Eating Up San Antonio: La Gloria, The Monterey and The Esquire
Until this past Tuesday, I didn't realize how easy a day trip to San Antonio could be. Thanks to the recently raised speed limit on I-10, you can speed to the Alamo in three easy hours (or less, if you set your cruise control just above the new 75-mile-per-hour speed limit...not that I'm advocating driving 82, ahem). Now that I realize this, it's only a matter of time before I'm back again for a leisurely Saturday -- most of which will undoubtedly be spent at The Monterey and The Esquire Tavern.
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Why a random Tuesday day trip to San Antonio? That doesn't really matter; suffice to say that after a day spent with a very energetic seven-year-old at Sea World (worth the $60 ticket, by the way, although the $7 pepperoni pizzas are a rip-off), I was ready for some grown-up dining with friends. Randy Rouse, owner of Shiner Restaurant & Bar in nearby Shiner, suggested we start at La Gloria.
An icehouse near the old Pearl Brewery in the newest hip part of San Antonio, La Gloria serves Mexican street food and a terrific selection of cocktails. It's slightly expensive Mexican street food, to be certain, but the atmosphere and the view onto the river make the price worth it.
The fact that the food itself is relatively solid helps, too. We ordered an array of tacos, sopes, panuchos, tostadas and a ceviche, which ranged from just-okay to excellent. On the just-okay side of the spectrum were the beef tacos ("too whitebread," declared my boyfriend) and the ceviche, which didn't carry the heat promised by its habanero peppers.
On the excellent side, however, was everything else: a sope topped with soft, fatty chicharrones in a vibrant orange salsa was just the right combination of chewy and crispy at the edges; a tostada bearing only dark refried beans, tomatoes, avocados and queso fresco was crisp and refreshing; and the panucho -- a fried masa cake stuffed with more of those dusky refried beans -- carried my favorite meat of the night, achiote-infused shreds of cochinita pibil topped with tangy slices of pickled red onions.
Set off with La Gloria's tart green salsa, the panucho made me despair slightly at the fact that these little cakes are so hard to find in Houston. (I probably need to hit up Durango's soon.)
I'd give La Gloria a hearty recommendation for tourists looking to experience some excellent Mexican food while in San Antonio despite reservations about the price. As my boyfriend noted, "Paying $30 for Mexican street food is the very definition of gentrification." But it's accessible -- something most tourists absolutely look for when dining in unfamiliar terrain -- and you do pay more for the privilege.