Eating Up San Antonio: La Gloria, The Monterey and The Esquire

Categories: On the Road

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
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.

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.

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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.

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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.



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14 comments
Johncmata
Johncmata

Tables were switched out in late spring at are all wooden tops now over at the Monterey.

RebeRese
RebeRese

The man in the video is Mike Casey - local art patron and southtown godfather.  Late Tuesday I happened to swing by The Esquire for a night cap with friends and saw him on our way out.  They were celebrating his birthday.  That aside, The Esquire is a legendary place and it's rumored that JFK drank there the night before he died.

Rexster314
Rexster314

Whew!! I was worried. Back in the day (20 some odd) we drove from SA back to Houston after an afternoon of margaritas at La Fogata. Didn't remember leaving SA until we got to Flatonia and stopped in Grumpys (now closed)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

That would be my boyfriend, who graciously stayed sober as a bishop so that I could enjoy San Antonio's bounty.

Rexster314
Rexster314

My only question is: After all the food and imbibing of spirits, who drove back to Houston at 1AM in the morning?

Debbie Weatherford
Debbie Weatherford

I am going to San Antonio this weekend and will take this article. Thanks. Can't wait to try some of the places you recommended.

lauren covington
lauren covington

hooray for this article! SA often gets overlooked.. people love to call it lame, but it really is so lovely and laid back. we look for any excuse to get out there!

Nicholas Dion
Nicholas Dion

The Monterey is amazing. San Antonio's version of Austin's Barley Swine. I wish Houston would catch up. And no, Hay Merchant is not close.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

The Esquire is a cool place. They have one of the biggest Door Lords in San Antonio. Cool guy. I almost walked out on our drinking companions last time we visited when he asked for a Coors Light. TA

Dorothy N. Nelson
Dorothy N. Nelson

Hotel Havana. It's got an amazing patio and such a cool vibe...DemoforFrank.blogspot.com

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

I guess that break-up diet worked wonderfully!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

No, but Dough and Gwendolyn are both on my to-try list for the next visit!

Tara
Tara

Dough is excellent. Gwendolyn is meh...I wouldn't go out of my way to go there. Other great places are Bliss (owned by Chef Mark Bliss) just across the parking lot from The Monterey, Il Sogno (owned by Chef Andrew Weissman) in the Pearl, Sustenio (Executive Chef David Gilbert) in the Elian Hotel way out by The Rim at 1604 & I-10, & Luke, a John Besh restaurant that has Chef Stephen McHugh at the helm.

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