Photo by Guillermo Rosas

We’ve only just recovered. After weeks of honoring the San Antonio bar and restaurant scene through a special editorial series, we finally crowned the winners on May 18 at a hotly anticipated party held at the Briscoe Museum. Guests sipped and savored while patiently waiting for us to reveal the champions.

During the exclusive VIP hour, guests received a first taste of the delicious bites from participating chefs. They also got in the first bids for silent auction items benefiting our nonprofit beneficiary, the Southern Smoke Foundation.

There were plenty of libations courtesy of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, Dripping Springs Vodka, and Epic Western. Hometown brewers Viva, Weathered Souls, and Second Pitch kept guests quenched with plenty of brews, a perfect companion to Twang’s beer salt. Guests could also grab Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water to cool off on a hot day.

Once the doors officially opened, guests were tempted by an array of succulent dishes from the nominees. Ladino, a dual nominee for Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year, wowed with agristada de pishkado — a white fish bite perfect for spring weather. Bar of the Year contender Moon’s Daughter showed their culinary acumen with lamb ragu hummus. And Rebelle spoiled attendees with East Coast oysters.

Finally, the crowd gathered to congratulate this year’s crop of honorees. Cheers filled the Briscoe’s halls as KENS 5 personality Sarah Forganey revealed the winners. Throughout the night, partygoers voted in the Burger Throwdown, presented by Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, giving Southtown's Bar Loretta the ultimate prize.

Robbie Nowlin of Allora and Arrosta was named Chef of the Year, while Sofia Tejeda of Hotel Emma nabbed the Pastry Chef of the Year award. Amor Eterno and Künstler Brewing won Bar of the Year and Best Brewery, respectively.

Then, three diverse restaurants scored in the restaurant categories. East side fave The Magpie got an early boost as Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, while CultureMap readers selected Reese Bros. BBQ as this year’s Best New Restaurant. Lastly, Pearl showcase Carriqui nabbed the biggest award of the evening — Restaurant of the Year.

It was heartwarming to see San Antonio’s culinary industry greats toasting their peers and the special connections forged between restaurants and their guests. Now that we have gotten some rest, we can’t wait to do it again next year!

San Antonio Tastemakers 2023

Photo by Guillermo Rosas

Aaron Peña (l) and JC Salinas of Amor Eterno show off their Bar of the Year trophy.

Photo by TX Troublemaker

Alamo City's best bars and restaurants crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards


Ah spring! The wildflowers are blooming, the sandals are coming back, and our celebration of the best of San Antonio hospitality — the Tastemaker Awards — is once again heating up the night.

For the past few weeks, you’ve read about all the stellar nominees, then voted for your favorite new restaurant in a hard-fought tournament. Now, it's finally time to unveil the winners.

On Thursday evening, the all-stars of Alamo City’s restaurant and bar scene gathered with their hungry fans at the Briscoe Museum for our second annual tasting event and awards ceremony. Guests feasted on delicious bites from some of the area’s best restaurants, before applauding the proud winners.

And what a crew they are. Our 2023 CultureMap San Antonio Tastemaker Awards winners represent the crème de la crème of the city’s red-hot culinary scene. Meet them below and join us in raising one last glass to the Tastemakers. Drum roll, please.

Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
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 spot'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.

Best New Restaurant: 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.

Chef of the Year: 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.

Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
It's there in the name. This Southtown lounge delivers everlasting romance courtesy of velvet curtains, fuchsia lighting, and orchids languishing on the edge of coupes. The atmosphere gets a little steamier after a couple Bella Noche shots. Suddenly, disco thumps through the speakers, inamoratos file in, and the back booth becomes the most inviting spot in Alamo City.

Best Brewery: Künstler Brewing
The owners of this Southtown hot spot, Vera and Brent Deckard, are exceedingly well-traveled, a fact that informs their magpie approach to beer. The descriptions read like a travelogue — taking drinkers from San Diego beaches to Ecuadorean farms to hikes near Aschau, Germany. The flavors are equally international. Head brewer Vera works in dozens of styles, using her sharp palate to deliver inventive creations like a matcha milkshake IPA and a briny oyster stout.

Neighborhood Restaurant: The Magpie
This newly expanded East Side bistro is hard to describe. Chef Jungsuk “Sue” Kim doesn’t let genre hold her back, dishing out Korean specialties like dak galbi and Italian rabbit ragu. The wine list has an equally well-stamped passport, exploring traditional and low-intervention winemaking in equal measure. The Magpie doesn’t need to be easily categorized to make an impact. Guests happily gobble up whatever comes into the nest.

Pastry Chef: Sofia Tejeda — Hotel Emma
An alum of Mixtli and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Tejeda was the first San Antonian to be nominated as “Outstanding Pastry Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. It’s easy to see why. Her dishes combine cultural specificity (see the German and Mexican influences) with a luxury fitting of the boutique hotel. We think Emma Koehler — the property's namesake — would be proud.

Wildcard: Best Burger — Last Place Burger
Maybe owner Mark Villareal stumbled upon a djinn. It seems impossible that five simple ingredients could produce so much flavor. We do know that one of our three wishes would be a never-ending supply of this food truck's astoundingly great OG burger.

Amor Eterno San Antonio
Photo by TX Troublemaker

Bar of the year: Amor Eterno


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.

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 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

Photo courtesy of Ladino

Nearly one year later, Ladino still wows San Antonio with consistently good food and a new happy hour

Ladino counts as self-care

Nestled away in a quiet corner of the Pearl Brewery is Ladino, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant with consistently good food, drinks, and elegant ambience. As the restaurant rounds the corner for its one year anniversary this September, we're revisiting why its one of the best new restaurants in San Antonio (and one of our 2023 Tastemaker nominees).

Before we get to the menu, Ladino's design details lend credence to the overall experience dining at the restaurant. More than a simple dinner out, Ladino truly feels like a journey away from the hustle and bustle of the city: Wide archways allow guests to see cooks working diligently to prepare dishes like saffron chicken, lamb belly ribs, oyster mushrooms and of course, perfectly baked pita bread with hummus — among other options.

This writer's favorite dish by far was the Wagyu Denver steak. Each slice of steak was perfectly cooked to medium-rare perfection. Suffice to say the steak alone at Ladino warrants a return visit, of which we've made several.

Another refreshing aspect of Ladino is the team's dedication to ensuring that guests with food allergies are well taken care of. More often than not, eating out with allergies can be a limiting, stressful experience — not the case at Ladino. Kudos to chef Berty Richter (of the Emmer and Rye Hospitality Group) for curating a menu that features plenty of food allergy-friendly options.

As summer approaches, Ladino is now offering its first ever happy hour as well. From 5 pm to 6:30 pm Monday through Friday, guests can head to Ladino's upstairs bar and enjoy $5 off select Ladino specialty cocktails, like the Mezcal-based Matkot & Chill, the Ladino Spritz, and (available during happy hour only), the refreshing frozen Raki lemonade.

The happy hour menu also includes deals on small bites, like the aforementioned hummus plate for $8 (it's normally $14), Kabocha Squash Babaganoush for $5 (sensing a theme here? it's normally $10), and other options. The Chicken Wing Kebab, priced at $11, will only be available to order during happy hour.

Now within months of reaching its first anniversary milestone, Ladino's consistently sumptuous fare, sophisticated decor, attention to dietary needs, and overall elegant vibe make Ladino a must-visit for guests new and old alike.

Ladino is located at the Pearl at 200 E. Grayson St, No. 100

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Launch your next Texas trip with this essential guide to its biggest cities

Hit the Road

Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the state itself. At 268,597 square miles, it's a lot to traverse — but luckily there's plenty to see, do, eat, and drink along the way.

No matter what kind of trip you're planning around Texas, Marriott Bonvoy Hotels can be the launchpad for your next travel or culinary adventure. Its hotels and resorts are as diverse as the Lone Star State and offer amazing culinary, spa, and destination experiences in each city.

Plan your next trip from this guide below:

People stand-up paddleboarding in AustinSee Austin from the water.Photo courtesy of Marriott International

At a glance: Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is also home to the State Capitol. University of Texas at Austin helps "Keep Austin Weird," but it's also a growing tech hot spot with a vibrant, culinary-focused atmosphere.

Must-see spots: Ladybird Lake, Texas Capitol, Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Garden, Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, Pennybacker Bridge, Blanton Museum, ACL Live at Moody Theater, Rainey Street, UT Austin.

Must-try eats & sips: Head to the new Dean’s Steakhouse Austin at JW Marriott Austin for a special occasion or business dinner, and try the Wagyu beef cuts in addition to an acclaimed raw bar and generous happy hour.

Travel north to Renaissance Austin’s restaurant, Knotty Deck & Bar, for an urban retreat with patio views of the Texas Hill Country. It serves elevated Austin cuisine with a spacious backyard for bean bags and other outdoor games to enjoy with family and friends.

Austin easily features the highest density of rooftop bars in the state, including the popular Zanzibar, a tropical oasis serving up inventive Tiki cocktails. Toast to “golden hour” nightly at Otopia Rooftop Lounge with craft cocktails high above the nearby university.

Must-attend events: SXSW Conference & Festivals (March), Blues on the Green (all summer long), Pride in Local Music Festival (June), Austin City Limits (October), Austin Film Festival (October).

Must-experience vibes: Get your retro music fix with unique vinyl record programs at the Otis Hotel Austin and the W Hotel Austin.

Family at Las Colinas ResortTake the whole fam to Las Colinas Resort.Photo courtesy of Marriott International

Dallas-Fort Worth
At a glance: A pair of cities that have undergone true transformation, beginning as cattle hubs and railroad centers and blossoming into Texas' current window to the world with incredible art museums and performing arts centers (the largest arts district in the nation, in fact).

Must-see spots: Dallas Museum of Art, Katy Trail, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, Reunion Tower, Fair Park, Meyerson Symphony Center, Kimbell Art Museum, the Deep Ellum and Bishop Arts neighborhoods, Mesquite Rodeo Arena, Fort Worth Stockyards, NorthPark Center.

Must-try eats & sips: Dallas’ dining scene is highlighted by Margaret’s, the restaurant at the JW Marriott Dallas Arts District that's opening in June. It offers farm-to-fork ingredients in a dramatic setting with sweeping views of the city and a lively bar with handcrafted cocktails from seasoned mixologists.

Head to Uptown Dallas for its sophisticated restaurant, shopping, and boutique fitness scene highlighted by Good Graces in Marriott Uptown Dallas, a bright and airy brasserie where you can indulge in fresh oysters, charcuterie boards, crisp salads, and a variety of steak and seafood dishes.

In the northwest suburb of Irving, visit LAW at Las Colinas Resort to experience the very best of land, air, and water elements, alongside locally sourced ingredients. Mesa Mezcal at the Westin Irving is the spot for modern Mexican fare, curated mezcal cocktails, and YogaRitas on the patio, a partnership series with YogaSix Studio.

Head west to Fort Worth to dine al fresco at 97 West, where a Southwestern ambiance beckons adventurous spirits and serves up classic Texas heritage dishes.

In the heart of Cowtown, experience the convivial dining culture of Central and South America at Toro Toro in the Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth. Slip outside afterward to take in a movie on its rooftop deck via a partnership with Rooftop Cinemas, complete with a food truck for snacks and drinks.

Marriott Bonvoy’s restaurants aim to incorporate local and regional breweries in their beverage menus whenever possible, so ask your bartender for his or her favorite brew. Explore DFW's robust brewery scene, from Martin House Brewing Company to Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Celestial Beer Works to Manhattan Project Beer Co., and Peticolas Brewing to Texas Ale Project.

Must-attend events: Dallas Pride Parade (June), Homegrown Music & Arts Festival (June), Riverfront Jazz Fest (September), State Fair of Texas (September-October), Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo (January-February).

People on rooftop in HoustonThe best way to see Houston? From a rooftop.Photo courtesy of Marriott International

At a glance: Founded as a bustling commercial center and shipping port in the mid-1800s, with major influence from Charlotte Baldwin, known as the "Mother of Houston," today H-Town is statistically the most diverse major city in Texas with a thriving gastronomic scene, world-class museums, and the Houston Space Center.

Must-see spots: The Museum District (18 institutions within walking distance; includes the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), The Galleria, Houston Aquarium, Buffalo Bayou Park, POST Houston entertainment district, Chinatown, Houston Graffiti Park, Discovery Green, Houston Zoo.

Must-try eats & sips: Located inside the Magnolia Houston, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, is The Dispatch, which pays homage to its building’s rich history as the home of the Houston Post-Dispatch paper. The Art Deco vibes complement the eatery’s contemporary American cuisine and enticing cocktails.

After a day of shopping at The Galleria mall, stop by White Oak Kitchen + Drinks for a collection of fresh ingredients, a curated wine and cocktail menu, and weekend brunch.

Explore Houston’s culinary melting pot with an experience at Xin Chao, a modern Vietnamese restaurant owned by MasterChef winner Christina Ha. Locals also hail Killen’s BBQ as some of the best in the state.

Houston visitors will also find food trucks dotted around the city, offering inventive cuisine with global fusion showcasing Houston’s diversity.

Must-attend events: Freedom Over Texas Festival (July), Houston Restaurant Week (August), Fiestas Patrias (September 2023), Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (February-March).

Must-experience vibes: Stay cool in the Houston heat this summer by diving into the city's best urban party playground: the iconic, Texas-shaped lazy river at the Altitude Rooftop & Pool at Marriott Marquis Houston.

San Antonio River WalkIt's always a party on the San Antonio River Walk.Photo courtesy of Marriott International

San Antonio
At a glance: Remember the Alamo! Explore San Antonio’s famed River Walk or journey further south to the San Antonio Missions National Park, where some of the Lone Star State's most pivotal moments occurred. Northwest of the city, treat your family to a thrill at world-class amusement parks.

Discover the emerging arts and culinary scene while touring historic, trendy neighborhoods like the impressive King William District, dotted with colonial mansions, and Dignowity Hill, sporting the Hays Street Bridge and a deep-rooted sense of community.

Must-see spots: The Alamo, the San Antonio Missions, River Walk, San Antonio Botanical Gardens, San Antonio Zoo, Southtown, Brackenridge Park, SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Historic Pearl Brewery, Tower of the Americas, La Villita, Market Square.

Must-try eats: Check out incredible South Texas fare on the River Walk such as Tributary restaurant in the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel, with seasonally rotating menus and ingredients sourced from regional farming partners and purveyors.

Escape to the Texas Hill Country at 18 Oaks for an outstanding quality of meats and seafood prepared with style and expertise, ideally enjoyed after a day of golf at TPC San Antonio or a splashy time at the nine-acre waterpark at the JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort.

Take the kids or pups and head to the Historic Pearl Brewery, where you'll find everything from upscale bistros to an array of dining choices inside the Food Hall at Bottling Dept. Enjoy a picnic on the green spaces and a family-favorite splash pad while taking in the quaint European vibes in this special area of Alamo City.

Must-sip drinks: Visit the new 1 Watson rooftop deck atop the AC Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk for downtown views and a cocktail or two by a fire pit.

People at Knotty Deck in Austin

Photo courtesy of Marriott International

Gather at Knotty Deck & Bar in Austin.

Hop on the city’s shared bike or scooter systems to explore local-favorite breweries and coffee shops such as Merit Coffee, Freetail Brewing, Weathered Souls Brewing, and Alamo Beer Co.

Must-attend events: Fiesta San Antonio (April), Pride San Antonio (June), Día de los Muertos (November), San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo (February).


Comprised of 30 unique brands, Marriott Bonvoy is a travel program that goes beyond rewards to connect members to more of what they love through hotel and resort stays, elevated dining, and endless experiences.

Marriott Bonvoy member benefits include free membership, special member rates, ability to earn and redeem points, contactless mobile and contactless service, free WiFi, and more.

Cool off with these 7 San Antonio cocktails to sip all summer long


Summer has officially arrived in San Antonio — and with it, gallons of margaritas. While we would never cast shade on the city's undisputed cocktail champion, it's not the only drink in the ring. Alamo City is full of total knockouts that are just as refreshing. Whether looking for a patio pounder or something to start the brunch party, these seven sippers will take you through the steamiest of seasons.

Blush — I Know Bubbles
Day drinking is one of the greatest pleasures of vacation season, but one can't just jump into it with an Old Fashioned. Instead, ease into the day with the sparkling I Know Bubbles from this new Southtown hot spot. A fizzy rosé and vodka form the base, enlivened with grapefruit and a cucumber and strawberry shrub. It's easy like a Sunday morning, even if you're brunching on a Saturday.

George's Keep — Summer Fling
Though booking a room at the Éilan Hotel is not required to drink at this old-school bar, there is an undeniable appeal in plopping down after a couple of George's high-octane cocktails. Start your staycation with a Summer Fling, one of the spot's most unexpected libations. Scotch may seem more suited for winter, but when combined with pineapple syrup, lime, and cooling Chareau aloe liqueur, it's ready for shorts and flip-flops.

La Ruina — Daiquiri con Sabor
Ernest Hemingway drank them while leching around Cuba. The British Navy got soused on them while sailing the seas. F. Scott Fitzgerald enshrined them in literature. Of the classic cocktail constellation, the daiquiri's star shines brightest. This East Side bar gives them the respect they deserve, whether plain or mixed with intriguing flavors like soursop.

Leche de Tigre — Mi Verano, Tu Invierno
With its tropical murals and shaded backyard porch, this newcomer feels like a year-long holiday. The Mi Verano, Tu Invierno works regardless of the season, grounding a light mix of pisco, passion fruit, and ginger ale with a few dashes of bitters. And it works both as a pre-dinner cocktail and a pairing. Try it against the vibrant tamarind flavors of the Nikkei cebiche.

1Watson — Watermelon Fiesta
This rooftop bar perched above the downtown AC Hotel offers jaw-dropping views of the city. Still, those afraid of heights can reserve a table a little less close to the edge. Either way, the Watermelon Fiesta is the drink to sip all season. An easy sipper of Tito's vodka, watermelon juice, cayenne, and jalapeño, all it's missing is the pool.

Sojourn Trading Co. — Sojourn Raspa
Nothing feels like a San Antonio summer as much as a raspa, especially if you add a little booze. Still, this sunny downtown bar has made a good idea even better. Its signature Sojourn Raspa starts with a one-two punch of blanco tequila and Demerara rum, zinged with lime and mango shrub. Finally, coconut milk is floated on top. Tiger's Blood wishes.

Tokyo Cowboy — Mogwai's Night Out
Though this new River Walk concept specializes in Japanese whisky, it has equal finesse with other spirits. Mogwai's Night Out is far from a basic vodka drink, adding sake and smoked jalapeño for depth. A cucumber slice dusted with togarashi salt evokes San Antonio's many fruterías while honoring the bar's pan-Asian cuisine.

Creepy new horror film will make you believe in The Boogeyman

Movie Review

On the surface, calling a horror movie The Boogeyman seems trite and lazy. A generic term for any scary and mysterious being, it has long been used in all kinds of storytelling. But when you see that the film is based on a Stephen King short story and written by the team behind A Quiet Place, more attention must be paid.

After a supremely creepy and disturbing opening scene, the film introduces its main characters: Will Harper (Chris Messina), a therapist, and his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). The three are grieving the recent death of their wife/mother, with each coping in different ways. Will is now distant, Sadie sees her own therapist while still lashing out, and Sawyer must sleep with many lights on.

A visit to Will by Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), a very disturbed man, seems to invite in a creature that thrives in darkness. That creature slowly tortures the two daughters psychologically, starting with Sawyer before moving on to Sadie. With Will checked out in general and Sawyer unable to help much due to her age, it’s up to Sadie to figure out what is happening and how to make it stop.

Directed by Rob Savage and written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, the film takes the less-is-more approach, keeping the monster hidden in the shadows for much of the film. Scary things hiding in the dark is a tried-and-true method of horror films, but it works especially well here, chiefly because that terror is often seen through the eyes of the youngest daughter, Sawyer.

Putting kids 10 or younger in peril is not what most horror films typically do, but the effect of doing so is palpable, especially if you’re a parent. The opening scene sets the tone, and every scene involving Sawyer is as tense as you can get. Most of them involve her keeping a wary eye on her closet door or using a light-up model of the moon to expose dark corners, and her feelings of fear transfer easily to the audience.

The stories of Sadie and Will are a little harder to suss out. Sadie gets the most screentime, with awkward conversations with friends and investigations into the creature deemed the most important plot points. What the family was like before mom’s death is not explored much, so it’s difficult to understand Will’s state of mind, with him seeming to almost completely abandon his kids in their time of need.

Thatcher, who plays a character with a similar demeanor on Showtime’s Yellowjackets, does well in the de facto lead role, although the part is more low-key than your usual horror protagonist. Blair, who played a young Princess Leia on the Disney+ show Obi-Wan Kenobi, steals the movie every time she’s on screen; few kids her age could come close to what she accomplishes. Messina is a steady presence, but his character’s personality does him no favors.

By combining familiar elements, a story about a broken family, and some slow burn scares, The Boogeyman rises above its pedestrian title. It maintains its level of dread almost from beginning to end, a lesson that other horror filmmakers would be wise to learn.

Sophie Thatcher in The Boogeyman

Photo by Patti Perret

Sophie Thatcher in The Boogeyman.


The Boogeyman opens in theaters on June 2.