The Best Places to Eat & Drink on The River Walk (That Aren't Tourist Traps)
San Antonio's River Walk is an easy target for mockery. The tourist-packed waterway has a longstanding reputation as an amusement park for immature adults, with countless restaurants turning out lukewarm queso to the unwashed masses -- and sure, that stuff's not totally unfounded. But let's be honest: touristy though it is, there's a lot to love about the River Walk, starting with the lineup of actually-worthwhile spots to eat and drink along the water (yes, they do exist). Whether you're after post-work margaritas or a romantic date night, here are a few reasons why our dejected tourist destination deserves some respect for its food & drink.
One of the best date spots in the city, Bella on the River scores major points with its diverse Mediterranean menu and intimate, well-lit interior. Order the strip steak with gorgonzola butter, sit on the patio, and watch well-meaning tourists stumble by, then ask your waiter for a wine recommendation -- the vino list is long, and the waitstaff actually know what they're talking about.
The Esquire was founded the same year prohibition ended -- 1933. Sure, this might be a coincidence, but it might also be true that Franklin Delano Roosevelt heard there were some folks in San Antonio with cocktail skills and decided it was time America started drinking again. That's what we'd like to think, anyway. The Esquire slings such refined cocktails, in fact, that it's easy to overlook the food menu featuring fried pickles, deviled eggs, chili salt fries, and other bar staples worthy of your attention.
For a while now, Biga has set the standard for River Walk restaurants that actually care about their food. The menu's packed with reliable options like salmon nachos and venison with grilled quail, but the sticky toffee pudding is one of those things you absolutely must eat before you die. Yes, it's a little morbid, but we stand by our statement: If you don't eat that damn dessert, you're going to regret it. We might even judge you for it.
San Antonio probably has more "modern Tex-Mex" restaurants than any other city in the universe, and while Acenar is one of them, it consistently outpaces the crowded competition with a decade of high praise from critics & clients alike. Expect well-made classics like chile rellenos, fish tacos, and thick, chunky guacamole prepared tableside, the latter of which is a must-order to accompany your obligatory margarita.
Founded in 1917, Schilo's is San Antonio's oldest restaurant and a popular haunt for Downtown working stiffs. The famous split pea soup is so good that we'd happily slurp it outside during a Texas summer, but if soup isn't your thing, try the Reuben sandwich instead, and wash it down with some homemade root beer. Schilo's is also one of the most reasonably priced restaurants near the River Walk: almost everything on the menu is under $10.
The Luxury boasts a massive, covered, outdoor space equipped with swings overlooking San Antonio's beautiful (yes, beautiful) River Walk. It's an outdoor-beer-drinking, fried-chicken-eating paradise, and while the beer menu might be a little intimidating, the bartenders will happily explain each brew's intricacies, if asked -- they might even let you taste a few before ordering.
Located inside the Emma Hotel, Supper feels like the restaurant version of a Wes Anderson film: well-composed and self-aware, with attention paid to just the right details, whether that's a bar stool or an in-season vegetable. Chef John Brand's menu is full of can't-miss dishes like smoked crispy quail, cinnamon toast waffles, and roasted lamb stew, and the wine list has enough variety to keep things interesting. Try the warm duck confit with apricot, strawberry, and ginger -- it's worth the price, but then again, so is everything else.
One of the most unique spots in San Antonio, Ocho is the only place where you can eat an exquisite meal in a glass conservatory overlooking the water. The menu pulls inspiration from Cuba, Mexico, and Texas, with go-to dishes like arroz con pollo, Crispy snapper in Coconut sauce, and a Cubano torta -- they're all worth a shot. After dinner, go downstairs to the bar and order one of the best margaritas in San Antonio.
Who would have thought a Veterans of Foreign Wars post would be so much fun? Situated on the northern point of the River Walk, far from the hoards of loud tourists, the VFW has cheap drinks, a haunted ballroom, and patient disc jockeys who love to give two-step lessons. It's open to the public, so you don't actually need to be a Veteran of a Foreign War (or any sort of war, really) to stop by for a visit.
Brooklynite is a serious cocktail bar, with drinks that actually look (and taste) like they're prepared with handmade bitters, cordials, and juices -- because they are. If you work downtown, this needs to become your go-to happy hour spot; from 4-7pm on weekdays, select cocktails are only $5. There's also a Tiki Tuesday menu, where the booziness of each cocktail is indicated by how many skull and crossbones appear next to its name.
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