In a city where plenty of Tex-Mex and BBQ options have all but cornered the dining market, sometimes you just want something that is a little outside of the standard San Antonio culinary box. And thankfully, there are a number of unique dining experiences in San Antonio that will fit the bill. We have compiled a list of some of SA’s singular dining establishments that are doing their part to add a little spice to the city’s food scene because you just can’t eat tacos or barbecue brisket for every meal – okay, maybe for MOST meals, but not all.
7 Unique Dining Experiences in San Antonio
If you are a restaurant that is only going to do one thing, you had better do it well. And at Outlaw Kitchens, whose concept is to prepare one meal each week, they do it better than well, they knock it out of the park.
Outlaw Kitchens, located in a cute stone bungalow in Beacon Hill, is a very unique, yet totally delightful, neighborhood restaurant that is family-owned and operated. The restaurant is only open Thursday through Saturday for dinner and offers a weekly rotating menu with one appetizer, two entrees (one vegetarian), and two desserts (one gluten-free). And that’s it. Each dish can be purchased á la carte or as part of a three-course prix fixe that is usually priced between $45-$55. A $25 beverage pairing of wines/cocktails are also available for those who take the prix fixe route.
In choosing to double down on quality over variety, Outlaw Kitchens delivers big-time in creating excellent dishes that are absolutely stunning in both flavor and presentation. The weekend that we visited, the menu included an appetizer of seafood sausage en route, charcoal grilled steak with a homemade chimichurri sauce, vegetarian lasagna bolognese, and classic profiteroles and a chocolate-almond torte for dessert. Every dish and we do mean EVERY ONE, was exquisite. Portions were solid, plates were beautifully presented, and flavors were on point. With food that good, variety is a total afterthought. Outlaw Kitchen easily wins a top spot on our list of the most unique dining experiences in San Antonio.
A few pointers to help you “win” at your visit to Outlaw Kitchens. First, check the menu. Each Tuesday, Outlaw Kitchens updates their website with the menu for the upcoming weekend. If you are not enticed by what they plan to serve, just wait a week and check again. It won’t take long before you see something that you can’t live without. Second, get reservations. You are unlikely to get in without them. And third, as there is no dedicated parking, plan to park along Flores Street and not in front of any individual residences that are nearby.
Mixtli (pronounced MEESH-lee, and means “cloud” in the Aztec language) is a Mexican restaurant that offers a seasonally rotating 7-course or 10-course tasting menu which highlights the different regional cuisines of Mexico. But seriously, to call it a “Mexican restaurant” is way too restrained. Mixtli is more of a total Mexican gastronomic experience. And while that may sound hyperbolic, just give it a try and you will see that we haven’t exaggerated even a little.
Mixtli chefs and owners Diego Galicia and Rico Torres (who were named among the best new chefs in the country by Food & Wine in 2017 and were then James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalists the following year) have designed the entire culinary experience at Mixtli to celebrate and honor the contributions of Mexican cooking throughout history to the global stage of food. Translation: the food you eat will be more than just delicious, it will be a celebration of the entire Mexican culture.
The night we visited Mixtli, we chose to try the 7-course tasting menu which, at the time, featured flavors from Puebla, Mexico (known for its mole sauce). Each course was well presented and offered slightly larger portion sizes than what you might find in your typical tasting menu. As you might expect, the mole was the definite star of the show and was featured in three of the dishes. Highlights of the menu included the bread service with avocado butter (sculpted into what looked just like a real avocado) and fresh brioche, the crema de frijol – a black bean soup with roasted garlic and guayanés cheese, the tamal, and the mole de novia with a white mole sauce.
Bread service, black bean soup, and tamales – are very common dishes in San Antonio. So what about them makes Mixtli so unique and so special? Simply stated, Mixtli just does it better. While you can get black bean soup just about anywhere, Mixtli’s version is the best. And while you can order tamales from many restaurants or even find them at your local grocery store, Mixtli’s are a definite cut above. Mixtli is special not because it serves snobby food in an exclusive environment, but because it serves normal dishes that have been done to utter perfection. Because of this, Mixtli, while considered a fine-dining establishment, is a masterclass in cuisine that also happens to be totally accessible for even the non-foodie types who prefer foods they are familiar with.
To visit Mixtli, you must make reservations and purchase your tickets in advance online. Tickets are $110 for the 7-course tasting menu or $160 for the 10-course tasting menu. For those interested in getting a small taste of Mixtli prior to dropping some serious change for dinner, try popping into their bar (no reservations needed) or outdoor patio to enjoy a range of seasonal cocktails or margaritas that have been curated by their head bartender.
Comfort Café has become one of those local restaurants that the entire city has come around and fallen in love with. And that’s because Comfort Café is so much more than a restaurant, it is a place where the community comes together to support each other.
Comfort Café’s two locations, a brick-and-mortar located off of 410 at the lovely Los Patios complex in northeast San Antonio and a food truck, Comfort Café On the Go, which is parked downtown, are total staples on the San Antonio brunch scene. And for good reason. Comfort Café was voted the #1 brunch spot in the USA by Yelp in 2021 and is one of the best brunch restaurants in San Antonio.
Comfort Cafe's extensive menu includes a variety of breakfast dishes, as well as lunch offerings including salads, sandwiches, and pasta. For those with brekky on the brain, we recommend trying one of their scrambler specials or one of their creative takes on eggs benedict. And if all you can think about is sweets, the answer is stuffed French toast. Period. Portions here are HUGE and very shareable so come hungry.
While Comfort Café’s food is so, so yummy, it’s the heart behind the food that has won the love of the city. Comfort Café is a division of SerenityStar, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides a sober living environment for families recovering from addictions. The restaurant does its part by providing jobs and financial support for those participating in the program. As such, there are no prices on the menu and guests are simply encouraged to pay what they can (with a suggested minimum price of $15/entrée) and 100% of the proceeds go directly to support the organization and those overcoming addictions. Good food and a sense of community make Comfort Café one of the most unique dining experiences in San Antonio.
Comfort Café is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 8 am - 4 pm and wait times can get really long. We recommend hopping on the waitlist ahead of time on Yelp so that you can plan your arrival accordingly. Payment is by cash or checks only (no credit cards) and there is an ATM on site.
Those looking for a one-of-a-kind restaurant in San Antonio, TX with great service, beautiful ambiance, and unique food have no need to look further than Cured. Under the head of Chef Steve McHugh, a multi-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, Cured is located in the historic Pearl Brewery’s old Administration building and happens to be one of the best restaurants in San Antonio.
Cured is, as you might expect, all about cured foods – everything from charcuterie to pickles. Meats, cheeses, and hearty main courses (such as sausage poutine and smoked chicken and andouille gumbo) abound, with options to add a number of cured delicacies to each meal. Everything here is rich, salty, and straight-up delicious so come prepared for a rollicking meat-forward time.
For those not interested in meat or who are looking for some lighter fare, Cured is still worth a visit. Come belly up to the bar for a house cocktail, craft brew, or glass of wine. Those seated at the bar are able to see into the kitchen for a view of the behind-the-scenes magic that makes Cured such a unique dining experience in San Antonio.
Pharm Table’s ethos is quite simple – bodily balance, achieved through food, results in energy, strength, and vitality. Chef Elizabeth Johnson believes that what we put into our bodies impacts just about everything we do, so she has carefully designed and developed a restaurant that ensures that only the best goes onto the plates and then into our bodies. And with a number of national recognitions under her belt, most recently being selected by the James Beard Foundation to participate in their Taste America series, it would seem the larger culinary world is starting to fall in line. Chef Johnson's restaurant is a unique dining experiences in San Antonio that is completely worth your time.
Pharm Table is an *almost* vegetarian/vegan restaurant located in San Antonio’s Southtown. Local ingredients including fresh vegetables, beans, and a few lean protein options for those who just can’t when it comes to vegetarian cuisine, make up the bulk of Pharm Table’s menu. Guests in the hunt for dairy, processed sugars, and refined wheat (foods that Chef Johnson believes are dangerous and damaging to our health) may be disappointed to learn that these foods are noticeably absent from the available dishes. But Pharm Table’s talented team has worked such wonders with their plant-forward ingredients that we may all but forget our cravings for cheese and bread.
In addition to being delicious and really good for you, the food at Pharm Table is a work of art. Vibrant colors blaze from each plate with an array of tasty-looking dishes. Pharm Table has successfully learned how to present its food, vegetables though they may be, in a way that reinforces the old chef’s adage that we eat with our eyes first. A few menu highlights include the heirloom corn tacos (it is San Antonio, after all), the oyster mushroom masala, and the berry pancakes which are only available on their weekend brunch menu but worth your Saturday morning.
Botika, one of the best places to eat at the Pearl Brewery, is a Peruvian-Asian restaurant that brings the well-established fusion of flavors of chifa (Chinese-Peruvian) and Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) to the Alamo city. While this cross of bold flavors from Southeast Asia and South America has become part of the bedrock of Peru’s cuisine landscape, it is still relatively new to the United States and Botika is at the forefront of bringing these unique dishes to South Texas.
Botika’s chef, Geronimo Lopez, is a Caracas, Venezuela native whose remarkable resume includes stints in restaurants and hotels from around the world. These global influences on Chef Lopez are abundantly evident in Botika’s style – modern décor with Asian touches – and substance.
The restaurant’s menu is a mashup of Asian and Peruvian street foods, as well as more traditional dishes you might find on the tables of families from Peru, China, or Japan including sushi and sashimi, cebiches, noodles, grilled entrees, and small plates. Dishes are served family style and at a price point that encourages sharing. A few standouts include the citrusy cebiche caribe, the smoky lomo saltado (be sure and add the sunny-side-up egg), and pork potstickers that are served with a black tea and sake broth for dipping, but which you will want to drink straight from the bowl.
Botika also offers an extensive drink menu with cocktails, beer, wine, and sake. Botika’s Peruvian-Asian flavors are reflected throughout the cocktail listings with drinks like the Caracas by Night which mixes rum, falernum, pineapple juice, ginger syrup, and Yuzu. We recommend trying the national cocktail of Peru, the creamy Pisco Sour, with pisco, lime, egg white, and bitters.
Schilo’s is a San Antonio restaurant institution with a history that dates back to 1917 when the Schilo family opened a German eatery to feed the rather large German populace of the city. Today, Schilo’s is the oldest operating restaurant in the Alamo city and one that hasn’t lost a step in over 100 years of service.
This begs the obvious question: how can a restaurant this old be unique enough to make this list? It’s precisely Schilo’s age, their commitment to tradition and their hometown feel that makes them a wonderfully unique restaurant in San Antonio. People in search of food here would be hard-pressed to find an eatery with more history and more San Antonio soul than Schilo’s.
Schilo’s is located in downtown San Antonio and is most definitely one of the best places to eat on the Riverwalk, or in this case, near the Riverwalk. Guests to Schilo’s have their choice of German-influenced breakfast or lunch offerings, as well as a number of classic deli options and burgers thrown in for good measure. But, if you are coming to Schilo’s, there are really only three things you should be looking to try – a bowl of homemade split-pea soup, a Reuben sandwich piled high with sauerkraut, and a frosty mug of root beer that is brewed in-house daily. And, because one mug just isn’t enough, maybe a root beer float with a scoop of Bluebell ice cream for dessert.
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