Mixed Ceviche at Mariscos El Bucanero
This bright and super-refreshing mix of shrimp and tilapia was tart but not too tart, with a little tomato, cilantro, and onion to round out the mix. It's served with a basket of tostadas for piling high. Every seat was full when we stopped by this seafood spot on a weekday afternoon—we're not surprised.
Mariscos El Bucanero: 2818 South WW White Road, San Antonio, TX (map)
Chilaquiles at La Bandera Molino
Chilaquiles ($3.99) makes a pretty ideal hangover-helper breakfast, layering softened tortilla chips with eggs, green peppers, and tomato, and a blanket of cheese to calm the sneaking spiciness. It all melds together: rich, savory, spicy, and comforting. (If that wasn't enough, there's also a dollop of creamy, cheesy potatoes on the side.) The smoky refried beans are not to be overlooked.
La Bandera Molino:
2619 North Zarzamora, San Antonio, TX 78201 (map)
Lamb Rib at Gonzales Food Market
The San Antonio branch of this famous fourth-generation family owned barbecue joint is known for its sausage and beef ribs, but we particularly liked the lamb ribs. Meltingly tender and luscious, each rib was crowned with a crisp sweet-salty crust and layered with lightly gamy meat. It's rich stuff, served at a counter onto paper-covered trays.
Gonzales Food Market: 2530 South WW White Road, San Antonio, TX 78222-2804 (map)
Chorizo and Egg Tacos at Taco Taco
San Antonio may be land of the puffy taco, but it's the flour tortilla-wrapped soft tacos we really fell in love with—soft and layered, lightly charred on the outside, so fresh they release a puff of hot steam when you tear them open, so pillowy you just want to hold them. (Or maybe that's just us.) San Antonio diner Tacos Tacos has gotten all sorts of press for "El Norteño," a massive quesadilla-like creature with beef and avocado and cheese, but we don't get it; we'd prefer their soft tacos any day. Their flour tortillas, whipped out with lightning speed on the comal, were flaky and light and just sturdy enough to cradle this lovely pile of chorizo and egg. And at under $2, one makes a breakfast, two make a huge one.
Flan at La Gloria
Yes, you should gorge on savory tidbits at La Gloria (we especially loved the molcajete bubbling with super-tender slow-cooked skirt steak), but save a little room for dessert. The caramel flan ($5) is intensely rich and silky-smooth, with a dense, almost-fudgy texture. The secret: condensed milk and a little cream cheese, cooked very, very slowly.
100 East Grayson Street, San Antonio, TX TX 78215-1235 (map)
Original Donut Shop
This spot has one drive-thru for doughnuts, and another for tacos. We didn't find the tacos all that remarkable (the potato and egg was well cooked but could have used a bit more seasoning) but the just-made yeast doughnut was ethereal: fluffy and pillowy-tender inside, with a delicate crackling glaze on the exterior. Ask which type is freshest before you order.
Original Donut Shop:
3307 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, TX 78201-3846 (map)
Beef Fajita Soft Tacos at Los Barrios
Los Barrios is known for their puffy tacos, but on a recent visit, they were too fall-apart sloppy; the soft tacos, on the other hand, were stellar. The flour tortillas were not only the best bite on the table, they were the best Carey had in San Antonio, stretchy and flaky and steaming-hot. Wrapped around slices of seared steak with a squeeze of lime, they were mighty tasty indeed. But anything in those tortillas would've been. After a full day of taco-eating in two cities, she polished off two extra flour tortillas plain. (And didn't regret it one bit.)
Chicken Fried Steak at De Wese's Tip Top Cafe
Yeah, it's a gutbomb: perfectly crisp, crackling outer shell hides piping hot pounded steak within, all nestled into rich cream gravy, all for $7.95. Every element was well seasoned, including the flavorful steak fries, but it seemed that most folks were ordering towering stacks of onion rings alongside this monster of a meal, and those rings looked pretty awesome.
Tip Top, which has been open since 1938, is worth a visit for ambiance alone: the wood paneled walls decorated with deer heads and fishing prizes aren't ironic-chic, they're the original.
Pork Ribs at The Smokehouse
Though we found the brisket a little dry on the day of our visit, these pork ribs were moist, tender, and intensely smoky, thanks to all-mesquite treatment. Tangy sauce is served on the side, but it tends to cover up the sweet hammy flavor of the pork.
The Smokehouse: 3306 Roland Avenue, San Antonio, TX (map)