Olive oil cake, pine nut mousse, curried blueberry compote, candied pine nuts from Jenn Riesman of Nonna Osteria.
As of last count, there were more than 100 restaurant, coffeeshop, bakery, tea shop, and food truck openings this year. At year's end, one tends to get reflective of all the appetizers tasted, dishes sampled and desserts devoured. Here are restaurants that left a lasting impression on our tastebuds this year, in no particular order.
Almost three years in the making, Battalion was the third Bowers & Goodman production and perhaps its loveliest — from beginning to end. After opening in late February, the Italian outpost wowed with its transformation of an old firehouse building into a sleek and bright restaurant with exposed walls, funky art and a gleaming kitchen led by chef Stefan Bowers. And then came the plates, one better than the next, all delivered by excellent servers and designed to show off technique by the cooks as well as produce by local farmers and ranchers. Pasta goddess Elena D'Agostino, who toils on fresh pasta daily from her two-story perch, is the best addition to the local food scene in several years. 604 S. Alamo St., (210) 816-0088, battalionsa.com.
Nonna Osteria //
Elena D'Agostino of Battalion
Maybe it was the year of pasta? Silo empire builder Patrick Richardson dropped a winner smack dab in front of Hemisfair with Nonna this year. Led by chef Luca Della Casa (you may recognize him from as one of 2014's "Food Network Star" hopefuls), the transformed restaurant that once held Polo's, Insignia and Tre Trattoria is making a name for itself with a new layout, flavorful sauces, tableside tartufo, fresh pastas, expert service, fabulous certified sommeliers such as Fabien Jacob (formerly with Bohanan's) and general manager Ingrid Marrero, a robust coffee and cocktail program, and fascinating desserts by pastry chef Jenn Riesman.
401 S. Alamo St., (210) 224-8800, nonnasa.com.
Or was it the year of Dady? Jason Dady and his team are nonstop and dropped the news of Range before Iron Chef Gauntlet's
finale. For this writer, at least, the revamped decor left little to remember Lüke San Antonio by, with its deep blue hues and branding by Hilmy. Expect fun new dishes (parisa), chophouse classics (citrusy Brussels sprouts), interactive items (shabu shabu, tableside martinis) and a sweet ending (blue cotton candy, y'all).
125 E. Houston St., (210) 227-4455, rangesa.com.
Pinch Boil House & Bia Bar //
The little pop-up that could, started by two totally unknown guys, turned into a tasty restaurant with some of the city's best flavors. Though The Rand building is quite literally enveloped with construction, don't let that stop you from visiting this unique shop. Vietnamese-style boils, garlicky sauces, fresh seafood, fun specials, loaded crab fries and familiar service are what set Pinch apart from the rest. 124 N. Main Ave., (210) 971-7774, pinchboilhouse.com.
Maybe I'm still emotional after watching Disney's alebrije-filled Coco
. Maybe I should pick up the phone and call my surviving grandparents. Maybe Burgerteca is Johnny Hernandez expertly tackling Mexico-inspired burgers with recognizable ingredients and quality execution inside a wildly colorful restaurant, filled with fantastical creatures, communal seating and an ice cream shop to boot? Whatever, I'm getting chile con queso fries. 403 Blue Star, Suite 105, (210) 635-0016, chefjohnnyhernandez.com.
Rosella at the Rand //
Quality cocktails. Craft beers. Local coffee. An accessible menu for most diners. A beautiful space. Throw it all together, and you've got one of our favorite openings. 114 Houston St., (210) 277-8574,
Outlaw Kitchens //
Neighborhood dining at its best, Outlaw Kitchens opened this fall with a seemingly impossible premise: serving dinner only for three hours a night, five days a week. But this isn't your run-of-the mill dinner. Plates (two options to choose from nightly) are curated by lauded and CIA-trained chef Paul Sartory and delivered to your table by co-owner, wife, Jackie of All Trades Peggy Howe, who converted their house into a line-work restaurant. Sit on the patio, or squeeze into the diner style bar-top, or call your order in for takeaway pick up, you can't go wrong. 2919 N. Flores St., (210) 300-4728, outlawkitchens.com.
Chas Market & Kitchen //
Much like Outlaw, JT Kim is bringing that neighborhood feel to Chas Market & Kitchen. Though technically open for the past 35 years, the corner store added all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue to its daily offerings. The bodega vibes make for a distinct dining experience, but the top-notch pork belly, spicy ribs and bulgogi make the wait oh-so-worth it. Call ahead to secure a spot. 1431 N. Pine St., (210) 227-1521.
Because La Cantera needs love, too, and not just in a "Rustic" kind of way. From our review: "Andrew Weissman, no stranger to high-end culinary concepts, steadfastly denies that Signature, his spare-no-expense new restaurant on the flanks of La Cantera’s golf greens (the building itself a former golf “academy”), is a fine-dining establishment. There are no tablecloths on the gleaming, recycled-wood tabletops, he asserts; the prices are below those of most such restaurants (tellingly true when compared to high-end steakhouses); and, it should be noted that the sommelier (maybe we should just call him the wine guy) may be suited but he is also tieless. Oh, and there’s a burger, albeit Wagyu, on the menu." 16401 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 247-0176, destinationhotels.com/signature-restaurant.
Carnitas Lonja //
The prep is different (namely it moved inside), but the puerco is still stellar and the hand-made tortillas keep getting better. Don't sleep on the jalapeños, guac, late-night menu or quesadillas found inside the Southside joint by former Lüke San Antonio cook Alex Paredes. 1107 Roosevelt Ave., (210) 612-3626.
Bottling Department Food Hall //
Five for the price of, well five. The Pearl's food hall opened its doors this summer and proximity and free valet service during lunch aside, one too many Current
staffers have spent too much of our paychecks and subsisted off noodles, doughnuts, smoothies, roasted chicken, burgers and the occasional drink or two from the bar. Thank for keeping us fed, Tenko, Maybelle's, The Good Kind, Bud's Rotisserie and Fletcher's Hamburgers. 312 Pearl Pkwy., bottlingdept.com.
Toro Kitchen + Bar //
Stone Oak nailed paellas, tablados, tapas and live music this year with this Spain-inspired nook by brother and sister team Gerardo and Vanessa De Anda. It's worth a visit for the wine and Coke calimochos alone. 115 N. 1604 E., Suite 1105, (210) 592 1075, torokitchenandbar.com.
NOLA Brunch & Beignets //
Though a few shaky visits kept this restaurant from making our top list, access to brunch favorites without having to resort to Snooze was a welcome addition to the St. Mary's Strip. Get there early or be ready for a wait. 111 Kings Court, (210) 320-1572, eatatnola.com.
An affordable happy hour, a near-perfect smoke roasted bird with lemon/honey just that "vaults handily to the top of local charts" made this neighborhood eatery, opened by chef Mark Weaver, a fun first act as we eagerly await act II. 2512 N. Main Ave., (210) 966-0404, peripherysa.com.
Boss Bagels //
Montreal meets New York at this shop where wood-fired bagels have a hard time staying on the racks. 6458 N. New Braunfels Ave., (210) 504-4888, bossbagel.com.