“Where am I?” I chuckled to myself as I sipped my nearly-overflowing pomegranate margarita and took in the scene around me. There was literally so much tinsel and confetti hanging from the ceiling and walls that I felt like I was the drunk uncle who’d just crashed his niece’s Quinceanera. And let me tell you: I was loving that vibe.
Food as a celebratory experience? I’m always here for it. And there’s a lot of that in San Antonio.
It’s always been a dream of mine to take a road trip through Texas and, though that dream is still on the horizon, when I had the opportunity to visit San Antonio recently I jumped headfirst at the chance. Why? San Antonio may not be the first city you think of when someone says “Texas,” but it’s got plenty going for it. It’s the seventh-largest city in the US and the second-largest in Texas; it’s also the formal birthplace of Tex Mex food, boasting a long history of Spanish, Mexican, and Indigenous influences; and it’s got beautiful options for working all those calories off, with the famed Riverwalk making it one of the best big cities for outdoor lovers in the nation.
Hence my delight while sitting in Mi Tierra Cafe at Market Square, accomplishing the sole purpose of my trip — eating my way through San Antonio with a margarita always nearby. And though the tinsel and confetti peaked at this first stop, as I explored the city via food I found plenty more restaurants worth celebrating. Entries in the local culinary conversation that are helping grow the city’s nascent reputation as a food-centric destination.
Here are my five favorites.
THE CLASSIC — TEX MEX
I’m going to kick things off with Mi Tierra because it’s iconic in the San Antonio Tex Mex scene. This ever-expanding family-owned restaurant has been a staple in the local food community for over 75 years. Decorated in hundreds of lights, piñatas, and the aforementioned tinsel, it’s a nice balance of kitsch and serious culinary cred.
Open 24-7 Mi Tierra is widely-known as one of the best late-night food spots in the city, with margaritas served in glasses the size of your head. There’s a bakery attached to the restaurant, so save some room for dessert and pan dulces. I recommend their Caramel Cajeta Cheesecake with a side of chocolate stuffed churros.