Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs.
This week we’re heading to the Alamo City itself, San Antonio, with Executive Chef John Russ of Lüke as our guide. Chef Russ is famous for his smart sourcing — he spent his formative years working on farms in Alabama, New Hampshire, New York and Maryland and understands the importance of developing relationships with the people responsible for bringing food to the table. So what sort of food comes to Chef Russ’ table? With a San Antonian heart and New Orleanian soul, Lüke serves up delicious Texan twists on creole classics.
Says Chef Russ:
The ways in which Lüke fits in [to San Antonio’s culinary culture] are so completely unique. Growing up in New Orleans, where Lüke hails from, we are given this sense that food is meant to use all of your senses. In San Antonio, the crunchiness of the puffy tacos resembles our fresh french bread po-boys. The Creole favorite Grillades is so similar to the local Guisada, that it makes sense that these two cities share the same mouth. The scents of a crawfish boil are so distinct that when you happen upon it in San Antonio, it is surprising that these cities are so far apart, yet so similar.
Mouth watering yet?
Now that we’ve whet your appetite, let’s check out Chef Russ’ 15 can’t miss food experiences and restaurants in San Antonio!
At Barbaro, a neighborhood pizza joint, we get amazing cocktails along with our pizza. The dark, cozy nature of Barbaro really makes us want to go back every week. Orger the Tellegio, hash brown and fried kale pizza. Its richness is mouthwatering.
This debate goes way too far to be answered Tacos/Mexican. For Mexican, it’s Cascabel, a small outside eatery in Southtown. Smelling the stews cooking in the kitchen reminds us that there is a reason to live.
For tacos, it’s the taco truck outside of Hardbodies nightclub. The tacos are outstanding. The very best in SA.
This depends on what part of Asia, because Sichuan Cuisine is easily the winner. Its fresh and changing menu, its adherence to quality, its humble and affordable nature are many reasons that you mostly find chefs in there.
Kohinoor on the other hand is Afghanistani and a treasure. The exotic scents, the unique textures, and the overly hospitable staff make this family run restaurant our favorite to bring friends. The air thick with the scents of curry and goat cooking, which enthrall the senses and entice you into a coma like state.
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There is a little truck that combines Indian/New Delhi food with Mexican street food. The uncompromising levels of flavor and texture are a treat. We never pass up the chance to eat with this truck. It’s the Bombay Salsa Co and it’s amazing. Their tacos are Naan. Really, and they are mind-blowing!
Chef Russ’ House (You’re Gonna Have To Ask Him For Directions)
My wife is a pastry chef, so… my house.
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Australian Lamb Loin with Fried feta croquettes, cucumber dill tzatziki, pita, Kalamata olive soil and feta cream from the very sophisticated, delicious and highly praised @Zagat restaurant Bliss in San Antonio, Texas. #travel #texas #foodbliss #sanantonio #sanantoniotx #blisssanantonio #zagat #foodie #finedining #foodtography #worthyisthelamb #opentable #venture #eat #live #sophisticatedfoodie #travelmaverick #gastronomy #sophisticatedfoodie #gastronomic #gastronomist #gastronomistblog
This is a tough one, because in San Antonio, we are a lot more casual than most other cities. But there is a place called Bliss that absolutely encompasses the nature of fine dining. A beautiful redo of an ancient gas station provides for a unique experience in SA. The food is presented in a fine dining style with emphasis on traditional combinations and the service is so completely perfect.
Francis Bogside has such an atmosphere that makes you feel welcomed, like it’s your neighborhood jam that you go to every night. The burger has very few competitors, especially when you get the mac and cheese on the side.
My wife being a vegetarian allows me to judge this uniquely. For us, both of us, we choose Bohanon’s Steak house. Let me explain. So often we go to a vegetarian restaurant and find that not only is it vegetarian, but now it’s vegan, gluten free, dairy free, sodium free, non GMO, and it’s all fried and textured cardboard. If I’m going to cover all of the bases of my caloric intake in one meal, I better be getting fresh. Since we are just talking vegetarian, the sides menu is perfect. The creamiest potatoes gratin, crisp asparagus with perfect hollandaise, truffle and parmesan fries, spinach casserole. And, if you happen to maybe just want to try the Wagyu A-5, it’s there. You won’t find that at any “vegetarian” restaurant.
Great, now I’m hungry.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
Breakfast Tacos. Misnomer because breakfast tacos are great anytime of the day. El Milagrito, imagine that dive breakfast joint that always has a line. Yup, that’s where we go. Long line, hot coffee, close seating and plates of the best breakfast tacos around.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Have you been to Luby’s? It’s a cafeteria. I’m not knocking it, it’s just odd that this model is thriving in this modern world.
Refer to the Original Hot Donut Shop, El Milagrito, Bombay Salsa Company, Sichuan Cuisine, Cascabel or Barbaro!
See, if you finish your night with breakfast tacos, you won’t need hangover food. Plan right and be smart. But, if you choose poorly, Menudo at the Original Donut Shop with a side dozen of warm glazed donuts. And a dozen potato and egg tacos, with the red salsa.
It’s a secret. My wife usually plans.
[Writer’s Note: If I were in San Antonio, and a fella took me to Bliss, I wouldn’t complain. Just sayin’.]
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Choose Your Own Adventure
That question is similar to asking ‘who is your best friend?’ because we (chefs) equate food with love. Whom we love the most is usually the one that makes our favorite foods. While we are able to technically pick based on empirical evidence, doing so puts us in a situation that we are not choosing our favorite food, but our favorite chef friend. So, is this a fair question? While maybe other chefs might find this easier to answer, I count many of the chefs in SA as close personal friends. The close community of chefs is what makes this city great to work in. So, is this a fair question?
Thank you, Chef Russ, for taking us on a culinary tour of San Antonio!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Warsaw, Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!