If you know nothing else about San Antonio’s history, know this: San Antonio is Tex-Mex. It’s been a city in Mexico, it’s been a city in Texas, and nowadays it’s a colorful blend of both Texan and Mexican culture. That’s why the best Tex Mex in San Antonio is often the best Tex Mex in the entire country. Yup. Hope you’re hungry! (Map below!)
Whether you’re a local or you’re just passing through town, a good Tex Mex meal should definitely be on your radar. This city is absolutely packed with fantastic restaurants for creamy chicken enchilada plates, homemade breakfast tacos, delicious chips & salsa, and big pitchers of cold margaritas.
Of course, there are literally hundreds of places to eat Tex Mex in San Antonio. (Far too many great ones to list them all here!) We’re going to simplify things and boil this down to the 13 best local picks for incredible Tex Mex cuisine nearby. From good Tex Mex options on the Riverwalk to quick drive-thru spots, the most fabulous upscale Tex Mex in San Antonio to old family-run establishments, consider this your go-to guide to the best Tex Mex in San Antonio.
What Is Tex Mex Cuisine?
It’s worth explaining this! If you’re not from Texas, you might be new to Tex-Mex. Or you might be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food?”
The easiest way to explain it is that Tex-Mex cuisine is fusion food that came from Texan residents of Mexican descent. The Tejano population brought their parent's authentic Mexican cuisine and married it with Texas flavors. Tex-Mex cuisine is typically heavy on beef, lots of yellow cheese, and the use of cumin and ground chili seasoning.
Authentic Mexican cuisine, in contrast, is heavier on pork instead of beef, whole chilis instead of ground seasoning, and dairy, corn, and garlic. Of course, Mexican food is diverse and food on one side of the state is totally different from food on the other side.
But if you want a very dumbed-down version of Tex Mex vs Mexican food, you can say that Tex Mex is flour tortillas, beef, and yellow cheese, while Mexican food is pork, corn tortillas, and queso fresco.
(No, that’s not a comprehensive guide to every similarity and difference between these two rich and complicated food groups. But it’s enough to get you going.)
Tex Mex Example: The Puffy Taco
It was created by brothers Henry and Ray Lopez (of Henry’s Puffy Tacos and Ray’s Drive Inn, respectively.) They had an air fryer and started playing around with it, and they found that if they throw the raw masa in there (instead of cooking it on a griddle) it “puffs” up into a light, flaky, delectable taco shell.
Masa is from Mexican cuisine. Deep-fried masa? 100% Tex-Mex.
By the way, here are 5 interesting facts about the famous San Antonio puffy taco that you might want to know.
The 13 Best Tex Mex Restaurants in San Antonio
1. La Fonda On Main
(Best all-around Tex Mex in San Antonio)
While it definitely does have an interior Mexican cuisine component to its menu, La Fonda on Main is primarily known for its Tex Mex staples: nachos with beef and avocado and crema, oak-grilled fajitas with prime beef and flour tortillas, and big plates of shredded chicken enchiladas. Beloved by both locals and tourists, La Fonda on Main is all-around one of the best places to eat if you want exceptional and slightly upscale Tex-Mex cuisine in San Antonio.
The restaurant itself has quite a rich history in San Antonio. Open since 1932, famous politicians (FDR and LBJ), actors (John Wayne), and generals (Eisenhower) have eaten at La Fonda on Main.
The interior house is stunning. It feels a bit like you’re eating inside someone’s home if their home was immaculately decorated with Mexican textiles, exposed beams, and tile floors. Of course, it’s common knowledge that the patio at La Fonda on Main is prime real estate. If you’re visiting on a rare, beautiful day in SA, you must try to get an outdoor table.
Prices here are slightly higher than average Tex-Mex prices, but this is also a slightly more elevated restaurant experience.
2. Mi Tierra
(Best historic Tex-Mex in San Antonio)
Mi Tierra’s long, rich history is one that you’ve probably heard. It opened in the 1930s as a 3-table cafe, and the owners gradually expanded it, eventually buying an entire city block of historic Market Square to keep up with the hungry 24-hour customers who wanted to dine at this place.
It’s no longer open 24 hours a day (the COVID-19 pandemic changed that…), but it’s still open long hours and you can dine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the elaborately decorated Mexican bakery and cafe.
Mi Tierra is a bit touristy (in a fun way!) with pinatas hanging from the ceiling, in-house mariachi bands, and servers dressed in themed clothing. The ambiance is lively and makes for a great spot for Friday night Tex-Mex with the family or a big group of friends.
Here’s a complete review of Mi Tierra, if you’re interested.
3. Rosario’s Tex Mex
(Best Southtown Tex Mex in San Antonio)
Rosario’s is THE place to go for Tex-Mex eats in Southtown. The restaurant opened up its doors in 1999 and over the years has been featured in Southern Living, Texas Monthly, and the New York Times for its exceptional Tex-Mex menu and lively atmosphere (you can catch live music here every weekend).
Rosario’s menu is an absolute beast with pages of mouth-watering Tex-Mex favorites including Tacos Norteños, Griselda’s Tacos Callejeros, and Enchiladas Suizas. If you are in the mood to share, check out the parrillas, and fajita dishes that come out sizzling and splittable.
Rosario’s is a great place to bring your big group for dinner – it has a large seating area and a menu that can accommodate just about any need or taste.
4. Garcia’s Mexican Food
(Best mom-and-pop Tex Mex diner)
Garcia’s made their mark in San Antonio when they opened up in 1962. Today, the original owner’s children continue the legacy of serving great food in a relaxed atmosphere. Dine in for breakfast or lunch and choose from an extensive menu of authentic Tex-Mex favorites.
Guests to Garcia’s have their choice of homemade flour or corn tortillas and both are yummy. The absolute must-have on the menu is the melt-in-your-mouth brisket taco with guacamole. Hands down.
(Best Tex Mex on the Riverwalk)
Ácenar is a contemporary Mexican restaurant with some amazing river views. We all know that really good Tex Mex on the Riverwalk is hard to find (but here are your best options, if you must...), and so Ácenar is a MUST try if you're craving Mexican food on the Riverwalk.
The menu is packed full of elevated Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, and although it’s a little bit overpriced (honestly, par for the course when you’re considering riverwalk restaurants…) the service is friendly, and the menu is extensive.
Ácenar has a good margarita selection with premium tequilas, a delicious take on enchiladas y mole, and reliable seafood tacos.
The main draw to this place, though, is the view. Ácenar has a balcony overlooking the riverwalk. You get to enjoy the sights from the second story without having pedestrians walking inches from your table.
6. Iron Cactus
(Second Best Tex Mex on the Riverwalk)
And since Tex Mex on the riverwalk is such a popular thing in this town, here’s a runner up: Iron Cactus, which is actually an Austin-based restaurant that opened a second location on the San Antonio Riverwalk, provides a calm, beautiful place to enjoy fajitas on the riverwalk.
One of my favorite things about Iron Cactus is that the outdoor patio has a guard rail with planters around it, so you can dine outside without pedestrians bumping against your table. It's a slightly more elevated and calm experience than something like Casa Rio, but it's also not quite as private as Ácenar.
Iron Cactus actually has an amazing tequila selection with 100 premium tequilas. (I mean, Margarita Bar is in the name!) If you want excellent margaritas that are shaken-to-order and won't make you feel like death the next day (looking at you, cheap liquor inside a 32-oz sugary marg), Iron Cactus can deliver. This is the place to go for a spicy watermelon or a prickly pear margarita. Or, if you're a true tequila nerd, try out a tequila flight or a mezcal flight.
While they call themselves a Mexican restaurant, the menu really leans more Tex-Mex with items like a pork tamale pops, a cheeseburger and fries, and hickory grilled salmon. Of course, you can also enjoy favorites like sizzling beef fajitas, tuna ceviche, and tres leches cake.
I wouldn't necessarily seek it out as one of the best San Antonio restaurants on its own...but if you're looking for good Tex Mex on the Riverwalk, it fits the bill.
7. The Original Donut Shop
(Best Tex Mex breakfast tacos)
The name clearly implies that donuts are the focus of this San Antonio staple, and that’s true. However, in addition to their creative and delectable donut offerings (apple fritters, anyone?!), the Original Donut Shop has been cooking breakfast tacos at its current location for decades.
The menu features an expansive breakfast taco list that is served on fluffy tortillas that are made daily. Come give the popular toasted bean and cheese with bacon a try and top it off with some of their delicious salsa.
And while this place is primarily known for their breakfast tacos, they also have breakfast and lunch Tex Mex plates available like chilaquiles, chalupas, and gorditas. They’re all priced very low (think: drive-thru donut shop prices) and are a fine option when you need something heartier. But in all honesty, the breakfast tacos are the main reason you’ll want to sit through that drive-thru line.
8. Henry’s Puffy Tacos
(Best Puffy Taco Restaurant)
If you haven’t heard of the San Antonio puffy taco, read this. And then go eat one immediately. They’re absolutely delicious.
When you’re in the mood for a Tex-Mex meal of puffy tacos, margaritas, and chips & queso, it’s pretty hard to beat Henry’s Puffy Tacos in San Antonio. This iconic restaurant is typically packed with regulars who can’t get enough of these light and crispy tacos.
This is about as quintessential a Tex-Mex restaurant as you’ll find anywhere: a central bar with beer on tap and lots of tequila, 4-tops, and booths lining the walls, and big stacks of menus with sticky plastic coverings from years of use and spilled margaritas. The charm is in the significance.
After all, Henry Lopez, the founder of Henry’s Puffy Tacos, literally created the San Antonio puffy taco. You can find these SA delicacies all over the city, but Henry’s is the OG.
9. Ray’s Drive Inn
(Best Nostalgic Tex Mex)
Ray’s Drive Inn opened in 1956, and it’s still operating as a drive-in restaurant to this day!
And yes, Henry Lopez created the puffy taco…but he did it with the help of his brother, Ray. Actually, in 1992 Ray’s Drive Inn received the trademark for “puffy taco.” So both Ray and Henry Lopez are important figures in the San Antonio Tex Mex scene. You should definitely visit both of these iconic Tex Mex restaurants.
Ray’s Drive Inn is a small and dated corner restaurant with neon lights on the roof. Yes, the car-hops will actually bring your order out to your car! But it’s very fun to dine indoors and see all the historic memorabilia on the walls. There’s a jukebox in the corner, framed photos of Ray Lopez with celebrities and famous politicians, and the building has lots of character baked into the wood paneling and original floors.
The food probably won’t “wow” you… Ray’s Drive Inn has a pretty typical selection of Tex (BBQ wings, beef burgers, fries) and Mex (nachos, puffy tacos, beef fajitas.) It’s not bad, but it’s also not exceptional. However, the nostalgia and history at Ray’s Drive Inn makes it all worth a visit for sure.
10. La Margarita
(Tex Mex at Historic Market Square)
If you hope to visit Mi Tierra at Market Square and you find that there’s an hour-long wait for a table (it happens sometimes on the weekends!), your best bet is to walk directly across the square to La Margarita Mexican Restaurant and Oyster Bar.
La Margarita was opened by Jorge Cortez, son of the founder of Mi Tierra. So both restaurants are in the family and offer very similar menus.
However, the vibe at La Margarita is quite different! Rather than flashy decor, murals that fill multiple walls, and pinatas hanging from the ceiling, La Margarita is a New Orleans-style two-story house with a sprawling wrap-around patio.
The menus at La Margarita and Mi Tierra are fairly similar. The difference is that La Margarita also has a seafood component, offering shrimp cocktail, ceviche, and gulf oysters, as well as heartier seafood plates like fried fish, fried oysters, and fried gulf oysters. So, yeah…lots of deep-fried stuff, because that’s the “Tex” in “Tex-Mex.”
(Best for Happy Hour Margaritas)
This one maybe shouldn’t be on this list, because it’s not technically a Tex Mex restaurant…it’s a “South Texas cuisine” restaurant.
But I’m including it anyway because, quite frankly, it’s GORGEOUS. And I know that some of you just want an upscale, fun, trendy restaurant where you can enjoy ½ priced margaritas and queso on the patio. (Look for their happy hour specials!)
And if you’re hoping to dine for a full meal, a lot of the South Texas cuisine on the menu is inspired by Tex-Mex cuisine…because Tex-Mex has been a big part of South Texas culture for centuries. The old-school nachos with refried beans and cheddar, chicken tortilla soup, and those chips and tortillas and beans and rice served on the smokehouse platters all scream “Tex-Mex,” even if it’s not in the name of the restaurant.
(Best For Classic And Traditional Tex-Mex)
When someone says, “Hey, let’s get Tex Mex tonight!” they’re usually referring to the predictable Tex Mex experience: margaritas, fajitas, chips and salsa, quick service, not too pricey. That’s what you get at Nicha’s.
A San Antonio staple since 1977, Nicha’s now has 3 locations. (The location near Mission San Jose is great if you’re visiting the San Antonio missions and need some breakfast.)
Everything here is just “classic Tex-Mex” and hits the spot when that’s what you’re craving. It is what it is! It’s not going to knock your socks off, but everything is tasty.
Nicha’s is where you go when you need a margarita for under $10, crispy tacos with beef and cheese, and predictable sizzling beef fajitas. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, but it’s cheap, fast, and tasty Tex-Mex in San Antonio!
13. Pete’s Tako House
(Best Tex Mex for Breakfast/Lunch)
Serving up fantastic tacos since 1978, this family-owned and operated long-timer can’t be missed for some consistently-good Tex-Mex in San Antonio.
After spending 33 years dishing out authentic Tex-Mex cuisine in their original building off of Main Ave., Pete’s moved to their current location in 2011 in order to accommodate its loyal fan following. Pete’s boasts a sizable menu with options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The hours of operation at Pete’s signify the best time to eat this food: early in the day. They’re open from 7am-3pm daily, so stop by for some of the best breakfast tacos in San Antonio. Or if you’re looking for a good downtown San Antonio lunch spot, start with some chili con queso and then try their namesake Tako Salad. That’s about as Tex-Mex as you can get.
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