Tostones. They're a quintessential part of Puerto Rican cuisine. The smashed, then fried, crispy, chewy plantains are usually served simply, lightly dusted with salt complementing the slight sweetness of the plantain. Usually, the dish is accompanied by dipping sauces, either a butter garlic variety or a mayonnaise-ketchup blend most commonly known as ... you guessed it... mayoketchup. All of this was, if you'll pardon the unintentional pun, foreign to me. I must admit that most Puerto Rican fare, for whatever reason, has heretofore previously flown under my radar (and unfortunately nowhere near my tastebuds).
So when my editor asked me to review five dishes of tostones, my excitement was tempered by one thought: "What the hell are tostones?" And so began my wild-goose-chase across this great city, eager to discover new culinary delights and ultimately to learn the following answer to my initial question, something that, indeed, I should have known all along: Tostones are freaking good. Below is a recap of my discoveries. Know some we missed? Let us know!
Our first location was a late-night stop at one of the more seasoned San Antonio Puerto Rican restaurants, La Marginal
. Opened in 1999, it turned out to be the perfect introduction to the cultural cuisine in general and tostones, specifically. The tostones were, frankly, fantastic. Gently battered and crisp on the outside, soft and tasty on the inside. A hint of sweetness from the plantain balanced the lightly salted exterior. La Marginal offers two options for tostones: a traditional order served with a creamy mojito butter cream sauce and their signature, house-made mayoqueso garlic cream, and a more upscale option that featured a topper of shrimp, olives and other accouterments. The restaurant offers a high-end experience, cocktails and live music in evenings and a generous lunch buffet. Highly recommend. 2447 Nacogdoches Road, (844) 663-6646.
Azuca Nuevo Latino
We are fans of Azuca
. Many a night we have partaken of their drink and food menu, always to great delight. The atmosphere and environment, being located in Southtown, can’t be beat. And so we were super excited to include them on our tostones tour list and give them a try. What we received was … decent. Tostones were fresh, crisp and filling, served with drawn butter with a hint of garlic, lemon and wine. Presentation was basic. We weren’t wowed, but it fulfilled our growing desire for a daily fix of tostones. And hey, it’s Azuca, so you probably aren't going there exclusively for the tostones, right?
709 S. Alamo St., (210) 225-5550.
Tucked away in a little shopping center on the south side of San Antonio is a hidden gem of an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant. Luna Rosa
, now in its second year of business, offers an extensive food and adult beverage menu; we’ll be back for both, and especially the latter. The tostones options here are on-point. In addition to a standard order of tostones served with their house-made mayoketchup sauce, they also offer a version of their montaditos, tostones-style: a trio of tostones, one topped with shredded pork and avocado, a second with shrimp with butter-garlic sauce, and a third with sliced pork accompanied by a delicious mayoketchup topping. Modern and fun, Luna Rosa is definitely worth checking out. 2603 SE Military Drive, Suite 106, (210) 314-3111.
Ay Papi's is a food truck offering Puerto Rican grub since 2015. They serve a variety of cultural fare that delights the senses making a name for themselves with their empanadas and a delicious Cuban sandwich. Ay Papi's tostones, fried in olive oil and lightly salted with a healthy sprinkling of minced garlic and most notably accompanied by their Ay Papi's mayoketchup, are pleasantly spicier than others experienced. Right now, you can find this mobile kitchen most consistently at The Rose Bush, San Antonio’s newest food truck park on San Pedro, on Fridays, but search out their Facebook
accounts for day-of location announcements. Very mobile, (210) 907-2241.
Gusto Criollo, a local, family-owned, no-frills Puerto Rican diner on the northwest side offers a standard fare of menu staples including sandwiches and mariscos. Their tostones — an order includes eight and is served with mayoketchup in a paper tray — are lightly salted and decently-sized. Lacking the punch experienced at the other establishments, the tostones should not be your main reason for coming here. Beyond the food and the atmosphere, the service wasn't too great, either. But maybe it was just an off day. I’ll be back to give them another try. 8333 Culebra Road, (210) 362-1859.