South Texas

Biga on the Banks

203 S. Saint Mary's St., San Antonio

Coldest days are often best at Gilhooley's, as the oysters are at their plumpest and the fire pits outside on the ramshackle patio are at their warmest.
Robb Walsh
Coldest days are often best at Gilhooley's, as the oysters are at their plumpest and the fire pits outside on the ramshackle patio are at their warmest.
"A classic that keeps reinventing itself brilliantly" is how former Morning News food critic Bill Addison describes Dallas' venerable Mansion.
Sara Kerens
"A classic that keeps reinventing itself brilliantly" is how former Morning News food critic Bill Addison describes Dallas' venerable Mansion.

Details

The Voters Bill Addison, Atlanta Magazine (formerly at The Dallas Morning News) Jodi Bart, Tasty Touring Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News Addie Broyles, Austin American-Statesman Teresa Byrne-Dodge, My Table Magazine John DeMers, Delicious Mischief Teresa Gubbins, CultureMap Dallas Syd Kearney, Houston Chronicle and 29-95.com Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram John Mariani, Esquire Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman Hanna Raskin, Seattle Weekly (formerly at the Dallas Observer) J.C. Reid, Texas Monthly and 29-95.com Scott Reitz, Dallas Observer Ron Ruggless, Nation’s Restaurant News Patricia Sharpe, Texas Monthly Edmund Tijerina, San Antonio Express-News Daniel Vaughn, Full Custom Gospel BBQ Robb Walsh, Houstonian Magazine Virginia B. Wood, Austin Chronicle

How They Voted Voters were asked to choose the 30 Texas restaurants that they believed every Texan should eat at once before they die and that any visitor to the state should have on his or her hit list. The rules were loose, except for the following requirements: The restaurant must still be open and the general public should at least have a shot at being able to eat there (i.e., no members-only restaurants or private dining clubs). Voters were encouraged to consider restaurants across every price range, every cuisine and every part of the state. The results were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and tallied, with the restaurants listed above receiving ‚ÄĒ by far ‚ÄĒ the majority of the votes across the board. Geographical regions for the purposes of the list were aligned with the seven regions traditionally defined by the Texas Department of Transportation.

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210-225-0722

biga.com

Tijerina jokingly refers to chef/owner Bruce Auden as "the Susan Lucci of Beard nominations." With seven under his belt, Auden is clearly doing something right here at Biga on the Banks, which is by far the best spot to dine along San Antonio's touristy River Walk. That's because the stunning multistory restaurant serves legitimately dazzling food instead of overpriced tourist-trappy dishes. Auden's "blend of South Texas and Asian influences was groundbreaking at Charlie's 517 in Houston," recalls Tijerina, and "even after all these years, he still produces an excellent vision of South Texas on a plate."

Mi Tierra

218 Produce Row, San Antonio

210-225-1262

mitierracafe.com

Even if the market surrounding Mi Tierra is "a little sad," Kearney says, "once inside the doors, this 24-hour margarita-fueled spot is a merry place." Tijerina agrees, asking of the festive restaurant that's served patrons for over six decades: "Where else can you get huevos rancheros 24 hours a day?" Between the strolling bands of mariachis, Christmas lights blooming across the walls like creeping ivy, an aesthetic that can best be described as a piñata-and-papel-picado explosion and a full-service panadería in front, Tijernia says: "This is the best example of the more-is-more ethos that is San Antonio."

Ray's Drive Inn

822 Southwest 19th St., San Antonio

210-432-7171

"If you want to start an argument in San Antonio," Tijerina says, "just ask who does the best puffy tacos." Our food writers agreed that Ray's Drive Inn does the best turn on San Antonio's most popular native food — narrowly edging out Henry's Puffy Tacos — something sure to fan the flames of the ongoing feud between the two restaurants' followings. With its scruffy West Side setting in a deliciously retro drive-in and its neon-lit claim as the original home of the puffy taco — on the menu since 1966 — Ray's is "a piece of puro San Antonio," Tijerina says.


Panhandle Plains

The Big Texan Steak Ranch

7701 Interstate 40 East, Amarillo

806-372-6000

bigtexan.com

The Big Texan is one of those terrifically larger-than-life restaurants that — like Mi Tierra — wave their "everything is bigger in Texas" flag with emphatic zeal. The yellow and blue exterior — fronted by a giant bull advertising its notorious 72-ounce steak — looks almost circus-like under the wide-open skies of Amarillo off the famous Route 66, and the atmosphere inside isn't all that different. If you can eat that steak — nicknamed "The Texas King" — and its sides in less than an hour, the $72 meal is free. This decades-old challenge is why Kearney calls it "the spot where competition eating was born." If you're into voyeurism, you can even watch competitors take on the challenge daily on webcams via The Big Texan's website.

Perini Ranch

3002 FM 89 #A, Buffalo Gap

325-572-3339

periniranch.com

There's something reassuring about a restaurant whose address is simply a bunch of numbers before and after a Farm Road designation. Perini Ranch is classic country at its best, as the rural address would indicate. And as its location on the cattle-dotted West Texas plains would suggest, Perini Ranch is best known for its beef. Its mesquite-smoked peppered beef tenderloin combines two of the state's best ingredients — Texas beef and mesquite wood — and the impressively authentic ranch setting in tiny Buffalo Gap gives the impression that dusty cowboys fresh off the trail will wander in for some fried catfish or chicken at any moment.

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53 comments
therowdydog
therowdydog

Marble Falls is the only location on the "Hill Country" list that is actually in the Hill Country. Just sayin'.

elizabeth.joslin
elizabeth.joslin

I do not feel much pity for those in cities that have/cuisines that have already been well represented. If you re-search, I am sure you will find food in east and west Texas that also has deep roots and is delicious. Maybe do something on those areas in the future? Or small town food? Something, to make up for this representational oversight.

bsmith37
bsmith37

Where is Austin the the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q located?

melissamyers2
melissamyers2

Go to perini ranch and you will be amazed! Incredible food / perfect sharing sizes! Incredible authentic flavors and great atmosphere! Their beef is incredible and this place makes one proud to call Texas home!

Vndallas
Vndallas

When I first moved to Dallas, I was constantly told to head over to Fort Worth for Joe T's.  I finally went after being here for about two years, and boy was I disappointed.  I've never seen a place so over-hyped. The food tasted as if it came out of a supermarket freezer.   Then after that, I found that every hyped place I tried in Fort Worth was the same, a major disappointment..Kincaids, Cattlemen's, Angelo's BBQ, and Reatta were all nothing special.  No wonder the last time I was in Cow Pie, all the new restuarants are either chains or Dallas area transplants.  Fort Worth is a lousy restaurant town.

cbren30301
cbren30301

What......no chili on the list. I'm a D@# Yankee and I love me some Texas chili. My place of choice, Tolbert's in Grapevine. I take any fellow Yankee that visits to Tolbert's for a great bowl of red. I love to share the stories of Frank X and Terlinqua. 

mycatbarney
mycatbarney

I live in Beaumont, and the Patillo's BBQ on 11th Street has been gone for a year and a half.  It was torn down and replaced by a Jack in the Box.

wood.scott
wood.scott

How could you not include City Market in Luling?  Better than Kreuz's or Smitty's and a real restaurant rather than a hobby like Franklins.

Scott Cessac
Scott Cessac

All right for my hometown of Nederland making the list!

Trey Covington
Trey Covington

El Ranchito and La Calle Doce!!!! For REAL Mexican food!!

douglas.davis
douglas.davis

Sorry if this is double-posted... I'm a little disappointed that South Texas (the coast and Valley) and pretty much overlooked.  I would at the least add Kings Inn located in Rivera Beach, just south of Kingsville and on Baffin Bay.  Family-style fried seafood (locally caught speckled trout, shrimp and oysters) and sides.  True, its fried, but damn its good and steeped in tradition and history.

Chubby_Kid
Chubby_Kid

I have serious problems with Cattleman's Steakhouse & Joe T. Garcia's being on this list.  I've eaten at both, knowing about their reputation and renown, and was very disappointed.  Cattleman's had some of the worst steaks I've ever had, and Joe T. Garcia's food is bland, uninteresting, and I always feel sick after eating there.

There are much better food choices in Fort Worth (Lonesome Dove, H3 Ranch) which are curiously absent from this list.  

cweichmann1
cweichmann1

Excellent choices I agree.  These top places show the wide personality of Texas cuisine from barbecue Texas style to finest dining establishments to Tex Mex to southwest cuisine to a STEAK.  Come to Texas but bring your appetite when you do.

BobDobbs
BobDobbs

The only one on this list worth the trip is Mi Tierra. I love that place.

And I am so ticked off that you didn't include THE BOILING POT in ROCKPORT, TEXAS. 

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

Here's a template for responding to this article:


Dear (insert cuss-word or other denigrating name),

I am so (insert word to cover your emotional state) that you didn't include (insert restaurant name here).  (Repeat restaurant name) is by far the best (style of food) in the world/country/state/region/city (select one or more).  

Obviously you have never traveled to city/county/region (select one or more) because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed (signature dish/off-menu item/drink) prepared with (insert emotion) by the (insert adjective) chef/cook/food preparation/owner (pick one) expert, (insert name of chef/cook/food preparation/owner).

I'm never going to read one of these ridiculous lists, until you publish next year's list.

Without respect,

(your name here).

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I have to ask if any of the contributors to this list have ever been east of Dallas? What about Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler? Johnny Cace's in Longview? The Big Pines Lodge in Karnack? Country Tavern in Kilgore? These are all legendary places that have shaped the food and eating habits of our state.

Ed Dravecky
Ed Dravecky

El Fenix is on the list as a cultural touchstone. Move on.

Jon Eckberg
Jon Eckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas/RGV version of your list? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants there that are worth visiting? If you had actually tried, I'm certain you'd have found any one of 1,000 Mexican restaurants there that put El Fenix to shame.

joneckberg
joneckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas edition? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants in that part of the state worth visiting?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

WasSalt Lick BBQ in Austin missed? Shame...

Kristin Scott Dorsey
Kristin Scott Dorsey

I am originally from Kentucky and our mexican is way better than El Fenix. Yuck, that place sucks!!

Robyn Brooks Folmar
Robyn Brooks Folmar

The article states "restaurants that define Texas" - El Fenix deserves a spot. Glad to see Houston getting big food props- it's a dynamite food town and has been for 25+ years. I credit a lot to the lax zoning laws.

Michael Mercedes Rice
Michael Mercedes Rice

I'm seriously disappointed that food writers though El Fenix should be on this list. If I was going to take someone visiting from out of town out for Tex Mex, it would NOT be to El Fenix.

Ambelleina Warwillow
Ambelleina Warwillow

I WILL say that speaking on seminal Texas restaurants, not the best restaurants, yes, El Fenix does deserve a place on there. Then again, so would places like Luna's, Sonny Bryan's and definitely Stubb's. Not only are those quintessential TX restaurants, they actually serve good food, unlike El Fenix.

Marcus Watson
Marcus Watson

I've been to most of these restaurants and can only give most of them an "eh" rating....and I agree with Kendall....El Fenix...barf.

Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson

Have been to six of those on the list. Of course, there are others that should be on the list.

wherryranch
wherryranch

@Vndallas You are so wrong...that's what I hate about Dallas people...so snobby and hateful!!!!  Fort Worth is an awesome city with great food and friendly people!!!!  Unlike Dallas!!!!

cbren30301
cbren30301

Allow me to repost using the correct template as suggested below:


Dear Are you a Texan,

I am so ASTOUNDED that you didn't include TOLBERTS. TOLBERTS is by far the best CHILI/BOWL OF RED in the region (I'll refrain from saying the world since I have not yet had what the entire world has to offer as far as Texas chili).  

Obviously you have never traveled to GRAPEVINE because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed ORIGINAL BOWL OF RED, FRITO CHILI PIE and DONKEY TAILs prepared with LOVE & RESPECT to the original FRANK X TOLBERT. 


Nictacular
Nictacular

@Chubby_Kid I don't get down with Joe T's myself, but it is a quintessential Texas place. I think that's what the article was going for.

Nictacular
Nictacular

@cbren30301 You gotta read the follow-up articles. Tolbert's is one of the places that just missed the cut...

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

@douglas.davis @mcdallas Well if there's one thing you'll consistently get here on the DO comment system, it's kind words and encouragement.  You can count on that!

 
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