robbie Nowlin left San Antonio, almost no one was lauding it as a culinary destination. Now that the city has blossomed into a media darling, his return is more than a homecoming. Though his stints at standard-bearers like the French Laundry no-doubt inform his contemporary cuisine (check out Allora’s luxuriously yolked pasta), this isn’t a recreation of California’s greatest hits. It’s a city catching up with its talent and seeing the worth of exactingly executed global cuisine.

Restaurant Claudine
Like all of Carpenter Hospitality’s upmarket restaurants, this Grayson Street stunner views as a diorama. Every detail has been fussed over, from the drape of the valances to the languoring white spider mums in each bud vase. Claudine, however, introduces effortless ease. Watched over by portraits of its namesake, guests chatter over cornbread and fried chicken. It’s like being in a country house kitchen; only the good china is always used.

This Pearl eatery had a few hiccups at the start but has now settled at the forefront of casual dining. Comfort eating is at the core, but not just through the usual tricks of breading and butter. Instead, bold flavors evoke the warmth of shared family meals. Punchy San Marzano tomatoes embrace caper and olive brine. Richly sweet caramelized onions lavish affection on rigatoni “alla vodka.”

Box St. All Day
When food trucks leap to brick-and-mortar, there’s seldom more change than air conditioning. Box Street busted open its doors with the force of Miss Congeniality. The menu was only a tiny evolution — co-owners Edward Garcia and Daniel Treviño still serve what they like to eat. But the experience of drinking a strawberry Aperol spritz in a tropical Millennial fever dream finally gives it the atmosphere it deserves.

“Elevate” can be prickly when applied to gastronomy, implying that immigrant foodways lack the sophistication to be considered serious cuisine. So, it’s refreshing that Carriqui lets South Texas food stand on its own. Yes, the team spared no expense in converting Fritz Boehler’s former saloon into a Pearl showpiece. Yes, guests can peacock with a wagyu steak. But the heart of the menu is in the Old School Nachos, a simple “ain’t broke” platter of chips topped with refried beans, jalapeño, and shredded Cheddar.

Chef and partner Berty Richter first came to prominence with Hummus Among Us, an Austin food truck that dazzled far brighter than its humble surrounds. Now at the helm of this Pearl showpiece, he makes some of the most exhilarating fare San Antonio has ever seen. Though his Jewish-Balkan offerings have expanded with a fish kofta drizzled with chermoula and a genuinely astounding knafeh, that impossibly creamy hummus is still the very first item Ladino’s menu lists. It’s still the grace that should be said before every dinner.

Cullum’s Attaboy
A tribute to the golden age of San Antonio hospitality, this unassuming spot has no use for the tweezered microgreens of contemporary culinary largesse. That approach makes a simple French omelette feel like a manifesto. It comes with a stripe of sash of sprightly hollandaise, the same sunny color as the eggs underneath. Embroidered with caviar or shaved truffle, it never loses its simple charms — reminding that the quiet ones often have the most to say.

Full Goods Diner
At first glance, Full Goods isn’t all that different from a neighborhood Jim’s. The chefs serve up pillowy pancakes, towering club sandwiches, and hearty steak and eggs. The come-as-you-are vibe is similar, too, with sneakers replacing some of Pearl’s tonier shoes. But where most diners bristle at change, this one sees the commonalities in gastronomy’s full arsenal. Chief among the flavors, of course, are those borrowed from Alamo City’s rich heritage. A diner is made more quintessentially American by embracing all of its people.

Go Fish Market
Maybe it’s grind culture, but somewhere along the way, it became American doctrine that lunch should be fast and cheap. Here’s to disrupting that norm. Though this Pearl area hot spot is open for dinner, its sunny surrounds seem most fitting for a mid-day meal. It won’t get you in and out like a fast-food meal, and certainly, a dry-aged tuna sandwich costs more than Starkist. To paraphrase the great libertine Diana Vreeland, why don’t you wash away an afternoon lull with a bottle of Luigi Bianco?

Reese Bros BBQ
With the cult-like status that some barbecue joints enjoy, some hot spots have forgotten there doesn’t have to be so much bite with the bark. Make no bones about it; the licorice black crust that forms on the brisket is as mouthwatering as it comes. But that alchemy is not just a flex obscuring the other parts of the operation. Reese Bros excels at sausage, flour tortillas, and simple market sides. It also excels at hospitality, not letting endless acclaim harden into an ego trip.

Double Standard
Do distinctions really matter in 2023? Yes, this downtown concept is a bar — the name even winks to it — but the pub grub is not just there to soak up all the booze. Instead, the salty salsa verde on top of a white bean and bacon fat dip begs for a beer, and the steak frites beckon for a dry martini. This is hospitality at its core, ensuring whatever is ordered delivers a dazzling experience.

Krazy Katsu
Chicken sandwiches are big business. Just ask all the fast-food franchises that recently fought to be at the top of the category’s pecking order. This Olmos Park David, however, handily beats all the corporate Goliaths with impossibly crispy chicken breasts that can barely be contained by the bun. The base allows for almost a dozen variations. Still, the K-Pop truly shines thanks to its mix of gochujang, pickled cucumbers, and kimchi.

When the owners of Azuca Nuevo said help to Southtown, it was a perfect meet cute. The easy sociability of tapas seemed so perfect for the artsy neighborhood that one wondered why it hadn’t been there all along. Still, a great concept needs to be backed up by execution. Hola! announces itself with punchy flavors that travel well outside of Spain. Turns out that mixing Hawaiian, Cajun, and Middle Eastern dishes with Catalan classics teaches the whole world to sing.

Leche de Tigre
Sit at the bar at this Southtown cebicheria. Though the Peruvian specialties and pisco-based cocktails will entice from any perch, that stretch offers an extra dose of geniality as the chef team chat about guests’ experiences and offer suggestions from the menu. It’s fun to watch the action, too, as hunks of fish are whittled down into delicate slivers.

There’s really no reason to gild the lily when it comes to pizza. While chef and owner Ben Schwartz is certainly no stranger to the artful compositions of contemporary haute cuisine, he also knows when ingredients should stand alone. This Pearl food hall standout may not serve the most innovative pies. But crust this good feels like a revelation.

Beacon Hill Market & Deli
For Texans who might be perplexed why Northerners take sandwiches so seriously, this shop is the reason why. Beacon Hill’s hoagies are much more than meat slapped on a bun. Every ingredient cleverly provides structure, from the provolone foundation to the plump tomatoes kept far away from the bun. On top is a whisper-thin tangle of white onion — just enough bite to lift a hefty layer of ham and salami.

Allora lobster lasagna
Photo courtesy of Maverick Restaurant Group

Best new restaurant: Allora

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From hotel accolades to urban treasure hunting, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live in new national report. San Antonio was previously the No. 75 place to live in America in 2021, tumbling to No. 83 in 2022 and dropping even further down the list to No. 103 in 2023.

2. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this holiday weekend. Check out Spoon or Kool and the Gang tonight, or head to UTSA for their annual Asian festival.

3. This is how big San Antonio apartments get for $1,500 a month. San Antonio renters can find apartments that span 1,010 square feet for $1,500 a month.

4. Posh Pearl hotel books top spot on best luxury hotels in U.S. list. Tripadvisor's coveted Travelers' Choice Best of Best Awards recently gave Hotel Emma top marks in two categories.

5. Texas unearths new ranking as 2nd best state for urban treasure hunting. Fun fact: Texas has the highest number of metal detecting sites in the nation.

Fine dining chef unpacks nostalgic pop-up concept at popular Grayson Street bar on Memorial Day


With new restaurants seemingly opening daily, San Antonio’s culinary scene is more exhilarating than ever. But even those with a packed reservation schedule sometimes crave something different.

Enter pop-ups — a San Antonio obsession that grows more popular each month. The latest to enter the fray is Restaurant Claudine chef Mel Cavazos, who will debut Throwback Sammies, a one-night-only concept sprouting up at Three Star Bar on May 29.

“I want to do something comforting that everyone can relate to,” explains Cavazos of the nostalgic concept. “I want the menu to read simply but totally unexpected when you eat it.”

The small menu includes a trio of dishes that evoke childhood memories. Cheese bread is reimagined with Romesco sauce, burrata, and basil, while another sandwich has all the fixings of a Sunday pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. Those desperately waiting for fall will no doubt flock to the Thanksgiving Meltdown, complete with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry.

One dish, however, is even more personal. In honor of a recently passed friend, Cavazos added a “secret” vegan sandwich featuring buffalo cauliflower and homemade pickled vegetables.

“He loved his vegan wings,” Cavazos remembers.

The chef tells CultureMap that Throwback Sammies is just the start of a series of pop-ups she hopes to hold monthly. As she continues developing a career at Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality’s ever-growing restaurant empire, she sees the pop-up series as a chance to keep exploring her culinary voice.

“I want to expand and explore more options,” Cavazos says, adding, “I love sandwiches, but that’s not what I like to be known for.”

Throwback Sammies starts at 8 pm and runs until supplies run out. Future pop-ups will be announced via Instagram.

Texas' best restaurants and bars reign at 2023 Tastemaker Awards


It’s another one for CultureMap’s history books, folks. Our statewide journey to recognize some of the best chefs, restaurants, and more in 2023 has finally come to a close.

The series kicked off April 13 with our sold-out Houston Tastemakers at Silver Street Studios, then we moved to Cowtown for our Fort Worth event on April 27. The Texas culinary tour steered us to our Metroplex neighbors in Dallas at the Fashion Industry Gallery on May 4. From there, we took a drive to the Hill Country for Austin’s evening festivities at Fair Market on May 11, then concluded our journey with our second-ever fête in San Antonio on May 18.

The 2023 Tastemaker Awards honor the state’s most innovative culinary pioneers, allowing nominated chefs and restaurants to showcase their talents for guests before announcing the winners during a live ceremony.

Guests sampled chefs’ specialty bites and imbibed a variety of creative cocktails or mocktails, with a few Topo Chicos sprinkled in throughout the evening. But as always, our nominees and winners are the main focus of our program and are the reason we can bring these celebrations to life.

Nominees are brought forth by a panel of previous Tastemaker winners and CultureMap editors. While the panel choses a majority of the winners, the winner of Best New Restaurant is determined by our readers in an online, bracket-style tournament. New this year in each city, a sizzling on-site Burger Throwdown sponsored by Goodstock Beef by Nolan Ryan.

Without further ado, let’s meet our 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards winners, listed by city:

San Antonio:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
  • Chef of the Year: Robbie Nowlin, Allora, Arrosta
  • Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
  • Brewery of the Year: Künstler Brewing
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: The Magpie
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sofia Tejeda, Hotel Emma
  • Best Burger: Last Place Burger
  • Best New Restaurant: Reese Bros BBQ


K\u00fcnstler doppelbock
Künstler Brewing Instagram

Künstler Brewing is our Brewery of the Year.

  • Restaurant of the Year: Bludorn
  • Chef of the Year: Mark Clayton, Squable
  • Bar of the Year: Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar and Spirit Lounge
  • Best New Restaurant: Aiko
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Emmanuel Chavez, Tatemó
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Shawn Gawle, Goodnight Hospitality
  • Bartender of the Year: Kristine Nguyen, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Craft Pita
  • Wine Program of the Year: Nancy’s Hustle
  • Best Pop-Up: Khói Barbecue
  • Best Burger: Burger Bodega

Fort Worth:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Fitzgerald
  • Chef of the Year: Juan Ramón Cárdenas, Don Artemio
  • Bar of the Year: Birdie’s Social Club
  • Best New Restaurant: Calisience
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Angel Fuentes, Guapo Taco
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Cafe Bella
  • Best Burger: Dayne’s Craft Barbecue
  • Best Brewery: Martin House Brewing Company


  • Restaurant of the Year: Shoyo
  • Chef of the Year: Junior Borges, Meridian
  • Bar of the Year: Lounge Here
  • Best New Restaurant: Quarter Acre
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Mike Matis, Fearing’s
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Maricsa Trejo, La Casita Bakeshop
  • Bartender of the Year: Haley Merritt, Midnight Rambler
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: El Rincon del Maiz
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros.
  • Best Burger: Wulf Burger
  • Brewery of the Year: Manhattan Project Beer Co.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Birdie’s
  • Chef of the Year: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Joaquin Ceballos, Este
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Mariela Camacho, Comadre Panadería
  • Bar of the Year: Nickel City
  • Bartender of the Year: Erin Ashford, Olamaie
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Nixta Taqueria
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Brewery of the Year: Lazarus Brewing Co.
  • Best Burger: Dai Due
  • Best New Restaurant: Maie Day