San Antonio’s Tex-Mex evolves into ‘Tex-Next’ culinary landscape

San Antonio—home of the puffy taco—has historically been known for its Tex-Mex cuisine. That Mexican-American fusion still dominates the city’s culinary landscape, but a new generation of modern cuisine, known as “Tex-Next,” has made its way to this Southwest city. San Antonio’s recent UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation recognizes the diverse, creative boom of locally-inspired restaurants. We’ve rounded of some San Antonio favorites and highlighted some new and noteworthy places to try.

Mi Tierra Café
218 Produce Row,, 210-225-1262
A San Antonio favorite since 1941, Mi Tierra Café serves authentic Mexican food and a warm Texas welcome. What started as a three-table café now is one of San Antonio’s bustling spots in the River Walk, complete with Christmas lights, bright colors, and live mariachi bands. Come for the carnitas, margaritas, and Mexican-style bread, stay for the vibrant atmosphere. Bonus: The restaurant is open 24 hours, so you can drop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

955 S. Alamo St.,, 210-212-8226
Right off the beaten path, this hole-in-the wall Tex-Mex locale lures the locals with its fresh handmade flour and corn tortillas that accompany its grilled fajitas and assortment of enchiladas. Try Tito’s famous beef fajita plate, but come early as space is limited in this authentic Mexican vibe restaurant.

Iron Cactus
200 River Walk, Suite 100,, 210-224-9835
Iron Cactus’ passion for creating bold, unique, and flavorful Mexican dishes is what makes it stand out from the rest. Its private patio views along the river make it a relaxing destination for a house favorite: Mexican meatloaf made with angus sirloin, chorizo, bacon, ranchero sauce, green chile bacon mash, and Mexican street corn, paired with a margarita. Indulge in the fresh, tableside guacamole complete with avocados, onions, peppers, tomatoes, citrus, and cilantro.

306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 101,, 210-314-3929
A James Beard Foundation nominee, Cured pairs regional ingredients with organic methods. Like its namesake, Cured has built its foundation on hand-crafted cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles. Located in the historic Pearl Administration Building, the restaurant “embodies the perfect blend of contemporary and historical atmosphere.”

Viva Villa Taqueria
905 Dolorosa in Market Square,, 210-987-8482
Forget only eating tacos on Tuesday at Viva Villa Taqueria! With a chef-inspired menu of more than 30 tacos, you can find something different to eat every day of the week. Looking for something other than tacos? Try the “liquid gold” velvety, melted yellow cheese dip to share.

Little Rhein Steakhouse
231 S. Alamo St.,, 210-225-2111
Enjoy a fine-dining experience along the River Walk, situated in the Bombach House in historic La Villita. This rustic space serves “perfectly prepared steaks,” seafood and fine wine with patio dining. Nearly 50 years later, this steakhouse is still a San Antonio favorite. You can also stop by its sister restaurant next door—The Fig Tree.

Maverick Texas Brasserie
710 S. St. Mary’s St.,, 210-973-6050
Both an “everyday hangout and a food lover’s destination,” this new brasserie features an open kitchen where most of the French-inspired fare is cooked in live wood fire. You will find rotisserie meats, fried sweet dough on the brunch menu, and “fire-kissed steaks” on the dinner menu. Situated in the historic and artsy neighborhood of Southtown, Maverick is conveniently located within walking distance to downtown San Antonio.

Chart House – Tower of the Americas
739 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.,, 210-223-3101
Dine 750 feet in the sky at the Chart House restaurant, located on the top of the Tower of Americas. The menu complements the local cuisine and adds an exotic touch with dishes like macadamia-crusted mahi. Book a table online for panoramic views of San Antonio’s skyline and creative cuisine.

Con Safos
607 Hemisfair Plaza Way,, 210-514-5006
Meaning “with respect,” Con Safos brings the spirit of San Antonio alive with its art, music, and food. Situated in Yanaguana Garden inside the newly developed Hemisfair, diners can enjoy a variety of entertainment in the park or live music on the deck. The spot opened in January 2018. The cuisine is inspired by the Tex-Mex culture of working-class Mexican American families with fun and creative takes on familiar dishes. For example, the Concha Burger is sandwiched between a Mexican sweet bread bun.

The quest for puffy tacos

Many places will vouch for the “best puffy taco in town.” The bubbly, fried shell that’s neither crispy nor crunchy is home to San Antonio, so you won’t want to miss this Southwestern treat. Here are a few acclaimed puffy taco locations:

Henry’s Puffy Tacos – Express
3202 W. Woodlawn Ave.,, 210-433-7833

606 West Ave.,, 210-732-5222

Ray’s Drive Inn
822 SW 19th St.,, 210-432-7171

Pete’s Tako House
502 Brooklyn Ave.,, 210-224-2911