With its colorful mangonadas, spicy chili con carne and sweet and sour chamoy cups, Chamoy City Limits’ brick-and-mortar location has so many things going on, it almost seems like it shouldn’t work.
Yet it does. Owner Ana Fernandez has tapped into San Antonio’s rich, storied food culture and created something all her own.
You might recognize Fernandez from her popular food ventures — the Institute of Chili, a food truck inspired by San Antonio’s Chili Queens, or Chamoy City Limits, another food truck specializing in icy sweet treats often embellished with its namesake sweet and tangy pickled fruit sauce.
During the week, the recently opened restaurant provides Fernandez with the space she needs to operate her catering company. On the weekends, it opens the doors to the public while the like-named food truck travels to locations throughout the city.
Don’t be surprised if the new eatery is busy, as visitors and families fill the shop to sample its signature over-the-top raspas and savory Tex-Mex bites. Fernandez and her team keep the lines moving fast and the patrons happy with eats such as chicken fideo — finished with cilantro and a dash of Valentina hot sauce — and the brisket waffle, a sweet Belgian waffle topped with 12-hour smoked brisket. And, of course, it also dishes up hearty red chili, served with homemade sweet cornbread and jalapeños.
“I started the [Institute of Chili] to pay homage to the original San Antonio Chili Queens, and now we serve it here,” Fernandez said. “We use real peppers. The process is very laborious, but you can taste the difference. This is the state dish, so we wanted to make sure that it really honored that history.”
Fernandez also happens to be a trained professional artist who specializes in painting urban landscapes of South Texas. Surprisingly, the walls of Chamoy City Limits are largely empty, but Fernandez has big plans for the decor in coming months.
“I don’t rush into things,” she said. “Eventually I will put photos up, but I don’t want to do something I regret. What I do has to say something.”
The art came before the food trucks, but Fernandez applies the thoughtfulness and intention of her visual work to the restaurant menu. That’s especially evident in the deserts, which is where Chamoy City Limits shines. Its offerings span from keto-friendly options and colorful chamoy cups to sweet and tangy ice cream combinations.
The pineapple upside down cake offers a warm spongy base served with homemade vanilla ice cream and, naturally, chamoy. It’s likely to take diners back to childhood visits with their abuelos. A crunchy Norwegian krumkake cone, also made in house, provides a crunchy base for sweet and luscious scoops of corn in a cup-inspired ice cream — again topped with chamoy.
Those textures and flavors could easily become overpowering or create unappetizing combinations, but Fernandez controls every aspect of the process, making them work well together.
The Rusa Classic, a pink beverage that’s seemingly a cross between a raspa and a slushy, is topped with sour candy, homemade chamoy and pickled fruits, providing an experience that’s sweet, sour and bubbly all at once.
The entire dessert menu is customizable, and though it offers endless combinations and options, they rely on the same core ingredients. There are a ton of raspa places in San Antonio, but few use so many fresh ingredients and create so many dishes from scratch.
Friendly advice to diners, however: don’t expect to finish the raspas or chamoy cups alone. And if you want to try multiple dishes, bring partners to help you finish. Multi-generational families and friends filled the restaurant booths to share their dishes with each other.
“I like the idea of being a place where people can make a new memory — having a menu that evokes the past but gives people something new they haven’t had before,” Fernandez said. “I like the idea of being that lady for families, being that lady who made the crazy colorful raspas and chamoy cups that were unlike anything else.”
The restaurant is open from noon to 8 p.m., Friday through Saturday.
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