General advice: Call for reservations on weekends. Call for directions for country places. Tip big. Smile often. Go ahead and try a Texas wine.
Thanks to advisers: Terry Thompson Anderson, professional chef, cookbook author, supertaster, munificent soul in Fredericksburg; Karen Haram, food editor extraordinaire, supersister, cheerful and generous soul, San Antonio Express-News; Hannah Marshall, culinary adventurer, superdaughter, Austin; Texas Monthly magazine, Austin.
Support your local adviser: Anderson is the author of The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise, Texas on a Plate and Cajun-Creole Cooking. She writes for a number of publications, develops recipes for companies in Texas and other countries, and consults for restaurants. Buy her books. They are good.
Towns and cities included: San Antonio, Bandara, Blanco, Boerne, Comfort, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Tarpley, Welfare and Wimberley.
La Gloria Ice House www.lagloriaicehouse.com 100 E. Grayson. Influenced by travels of Chef Johnny Hernandez throughout Mexico, La Gloria features his idea of the street food of Mexico. The dishes are diverse as the regions where they were first born. The menu includes local favorites such as tacos de trompo al pastor and quesadillas, as well as harder to find specialties such as tlayudas from Oaxaca, panuchos from the Yucatan and volcanic molcajete dishes served simmering at your table. In addition to an extensive selection of Mexican beers and fine wines, the menu also features a select choice of fine tequilas, mescals, and rums. (Many recommendations. Description from website.)
Rosario’s Café y Cantina. http://www.rosariossa.com/ 901 S. Alamo. hip and fun. (Haram)
Panchitos on McCullough (no other address )– a real Mexican breakfast. (Haram)
Chris Madrid Nachos & Burgers http://www.chrismadrids.com. A good, fun, funky place that serves a real San Antonio staple: the beanburger (burger topped with refried beans, Fritos, salsa and cheese). Located in historic Mid-Town. (Haram)
Pearl Brewery Complex, 200 E. Grayson, 30,000 square feel and the newest campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Specializing in “foods of the Americas,” the place is becoming known as the center for knowledge on Latin foods and sponsors an annual conference on the subject.
Il Sogno, Pearl Brewery Complex. Pat Sharpe’s review in Texas Monthly is at http://www.texasmonthly.com/2009-10-01/patspick.php. Anderson recommends and Andrew Weissman’s Italian dining room. Weissman is a graduate of Culinary Institute of America – Hyde Park, NY campus, a James Beard award nominated chef and a native son of San Antonio.
Sandbar Fish House and Restaurant, Pearl Brewery Complex. From Texas Monthly: “It’s not new, but with a new location and a larger kitchen, Sandbar is now an even more complete seafood restaurant. One or two favorites from chef-owner Andrew Weissman’s recently closed French restaurant Le Rêve turn up here and there; the signature onion tart is back, as is the Key lime tart (a wonderfully tart tart). A spectrum of left- and right-coast oysters, expensive but ethereal, taste as fresh and briny as if they had just been dredged from the ocean floor, while the lobster bisque is supremely flavorful. The lobster-stuffed fluke is the most refined main course; the crisp-skinned wild bass with bacon is less polished but equally spectacular. Happily, Sandbar’s blue-and-white decorative scheme recalls the original clean look. Beer & wine. Pearl Brewery complex, 200 E. Grayson (210-222-2426). Open Tue–Sat 11:30–10. Closed Sun & Mon. $$–$$$”
Melissa Guerra, http://www.melissaguerra.com/ Pearl Brewery Complex. Guerra was raised on a ranch owned by her family since the late 1700’s on the border near McAllen (her maiden name is McAllen) has a not-to-be-missed store selling everything you need to cook authentic Mexican food in the complex also. She’s written a couple of very good cookbooks, one called “Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert.” (Anderson)
(Texas Monthly gives a coveted * to Biga on the River (210) 225-0722. While the restaurant owner/chef Bruce Auden has an “uncanny culinary sensibility” it isn’t typical San Antonio. However, it is located on the River Walk which makes it very San Antonio.)
The Grott Grill, 907 13th Street, (830) 796-9555. Anderson writes: Owner Jason Boyd is a one-man dynamo. Outstanding food at lunch, and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Handmade pizzas with the best dough I’ve ever had (and he taught me how to make it!), incredible salads and sandwiches, soups, and much more. He made all of the tables and chairs himself and everything else in the place. The upscale menu changes often. Examples are Duck Soup with Wild Mushrooms, Chilean Sea Bass with Parsnips, Spinach and Saffron-Vanilla Sauce, Beef Cheeks on Watercress & Quinoa with Horseradish Cream and Roasted Beet Puree, etc., and the prices are not to be believed, a mere pittance of big city prices.
Uptown Blanco Arts and Entertainment Restaurant, 317 Main Street, (830) 833-0738.
Offering upscale food in an 1890’s fancy saloon-type setting, the restaurant is part of a complex being built by Renée Benson, daughter of Ray Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints (and most of the car dealerships in New Orleans). She bought the whole block on one side of the town square and is developing it into an arts and entertainment district (with little support from the locals!). (Anderson)
Deutsch Apple Bakery, 602 Chandler Street (Loop 163), (830) 833-2882. Owner Connie Endress makes these unbelievably delicious apple cakes that she ships all over the country from this tiny place. They are sinful! Also other types of homemade goodies. (Anderson)
Real Ale Brewing Company, 231 San Saba Court, (830) 833-2534. They are making artisan beers that have taken Texas by storm. They give tours every Friday afternoon. Owner Brad Farbstein and his long, long time girlfriend Gabrielle are great. All the guys have long hair. Beer is excellent and they are very proud of their new, state-of-the-art facility. (Anderson)
Cypress Grille, 170 South Main, (830) 248-1353. Owner Paul Thompson provides very upscale food and an extensive wine cellar.
Kiss the Cook, 113 E. Theissen Street, right off the main road, (830) 249-3637. Owners Jane Galloway and Bren Kirschbaum are great. Shop has everything a foodie needs and a great cooking school in separate building in back. (Anderson)
The Peach Tree on South Main has excellent lunches in a Texas farmhouse-type setting.
Bear Moon Bakery, on the corner of Main and Theissen. Owned by Paula Hayward, the bakery is the place to go for breakfast pastries. (Anderson)
Sister Creek Winery, 1142 Sisterdale Road (FM 1376-Luckenbach Road), between Boerne and Fredericksburg, (830) 324-6704. Terry Anderson loves their wines. She writes, “They are one of the off-the-beaten-track wineries. Very hands-on winemaking here. Winemaker Danny Hernandez is also only Hispanic winemaker in Texas. The best muscat canelli in Texas and a couple of great red Meritage blends.”
High’s Café and Store at 726 High Street (830) 995-4995. Before antiquing on High Street, have breakfast with house-made pastries here. Even lunches offer everything made from scratch. Owners are Bent Ault and Denise Rabelais. (Anderson).
A Texas Bistro, 713 High Street (830) 995-4990. Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday (and Sunday brunch) owner Millard Kuykendahl offers a limited menu which changes every week – fresh, fresh, fresh and good, on the upscale side. Charming old building. Nice tight little wine list. (Anderson)
Bending Branch Winery, 143 Linder Branch Trail (830) 995-5850. This new winery, open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, produces some great wines from varietals totally new to Texas, like a Picpoul Blanc, my favorite white from the picpoul grape native to the Languedoc region of France. And it won a very prestigious award at this year’s Lone Star Wine Competition. Great people and I know they’d love to meet journalists. Call Brooke Pozzi and set up private appointments for tasting and tours. Her private number is (830) 995-2948. (Anderson)
(Texas Monthly recommends Terrace Grill on Riven (cq) Rock Ranch. For directions see rivenrockranch.com)
Rather Sweet Bakery, owned by Rebecca Rather, 249 East Main, (830) 990-0498. Open every day but Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Very upscale pastries, but the place is always crowded.
August E’s, 203 East San Antonio, (830) 997-1585. Anderson says this is the best place for dinner. “Owners Dawn and Leu Savahn are very talented folks. The place is unlike any other place in town with very upscale Asian design. Leu is from Thailand, a little village right on the Thai-Laos border and he is an excellent chef – a master at seafood. They have a sushi bar (very good) and a top notch wine list. Excellent service. Food is divine.
House Wine, 327 East Main, (830) 997-2665. Owner Todd Smajstrla is one of my favorite people, Terry Anderson writes. Also limited tapas-style finger foods. Great selection of wines, great atmosphere.
Chocolat, Main Street right next to the Fredericksburg Winery (which is to be avoided at all costs, writes Anderson), (830) 990-9382. Lecia Duke owns this one-of-a-kind chocolate shop called. The company does liqueur-filled chocolates, many filled with local wines. They are heavenly. She attended the Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionary in Chicago, then apprenticed in Switzerland to learn the process of Liquid Moisture Barrier for liquid center chocolates. (Anderson)
Cranky Franks, 1679 South Washington (US Hwy. 87 South), (830) 997-2353.
For a real taste of the best Texas barbecue and barbeque joint atmosphere in the area, head to Cranky Franks. Owners Dan and Kala Martin are masters. Open seven days a week from 11 to 3. Everything made from scratch. Several types of meat (of course brisket), plus all the requisite sides and good cold beer. (Anderson)
Der Kuchen Laden, 258 Main Street. The cookware store is an institution and “where I go to get anything for the kitchen.” Located in the building that housed Fredericksburg’s first hospital.
For wine enthusiasts: Highway 290 has a “290 Wine Trail.” Highlights would be Rancho Ponte Winery, Becker Vineyards. Woodrose Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and the newest addition, William Chris Vineyards, which is a very visitor-friendly place with top-notch wines. (Anderson)
(Texas Monthly also recommends Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse at 305 W. Main 830-992-3288.)
Texas Hills Vineyard, 878 Ranch Road 2766, (830) 868-2321. Notes Terry Anderson adds: “I’m always partial to Texas Hills Vineyard. Their “KicK Butt Cab” would be a hit with journalists and, of course, it is also very good. Owners Gary and Cathy Gilstrap are among the most cordial Texas winery owners.”
Friendly Bar Bistro, 106 North Nugent Street, (830) 868-2182. Open Thursday through Sunday evenings. “The place was an old cowboy bar, the Palace Saloon, first opened in the 1880s as a watering hole for the working cowboys from the local ranchers. Understand that Saturday nights there were a real whingding! It was purchased in 2006 by Tom and Cindy Talcott and renovated into a wine bar. They scraped off years of grunge and nicotine from the old tin ceiling, but kept the great bar. They have an assortment of couches and loveseats in little seating niches and entertainment on a small stage. Limited menu for dinner cooked in the tiniest place food could possibly be cooked. They kept longneck beers thought because there’s an occasional dusty old cowboy who’ll wander in and wonder what in the hell happened to The Friendly as it was affectionately nicknamed years ago. On Sunday nights musicians from all over the hill country gather for Picker’s Night.’ (Anderson)
Mac and Ernies Roadside Eatery, 22804 FM 470 (830) 562-3727. Anderson calls this is the greatest hole-in the-wall and 100 percent Texan. Owner Naylene Dillingham Stolzer cooks upscale stuff and the best Cabrito burger in Texas. (Burgers only at lunch.) Open for lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday, and for Brunch and lunch on Sunday.
Welfare Café, 233 Waring-Welfare Road, (830) 527-3700). Located in what used to be the Welfare Post Office, owner Gabrielle McCormick ( She was married to the son of McCormick Spice Company in her former life) cooks up some authentic German foods and some upscale American, too. The place is charming, and “Gabby” is a hoot. (Anderson)
Bella Vista Ranch, 3101 Mount Sharp Road, (512) 847-6514. One of the Hill Country’s up-and-coming Texas olive producers, Jack Dougherty is a pioneer of the industry in Texas, which gets bigger every year. Bella Vista Ranch grows a variety of olives, but now focuses mainly on arbequena, which seems to be one of the heartiest for Texas. He is very knowledgeable about olives and gives great tours. He also loves the media!
Big Blue Barn, 12550 FM 2325 at FM 165, between Wimberley and Blanco, (830) 833-428. The flower market/farmer’s market is owned by the Arnosky family, who started out living in a tent on the land until they could start building greenhouses. They grow the flowers and make all of the floral arrangements for HEB Stores in Texas. They also grow the veggies that they sell in the Big Blue Barn along with artisan cheeses from local producers (who don’t have storefronts).
Note from compiler: I don’t think there is nearly enough barbecue on this list! Most of my favorites are in the Lockhart area east of Austin. But The Salt Lick, west on FM 1826 from Austin, is famous for its meat and its wait. – jpm