Restaurant dishes

San Antonio’s 25 best restaurant dishes of 2020, from an enchilada-puffy taco hybrid to roasted octopus

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For more than 40 days starting in March, restaurant dining rooms in San Antonio sat empty as COVID-19 forced closures at the start of the pandemic. So when Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano and hundreds of other restaurants opened their dining rooms at 25% capacity on May 1, it wasn’t just dinner; it was deliverance – albeit on the razor’s edge of uncertainty.

Through takeout, curbside, delivery and slow in-person dining, restaurants have kept the faith. And through them, we found comfort and comfort food.

So here, even in this year of precarious living, are the 25 best restaurant meals I’ve had this year. Because while we’ve suspended restaurant reviews until dining rooms fully reopen, we should still be celebrating those things that are worth celebrating.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano: veal chop

With a royal bone dominating the plate as a tribute, this perfectly seared chop reminded me that the ritual and spectacle of fine dining still matters. 22211 Interstate 10 W., Suite 1101, 210-696-2536, aldossa.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Angel’s Mexican Restaurant: Pork chops huevos rancheros

The best way to experience a golden fried pork chop as big as your hand is to pair it with sunny side huevos rancheros with warm flour tortillas. 2302 E. Commerce St., 210-224-4500, Facebook: Mexican Haven of Angels. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Birotes Tortas Ahogadas: Birria stew

Birria tacos are getting all the attention. But the complex, aromatic beef stew that made them famous is even better on its own. 3004 Martin Street West, 210-375-5230, Facebook: @birotestortas. Read the story here.

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Café Blanco: cheese enchiladas

These enchiladas fit the Tex-Mex pattern: red corn tortillas, melted cheese, and chili con carne. Blanco Cafe has had over 45 years to do it right. Here we go. 1720 Blanco Road, 210 732-6480, Facebook: @BlancoCafeSA. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Happiness: Mediterranean Branzino

Citrus, quinoa and pumpkin seeds bring elegance and depth to grilled fish in this elegant Southtown favourite. 926 S. Presa St., 210-225-2547, foodisbliss.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Botika: Teriyaki Chicken Chaufa

Chef Geronimo Lopez takes fried rice to another level with a robust rocoto chili mayonnaise and Peruvian-style corn chalaca. 303 Pearl Parkway, Suite 111 at the Pearl, 210-670-7684, botikapearl.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Brasserie Mon Chou Chou: Raclette Cheese Sandwich

At this sophisticated new French bistro at the Pearl, they carve a raclette wheel on a crispy baguette right at your table. Because now more than ever, we need grilled cheese. 312 Pearl Parkway, Building 2, Suite 2104 at the Pearl, brasseriemonchouchou.com. Read the story here.

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Chris Madrid’s: Cheezy Cheddar Burger

In person or in a polystyrene takeout box, this burger with cheddar cheese flowing around it like a Fiesta dress clearly shows why Chris Madrid is built – and rebuilt – to last. 900 Blanco Road, 210-735-3552, chrismadrids.com. Read the story here.

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Curry Boys BBQ: Curried Smoked Chicken Bowl

Pinch Boil House and South BBQ & Kitchen have teamed up for this little walk-in curry stand on the St. Mary’s Strip, and their smoked chicken bowl oozes yellow curry flavor like the sun. 2334 N. St. Mary’s St., 210-320-0555, curryboysbbq.com. Read the story here.

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El Pastor es Mi Señor: tacos al pastor

The name is a play on “the Lord is my shepherd”. Except that here, al pastor is the only real god, shaved straight from the trompo for the tacos with a big roucou accent. 16615 Huebner Road, 210-479-3474, elpastoresmisenor.com. Read the story here.

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Fairmount Rooftop Oyster Bar: fresh clams

There’s more than oysters on this chic new terrace with an eagle’s nest view of the horizon. There are also raw littleneck clams on the half shell with a big ocean brine and bite. 401 S. Alamo St. at the Fairmount Hotel, 210-224-8800, siloelevatedcuisine.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Fruteria Chavez: Guayaba raspa

Eduardo Chavez brings fruit from Mexico for a rainbow of mangonadas, fruit cups and novelties, but the best is a simple raspa with sweet cream and freshly chopped guava. 3505 Blanco Road, 210-625-1662, Facebook: Fruteria Chavez. Read the story here.

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Full Belly Café and Bar: Carbonara Spätzle

Tight spirals of handmade German-style noodles incorporate bites of bacon and Parmesan cheese topped with a poached egg for something rich, smoky and hearty at this elegant eatery. 427 N. Loop 1604, Suite 202, Sonterra Village Mall, 210-236-5374, fullbellysa.com. Read the story here.

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The Hayden: Potato latke with smoked salmon and beets

The artisanal flair of this new Jewish-style deli extends to smoked salmon, cured with beets for brilliant color and endearing sweetness, served over crispy potato latke and pressed into waffles. 4025 Broadway, 210-437-4306, thehaydensa.com. Read the story here.

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Garden: Roasted octopus

Chef Jason Dady has taken over the Sullivan Carriage House at the San Antonio Botanical Garden to create the Mediterranean-inspired Jardín, where he showcases perfectly roasted octopus with a herb purée that evokes chimichurri and salsa. 555 Funston Place, 210-338-5100 sabot.org. Read the story here.

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Kuriya @ Cherry Bar: Tonkotsu ramen

Even before Kuriya reopened for dinner, his takeout game was fueled by a bowl of tonkotsu ramen with a rich pork bone broth, pork belly, ajitama eggs and shiitake mushrooms. 302 Montana St., 210-598-0496, kuriyasa.com. Read the story here.

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La Sorrentina: Lasagna

Not much larger than a family dining room, La Sorrentina prepares lasagna with generous and complex flavors made with beef, sausage and a trio of Italian cheeses. 3330 Culebra Road, 210-549-0889, lasorrentinasa.com. Read the story here.

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The Pie: Poultry liver mousse

This little Korean cafe refuses to be pigeonholed, with an ever-changing menu that frequently touches on rich, brassy chicken liver mousse on house-baked bread. 1602 E. Houston St., Suite 106, 210-389-1584, pie.us. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff photo

Maria’s Coffee: Puffchilada

Half puffy taco, half cheese enchilada: meet the collapsible, nerdy and comforting puzzle machine that is the Puffchilada, proof that no idea is too big for this little Tex-Mex café. 1105 Nogalitos St., 210-227-7005, no web presence. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Ming’s: Osaka curry bowl

Chef Ming Qian fell in love with Osaka curry bowls overseas, and the rich curry sauce, rice, and fried kabocha squash will also make you fall in love. 914 E. Elmira St., 210-600-4083, mingsthing.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Mr. A Ok’s Kitchen: Meatloaf

Stretching from one end of the platter to the other, this soulful meatloaf stems from a recipe that chef Steven Harris received from his mother, complete with a peppery brown sauce. 4403 Rittiman Road, 210 642-4181, Facebook: @Mraokskitchen. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Richter’s Antler Cafe: Chicken Fried Steak

In this country cafe, the breading is gnarled and irregular as only a good hand-breaded chicken steak can be, dressed in a cowboy jacket of pepper cream sauce. 1 Sun Valley Drive, Spring Branch, 830-885-6328, antlercafe.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Sichuan House: cold garlic noodles

Sichuan House is my favorite Chinese restaurant in San Antonio, and they’ve proven it once again with noodles layered with roasted chili peppers, chili oil, and Sichuan peppercorns for fire and flavor. 505 Wurzbach Road, Suite 102, 210-509-9999, sichuaneats.com. Read the story here.

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Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Tony G’s Soul Food: Fried Chicken

The breading of this fried chicken is held in thin, well-salted leaves, keeping the meat moist and tender, while sides like yams and greens threaten to steal the show. 915 S. Hackberry Street, 210-451-1234, Facebook: @TonyGsSoulFood. Read the story here.

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Vegan Avenue: Tacos Brekkie

This Monte Vista cafe proves that Mexican food can be vegan, especially with this trio of corn tortillas stuffed with scrambled tofu, soy chorizo ​​and a garden of toppings. 2512 N. Main Ave., 210-332-9284, Facebook: @VeganAvenueSA. Read the story here.

Mike Sutter is a food journalist and food critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To learn more about Mike, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @fedmanwalking | Instagram: @fedmanwalking


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