How To Avoid San Antonio’s Tourist Trap Restaurants

We've all experienced it: in a city known for its cuisine, you hunt down the iconic spot, only to be greeted by a grumpy server (you'd be grumpy too in that costume). The meal disappoints, the bill surprises (double what you'd pay elsewhere), and you're swiftly ushered out—turnover is key! That's why I'm going to show you how to avoid San Antonio's tourist trap restaurants.

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San Antonio has plenty of these tourist traps, sadly. I was lucky enough to have a few foodie friend connections in the city before I dove into SA’s restaurant scene, otherwise I would have been subjected to the tourist trap experience, too.

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Note: I really don’t love to publicly shame a restaurant. The restaurant industry is HARD, and every establishment is a real business that’s trying to make a profit to support its owners and staff. So I’m not going to mention any specific places, since this blog is read by millions of readers. But I’ll share some honest thoughts to help direct you away from the places that I think are a waste of your money.

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The Top Tourist Trap Restaurants To Avoid In San Antonio

I don’t want you to waste your hard-earned money and valuable time! When I’m writing these blog posts, I always imagine my best friend or my sister reading them so I make sure that I’m sharing my honest opinions about the best restaurants in San Antonio and top things to do here. So here are the top places I think you should absolutely avoid when you're looking for a dinner restaurant:

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1. Most Mexican Restaurants On The Riverwalk

I KNOW!! We all want this magical riverwalk to have the most amazing Tex Mex cuisine at every turn! But that’s just not how it is. The majority of the tex-mex restaurants on the riverwalk are tourist traps

There’s one super iconic restaurant that all of my SA friends have told me to avoid. But holy moly, I can’t believe how packed this place is! Since it’s always so crowded, I actually decided to eat there one day. I thought, “it can’t be as bad as all my local San Antonio friends tell me it is, right?” 


It was sooo bad, y’all! The tortilla chips tasted like they came straight from a bag, and the salsa was essentially some tomatoes and cilantro in water. The beef fajitas were chewy and tasteless and over-salted to compensate.

If it’s so bad, why is it always so crowded? My theory is that as long as the server can get guests to start the meal with a round or two of margaritas, they’ll be pleasantly buzzed and entranced by the riverwalk ambiance and won’t notice the lack of food quality.  

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2. Overly “Themed” Restaurants

I’m not going to lay down a blanket statement and say that all themed restaurants are tourist traps. (For instance, this restaurant is incredibly “themed” including servers who wear matching costumes, and I 10/10 recommend visiting.)  But just be aware of them when you’re looking for a dinner spot!

If everyone is dressed up in cheesy costumes? Beware. If they claim to be a “German” restaurant but mostly serve domestic beer? Watch out. I’m not saying they’re all bad, but I can certainly point to a handful of them (again, mostly on the riverwalk) that are so annoyingly themed. Let’s just say that it’s really easy to open a bad Irish pub, German bar, or Bavarian-themed restaurant…

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3. Chain Restaurants In Cool Locations

Everyone wants to eat on the riverwalk, near the Alamo, or basically anywhere with a view. But watch out, because this is where the big name investors come in and open up national chain restaurants. That's why there’s a Rainforest Cafe and a Cheesecake Factory in most tourist destinations. 

Nothing wrong with chain restaurants. I’ve eaten plenty of them! But when you’re visiting a new city, one of the best ways to experience that city (and support its residents) is to go to a really cool local restaurant. Here are the best local restaurants in San Antonio, complete with a map so you can find one near you.

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There you go! It’s pretty simple, really. And I assume that, since you’re already reading this, you’re pretty aware when you’re choosing restaurants and you typically don’t fall for tourist traps. 

(The shocking thing to me is how many tourists go to these truly awful restaurants when there are so many great restaurants in San Antonio!)

And of course, there are a few places that might look like San Antonio's tourist trap restaurants that are actually kind of fun to visit. Maybe I’ll share those next…