Food & Drink

San Antonio's Most Underrated Restaurants, According to Top Local Chefs

Published On 07/21/2016 Published On 07/21/2016
Botika Restaurant

Chef Geronimo Lopez of Botika

His pick: Southerleigh

Tobin Hill
Chef Geronimo Lopez is a busy man, having just opened one of San Antonio's most anticipated restaurants in recent memory, Botika. Equipped with a fully stocked bar, a top-notch chef, and inventive takes on traditional dishes from across Asia and Latin America, the place is here to stay. When he's not drowning in work, find Lopez navigating the massive bi-level brewpub at Southerleigh in search of a pair of fried snapper throats.

Francis Bogside

Chef Justin Richardson of Brigid & Francis Bogside

His pick: Thai House

Terrell Hills
Richardson knows his stuff, opening both Brigid & Francis Bogside to city-wide acclaim. Bogside, in particular, boasts a burger worthy of your dreams, and strong cocktails to match. When not grilling beef, the chef finds himself in the mood for chicken at Thai House. "The best Thai food in town," he says. "My favorite thing to order is chicken pad Thai or chicken pho."

The Esquire Tavern

Chef Brooke Smith of The Esquire Tavern

Her pick: Niki's Tokyo Inn

Monte Vista
Educated at the New England Culinary Institute, Brooke Smith cut her teeth at places like La Frite in San Antonio and Enoteca Vespaio in Austin. A notoriously hard worker, Smith climbed her way through the ranks in San Antonio with incredible efficiency. For Smith, the unassuming Niki's Tokyo Inn is the place to be. "Niki’s is my family’s favorite spot to celebrate any occasion. They often take their boat off the coast early that morning, and drive their catch back to San Antonio." Her menu selections are "often redfish, or some other equally delicious fresh fish, that has been scored, lightly battered, and fried whole. They'll top it with a fresh salad -- many of these ingredients coming from their in-house garden."

Jody Horton

Chef John Brand of Supper

His pick: Pollo Asados Los Norteños

When he's not busy cooking dinners at the James Beard House or spearheading one of our city's most beloved boutique restaurants, Supper, John Brand can be found at Pollo Asados Los Norteños -- a no-frills, low-key spot for fresh Mexican food. His favorite dish to order is a "whole chicken with extra chilis." Don't skip out on the beans, either; the extra $1.50 is well worth it.

Johnny Hernandez
His pick: Fujiya

Med Center
Even though he rubs shoulders with food royalty like Andrew Zimmern, and cooks meals for President Obama, Hernandez maintains deep roots in our city. In picking an underrated local favorite, the Top Chef: Dallas guest judge turns to a reliable sushi source.  "I love to sit at Fujiya's bar and order a Flower Roll, Tsunami Salad, or Spicy Scallop Boats."

The Cookhouse

Chef Pieter Sypesteyn of The Cookhouse

His pick: A Dong

Universal City
Pieter Sypesteyn, San Antonio's gumbo maestro, raves about a little-known restaurant in The Forum shopping center -- A Dong Vietnamese. "The two things I always get are the fried spring rolls, and the Hu Tieu My Tho. The spring rolls are wrapped with rice paper and fried. They're awesome tucked into a leaf of romaine, with some cilantro, bean sprouts, and cucumber, then dipped into the house sauce of fish sauce, sugar, and chili flakes. Crazy flavors, textures, and contrasting hot and cold." Sypesteyn also speaks highly of the Hu Tieu, similar to pho, but with broth made from pork bones. The soup comes with rice noodles and has pork riblets, fish balls, shrimp, and crispy fried pork cracklin. "This meal is hard to beat, and I always finish with one of their Vietnamese iced coffees. Beaucoup good."

Sign up here for our daily San Antonio email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Alamo City.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery 136 E Grayson St Ste 120, San Antonio, TX 78215

Set in the historic Pearl Brewery building, Southerleigh is a massive brewpub in a bi-level, 7,900sqft space. The first floor restaurant serves traditional Southern fare like fried chicken, jalapeño cheddar grits, and strawberry shortcake on buttermilk biscuits. If you're eating at Southerleigh, you're definitely getting a beer. The rotating selection includes more than 20 taps of IPAs and lagers that are brewed at the upstairs microbrewery.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Thai House 4114 Rittiman Rd, San Antonio, TX 78218

This unassuming San Antonio spot serves up incredible and authentic Thai dishes, from curries to noodles. The inside is clean and simple, and tables are often packed with plates of food. Pad Thai is a favorite, and the dishes can be paired with beer and wine.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Niki's Tokyo Inn 819 W Hildebrand Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212

Niki's is a sushi restaurant for purists, where add-ons like spicy mayo, generous use of jalapeno, and and other Americanized garnishes, have no home. It's unexpectedly authentic for a Texan spot, but the freshwater eel, soft uni, and the freshness of your nigiri order, will have you convinced that this Japanese-run spot is objectively good. Even seating is offered Japanese-style, wherein patrons are required to take their shoes off.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Pollos Asados Los Nortenos 4642 Rigsby Ave, San Antonio, TX 78222

Follow your nose and your eyes to the Southeast Side, where you'll easily find the tiny shack-like building that houses Pollos Asados by its amazing smell, smoke billowing off the grill and bright yellow exterior. This cheap, family-owned joint is always bursting with hungry customers who are dying for a taste of their two specialties: chicken and cheeseburgers. You can order chicken by the half, whole, or in steaming plate of fajitas, while the burgers offer a Mexican take on an American classic with refried beans and pico de gallo.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Barbaro 2720 McCullough Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212

Nestled into the corner of an unassuming building and adjoining bakery, Barbaro is a quaint bar and restaurant featuring rustic, wood-fired pizzas and craft cocktails. The brick-walled space has a full bar with a menu (sorted into Spaghetti Western categories, “The Good," "The Bad," and "The Ugly") brimming with carefully designed, seasonally rotating cocktails. The pizzas consist of innovative flavor combinations and high-quality ingredients, (our favorite is the Clams Casino) and are rolled out on house-made dough. They're best enjoyed with a signature cocktail, during happy hour or for a late-night snack and nightcap.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Fujiya Japanese Garden Restaurant 9030 Wurzbach Rd, San Antonio, TX 78240

Tradition is an important focus at this family-owned business. Using locally sourced ingredients, Fujiya Japanese Garden serves classic dishes ranging from sushi and sashimi to dumplings made fresh on a daily basis. Combined with the tranquil ambience and warmly accommodating staff, (all of whom sport traditional kimonos, for the record), this gem is quite popular amongst neighborhood regulars.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. A Dong Chinese/Vietnamese Restaurant 8311 Agora Pkwy #106, San Antonio, TX

A little-known restaurant in The Forum shopping center, A Dong is preparing some seriously tasty Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. Go for the Fried Spring Rolls or the Hu Tieu, which is similar to pho, but prepared with broth made from pork bones. The soup comes with rice noodles, shrimp, and crispy fried pork cracklin. Don't let its location fool you -- this underrated spot is no joke.