Sure, San Antonio sometimes feels like a smaller city than it really is. That intimacy is part of what we love about living here. But in reality, the greater SA area has 2.3 million people, and that means when it comes to dining and nightlife, the landscape is in constant flux. This might make it tough to keep track of all the new spots that are worth a visit. Fortunately, we’re on top of it, and have put together a list of the nine must-try bars and restaurants that have opened of late.
Devoted foodies bemoaning the move of Starfish to Austin will be charmed by its replacement, a gastropub that veers away from seafood and into an eclectic, globally influenced menu. Chef Diego Fernandez didn’t miss a step in the transition, especially with regard to the passion he brings to the kitchen as well as the front of the house. He describes the new eatery as “affordable, approachable, and flexible” in its influences, and promises the same attention to detail he brought to Starfish.
Thanks to its earlier food truck incarnation, Where Y’at, Cookhouse hit the ground running with its October brick-and-mortar launch. Chef Pieter Sypesteyn mines the complex flavors of New Orleans, melding French, Italian, Spanish, and Caribbean influences with their better-known Creole and Cajun cousins. The result is a creative, thoughtful menu that goes beyond the expected.
Located inside The St. Anthony Hotel in the heart of Downtown, Rebelle is the newest project from the team behind Southtown’s beloved Feast. Though large, Rebelle certainly doesn’t have a tough time filling seats; reservations are definitely recommended. Rest assured, your efforts will be rewarded with fun cocktails and amazing food -- heavy on steaks, seafood, and creative veggies, all with a French twist.
If the dining scene were a beauty pageant, Sternewirth would be hard to beat. Though cavernous, with soaring ceilings, Hotel Emma’s upscale, retro bar manages to create intimacy with smartly situated seating areas. The drink menu is beyond extensive, featuring original cocktails; draught, bottled and canned beers; a large selection of wine; and page after page of hard liquor. Bartenders recommend the signature cocktail, The Three Emmas, a unique combo of gin, gran classico, apricot, and absinthe.
Missing Arcade Midtown Kitchen? Thanks to the direction of chef Pedro Cuellar, formerly of AMK, Grayze fills that void nicely. Expect unique takes on comfort food, all at refreshingly nice prices, and served either on a comfortable patio or the intimate but comfortable dining room. Order whatever sounds good to you -- nothing here is an afterthought.
If you’ve ever thought about opening the first Big Lebowski-inspired bar in San Antonio, you’re now officially too late. Early complaints upon its November launch included a staff that was unschooled in the lexicon and lore of The Dude, but this strip mall sports bar seems to have hit its stride. Come for the mini bowling, beer pong, and weekly trivia nights, along with the obligatory White Russians.
Like its Hotel Emma neighbor, Sternewirth, Supper is a spot that could easily rely on its hot location and upscale retro vibe to succeed. Thankfully, it does not. Offerings are seasonal and eclectic, with a decidedly American bent, and include a range of vegetarian and hardy protein dishes. In both style and substance, Supper delivers.
Technically, Juniper Tar’s January opening was a re-opening, coming on the heels of a “time-out” the cocktail lounge took in November following half a year of operation. Rather than just a catchy tagline for this pretty, pretty bar, “bespoke cocktails” is a fitting description for its bartenders’ careful, almost loving approach to preparing drinks. Especially noteworthy is its deft use of fresh fruit, something you don’t realize you’ve been missing until trying a drink that gets it right.
North Shearer Hills
If you’re on the hunt for your next favorite dive bar, look no further than The Bang Bang Bar. Housed in a squat red building situated behind a rusty chain-link fence and next to a Kelly green tire store, the new bar is loud, super-casual, and the epitome of unpretentious. The trio of women behind The Bang Bang -- which has a sort of vintage, roller derby vibe -- include two members of local band Girl in a Coma, as well as the former owner of Martini Ranch.
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Michelle Burgess is a San Antonio writer who would rather talk about BBQ and beer than politics any day of the week. Follow her tweets, as rare and precious as the white peacocks of Australia, @MishiBurg.
1. Hearsay Urban Taste709 S Alamo St, San Antonio
2. The Cookhouse720 E Mistletoe Ave, San Antonio
3. Rebelle300 E Travis St, San Antonio
4. Sternewirth136 E Grayson, San Antonio
5. Grayze On Grayson521 E Grayson St, San Antonio
6. The Ringer Pub2826 Thousand Oaks Dr, San Antonio
7. Supper136 E Grayson St, San Antonio
8. Juniper Tar224 Houston, San Antonio
9. The Bang Bang Bar119 El Mio Dr, San Antonio
This gastropub, opened by father-son duo Rene and Diego Fernandez, is a replacement for the former Starfish, an upscale seafood venue operated by the same pair. This restaurant has a globally influenced menu but focuses on ingredients that are in season and fresh. The space is bright and welcoming and the food is affordable, with most small plates, or pinxtos, under $12
From the popular food truck Where Y'at comes this brick and mortar New Orleans-inspired restaurant specializing in Creole and Cajun cuisine. The menu is seasonal, and The Cookhouse supports local farmers and growers whenever possible. They serve beer and wine and also allow guests to bring their own bottles for a corkage fee.
Situated inside the St. Anthony Hotel downtown, Rebelle offers creative cocktails and a menu featuring overnight shipped coastal seafood in addition to local produce. There are shareable plates in addition to entree options, and reservations are definitely recommended. If you end up having to wait, it's no bother to kick back in the moody atmosphere with purple lighting and a distinct lounge feel.
This rustic cool bar, located in Hotel Emma, has soaring ceilings and no shortage of wooden accents or intimate sofas. Craft beers, carefully selected wines and handmade cocktails pair perfectly with small plates or conversation. The top bartender recommendation is The Three Emmas, which combines gin, gran classico, apricot and absinthe.
Grayze offers a modern take on classic dishes at affordable prices, served either on their airy patio or the intimate and comfortable dining room. The menu features everything from Reuben sandwiches to shrimp and grits, showing versatility without making any of the dishes an afterthought.
This Big Lebowski-inspired bar delivers all the White Russians and mini bowling one could ask for. There's also beer pong, pool and weekly trivia nights in addition to $3 Fireball shots. It's a comfortable, casual space with daily specials that are sure to deliver some cheap thrills.
Located in the Emma Hotel, Supper has an upscale retro vibe just like its neighbor Sternewirth. The American offerings are both seasonal and unique, with offerings from vegetarian to meat-heavy. The dining experience feels part farm table and part bistro table and food is provided by local year-round producers.
Juniper Tar is anything but the norm. Seemingly hand crafted from the chandeliers all the way down to the gold toilets, it is a visual treat in the form of a cocktail lounge. The drinks themselves are nothing to scoff at either, carefully crafted by hand with an almost artistic attention to detail. The bartenders use fresh fruit in a way you've likely never experienced before but will want to come back for again and again.
This dive bar is loud, super casual and wildly unpretentious with a vintage roller derby vibe. The space hosts DJs and live music in addition to karaoke nights in its squat red building stationed next to a Kelly green tire store. The best part of this music-focused little dive? There's never a cover charge.