San Antonio is a food city. Specifically, it’s a Tex-Mex city, where puffy flour tortillas and refried beans share the same plate with carne guisada and grilled nopalitos.
While not as culinar-ily adventurous as Austin, its neighbor to the east and Texas’ most famously weird metropolis, The Alamo City is outside the box in its own way; namely, it’s totally unassuming and gives zero f’s about the latest food trends. In other words, you’re not going to find molecular gastronomy here.
What you will find is food that tastes good; the stick to your ribs, doesn’t cost a fortune, dine in your jeans and dad cap kind that, if your taste buds could talk, would make them say “thank you for that.”
Here, in no particular order, are seven of our favorite Latin restaurants – from Mexican to Peruvian to Puerto Rican – in San Antonio. To you and your taste buds: “You’re welcome.”
Opened in 1969, Food Network Magazine recently voted this San Antonio favorite the “Best Breakfast in Texas.” Both locations – both South Town’ish – are easy-going spots where food, family, and friends are favored over design. (Neon beer signs, palm trees, and papeles picados are decorative staples.)
If you go for breakfast, order the nopalito tacos and a side of carne guisada. The nopales are grilled just right and are stuffed inside fluffy flour tortillas – a kind of naan-pita mashup – that are perfect for soaking up the carne’s meaty, peppery goodness.
Chef Johnny Hernandez, the man behind three of San Antonio’s best-loved Mexican restaurants, serves classic Mexican jugos and licuadas alongside lite snacks like tortas, tostadas and ensaladas at this fun, festive eatery. The food is fresh, healthy, and an ideal antidote to a sweltering summer afternoon in San Antonio.
If you go, try the jicama salad, which includes jicama, cucumber, cantaloupe, tomatoes, avocado and toasted almonds all sprinkled with guajillo dust and a splash of lime juice.
Puerto Rican food in San Antonio? Si, se puede! A ten minute drive from tourist-driven downtown is La Marginal, a 30-year-old concept serving the kind of Old San Juan sabor that would make abuela proud. Humbly tucked inside a strip mall and hidden behind one-way mirrored glass, its popularity among Latinos is based on word of mouth versus Yelp reviews. If you go, order the tender, sauce-soaked pernil sandwich and a side of tostones.
This 75-year-old landmark – a bar meets restaurants meets bakery meets music venue – is a San Antonio institution. Located at the San Antonio Mercado, Mi Tierra serves up margaritas, conchas, enchiladas, and live mariachi music 24/7 and is as popular among locals as it is tourists.
Do not miss Mi Tierra’s happy hour, served daily from 5pm to 7pm and offering live music, cheap snacks, and the award-winning Zapata margarita.
Cappy Lawton’s La Fonda is beautiful. (And the food’s fantastic, too.) Its tree-lined, softly lit patio is the perfect spot for a date, a special family gathering, or a professional dinner.
If you go, enjoy Salmon a la Plancha and any one of Cappy’s world famous enchiladas.
The Pearl is San Antonio’s hippest nabe, and Botika by Chef Geronimo Lopez is one of its best restaurants. On tap are exquisitely rendered Chifa and Nikkei dishes from Peru served in an approachably upscale dining room with a sushi and ceviche bar at its center.
If you go, don’t miss the pork belly chaufa with sofrito. It’s unreal.
Though not dedicated entirely to Latin food, this James Beard Award winning bar is a mega must-visit for anyone living in or traveling to San Antonio. Set at the less-trafficked end of the historic Riverwalk, Esquire Tavern’s menu is a mix of classic American bar fare and Latin food faves.
If you go, drink the Texecutioner – espadin mescal, cocchi Americano, grapefruit, and xtabentun, a Mayan liqueur made from honey and anise – while nibbling on a Brisket Frito Pie and Commerce Street corn in a cup (aka esquites).