San Antonio is experiencing a renaissance in dining, and being designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy doesn’t hurt.
San Antonio’s food scene is booming. The convergence of flavors, cultures, and cuisines has placed the city on a national platform as one of the country’s fastest-growing culinary destinations. New restaurants are opening all over town, bringing with them an influx of talent and innovation to celebrate their cultural heritage. Here are some of my favorite culinary experiences in San Antonio, which reveal why this is a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
Culinary Roots of the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
San Antonio’s culinary renaissance began as a grassroots movement, with chefs opening casual restaurants but featuring excellent food. This new generation of chefs focuses on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and making everything from scratch.
So with all that in mind, my first stop was the Little Rhein Prost Haus on the River Walk.
Exploring German Cuisine in San Antonio
If you’ve ever been to a German restaurant, you understand how they shower you with platefuls of steaming goodness. Often you find yourself at the point that you can’t take another single bite. I know that’s how my German grandmother was with food. Now combine that with world cuisine and culture, and you have yourself not only one of the best restaurants in San Antonio but a vast array of food that fills you to the brim, and still, you want to keep eating.
If I had to guess, I would say this is only part of why San Antonio has achieved the distinguished honor of being named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
Little Rhein Prost Haus is in the historic Bombach House built in 1847 and is the second oldest house in the county. Originally home to Bombach’s family, it has also been a boarding house, a grocery store, a private school, and most interesting of all, a hangout for desperados. Since 1967, it has been a steakhouse. But that wasn’t the final stop for the Bombach House. Beginning in March of 2021, it hosts one of the best German restaurants in San Antonio—the Little Rhein Prost Haus.
The Biergarten at Little Rhein Prost Haus
Not only is the food outstanding at Little Rhein Prost Haus, but it also has a terraced Biergarten with views directly facing the River Walk. Inside, there is a Bavarian Bier room and Opera Haus, perfect for eating and entertainment. You’ll find live music in the Biergarten. However, the nice thing is that the atmosphere was utterly talkable. You didn’t have to shout for someone to hear you.
Seated in the Biergarten facing the River Walk, I glanced at the menu. My drink was called Oi, Oi, Oi, and just the name gave me visions of bier maids serving steins of beer. The Oi, Oi, Oi is a mix of Blueberry Pomegranate flavors, rum, and vanilla vodka. It went down far too easy, which was my clue that I shouldn’t have another one.
Bavarian Food a Little Rhein Prost Haus
Naturally, I had to follow the beer up with one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in quite some time—the Prost Haus Tower! It included “a little bit” of everything. Little did I know that a little bit meant full servings of just about everything on the menu. There was Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Polish sausage, and Nuremberg sausages served with Haus Potato Salad, Sauerkraut, Kraut Balls, Deviled Eggs (topped with bacon), Prost Haus Sauce, Pickled Vegetables, assorted mustards, and a warm Bavarian Pretzel with Bier Cheese, just like Grandma used to make. Of course, I toted more than two-thirds of all that back to my hotel.
The Little Rhein Prost Haus is a stop you shouldn’t pass up when visiting San Antonio. It truly is one of the best meals and experiences I’ve had food-wise in some time. Grandma would be proud.
Pharm Table Blends Food and Botanicals
A couple of days later, after plowing through all that leftover goodness from the Little Rhein Prost Haus, I awaited with anticipation my visit to another phenomenal establishment called Pharm Table. Chef and Owner Elizabeth Johnson has created an epic organic, plant-forward establishment where everyone is friendly and knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions you may have. Everyone seems happy to be there.
Everything at Pharm Table is locally sourced and globally inspired. Chef Johnson uses spices and herbs from all over the world in the recipes. There is no dairy, but you can add meat to any dish on the menu.
In addition, all the spices are medicinal—botanicals that are the crux of so many of our pharmaceuticals. There’s even a spice library on the restaurant wall, so you can see everything that goes into your food. The James Beard Foundation refers to Chef Johnson as “the food is medicine guru”.
The chef is part of an entire team of locals who were instrumental in getting the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy moved forward and into reality for San Antonio.
Pharm Table Has a Mission to Heal People and the Planet
Pharm Table’s mission is to heal the planet and people through food, and it’s a labor of love. According to Chef Johnson, “We consume so much sugar, meat, dairy, and processed foods, that our bodies are in chronic inflammation, leading us to every known ailment—e.g., cancer, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, leaky gut, etc. So, you can heal yourself with food, and you can kill yourself with food.” It’s a double-edged sword.
Lunch at Pharm Table
While I decided what I wanted from this delectable menu, I had a cup of herbal tea that was a combination of sweet and lemony. It made me feel at home. All meals here begin with the ginger meal starter, which is very flavorful. It is served with a spoon that usually accompanies Miso soup. That one little spoonful purportedly calms the vagus nerve, allowing us to digest our food correctly. A few minutes later, you have your food.
I ordered Israeli-style Hummus and Vegetables with Grass-Fed Beef Kafka prepared with Persian spices. So good. The hummus was spiced perfectly, and the vegetables were firm, fresh, delicious, and so filling. I’ve never had beef so tender and savory as the Beef Kafka.
After such a wonderful lunch, my server suggested I try the Brazilian Spiced Pineapple for dessert. Chef cooks the pineapple in a simple syrup of coconut sugar with star anise, cloves, allspice, and Ceylon cinnamon. So unlike any dessert I’ve ever had, it was sweet and satisfying and didn’t leave me wanting anything else. Not only is it tasty, but it’s good for you.
Leave Pharm Table Feeling Good About Your Food
I learned so much speaking with “the food medicine guru” during that lunch. The confluence of cultures in San Antonio, like the Spanish and German influences, and that food can heal you if you pay attention to what you eat.
This restaurant is truly a remarkable place, and even the vibe and atmosphere feel good. It makes you feel like you’ve just stepped into a place where, when you walk out, you’ll be on your way to good health. Chef Johnson has not only cultivated a restaurant you want to return to again and again, but she’s also a leading force in moving San Antonio forward into cultivating a healthier and happier lifestyle. Who doesn’t want that?
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San Antonio as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
With so many of the best restaurants in San Antonio, it’s hard to know where to start. (We did share some of our favorite things to do if you only have two days in San Antonio.) The merging of flavors, cultures, and cuisines has created new offerings of unique menus and methods. This renaissance in food shows how food can help us and bring us together as a community while understanding our diverse culinary heritage.
One thing is clear: San Antonio is one of the most exciting cities in Texas to dine in right now, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Go. You know you want to experience the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Be sure to see Wander for more restaurants and experiences to explore in this gastronomy city and to discover everything there is to do when you visit Texas.