When writing about San Antonio, I was so completely overwhelmed by San Antonio’s awesomeness that it was a little hard to think. I can literally name 8 different amazing breakfast taco places (it is normal to eat breakfast tacos for breakfast–every. single. day. I didn’t realize this was weird until I moved to New York City where subsequently there are n0 breakfast tacos- it was a rough adjustment).
Culturally, San Antonio is so interesting–its not like Dallas, Houston, or even Austin. San Antonio is a predominately Mexican culture and is arguably the most advanced city in its celebration of that (unfortunately, this has not always been the case nor is it seen as strongly elsewhere). All of the places that I’ve listed here are basically Mexican inspired–not in a gimmicky way, that’s just how it authentically is, and what makes it, and the people, so great. You do get a bit of the cowboy thing–but more so in the other big cities. While the (touristy) River Walk can be fun, here’s one San Antonian’s quick guide to the Alamo City:
WHERE TO EAT
Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia offers an extensive menu (and an ever present Mariachi band- no really, they’re open 24 hours a day), but the real treat here is their Mexican bakery—try the pecan pralines or buñuelos. Mi Tierra also shares a courtyard with El Mercado, a large semi-outdoor Mexican marketplace that sells everything from jewelry to Mexican artwork to homemade gifts.
For coronitas, chips & queso, and dishes rarely found outside of Mexico, head over to La Gloria, located in the Pearl Brewery (see below under Where to Shop).
What is a trip to Texas without BBQ? Check out Rudy’s BBQ in Leon Springs for a family style meal—brisket, ribs, beans and their famous BBQ sauce are a must. Rudy’s is technically right outside San Antonio city limits, but worth the trip to the beautiful Hill Country (plus you can continue past Leon Springs to Boerne or Gruene—known for their antiquing and dancehalls).
Even the fast food is good here! Breakfast tacos are a staple in South Texas, and Taco Cabana serves up some of the best. Try bacon, egg, and potato with (lots!) of hot sauce. For a quick lunch, you really can’t beat a Beef Poor Boy and iced tea from Bill Miller’s BBQ. (Both Taco Cabana and Bill Millers have numerous locations across San Antonio).
WHAT TO DO
The Alamo, aka Mission San Antonio de Valero, is merely one of the missions you can visit—so skip touristy downtown (or maybe just stop by the front of the Alamo for a photo) and head to the other San Antonio Missions located in a National Historical Park and enjoy the free guided tours, movies, and demonstrations.
Traveling with kids? Brave the heat for a trip to the San Antonio Zoo—or at the very least, a ride on the Eagle Train. Still up for more? You can actually ride the train to nearby Kiddie Park—America’s oldest children’s amusement park. Afterwards, grab a slice of German Chocolate cake down the street at Joseph’s Storehouse Restaurant & Bakery.
WHERE TO SHOP
Alamo Fiesta is a favorite with locals- they stock authentic otomi fabrics, embroidered Mexican dresses, guayabera shirts, jewelry and more.
While at the Pearl Brewery, you can grab a bite at the Pearl Farmers Market every Saturday (tip: keep an eye out for crepes at the Good Gluten Free Foods stall) or try the local CIA Bakery Café. When you’re at Pearl, stop by Blue Star Contemporary to get your art on.
WHERE TO STAY
As a native San Antonian, I haven’t stayed at many local hotels. Two places that everyone seems to want to stay at and ends up loving, are Hotel Havana, located on a quiet stretch of the North River Walk, and Hotel Valencia.
Erin Easley is a native Texan living and working in New York City. She also blogs about all things gluten free at easleyerin.tumblr.com.