Where to Eat in San Antonio
The historic Pearl Brewery, recently transformed into a sprawling restaurant and retail megaplex, is a big part of San Antonio's impressive ascent. The brewery's brick-walled administrative building is now the home of Cured—the name is a reference to both the meats on display in a glass case by the doorand to chef Steve McHugh's successful battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. McHugh serves boards of excellent charcuterie, like bierwurst and citrusy lamb terrine; for customers not inclined to eat a lot of meat, there's a so-called superfood salad, with quinoa and feta, and crispy roast trout in polenta. 306 Pearl Pkwy.; curedatpearl.com.
It's fitting that one of the standout new restaurants at the Pearl is a brewpub. Southerleigh taps into the building's past life as a brewery with a rotating selection of beers, such as the crisp and floral Darwinian IPA. Jeff Balfour, like more and more brewery chefs, has upgraded a classic bar menu. He focuses on the flavors of the Gulf (the restaurant is named for the prevailing breeze on the coast). Small plates include the surprisingly tender fried snapper collars with sweet pepper; among the larger standouts is cracker-crusted redfish topped with buttery poached blue crab. 136 E. Grayson St.; southerleigh.com.
Not many hot dog joints have glorious stained-glass windows and chandeliers. But when the owners of Frank in Austin decided to open a spot in San Antonio, they chose the 100-year-old Alamo Methodist Church as the setting. They brought with them specialties like the Texalina, a beef-and-pork dog topped with grilled slaw and mustard barbecue sauce, and the Jackalope, a smoked antelope, rabbit and pork sausage with cranberry compote and Sriracha aioli. And they've put the church's former nave to good use: It's now the St. Francis cocktail bar. 1150 South Alamo St.; hotdogscoldbeer.com.
The name means cloud in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, a reference to how the menu drifts across Mexico. Chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres create new 10-course tasting menus every six weeks, zooming in on a different region. The dining room is teeny, with a single 12-seat table overlooking the kitchen— a renovated train car. But the Mixtli empire extends across the parking lot to the casual, year-old Mezcalería Mixtli, serving carnitas and chicharrones. "There is a feeling in San Antonio that anyone of any race can embrace the Mexican heritage of the city," Torres says. "A heritage that we are seeking to protect, preserve and promote." 5251 McCullough Ave.; restaurantmixtli.com.
Pollos Asados Los Norteños
Once a dive bar, Pollos Asados in San Antonio's industrial district is identifiable by the mesquite smoke that billows out of the grilling room adjacent to the concrete-and-metal-walled restaurant. The place is dedicated to one thing: the simple pleasures of roast chicken with juicy meat and crackling-crisp skin, accompanied by tender white-corn tortillas, fluffy rice, pork-studded beans and stingingly spicy green salsa. Owner Frank García started Pollos Asados in a trailer seven years ago, cooking 40 chickens a day. The restaurant now turns out 600 to 800 daily. 4642 Rigsby Ave.; 210-648-3303.
Local-hero chef Jason Dady operates a roster of places around San Antonio. His newest is a rustic seafood spot that feels like it's been plucked from the East Coast. Rotating oyster selections include unconventional appellations like Wild Fire Island from New York and Daisy Bay from Canada's Prince Edward Island. Dady makes a terrific lobster roll, stuffed with smoked paprika–dusted tail, claw and knuckle meat. It's great with a watermelon margarita or Trash Can Punch, sold by the pitcher. 520 E. Grayson St.; shuckshack.com.
Supper at Hotel Emma
The Pearl neighborhood's Hotel Emma is a magnificent, multimillion-dollar reimagining of a former brewhouse. Likewise, at Emma's restaurant, Supper, chef John Brand rethinks the classic meat-centric Texan menu. Yes, there's beef (with a vibrant chimichurri and duck-fat potatoes), but Brand steers away from Texas tradition with dishes like white anchovy beignets. Dessert at Supper is similarly creative, with Mexican twists like black-tea tres leches. 136 E. Grayson St.; supperatemma.com.