Best Of 2017

Our Pick: Mama’s Cafe, 2442 Nacogdoches Road, (210) 826-8303,

Often overshadowed by the size of the chicken fried steak plate at Lulu’s or the novelty of stopping by MK Davis for the classic dish, the chicken fried steak at Mama’s Cafe never quite gets the credit it truly deserves. Though you could find the Southern dish in several San Antonio eateries, Mama’s Cafe takes the cake for preparing a plate of chicken fried steak that tastes like it was made right at home. The beer-battered steak is served up with cream gravy, two sides of your choice (go for the macaroni and fried okra) and comes in half orders or full orders for sharing — or not.

OUR PICK: (TIE) Local Coffee, Multiple locations,, Estate Coffee Co., 1320 E. Houston St., (210) 667-4347

Coffee in San Antonio is no joke. Long gone are the days of convenience over flavor. This year’s coffee shop tie goes to a long-standing player in the bean scene and a new kid on the block with striking similarities and differences. As of last April, Local opened two more shops: one inside a former Starbucks and another in Shavano Park. As Local grows, so does sister company Merit Roasting Co., which now carries six wholesale coffee varieties. Over in the city’s evolving Dignowity Hill area, Estate Coffee Co. is roasting their own beans, and helping downtown dwellers get their caffeine fix within an airy shop that shares a space with Oak & Salt Quality Goods, all while cultivating a food-lover’s culture by hosting small businesses (such as Pinch Boil House & Bia Bar) for pop-ups.

Our Pick: The Bin Tapas Bar, 511 E. Grayson St., (210) 994-809

Can Dady do no wrong? It’s a legitimate question, as the prolific chef and restauranteur has had success with more than a handful of foodie operations throughout the Alamo City. At The Bin Tapas Bar, Dady dials into romantic nostalgia, bringing his popular Bin 555 concept to The Pearl’s neighborhood. Set in an old house on East Grayson, itself the former home of Bakery Lorraine, The Bin provides the ideal date environment: coziness and small dishes for sharing that both elicit and engineer intense conversation. The Barcelona-inspired Spanish tapas are upscale, the adult beverages are aplenty and of superior quality, and with every bite, you’ll find yourself falling helplessly in love, both with the food and with your intended.

Our Pick: 5 Points Local, 1017 N. Flores St., (210) 267-2652,

Don’t eat meat? No problem. Staying away from gluten? No sweat. Like to power up on juices and greens before hitting the yoga mat? 5 Points Local has those, too. Whether you stick to a carb-free, sugar-free, dairy-free or bad-vibes free diet, the North Flores eatery and yoga studio caters to folks with diet restrictions without serving up a side of judgment or hassle when you order your nut-free, Fair-trade, paleo lunch. Vegans will find a healthy amount of options on the menu, including desserts like 5 Point’s “vinkies” — their take on the vegan Twinkie — plus cold-pressed organic juices, local roasted coffee and more. And for those who stick to a breakfast-only diet, 5 Points serves their breakfast all day.

OUR PICK: Silo Terrace Oyster Bar, 22111 I-10 W., (210) 698-2002,

It may be a tad out of the way and on the spendy side, but most folks who’ve tried Silo Terrace Oyster Bar will tell you it’s worth it. Situated across from The Dominion, the restaurant offers two very different dining areas: 1) a posh interior with massive windows, chandeliers and intimate seating arrangements and leather banquettes and 2) a super-relaxed covered terrace outfitted with TVs (typically tuned into the game), an L-shaped oyster bar and wooden tables available on a first come, first served basis. Regardless of where you sit, the menu remains an impressive selection of shareable starters (the signature chicken-fried oysters and jumbo lump crab cake are both excellent), entrees (from lobster ravioli to pan-seared scallops) and veg-friendly sides (the truffle mac and cheese is a steal at $6). Unless you’re celebrating something special, head for the terrace, a low-key spot to unwind during happy hour (4-7 p.m. daily), which includes discounts on small plates and oysters, plus $3 off featured wines by the glass, $1 off selected beers and $2 off signature cocktails.

OUR PICK: 2M Smokehouse & Catering, 2731 S. W.W. White Road, (210) 885-9352

Though we’re living in the age of instant gratification (instant likes, instant snaps, texting, emails), the old adage of “good things come to those who wait” couldn’t apply more to a visit to our Best of San Antonio barbecue winner. Opened by high school best friends Joe Melig and pitmaster Esaul Ramos, 2M Smokehouse teased out their “barbecue con ganas” last summer with Saturday pop-ups in advance of their December opening. Nowadays, the barbecue is giving San Antonio smoky cred as ‘cue cult members travel far and wide to stand in line for a chance at that buttery brisket, succulent sausage with Serrano chile and Oaxaca cheese and addicting pickles. Get in line now.

OUR PICK: La Cocina, 2602 Nogalitos St., (210) 922-9660

San Antonio may be home to plenty of taquerias and taco trucks, but we can safely bet that you haven’t been to every one of them. One of the lesser known taquerias is the impressive La Cocina in Palm Heights. While it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t have a drive-thru, these tacos are definitely worth getting out of your car for. Greeted by the smell of clean linens from the laundromat next door, the brightly colored restaurant draws you in with its Mexican decor and Fiesta posters. Their salsa verde is one of the best in the city, runny without being messy, spicy without being overbearing. While the tacos can sometimes run small, the quality of the tortillas and fillings more than make up for that. Whatever kind you get, complete your meal and taqueria experience with aguas frescas and some Mexican candy available at the register.

OUR PICK: Chisme, 2403 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 530-4236,

Maybe we just miss The Monterey’s fabulous brunch, but when sister restaurant, Chisme, launched their Saturday and Sunday offerings, we were hit with a pang of nostalgia and a serious dash of deliciousness. The menu is compact, but features citrusy aguachiles and campechana shrimp cocktail to help stave off that hangover along with platos that bridge Mexican food with brunch items in a way only chef Mara Serna can. The tres leches pancakes topped with fruit and cream or bacon and cajeta are favorites, but don’t pass on the fried chicken and churros, which feature a familiar recipe drizzled with a honey pasilla sauce and fried jalapeños. The chorizo and potato hash paired with their michelada will cure what ails you.

Our Pick: Hawx Burger Bar and Electro Lounge, 2603 Vance Jackson Road, (210) 320-4299,

 Who has the best burgers in San Antonio? Really, embarrassingly enough, it’s almost no contest. Hawx Burger Bar and Electro Lounge’s otherworldly masterpieces are simply divine. Have you seen these babies? Every burger on their menu is a work of art, crafted by owner Christian Hawx. Our fave? Check out the gorgeousness that is The Norteño burger. As Christian says, “It’s what burgers want to grow up to be.” He’s right. The Norteño, the first burger he created, serves up Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese, hickory-smoked ham, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, grilled onions, grilled jalapeños and homemade chipotle aioli. Sounds magically delicious? Just wait ‘til you try it. And not one to be content to rest on his laurels, Hawx is also fond of experimentation. So make sure you go often to experience his latest and greatest burgerfied oeuvre.

Our Pick: Downstairs, 155 E. Commerce St., (210) 222-2521,

Cured meats are having more than a moment in San Antonio. Charc Week, organized by Chef Michael Sohocki, celebrated its fourth iteration last July when it had already spread as far as Boerne and Austin. Artfully arrayed spreads of cured, smoked, dried and otherwise manipulated meats, mousses, patés and terrines can be found year ’round at restaurants as diverse as Cured (of course), Andrew Weissman’s Signature and Sohocki’s own Restaurant Gwendolyn. And as more chefs get into pickling and curing, expect the field to expand — to places as seemingly unlikely as The Esquire Tavern and its almost-river-level bar Downstairs. Here, chef Brooke Smith produces a groaning board of meats, cheeses, olives, breads and various mustards, all but the cheeses made in-house, that fairly glows — even in the bar’s dim light. Expect the unexpected such pickled okra and head cheese. There’s enough diversity in this spread to tackle any cocktail you might want to throw at it.