Best Of 2014

Cascabel Mexican Patio
1000 S St. Mary’s, (210) 212-6456

Let’s face it folks, San Antonio has been so influenced by Tex-Mex that any cuisine beyond the Mexamerican border has never had a fighting chance—despite proclamations on restaurant signs all over town. In retaliation, it’s tempting to nominate the boys at Mixtli with their ethereal, seasonal evocations of regional Mexican food. But it seems right to first reward persistence and longevity, and that brings us to Cascabel. This unassuming spot in the center of Southtown has long been a lone voice trumpeting the likes of tortas de tinga, ensalada de nopales, huraches with cochinita pibil and that lusty/rusty goat stew called birria. It’s not that one can’t get a few of these and other offerings such as tlacoyos and posole (done here with goat) at a few other places around town, but rather that Cascabel does only this—no gravy-smothered enchiladas with yellow cheese, gracias very much.

URTH Juice Bar
5317 McCullough, (210) 272-0467,

URTH Juice Bar packs pounds of fresh produce into each 16-ounce beverage. Smoothies are blended to order with soy, almond, coconut or whole milk and offer an even more filling meal replacement with around 250 calories per serving, versus the juices’ 180- to 200-calories. Drinks such as the customer favorite Grassy Knoll, a green juice with kale, ginger, spinach, apple, cucumber and parsley, or the Bada-Bing smoothie with banana, yogurt, flax oil, honey and blueberries, run between $7 and $8, with specials on multi-day cleanses. URTH is open every day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. A Current fave? The Hot Lei, a spicy and power-packed green juice with kale, pineapple, ginger, apple, spinach, cucumber, parsley and cayenne. Don’t forget to return the glass bottle for 50 cents off your next purchase.

306 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 314-3929,

If the Pearl is the current culinary zenith of San Antonio, then Cured is its nucleus. What’s not to love about the stylish, modern details that honor and enhance the 109-year-old former Pearl Brewery administration building? Chef Steve McHugh, wife Sylvia and their dedicated staff, both front and back of the house, take pleasure in making every dining experience at Cured a great one, whether it’s brunch, lunch (get the burger!) or dinner. The charcuterie boards of in-house aged meats and pickled veggies are a must, but leave room for the pork cheek poutine (pictured), pan-seared quail breast or really, just about everything else.

152 E Pecan, Ste 102, (210) 444-0702,

We’d explain but we’re too busy slurpin’ our ramen.

Horno Mission San Jose Bakery
Multiple locations,

With four locations across SA, Horno Mission San Jose makes it hard to resist its pan dulce varieties. Make your way through the menu of large buttery sugar cookies, giant croissants, molasses- and ginger-filled pig-shaped marranitos and flavorful empanadas replete with pumpkin, apple, pineapple or strawberry fillings. Grab a tray and stock up on pillowy mini conchas for the week (but we doubt they’ll last that long).

306 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 314-3929,

Meat is sexy. No, not THAT type of meat. I’m talking ribs, charcuterie, sausage, tender cuts of beef. We’re talking all kinds of meat, not just steaks. And Cured is where we go for a sexy, meaty time. The location is gorgeous—exposed brick and soft white lighting. Lovers can start with a drink at the bar and then dine side-by-side at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen. Even the food is made for pairs, for instance, the cabrito sliders come two to an order, nestled lovingly in a cast iron dish. No need to freshen yourself at home either—the bathrooms at Cured have perfume, hairspray and cologne. So meat up and get to boot knockin’.

Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina
Multiple locations,

For group dining, Rosario’s is hard to beat. The food is solid; the service, attentive; the menu, expansive enough to accommodate diverse tastes; and, perhaps most importantly, both restaurants are friggin’ huge. Large tables are easy to come by and, in our experience, servers don’t bat an eye at splitting a check multiple ways. Even those times that you do have to wait, the bar area is large enough to provide space for sitting or standing while you swill a cheap and tasty house marg on the rocks and down that addictive salsa—chips optional.

2720 McCullough, (210) 320-2261,

Eating late doesn’t always mean heading for the closest taco stand (we still love you, Hardbodies taco truck). Sometimes you want something more … refined. Enter Barbaro, which stays open to midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Sure, you can get an excellent pie on delicious dough with stellar topping combinations late into the evening, but don’t miss out on the small plates such as the charred asparagus with crème fraiche and a salsa rossa perfect for dipping any leftover crusts. If your sweet tooth strikes at the midnight hour, you could do much worse than ordering the ricotta zeppole, an order of deep-fried dough balls with butterscotch and sea salt. Now, that’s amore.

TIE: The Big Bib
104 Lanark, (210) 654-8400,

The Granary (pictured)
602 Avenue A, (210) 228-0124,

After relocating from its original spot, Big Bib still garners impressive lines. There are several reasons why, but not all of them fit on your plate. Sure, the brisket is thick and flavorful, the turkey tender and moist, and the beef tips are out of this fucking world, but the attentive and friendly service is as sweet as that buttery peach cobbler. The sweet potato casserole really does taste like heaven, but the baked potato casserole is what dreams are made of.

Brothers Alex and Tim Rattray are doing barbecue their way, by both honoring Texan ‘cue during lunchtime service and knocking smoked meats out of the park at dinner. Everything, from the buttermilk bread to the sweet and crunchy pickles, is made in-house with care—and it shows. Get there early for the best selection as The Granary is known to sell out while trying to keep Pearl visitors and locals fed.

Florio’s Pizza
7701 Broadway, (210) 805-8646,

Look, Florio’s isn’t going to win awards for décor or customer service. It’s cramped and greasy, and the owners can be surly. But is it cheap, fast and good? Hell yes. For about $6, you can get two giant New York-style slices at lunch. Or go for dinner and order a whole pie for under $14. They have a handful of subs and calzones on the menu, too, but why order those when you can get a foldable slice of cheesy, spicy pepperoni? Lunches can get busy with kids from the nearby high school, but the pizza comes out fast. Stuff your face and revel in your own thriftiness.

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana
6989 Blanco, (210) 979-6565,

This is by now a familiar theme, but the best wine list is not necessarily the biggest or the one most dressed to impress; if that were the case then steakhouse stalwarts such as Bohanan’s, Morton’s and Fleming’s would be considered tête de cuvée. No, for dyed-in-the-wool winos, the best list is the one most carefully calibrated to the restaurant’s food, that most explores a region (or regions) in depth and that has a range of non-knee-jerk offerings at several price points. Minnie’s Tavern and Sandbar are both good candidates, but today’s winner is, ta-dah: Dough. The list ranges from skittish young frizzantes in both white and red to elder-statesman offerings such as a $310 Amarone. By-the-glass selections start at $8, a floral falanghina from Campania can be had at $40 a bottle and a lusty red from volcanic soils around Sicily is yours for $32. Bello.