San Antonio fusion masters Sean Wen and Andrew Ho score big at Curry Boys and Wurst Behavior

Wen and Ho were among this year's James Beard Best Chef Texas nominees.

click to enlarge Wurst Behavior offers both burger and hot dog options adorned with its kimchi queso. - Ron Bechtol
Ron Bechtol
Wurst Behavior offers both burger and hot dog options adorned with its kimchi queso.

San Antonio restaurateurs Sean Wen and Andrew Ho have come a long way conceptually from staging crawfish boil pop-ups to becoming 2023 James Beard Best Chef Texas nominees, but the pair don't seem concerned about boundaries.

The roving pop-ups morphed into brick-and-mortar permanence when they opened Pinch Boil House, a restaurant, now located in Alamo Heights, that specializes in seafood boils of all kinds. Then the guys moved on to their next big thing: curry.

Just not conventional curry. For concept number two, the pair paired up with South BBQ & Kitchen's Andrew Samia — who shared that Beard nomination — to launch Curry Boys BBQ. The dining spot first operated out of a shipping container on North St. Mary's Street, then jumped to a pink-painted house mere meters away.

As the name suggests, the concept is all about curry meeting 'cue — and to the benefit of both. It's also apparent that success depends on neither culture trying to upstage the other.

Yes, there are more assertive curries at Thai restaurants all over town. But the mild green variant that bathes South's oak-smoked Prime brisket is more a soothing cradle for the lightly smoky, tender beef than a sparring partner. Chunks of potato and carrot plus a foundation of rice provide textural contrast. And the result is a win-win.

Perfectly smoked brisket is always a win, pulled pork less so. However, at Curry Boys it hooks up with Panang curry, usually paired with chicken or shrimp, and to unexpectedly good effect. "Succulent" comes to mind with the pork, while the menu would have you believe the curry is "bold and flavorful." I'll hand them the "flavorful" part of the equation. Peanut, red chili paste and coconut milk are just a few of the components that make it a perennial favorite. But "bold?" Not so much. Yet that didn't matter. Once again, the whole exceeded the sum of its parts.

For unabashed spiciness at Curry Boys, give the cold chili-garlic noodles a spin. The fideo-like vegan noodles come coated in chili oil with soy sauce and sriracha. Garlic adds zing, cilantro a grassy fragrance and fried shallots a crunch. If you can get past the mess of smoked edamame slathered in a sweet and hot Thai sauce, the precious pearls within the leathery pods are almost worth the effort.

If Curry Boys and Wurst Behavior, Wen and Ho's latest venture in Tobin Hill, share a common denominator other than the urge to buck tradition, that's queso.

Teaming up this time with Swine House's Joe Saenz, another pop-up veteran, the pair's Wurst Behavior operates as a classy beer garden. A steel Japanese tori gate frames the entry, and neon-bathed indoor seating recently opened in a flanking cottage. The venture's menu includes pretzels, dogs and brats.

While the Curry Boys queso is spiced like the restaurant's titular specialty, at Wurst Behavior, Korean kimchi provides the cross-cultural allure. Topped with slivered green onion and served with a small mountain of very corn-y chips, it's killer. More than a single person should ever attempt to eat, but hard to stop. Adding an on-tap beer to the equation — maybe a Kirin to reinforce the Asian vibe — might add insult to injury, but do it anyway.

Then plunge right in to a burger or dog adorned with that same, stealthily spicy queso. To be honest, and I generally strive to be, the kimchi queso burger was semi-successful. Though the counter claimed I could have the designer beef cooked medium rare, the kitchen thought otherwise. It emerged a resounding medium. There appeared to be a few morsels of actual cabbage kimchi, maybe a scattering of green onion slices, although I would have appreciated more of both to play up the uniquely Korean connection. Yes, the package, paired with exceptionally crisp fries, still stood out from standard burger fare. Just not far enough to meet expectations.

There was nothing halfway about the bratwurst roll with Thai papaya salad, however. In theory, this is the kind of opposites-attract coupling that should absolutely work: take a snappy, juicy sausage in a bun and shower it with cold, crunchy and acidic green papaya salad, which is also tinged with sultry heat. But at first, the coupling was just shocking. I warmed to it over time, but in the end, not without guilt, I dipped the last of the bun and brat into the dregs of the kimchi queso. Yes.

We can agree to disagree on the success of individual items at Curry Boys and Wurst Behavior, but it would be hard not to give Wen, Ho and their partners high marks for electrifying San Antonio's sometimes somnolent palate.

It's also impossible not to try to second guess what's next. Pan-Asian pizza? Stay tuned.

Curry Boys BBQ

556 E. Courtland Place | (210) 560-2763 |

Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. daily

The skinny: Curry meets 'cue in a creative, East-meets-West exploration of unlikely bowlfellows.

Wurst Behavior

358 E. Craig Place |

Hours: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday

The skinny: Brats and burgers get a Pan-Asian makeover in a Germany-meets-Japan biergarten setting.

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