If my scale is to be believed, I ate a lot of food this year. As I’ve said before, 2013 was quite the banner year for the San Antonio food scene. I had just as difficult a time choosing the best dishes I ate this year as I will losing gained weight, but nonetheless, here’s my list of things I couldn’t get enough of in 2013.
Faux Pop Tarts from Bakery Lorraine, 511 E Grayson
Yes, Jeremy Mandrell and Anne Ng make stellar croissants with real butter and several jillion folds. We all know the croissants are awesome, but one of my favorite treats out of Bakery Lorraine was a buttery and preservative-free blueberry pop tart. The apple and strawberry iterations were quite winsome as well, but I’m a sucker for the just-sweet-enough blueberry filling.
Oyster & lobster mushroom pizza from Barbaro, 2720 McCullough
It’s safe to say I enjoyed most Barbaro menus. The taleggio, kale and hash brown pie was an instant classic, but my personal fave came in the way of cow’s milk mozzarella, beefy oyster and colorful lobster mushrooms with a dainty sprinkling of chives. This hard-to-top pie is made for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Country captain chicken from The Granary, 602 Avenue A
Back in January, I had one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Period. During my fourth or fifth visit to The Granary, I ordered what sounded like a simple chicken dish. Instead, what arrived at my table was an elegant display of ingredients. The popped rice, crispy-thin onions, the raisin jelly dots that adorned the left side of the plate; all of it gelled effortlessly with the moist smoked chicken. What set the dish apart was the fragrant and light curry consommé that tied everything together with a savory bow. The only thing I wanted to do after polishing off the dish was listen to sad Adele songs.
Pork gyoza from Kimura, 512 Pecan, Ste 102
While the shoyu ramen held its own charms, the show stealer at downtown’s Kimura was the simple gyoza. Chef Michael Sohocki combined garlic, pork and ginger for a fresh and comforting appetizer. Served piping hot, the gyoza is not to be missed.
Steak frites from Minnie’s Tavern, 328 E Josephine
Am I still upset that I didn’t order the steak frites during my first visit at Minnie’s? Yes. My skate wing was fine, but the presentation was lacking. There’s something to be said for a medium-rare slab of boeuf topped with a creamy sauce au poivre made with Cognac, peppercorns and heavy cream. The dish was finished with The Luxury’s now-signature fries and a healthy dose of perfectly grilled onions. Needless to say, this is now my dish of choice.
Texas citrus salad from The Special Projects Social
To close out the summer and celebrate three years of Special Projects Social dinners, chef/caterer Tim McDiarmid prepared a five-course menu with the help of a dynamite cast. The vibrant citrus salad with pickled fennel, pistachios, olives and chilies was topped with a light drizzle of Salud de Paloma extra virgin olive oil out of Dripping Springs. Juicy citrus flesh, chewy pistachios and the vibrant chilies made for a meaty salad that rivaled the stone fruit crostata for best dish of the night.
Brunch banh mi from Singhs Vietnamese Food Truck
Mexican bollilos were the vessel of choice for this ambitious breakfast sandwich. The freshly sliced carrots, plenty of cilantro and crisp bacon played second fiddle to the real the star of the show: delicately fried avocado, which added crunchy and creamy textures. I’ll forgive the use of a ubiquitous fried egg—this sandwich was a dream.
Lamb meatballs from Stella Public House, 1414 S Alamo
A sweet little starter, the honestly seasoned meatballs, served in the same cast iron pan they were seared in, prepared diners for what was to come during their time at Stella’s. You’ll want to sop up the remaining spicy marinara with your crusts.
Squash blossom soup from Taps Y Tapas, 1012 N Flores
Heart-warming, filling and reminiscent of the sopa mom made during sick days, the squash blossom offering at Taps y Tapas was served in a deceptively humble paper bowl with a wild flurry of tortilla strips. The broth alone is worth a visit.
Lamb dumplings from Tuk Tuk Tap Room, 1702 Broadway
Maybe I’m really into dumplings and savory soups? Or maybe these fragrant and comforting dumplings filled with perfectly cooked lamb were worth the trek to Tuk Tuk. The rich broth of ginger, scallions and earthy mushrooms was good enough to slurp.
Honorable mention: Crispy Pig Belly Salad from Beat Street Coffee Co. & Bistro, 2512 N Main
This list wouldn’t be complete without the pork dish that simultaneously restored my faith in pork belly and salads. Artfully plated by former head chef Jeff Wiley, the salad was visually appealing and showed off the chef’s attention to detail down to the very last parsnip.