San Antonio, Texas
The flavor of San Antonio, Texas, combines the best of the Lone Star State and its Southern neighbor. Historic Market Square is “one of the largest Mexican markets on this side of the border,” said Francisco Gallegos, tourism sales and experiential manager for the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Cortez family just celebrated Mi Tierra Café and Bakery’s 75th anniversary in business. The family also owns and operates another Market Square staple: La Margarita Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Mi Tierra is a festive, colorfully lit, 24-hour restaurant where Gallegos always recommends the chicken mole plate and the menudo.
The entire open-air Market Square “gives you a little taste of the hill country around San Antonio,” with a farmers market that peddles local produce, food booths that dish out flautas and gorditas, shops that sell handmade crafts and folklorico dancers that twirl onstage.
The 22-acre historic Pearl Brewery complex has been resurrected as a mixed-use retail and restaurant hub, and groups can take a water taxi there because it’s the last stop on the recently extended River Walk. Pearl Brewery Complex is home to a weekly farmers market and the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio school. It boasts nearly 20 restaurants, bars and cafes. Botika opened this summer with Peruvian-Asian fusion fare, and the live-music venue Jazz TX, featuring jazz, blues, big band, salsa and Texas swing, opened in August.
Other options include workshops about using food for health at the Pharm Table restaurant, cooking demonstrations at the Witte Museum, Culinaria Festival Week and the annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference.
New Orleans often gets the bulk of Louisiana’s culinary acclaim, but the state is covered with out-of-the-way, little-known establishments that locals love and visitors should discover.
At Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette, bring cash, an appetite and, if you visit on a Friday during Lent, a little patience because “the line goes out the door and down the street,” said Kyle Edmiston, director of the Louisiana Office of Tourism. That’s because Olde Tyme Grocery is known for its fried oyster and fried crawfish po’boys, although its cold-cut po’boys and hand-cut fries are also hugely popular. For dessert, the Borden’s store — remember the famous Elsie the Cow logo? — serves the best milkshakes in town, or groups can indulge in an Oreo cookie brownie at Indulge, Lafayette’s only dessert restaurant, said Barry Landry, director of communications.
Natchitoches’ local specialty is the meat pie, and Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant is famous for them — it’s in the name, after all. But the meat pies are “just as good” at French Market Express, which stuffs them with crawfish, shrimp or boudin, and also serves pastries and gigantic cinnamon rolls, Edmiston said. He added, “And the reason you can’t find a place like this anywhere else is because it’s inside a gas station.” Despite its location, the restaurant has a seating area, and because of its location, it’s a good stop for groups traveling on Interstate 49.
Although French, Cajun and Creole cuisine dominate Louisiana dishes, a Shreveport establishment has quickly earned a reputation for an Italian staple: the muffaletta, better known as the “muffy,” at Fertitta’s Delicatessen. “Out of nowhere, this place in Shreveport popped up, and it has tremendous business,” Edmiston said. “It’s really good, and it’s something different.” Also in Shreveport, the original Strawn’s Eat Shop opened in 1958. Strawn’s serves breakfast and lunch, but its motto is “home of the ice-box pie,” and the pies — strawberry, chocolate, coconut, butterscotch, banana and seasonal peach — “are outstanding,” he said.
Since the city’s founding, immigrants from around the world have settled in Baltimore. Its diverse demographics helped define its culinary culture, but so did the city’s specific geographic setting on the Patapsco River and the northern stretch of Chesapeake Bay.
“Italian, Greek, Polish — all these long-standing communities have wonderful culinary options in Baltimore,” said Amy Calvert, senior vice president of convention sales and services for Visit Baltimore. In Little Italy, “everybody has their favorite,” whether it’s Da Mimmo’s or Aldo’s Italian restaurants or any number of Italian delis with great subs and almond cookies.
On the seafood side, “forever and ever, people have thought of Baltimore as the home to have steamed crab because of Chesapeake Bay,” she said. Phillips Seafood is a long-standing go-to for fresh fish, and Faidley’s Seafood is famous for its jumbo lump crab cakes, the secret recipe for which “they won’t tell you even if you ask,” Calvert said.
Faidley’s is located in Lexington Market, which dates back to 1782 and is one of the longest continuously operated markets in the world. Inside, food stalls house butchers, bakers and candy-makers, and food vendors dish up barbecue, soul food and international far e. Lexington Market is a genuine version of what the “food-hall movement” is trying to re-create, Calvert said. “There are purveyors who have been in there and established in their community for generations.”
Although Baltimore has plenty of tried-and-true staples, James Beard Award-winning and -nominated chefs are leading the city’s emerging food scene at pioneering restaurants tucked away in hip neighborhoods. Woodberry Kitchen focuses on traditional fare that highlights seasonal ingredients from the Chesapeake region, and Charleston serves cuisine that’s rooted in French fundamentals and South Carolina low-country cooking.