Locations in San Antonio

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    ; With the opening of Athens Greek Xpress, City Hall employees (and others) may have to get used to paying a little more, but they will also be getting far healthier food in a shiny-bright environment with pleasant, quick service.

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    Azro Moroccan & Mediterranean Bistro

    ; Finally, a bona fide Moroccan restaurant has arrived, bringing the sophisticated tastes of Casablanca to the North Side. Try the savory harira soup, meat-filled brewat rolls, and seafood bastilla- wrapped in delicate pastry leaves. A house specialty — the Meshoui, roast lamb shanks braised in a rich eggplant, tomato, and zucchini. 

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    ; Lisa Astorga-Watel should not be worrying about standing in husband Damien’s shadow at her new Southtown boîte, Bite; though some dishes still need to find final form, her small-plate menu fills a void in Southtown’s ever-expanding restaurant pantheon. Starters such as octopus carpaccio and boquerones (Spanish anchovies) are fine; we expect to come to love bigger plates with lamb and duck as well.

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    Firebird Mexican Grill

    ; Firebird may be trying too hard to execute “twists” on Tex-Mex and Mexican favorites, but many dishes come close to working regardless. The take on a corn cup is very good, shrimp and crab chowder has good flavor, the shrimp chilaquiles are sabotaged only by the texture of the corn chips, and shredded short rib enchiladas nearly transcend the genre.

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    Hot Joy

    ; On Sundays and Mondays, Hot Joy mostly evokes cries of hot damn with its inventive, Asian-esque dishes (we have loved the salt cod wontons and chicken wings with crab fat caramel, not so much the tofu offerings) and its quirky wine and beer list supplemented by a demented Riesling manifesto page offering off-the charts bottles and glasses of the outrageous elixir.

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    ; Quality sushi and Japanese comfort food served with passion, with all-you-can-eat Sushi Rolls (Fri-Sun). Best bets: Shrimp Tempura, Sake-Rita.

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    Laurent's Modern Cuisine

    ; Chef Laurent Rea has put in his time at L’Etoile and Olmos Park Bistro; at his eponymous new place he can now shine on his own—and shine he does with a frequently changing menu informed by French technique but heavily influenced by local produce. Rea’s touch is subtle but sure. Desserts are bold and equally seductive.

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    Los Agaves

    ; Though Los Agaves has a dedicated Tex-Mex section on the menu, most of the remaining selections, ranging from coctel de camaron to cabrito and enchiladas de mole, will also seem familiar to locals. But even standbys such as tortilla soup take on new dimensions. And tostadas de tinga are a welcome surprise.

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    Mediterranean Turkish Grill

    ; Uptown location for Turkish food; most affordable prices lunch-only. Check out the lamb shank, donner kebab, meze platter, and Turkish flan.

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    Nao: New World Flavors

    ; As the CIA’s student-staffed flagship restaurant, Nao is intent on introducing to South Texas the flavors of a continent most of us know only through ceviches and caipirinhas; all of Latin America will eventually come under scrutiny, and the menu will change in response to the country currently in the spotlight. Expect unfamiliar ingredients, inventive preparations and to have your horizons expanded.

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    Nicha's Comida Mexicana

    ; Nicha’s is a familia effort and it shows in the congenial atmosphere, the tradicional recipes, and the comically endearing Spanglish menu. The food is really pretty good, too — right down to the menudo and the overstuffed burritos.

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    ; Authentic Mexican eatery serving up traditional dishes, including lengua, and coastal creations inspired by the Pacific Mexican coast that are worth a try. Don’t get bogged down in the overly saucy high-dollar dishes, though, what Palenque does best is the basics. Pass the house-made tortillas.

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    ; Snuggled into still-growing Quarry district, Piranha serves respectable assortment of sushi (easy on the  digestive aid escolar!) and lunchtime bento boxes. Young crowd, bright colors, reasonable prices.

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    ; SA’s pristine locavore has added a la carte options to their prix-fixe offerings, but we still prefer the daily chef-designed meal of locally sourced organic fare. The early bird special, three courses for $35, makes this elite River Walk treat more pocket-book friendly.

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    Savor Fare: Vietnamese + Chinese

    ; A strip mall restaurant on Huebner that acts like a strip mall restaurant on Huebner. This five year old establishment still needs some practice. Be warned that their dishes often miss the mark, but if you’re jonesin’ for asian cuisine and happen to be nearby it’s full of cheap offerings. You can always sneak in a bottle of Sirarcha to quell the pain.

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    Si Senor Grill and Cantina

    ; Si Señor could easily be a breezy, Mexican chain wannabe with nothing but décor to recommend it. But if they hold their ground against reluctant gringos, there will be much on the menu to investigate, including duck breast in herbal pipian, parchment-wrapped mixiotes, and perhaps even raviolis filled with earthy huitlacoche.

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    ; Siam Cuisine is the best Thai Schertz has to offer; it may be the best Thai in San Antonio as well. It’s hard to go wrong with typical dishes such as green papaya salad, but don’t hesitate to order a pork stir fry with loads of lemongrass, an unusually delicate fried rice with “fermented” sausage, or a curry soup with chicken, Middle Eastern spices, tamarind, and coconut milk.

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    ; Texas Brisket Barbecue holds out the promise of pairing Korean barbecue with the all-American kind, but it’s up to you to put them together on the same plate. Bulgogi, for its part, comes only on an OK po’ boy, Texas pork ribs are good, peppery, and lean. Brisket is uneventful, sides are more rewarding than at many Q joints, and the house cornbread rocks.

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    Viva Vegeria

    ; Vida Mia is a chain from Monterrey that’s all gussied up in cute graphics and festive colors. The torta de pierna (“Mexico’s most eaten sandwich”) and ceviches are winners.

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