20 of the Best Things I Ate in Texas

They say everything is bigger in Texas—and I didn’t believe it until I got there and tried their food myself. Last March, I was fortunate enough to be sent to the US for a business trip, and of course, I didn’t waste time exploring what the Lone Star State has to offer in terms of cuisine! Who cares about gadgets and shopping? All I could think about was eating as much of Texas as I can, and indeed, I was able to achieve that goal! In Texas, you will find that the food is a mix of American and Mexican, and below, I have compiled the top 20 things I devoured in San Antonio and Austin. My mouth (and eyes) watered just recalling all these things, and if I were to go back and have to eat all these again, I would. Enjoy!

1 | Brisket, Ribs, and Pulled Pork from The Salt Lick BBQ

Texans are proud of their BBQ, and as a visitor, one must not miss dining in one of the many BBQ places that abound. One of the best is The Salt Lick—a perennial favorite among locals and tourists—whose popularity skyrocketed after getting featured in Man VS Food. Their offerings are amazing: the brisket is exquisite, perfectly seasoned, tender, and delightfully smoky; the ribs’ rub tasted incredible. The pulled pork is a must-try as well. There’s a selection of sides to pair your meats with, or you can stick to the pickles and bread, both complimentary. Make sure you check out the pit and watch all the staff do their thing flawlessly. For a more laid-back experience, dine in the alfresco area—you can buy beers from the nearby stall or bring your own bottle. The queues can be long so pack a lot of patience (around 1 to 2 hours waiting time).

2 | Everything from Chama Gaucha

Photo credit: chamagaucha.com. I have to borrow this photo as my own photos won't do them justice.

I’m not kidding, I literally mean everything. Chama Gaucha is a rather pricey Brazilian steakhouse in San Antonio boasting of 12 different types of prime meats cuts and an impressive salad bar—all yours unlimited, for around $50. Start with the salad bar, filled with the best cheeses and cold cuts I’ve tasted yet, alongside fresh greens, veggies (sundried tomatoes!), pasta salads, and breads (Brazilian cheese bread!). But don’t get yourself full with those (I know, it’s hard), because the meats will leave you insane. Gauchos, or Brazilian chefs, walk around carrying skewers of freshly cooked meat—all you have to do is pick! My favorites are the fraldinha (bottom sirloin), cordeiro (rack of lamb), rib eye, filet mignon, and picanha—their signature prime sirloin cut. The meats are 100% USDA Prime, aged for 45 days, and seasoned expertly—letting their natural flavors shine.

3 | Mexican Chicken from Pollos Asados Los Nortenos

Sometimes, the simplest dishes are the best—and this holds true for Pollos Asados Los Nortenos, a modest eatery flocked by locals of San Antonio. In my quest for non-touristy dining places, this is where I found myself: in a dimly lit, busy, casual restaurant teeming with people, smoke, and delicious smells. The aromas intoxicate you (in a good way) as you approach and enter the diner. The meal I had here was one of the best and cheapest—for $7, I had half a chicken, dirty rice, corn tortillas, and a grilled jalapeno. The chicken is herby and flavorful with hints of spice, slightly charred also (which I like). It’s hard not to eat it without stuffing your mouth with the equally delicious rice. Order some beans and Coke to complete the meal. This restaurant is totally worth the hunt!

4 | Habanero Roast Beef Sandwich from The Station Café

I don’t think I have ever tasted sandwiches as good as the ones from Texas. The Station Café, a few blocks away from our office in San Antonio, is a sandwich shop flocked—and I mean flocked—by residents and employees within the vicinity, and one bite into their Habanero Roast Beef Sandwich and I knew why. THEY MAKE MEAN SANDWICHES. The roast beef is so flavorful and melt-in-the-mouth! Topped with melted mozzarella and garlic habanero aioli, the beef goes from delicious to unforgettable. Even the bread is so fucking good. Best of all, no sandwich is priced above $6. Don’t be fooled by its Pinoy carinderia-like interiors—every other shop nearby would probably close one day but this one would stay.

5 | SmokeShack Burger from Shake Shack

Going to the US and not eating burgers is a mortal sin—you have to try as many as possible if you’re a burger lover, or at least the famous ones if you’re not a huge fan. I, of course, had to try Shake Shack—originally just a burger cart in New York. I got the SmokeShack, a cheeseburger topped with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and their signature ShackSauce. The patty, made of 100% Angus beef, is PERFECT—cooked medium but doesn’t disintegrate, and with a slight char. I LOVE IT. Make it a double if you’re hungry, and pair it with some fries. As always, in US fast food places, soda is refillable. This just might be the best burger I’ve had yet (in case you’re wondering, I’m not a fan of overloaded burgers).

6 | Macho Nachos from Cris Madrid’s

Here’s what I do every day after work back in Texas: I try a new restaurant or bar (alone) and talk to strangers. At Brick, my favorite hangout spot at the Bluestar, I made friends with the bartender and asked him to recommend non-touristy places in San Antonio. He pointed me to Cris Madrid’s—apparently the locals’ favorite burger place to indulge in sinful things, operating since 1977. I loved their Tostada and Cheddar Cheezy Burgers but I must say that it’s their Macho Nachos that stole the show—loaded with delicious beans, ground beef, and cheese, and served with delicious homemade salsa. The order queue is crazy but it was worth the wait!

7 | Everything from Azro Authentic Afghan Cuisine

When someone invites you to try “Afghan cuisine”, never say no. Fortunately for me, my Pinoy friends in Texas are such big foodies, I knew I could totally trust their taste in food. I know nothing about Afghan cuisine except that it was similar to Mediterranean, but I do know that everything we ate in Azro was so freaking good—from the appetizer sampler consisting of bolani gandana (leek turnovers), bolani kachaloo (potato turnovers), sambosa (ground beef puff pastry), and aushak (Afghan ravioli stuffed with scallions and spices, topped with yogurt and meat sauce) to the variety of mains we ordered like chicken and beef kababs, kabuli palow (lamb shank with basmati rice) and lamb quorma. No offense Azro but FUCK WHY ARE YOU SO GOOD?

8 | Fish Fillet with Basil, Beef Lo Mein, Egg Something... OK Fine, Everything from Tang Street

Normally you wouldn’t be able to force me to eat Chinese food when traveling but my friends swear by Tang Street in San Antonio, and I knew I wasn’t going to be eating mediocre Chinese. And upon entry, I could tell it was legit: all the diners were Chinese. I refused to take photos here not only because I was so hungry but also because everything in front of me was so good. The Fish Fillet with Basil? OMG. I couldn’t remember how many times I announced to the table that it was so delicious. The Beef Lo Mein? DAMN. Even the scrambled egg thing whose name I forgot was so good I that didn’t know what to do with my life after that. On the way out, I had to approach the kitchen and thank the chef for such a delicious meal.

9 | The Democrat Taco from Torchy’s Tacos

“Damn Good Tacos”, their slogan says—and damn right, they’re good. The Democrat is shredded beef barbacoa topped with fresh avocado, cheese, onions, and cilantro on a fresh corn tortilla, served with delicious tomatillo salsa. This was my welcome meal in Texas immediately after leaving the airport—and I knew then the whole trip was going to be delicious. The beef was so good—and generous servings too! Get some chips to munch on with your taco, or a cold bottle of local beer—like Shiner Bock or one of the many Texas craft beers (my tip: don’t order anything you’re familiar with).

10 | Super Mangonada from Piñas Locas

I love weird combinations, so it was no surprise that the mangonada appealed to me. A mangonada is a Mexican drink—of dessert, if you prefer to call it so—made with ice-blended mangoes, mango bits, lime juice, chamoy sauce, and chili powder. It’s sweet, a bit sour, and spicy all the same time—one of the most unique things I’ve tried here. I bet it’s pretty easy to replicate at home (where to find chamoy sauce?). Order some nachos or fritos chili and you’re afternoon is complete.

The Next Ten:

11 | Double Double Burger from In-N-Out Burger

12 | Twice Fried Crab Fat Chicken Wings and Black Mole Chicken from Hot Joy – this restaurant would’ve been in my top 10, if I hadn’t tried Hey Handsome in BGC yet

13 | El Rey Sandwich from Halycon (Bluestar Complex) – avocado and grilled chicken with romaine, cheese, pico de gallo, and jalapeno-cilantro dressing

14 | Del Rey Tacos from Barriba Cantina – shredded beef, chipotle slaw, caramelized onions, avocado tomatillo, pico de gallo, cotija cheese

15 | Hawaiian Poke Stack from Yard House

16 | The Turkey Leg from Six Flags San Antonio

17 | Sirloin Steak and Loaded Sweet Potato from Longhorn Steakhouse

18 | Pork Chop from Perry’s Steakhouse 

19 | Pioneer Pancakes from The Guenther House (San Antonio’s biggest flour company)

20 | This Dessert I Forgot the Name of from Six Flags San Antonio (half-eaten too, LOL)

Have you been to Texas? Did you love their BBQ? Their tacos? Which was your favorite restaurant? Your favorite dish?

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