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Papa Dante's Italian Restaurant is a classic neighborhood eatery in suburban San Antonio. Converse, to be exact. Located in an unassuming building at Toepperwein Road and FM1976, the family owned and operated restaurant has been satiating area residents' appetite for Italian since 1979.

Papa Dante's offers comfort food in an inviting, casual, family-friendly atmosphere. The interior is punctuated with vintage memorabilia all over the walls — and we do mean all over the walls, even crawling up to the ceiling. Photos and posters of celebrities, many of whom are long gone, are found here, as well as humorous signs, knick-knacks, newspaper clippings — you name it. The place strives for a retro ambiance from front to back.

The menu runs the gamut of Italian cuisine, from personal and 12-inch pizzas and a variety of pasta entrees to hot and specialty sub sandwiches and even Black Angus burgers and crab cakes. The menu also has a list of offerings for those with smaller appetites.

Over the decades, many regulars have developed favorites on the menu at Papa Dante's. The shrimp fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread, baked mostaccioli, and eggplant Parmesan are among the most popular items.

One of the hot sub sandwiches, named the Frank Sinatra, with meatballs, ricotta, provolone, and mozzarella cheese is a particular hit. So is another sub, the Italian War Hero, with double ham, pepperoni, salami, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, lettuce, onions, peppers, and Italian dressing.

There's a compact, decent stock of house and premium wines on hand, and the cheesecakes are a consistent hit among desserts. Italian sodas were introduced a few years ago as well.

Papa Dante's is developing an 8,400-square-foot event center behind the main restaurant, slated to open in April 2017. The new event space will have enough room for 350 to 400 guests and will host banquets, wedding receptions, family reunions, corporate activities, quinceañeras, holiday parties, and even indoor bocce ball. With the addition of a wine cellar, Papa Dante's plans to have periodic wine tastings. The venue will also have a full bar with a daily happy hour and a wishing-well water feature, according to the owners.

Generations have come and gone, but Papa Dante's remains a reliable hidden gem for Italian comfort food just northeast of the hustle and bustle of San Antonio.

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Where to eat in San Antonio right now: 5 best Mexican restaurants to get your fill

Where to Eat Now

We're exploring Mexican food all over town in celebration of all things San Antonio. There are entirely too many choices out there, especially for this genre, which is a great problem to have.

Narrowing down the best neighborhood eats proved to be a chore, but the outcome was an adventure we very much enjoyed. As spring kicks off with amazing celebrations, these five hot eateries will prepare you and your appetite for the city's vast Tex-Mex offerings.

Los Barrios
This Tex-Mex staple continues to deliver. We know, we know, puffy tacos are the thing, but our table favorite was the steak ranchero. The sauce, the sauce, the sauce. The tenderloin was perfect, but it was the sauce that had us coming back for more. Added to it are rice, beans, and a guacamole salad culminating in the perfect meal.

Rosario's
Rosario's is a longtime Southtown favorite, but we headed north for this dinner. Modern and colorful, the new location is buzzing with flair. If you can get over the artistic landscape of this restaurant long enough to order, try the shrimp tacos. They are over-the-top great with red onion, chipotle mayo, and lime slaw. Shishito peppers are also a hit here.

El Mirador
Traditional, authentic, and serving amazing recipes for generations, the go-to here is the Sopa Azteca. It’s maybe the best tortilla soup ever made for those rainy days we’ve been having, perfectly infused with warm ingredients. The other go-to is El Numero Dos: cheese enchiladas with rice and beans. Yes, cheese enchiladas. Don't judge, you know you love them too.

Paloma Blanca
Paloma Blanca always delivers a unique and traditional experience, from the knowledgeable staff to its ample kitchen offerings. It has to be said that the Guacamole Olmeca had us from the beginning, and it’s hard to move away from or save any room with a guac this good. But, we moved on like the food champs we are to try the Paleo tacos. You read that right. Paloma's Paleo tacos are delish with fresh cilantro and amazing salsa.

Lupe Tortilla
This casual spot is a lovely addition to the north side with great service and a countdown to Cinco de Mayo. The family restaurant hails from Houston and has a huge menu. Fajitas reign supreme for this one. Try the Grandioso — chicken and beef fajitas with bacon-wrapped shrimp. Chipotle-smoked ribs are worth the visit as well, and the eatery has a great happy hour to boot.

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10 best bars in San Antonio for food that's as good as the drinks

Best Bar Food

San Antonio has numerous bars where the eats are rather complementary to the drinks. Some bars are upscale, and the food menu reflects that level of service, other bars are more basic, neighborhood spots, but the food is no less exceptional. Here are our top picks for the best pub grub in town.

Claude Hopper's
Claude Hopper's, near Stone Oak, is a craft beer bar with more than 40 brews on tap. It also puts a spin on pub grub with menu items offered for $10 or less. Bavarian-style pretzel sticks are baked onsite, served in Italian, Cajun, or traditional style. There are house-baked flatbreads, "naked" wings tossed in one of many house sauces or rubs, and smoked ale pulled pork street tacos and sliders. There are also nachos with beer-infused queso to please a crowd.

The Hangar
The Hangar is a full bar whose kitchen offers a variety of affordable pub grub in a low-key, casual atmosphere. Entrees include your choice from three burgers, a grilled chicken sandwich, chicken strips, or a BLT. The $12 bottomless brunch is available Saturday and Sunday. Don't forget the $1 mimosas.

The Esquire Tavern
The Esquire Tavern, on the western side of downtown, is the oldest bar on the River Walk and boasts the longest wooden bar top in Texas. Visitors need all the elbow space they can get to enjoy the craft and traditional cocktails with upscale food. The kitchen staff does not squelch on culinary quality or presentation at the buzzy tavern. Appetizers such as deviled eggs, boiled peanuts, and pork belly rillettes are fan favorites.

La Tuna Grill and La Tuna Icehouse
Located in Southtown, La Tuna is an unassuming, family- and budget-friendly venue for an easygoing afternoon meetup or dinner. La Tuna Grill and La Tuna Icehouse are separate entities, with separate owners, but they are on the same property and share the same vibe reflective of the Southtown community. The icehouse features dozens of domestic and imported beers, any of which can be enjoyed with fried stuffed jalapeños, white bean chili, seared salmon salad, torta milanesa, or roasted lamb sandwich.

Cullum's Attagirl
Cullum's Attagirl, from Chris Cullum of Cullum's Attaboy fame, loves its chicken. The icehouse offers 12 craft beers on tap to help you cool down from the Nashville hot, Southern fried, or daily smoked wings. If that’s not enough, consider chicken with waffles or the fried bologna sandwich topped with pimento cheese and homestyle pickles.

Charlie Brown's
Charlie Brown's, for a full neighborhood bar on the North Central side of town, has a solid budget-friendly menu. Charlie Brown's offers buffalo wings; eight styles of burgers; and nine sandwiches, including the prime rib and the Philly cheesesteak. Entrees include Salisbury steak, 10-ounce New York strip streak, 16-ounce rib-eye, or fish and chips.

Tucker’s Kozy Korner
Chris Cullum offers Southern soul food dinner options at the casual yet hip lounge, including the red-eye molasses ribs, fried chicken livers, collard greens, skillet cornbread, and fried catfish. Like Cullum’s Attagirl icehouse, Tucker’s offers Southern-inspired Sunday brunch, complete with eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, a Bloody Mary bar, micheladas, and mimosas.

Ocho
Ocho restaurant and lounge shares space with Havana, a full bar, at the upscale Hotel Havana. Enjoy a pan-Latin-inspired lunch, dinner, or late-night snack with a cocktail, while overlooking the River Walk. The all-day menu includes coconut rice and beans, shrimp and crab campachena, and a classic Cuban sandwich.

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Top 10 places to get your hands on San Antonio's latest food craze

Best Oyster Bars

Food trends are nothing new. Who remembers when cronuts became an obsession or when salads without kale were not worth eating?

The latest craze in the Alamo City is oysters. These succulent mollusks are taking the city by storm. In years past, our best bet for finding oysters in the city was at the annual Fiesta Oyster Bake. However, right now, options for these delicacies are ample.

Why is the city in the midst of this oyster renaissance? As more San Antonians seek out oysters, local eateries are discovering creative new ways to serve these delights. These days, it is no longer just a choice between raw or fried. Oyster toppings now range from a simple butter and white wine sauce to Thai chilies. Restaurateurs are sourcing oysters from as close as the Gulf Coast and as far as Wallace Bay in Nova Scotia. Given this large scope, here are the top 10 places to eat oysters around the city.

The Cookhouse
The oyster bar at this New Orleans-style restaurant is one of the best. The Cookhouse's charbroiled oysters are perfectly crisp and buttery. It also serves traditional raw Gulf oysters as well as oysters som tam — a Thai-inspired oyster topped with green mango, Thai chilies, and lemon. If you are there for lunch, try the Peacemaker po'boy, filled with fried oysters and bacon.

Groomer Seafood
Sometimes the best way to get high-quality oysters that are fresh and flavorful is to go directly to the source. This seafood market used to only sell to restaurants buying seafood wholesale, but it is now open to home cooks buying in smaller quantities. If you are not opposed to cooking and shucking your own oysters, this market has the freshest oysters in the city.

LA Crawfish
This seafood chain originally hails from Houston. It serves oysters in the half shell topped with three creative flavor options that you can't find anywhere else: Thai Green Chili, Japanese Ponzu, and Korean Kimchee. It also offers traditional raw oysters, fried oyster baskets, and oyster po'boys for those looking to keep it simple. However, the unique fusion of Asian and Cajun cuisine gives LA Crawfish an innovative edge over its competition.

Mariscos Del Puerto
This family-owned restaurant has been serving delicious Mexican seafood since 2012. Its oyster cocktail is divine as well as its ostiones empanizados (fried oysters). The raw oysters are a great way to begin any meal, and if you're looking for fresh oysters in a casual yet cheerful setting, Mariscos Del Puerto is the place to look.

The Sandbar Fish House & Market
Andrew Weissman’s intimate restaurant prides itself on its huge oyster bar with a variety of fresh oysters sourced from the North Atlantic and Gulf Coast. Though the oysters are pricey, their quality makes them worth it. For those wanting to try The Sandbar’s other outstanding fresh seafood selections, The Sandbar Platter includes a dozen oysters as well as shrimp, crab, and sashimi.

Shuck Shack Oysters & Such
This oyster spot in the Pearl district is wonderful for any seafood. With its playground and outdoor seating area, there is a casual, friendly ambiance at Shuck Shack. A favorite for customers are Texas barbecue oysters topped with a Shiner sauce and barbecue fat. There are two other kinds of baked oysters — the Rockefeller and Casino. If you sit at the bar, you can see the shucking firsthand and discuss with the staff the different varieties offered that day.

Lüke
Chef John Besh’s Lüke has been famous for its oysters for a long time. It offers various types of raw oysters as well as a mammoth oyster po'boy. Additionally, the refreshing fried oyster salad with a creamy avocado mousse and bacon is a highlight. During happy hour from 3 to 6 pm (till 8 pm on Tuesdays), Lüke offers raw oysters for 75 cents and charboiled oysters for a dollar. Try your oysters alongside one of the restaurant's best cocktails, the French 75.

Silo Terrace Oyster Bar
The Silo family has been offering gourmet, high-end cuisine at two restaurants for years, but they opened a new location barely over a year ago that focuses solely on seafood. Half of the menu is dedicated to oysters. Its “oysterology” section lists the numerous types of fresh oysters that have been flown in. Patrons also rave about the signature chicken-fried oysters served with sauteed spinach and braised pork belly and the Rockefeller grilled oysters. The terrace bar offers gorgeous views as well as a happy hour from 4 to 7 pm.

Stone Werks Big Rock Grille
There are three Stone Werks locations around San Antonio: one outside the Quarry in Lincoln Heights, one at the Rim, and another at the Vineyard. Each location has the Big Rock Oyster Bar, which offers raw Gulf Coast oysters as well as mixed oysters and shrimp. The starter of Oysters Rockefeller is also a fine choice. Stone Werks is perfect if you are looking to enjoy oysters on a more conservative budget.

Wildfish Seafood Grille & Steaks
The Wildfish oyster bar offers market oysters for $1 as well as other raw seafood delicacies. The seafood comes with a traditional cocktail sauce, lemon, or superb Champagne sauce. If you are in the mood for a steak but would still like an oyster fix, all the premium hand-cut steaks can have the “carpetbag style” of batter-fried oysters and a topping of bearnaise sauce added. The batter-fried oysters are also available as a succulent appetizer.

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LA Crawfish offers innovative seafood dishes, such as these flavorful Korean-style oysters.

LA Crawfish San Antonio/Facebook
LA Crawfish offers innovative seafood dishes, such as these flavorful Korean-style oysters.
Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar/Facebook

Top 10 San Antonio restaurants for romantic Valentine's Day dining

Valentine's Day Dining

Food and love go hand in hand, which is why many of us eagerly search for the perfect dining spot for Valentine's Day. Luckily, in the hidden culinary gem of San Antonio, the dining options for you and your special someone are endless (so long as you make a reservation sooner rather than later). At these 10 restaurants, you are sure to feel the love.

18 Oaks at JW Marriott
Nothing says romance more than the picturesque Texas Hill Country. This gourmet steakhouse has a rustic and charming interior combined with elegant views of the golf turf. The restaurant will be offering a Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu with a main surf and turf course of Wagyu braised short rib and grilled Gulf shrimp. $75 a person.

Bliss
From the outdoor seating area with twinkling lights and palm trees to the minimal brick interior, Bliss is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and trendy restaurants in the city. For Valentine’s Day, Bliss will offer a four-course dinner with multiple options for each course. Entrée options include seared sea scallops and white cheddar grits, a vegetarian or vegan mushroom risotto, red snapper with a lobster risotto, rack of lamb in a ragout, or beef tenderloin and whipped potatoes in a foie gras bordelaise. $85 per person. $35 more per person for wine pairings.

Carmens de la Calle
Acclaimed jazz pianist and vocalist Gianni Bianchini will serenade patrons over dinner at this low-key restaurant and bar. The cozy and warm atmosphere will make lovers feel welcome as they enjoy a three-course meal and cocktail. Main course options include steak filet, fried mahi, glazed Cornish hens, or a grilled portabella mushroom. The dessert options are equally enticing and include a spicy brownie with ice cream, a basil-lime granita, or praline bourbon bread pudding. $70 per person.

Las Canarias
With its four floors of upscale seating that overlook the River Walk, it is easy to see why this restaurant in La Mansión is a go-to spot for special occasion dining in the Alamo City. In addition to its delicious food, Las Canarias boasts one of the most impressive wine selections in San Antonio. It will be offering a prix fixe menu for Valentine’s Day. Main course selections include roasted monkfish, roasted chicken, smoked filet mignon, and a vegetarian purple Peruvian gnocchi. $85 a person.

MAX’s Wine Dive
This fun and eclectic restaurant is a great choice for those looking for a special place to dine that is slightly more casual than many downtown restaurants. Right in the heart of the Quarry, this spot always provides good food and, of course, wine. MAX’s is offering a three-course prix fixe menu on February 13 and 14 with an optional dessert. Main course selections include pan seared Chilean sea bass, braised lamb shank, or roasted eggplant parmesan. $45 per person or $80 for a couple. $25 more per person for wine pairings.

Nao Latin Gastro Bar
The beauty of Valentine’s Day landing on a Sunday is that your meal does not have to be confined to dinner. Nao offers an indulgent Sunday brunch from 10am to 4 pm. This restaurant prides itself on serving authentic and savory Latin American dishes with exceptional flavor. The restaurant will offer a prix fixe dinner only on February 13 with main course options of grilled tenderloin of beef with house fries, seared fillet of Gulf fish and jumbo scallops with tomatillo sauce, or roasted chicken breast salpicao. $65 per person. $30 more per person for wine pairings.

Oak Valley Vineyards
If you and your loved one are not opposed to a 30-minute drive outside the city, Oak Valley Vineyards is a terrific option. The restaurant’s wine cellar dining room lit by candlelight is perfect for a romantic night for two. The winery is offering a three-course prix fixe dinner on February 13 and 14 with main course options of salmon Wellington, a New York steak strip in whiskey cream sauce, and chicken au champagne. $75 per person.

Southerleigh Fine Foods & Brewery
Another great choice if you and your sweetheart would like to celebrate with Valentine’s Day brunch instead of dinner. Southerleigh will offer Valentine’s-inspired specials and sharing dishes for couples for brunch from 10 am to 3 pm and dinner until 10 pm. If you would prefer to enjoy Southerleigh’s classic iced oysters and shrimp or the jalapeño cheddar grits, the restaurant also will offer its full lunch, dinner, and late-night menus.

Sushihana
Sushihana is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city. On February 13 and 14, it is offering a decadent eight-course prix fixe meal. The feast starts with oysters and caviar and ends with a warm chocolate cake and dark chocolate mousse. In between, guests will sample all kinds of sushi and other Japanese delicacies. $135 per couple.

Zinc Bistro & Bar
If you are looking for quintessential romance, look no further than this charming European wine bar. Zinc is offering a four-course, prix fixe dinner on February 13 and 14. The main course is chateaubriand for two with Yukon gold mashers, grilled asparagus, and assorted sauces. Dessert is a Valrhona chocolate mousse with caramelized chocolate-dipped strawberries and hazelnut tuile. $45 per person or $80 per couple.

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If you're looking for charm, look no further than Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar.

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar/Facebook
If you're looking for charm, look no further than Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar.
Zocca Cuisine d’Italia/Facebook

The best restaurants in San Antonio for Christmas Day dining

Christmas Day Dining

Need somewhere to dine on Christmas Day? Take the stress out of the holiday with our globally inspired guide to the best restaurants in San Antonio to eat, drink, and be merry.

20nine Restaurant & Wine Bar
If you are looking to dine in an intimate setting for Christmas, this restaurant and wine bar is for you. It will serve a prix fixe holiday three-course meal for $35 per person. Options for the main course are glazed ham with herb stuffing, braised short ribs with butternut squash, or seared mahimahi with mashed potatoes. And of course, its extensive (and exquisite) wine selection will be available as well. 1 to 8 pm.

Boudro's Texas Bistro
This delightful bistro is the perfect spot along the River Walk to spend Christmas Day. It will have a prix fixe Christmas menu with a main course of wood-grilled prime rib, potato gratin, cherry tomato confit, broccolini, and a red wine demi-glace. If you are a fan of its famous table-side guacamole or prickly pear margarita, do not worry: Boudro's will offer its regular menu selections as well. 11 am to 11 pm.

Earl Abel’s Restaurant
For traditional American fare, there is no better place than Earl Abel’s. This San Antonio classic has been serving up Southern comfort food for years, which makes it a great option for a holiday meal. This Christmas, the restaurant will offer up homey favorites such as ham steak with bourbon raisin sauce and mashed potatoes; roasted turkey with cornbread dressing and cranberry orange relish; pot roast with mashed potatoes; and obviously its most famous dish, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. For those in the market for liquid cheer, it also serves wassail and mimosas the entire day. 11 am to 3 pm.

Fogo De Chão Brazilian Steakhouse
The holiday season is partially about overindulgence — a relish in excess if you will. In this sense, Fogo De Chão is the quintessential holiday dining because indulgence is always part of the experience. In addition to its everyday selections like the all-you-can-eat table-side churrasco and decadent Market Table option of Brazilian side dishes and appetizers, the restaurant will also offer seasonal roast beef, New York strip steak, and sweet potato casserole. Fogo's usual dinner price of $49.95 per person will be charged all day. Noon to 8 pm.

Frederick's Bistro
This bistro is a divine fusion of French, Asian, and Southwestern cuisine. It will offer fine dining options from its usual menu, which includes everything from brie and goat cheese pastry puffs to veal scallopini. They also offer an excellent wine selection. Its locations in Shavano Park and on Broadway will both be open. 5 to 9 pm.

Las Canarias Restaurant
Located within the Omni La Mansión del Rio on the River Walk, this restaurant is the pinnacle of fine dining. Its three levels of romantic and serene ambiance are made for a special holiday meal. Las Canarias will offer an all-day Christmas brunch for $71.95 per person, great for any group looking for varied dining options. The buffet will have breakfast favorites such as omelets and a carving station with prime rib, roasted turkey, and bone-in ham. 10 am to 6 pm.

Las Ramblas Restaurant
Hotel Contessa's Las Ramblas is also offering a brunch for $62 per person. Patrons will be able to sit on its River Walk patio or indoors. For breakfast there will be an omelet station, house-made bacon cheddar biscuits, and apple pecan pancakes. The lunch and dinner entrees include beef short ribs, grilled salmon, carved leg of lamb, turkey, and prime rib. If all those options are not enough to satiate you, the desserts are apple cranberry cobbler, peppermint bark bread pudding, chocolate chip cookies, banana cream pie, New York-style cheesecake, carrot cake, double chocolate brownies, and flan. 11 am to 2:30 pm.

Morton's The Steakhouse
Morton's offers superb cuts of steak and other classic steakhouse selections. For Christmas, it will serve its normal menu. Guests can enjoy bacon-wrapped scallops, tuna tartare, bisques, and baked potatoes. For those looking for something other than beef, Morton’s also offers many poultry and seafood options like its renowned Shrimp Alexander and chicken bianco. 2 to 9 pm.

Oro Restaurant and Bar
This downtown restaurant inside the Emily Morgan Hotel prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients, produce, and livestock. Central Texas cuisine is the inspiration for the entire menu, and the restaurant boasts views of the Alamo. If you are looking for pre- or post-meal drinks, the lounge at Oro serves beautiful, artisanal cocktails. 5 to 11 pm.

Paesanos
All three locations of Paesanos will open on Christmas Day, but encourages diners to make reservations. Its Italian and Mediterranean dishes are always impeccable and well prepared. Peasanos will serve its regular menu, which means guests can look forward to favorites like the wood-fired pizzas and chicken cacciatore. The cocktails are also a highlight like the cucumber martini and sangria rossa. Lincoln Heights, 2 pm to late night; 1604 and River Walk, 4 pm to late night.

Sichuan House
Why not use Christmas Day to try one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city? Sichuan House will offer its full menu. Its plates of traditional Chinese food are always plentiful and served family style, ideal for the holidays. Guests rave about the authentic Sichuan cuisine, as well as the more Americanized Chinese dishes. The restaurant suggests you make a reservation in advance since it tends to be booked during dinnertime. 11 am to 9 pm.

Spice Fine Indian Cuisine
Spice unequivocally offers the best Indian buffet in the city. If you are looking for spice and full-bodied flavor in a Christmas meal, Spice is your best option. During lunch, it will serve a buffet with Indian classics such as tandoori chicken, palak paneer, goat curry, and chicken biryani. During dinner the restaurant is a la carte and offers many of those same selections. 11 am to 3 pm; 5 to 11 pm.

Sushishima Japanese Restaurant
Sushishima has some of the best sushi and Japanese cuisine in San Antonio and luckily it is open for business on Christmas Day. The restaurant will offer its full menu, so guests can enjoy great sushi rolls, sashimi, hibachi, and tempura. 3 to 10 pm.

Sustenio
Spend your Christmas in style at one of San Antonio's most trendy and acclaimed restaurants — Sustenio, located at the Éilan Hotel. It will offer a special Christmas dinner menu for $65 per person. There is a starter choice of roasted pickle-beet salad, mussels, scallops, or quail, and the entree choices are prime rib, rack of lamb, or roasted ham. Dessert options are spiced cheesecake or pumpkin bread pudding. If this spot seems like your ideal choice, hurry and make a reservation soon because the restaurant has limited seating left. 5:30 to 10 pm.

Tang Street Chinese Restaurant
Tang Street in Hollywood Park will be open regular hours on Christmas Day. It offers various lunch specials and Chinese favorites such as hot pots, pot stickers, and fried buns. This restaurant is also BYOB, so you can freely bring your own alcoholic beverage and toast to the Christmas spirit. 11 am to 9:30 pm.

Zinc Bistro and Bar
Zinc prides itself on elegant dishes with a modern Texas twist. Diners can enjoy great views from the River Walk in this European-style bistro and wine bar. Zinc will offer its regular dinner selections as well as a special Christmas menu for only $25 per person. Dinner includes French onion soup with black winter truffle gratin crostini; dry-aged duck breast with carnaroli rice risotto, grilled asparagus, and sour cherry demi-glace; and brioche bread pudding with salted caramel and toffee ice cream. 3 pm to midnight.

Zocca Cuisine d’Italia
For $43 per person, guests can enjoy a full day brunch buffet within the Westin Riverwalk Hotel. There will be breakfast standards like omelets and pastries and holiday classics like ham and roast beef. Zocca is also offering a la carte breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day. A Christmas prix fixe four-course dinner for $47 per person includes a main entree of prime rib with Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes. 10 am to 9 pm.

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Enjoy a prix fixe dinner featuring prime rib at Zocca Cuisine d'Italia.

Zocca Cuisine d’Italia/Facebook
Enjoy a prix fixe dinner featuring prime rib at Zocca Cuisine d'Italia.
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7 San Antonio staycation spots for Valentine's Day, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. 7 San Antonio staycation spots to spoil your special someone this Valentine's Day. Alamo City is bursting with romance, and we've got you covered with the best places to spoil your special someone this year.

2. Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights. The popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series launching this month.

3. Where to see the once-in-recorded-history green comet approaching San Antonio. Okay, so the weather wasn't super ideal for stargazing this week, but there may still be time to catch this rare opportunity.

4. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Locally inspired happenings and live performances make it easy to explore all that Alamo City has to offer this weekend.

5. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

Sneak peek inside San Antonio chef Steve McHugh's new Austin restaurant

Officially cured

Bucking the recent (and growing) trend of Austinites moving to San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh just debuted his first concept in Austin. The eagerly-awaited Luminaire opened February 1 at the new Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin, along with a second concept, Las Bis.

Located at 721 Congress Avenue, details of the new hotel and its restaurants were released in fall 2022, sparking excitement from anyone already familiar with McHugh's work at Cured and Landrace. For the initial announcement, CultureMap connected with the six-time James Beard finalist to hear what to expect at the new outpost, while an updated announcement this week revealed that McHugh has enlisted chef Greg Driver as executive chef at the new concepts.

“We’re thrilled to finally lift the curtain and bring in guests to dine with us,” says Chef Steve McHugh in a release. “Chef Driver and I work really well together, and I have no doubt that Luminaire and Las Bis will shine under his leadership.”

Previously the interim executive chef at Austin's Westwood Country Club, Driver will carry out McHugh's vision at the restaurants. Both new concepts and the hotel itself will no doubt be a welcome addition to downtown Austin, padding out the list of pre- and post-theatre dining options for entertainment at the city's historic Paramount and State theatres next door.

Luminaire occupies the entire ground floor of the hotel, including an expansive patio stretching both sides of the corner along Congress Avenue and 8th Street. Much like its San Antonio counterparts, the full-service restaurant will feature the seasonal, local Texas fare and charcuterie well-known (and well-loved) by McHugh devotees. Along with specially curated meat boards (hello, 24-month jamon), the menu will also showcase a heavy Spanish influence, featuring a variety of delicious breakfast empanadas, chicken a la plancha, the Angus beef Luminaire burger, and more.

The all-day restaurant will be an ideal pre-curtain-time destination, while the upstairs Las Bis will take over for post-show nightcaps. Located on the eighth floor of the hotel, the terrace bar and lounge shares space with the hotel’s lobby and will feature craft cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines. Snacks will include an assortment of playfully plated conservas, both domestic and imported, which McHugh shared the story behind in our previous coverage.

“Our team put many thoughtful hours into the menu creation for Luminaire and Las Bis, blending familiar flavors with plenty of discovery,” says McHugh in this week's latest release. “And for those without much experience in cured meats and conservas, we made sure to include plenty of must-try items to introduce folks the right way.”

In addition to the two new concepts, McHugh’s team and executive chef Driver will provide room service for guests, as well as catering for the hotel’s four meeting and event spaces. Starting February 1, Luminaire will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, while Las Bis will open Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to midnight, and noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Mary Whitten

A sneak peak at Luminaire.

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."