San Antonio trip report May 2007
During a recent trip to San Antonio, the wife and I had some great meals, some middle of the road-upscale and some road food…..wish I had pics, but here’s a description. I’ve included web sites when I could find them….perhaps that will help alleviate the absence of pics….
LaFogota (Tex Mex) (north of downtown) http://www.lafogata.com/HomeLaFogata.htm
Ate lunch outside on a great patio. Great enchiladas and soft tacos. Also had a sopa, which was a new experience for us….it’s a thick, flat, grilled cake of masa as used in corn tortiallas, and tamales, only about 1/3” thick…then it’s topped with refritos, chunks of moist grilled chicken, Mexican white cheese, and lettuce and tomato. Kind of like an open faced tostado, but more flavorful….very interesting.
Mi Tierra (Tex Mex, Market Square) http://www.mitierracafe.com/default.html
I know this is a typical touristy place, but we’ve been there before, and always enjoyed it. The atmosphere has to be experienced. Bright decorations and lights everywhere, mariachi bands, a knockout bakery counter, plus it’s open 24 hours. Typical San Antonio enchiladas and tamales in chili gravy, not too spicy, even perhaps a touch bland, but suiting many gringo tastes. We did like the salsa and chips here slightly better than La Fogota. Excellent friendly service….gotta stop at the bakery for a couple carry out treats.
Market Square sidewalk vendors
No names here, but in what is touted as the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, you can get amazing soft tacos with a variety of fillings, beef, chicken, peccadillo, cheese, eggs, cabrito, all very cheap, hot, and filling. Wash it down with a Mexican beer, or better, an Agua Fresca, which is fruit juice served as I’ve only seen it here….watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberry; you pick which one…very refreshing, if a little sweet…
One thing I’ve never understood is Mexican Rice, no matter where you get it, it merely takes up room on the plate and is kind of bland…..beans always seem to have a bit of individuality, whether refritos, black beans, or pintos (charros, I think I’ve seen them called), served with a variety of seasonings and different toppings, but rice is always universally boring…..
Paesano’s Riverwalk (Italian, Riverwalk) http://www.paesanosriverwalk.com/
After a couple days of Tex Mex, we were ready for a break…..We were staying downtown on the Riverwalk, which is truly a wonderful place to stroll and consider dinner choices. Paesano’s served up a great pasta dish for the wife with penne, grilled chicken, portabellas, roasted poblano peppers, in a creamy tomato sauce (think a mix of marinara and alfredo) Simply outstanding!
I had a salad of fresh mozzarella, basil, and excellent tomatoes, always one of my favorites. Pasta course was a spicy marinara with penne and Italian sausage.
Interesting that when we requested a bit of extra cheese to be added at the table, the server provided us with a saucer of freshly shredded excellent quality parmesan to add as we desired; a very nice touch.
Later that evening, after a nice stroll to walk off the excess carbs, we had a espresso which was quite good, and piece of completely forgettable cheesecake, at another Riverwalk restaurant whose name I can’t remember….
Some of the Riverwalk places aren’t really that good, but we loved Paesano’s, and would definitely consider a return visit.
Now for a real joint – Rudy’s barbecue http://rudys.com/
I know this has turned into a chain, but the experience at what I think was the original in Leon Springs, north of San Antonio is not to be missed….you stand in line, and there had to be 30 people in line for lunch…..pick your beer, soda, whatever (Lone Star or Big Red are easy choices) out of a long horse trough filled with ice…..order your sides, then moving down the line, order your meat and pay.
The meat is placed directly on butcher paper, true Texas style, and handed to you. The sides are plopped into waxed paper tubs, just like at an old-style deli or butcher shop. The whole thing you carry on a plastic soda crate. Oh, and if you say yes to bread, the counterman sticks his paw into a big loaf of sliced cheap white bread, slaps a half dozen or more slices on top of your meat, and away you go. Sauce on the table.
We had brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, the typical Texas trio of barbecue. The brisket was a touch fatty for us, but that’s personal preference. If I was selling it by the pound, I probably wouldn’t trim it too closely, either. It was very good and moist, reasonably tender, but didn’t have quite as much smoky flavor as we are used to. Not a heavy smoke ring at all. The pork ribs were meaty and well-flavored, we did enjoy the dry rub and the fact they are served dry, add your own sauce.
The star of the meat trio, though, was the sausage. Well-smoked, seasoned, with a medium grind, we loved it. Add a small dab of sauce for dipping at the table, and it was really good, even maybe eyes roll back in your head great…..
The sides were serviceable, but not really that exciting. Slaw and potato salad were a bit overdressed for us (the potato salad, to be honest was swimming in mayo) and the peach cobbler was OK, but there were not enough peaches and too much crust in our serving. Well, we didn’t come for the sides…..
All in all though, I say this is worth a visit. I’ve been to many other know Texas BBQ joints, Sonny Bryans, Goode Company, Kruez Market, County Line, etc, and Rudy’s was as good or better than all except Sonny’s…..
We do like Rudy’s sauce…peppery, with little sweetness, it does go well with the meat…..I bought a jar of rub to try at home this weekend…
Next time we do San Antonio, we’d like to hit more of the BBQ joints up towards New Braunfels and Austin; try the 3 pound cinnamon rolls at Lulu’s, along with the chicken fried steak. Still have to find some really good tamales, too. SA is a great eating town; I’ve always been surprised there aren’t more reviews on Roadfood .com about it. Plenty of other Texas places, but only a couple around SA.
Someday I’ll get around to doing pics, too.