EAT. SIP. SEE. PLAY. STAY—San Antonio!
Words and photos by Jessica Giesey
Oh, hey there, y’all! Jessica Giesey here—food and beverage photographer for H-E-B in beautiful San Antonio. I was born and raised in this little big town, and left at 18 to pursue my passion for art and photography. I moved back about 5 years ago from NYC, and boy was it just the right time!
San Antonio has become a bustling city with a thriving food and drink scene, and so many hot spots that I don’t have enough room to name them all! The home I knew has transformed into a destination, with the nation giving nods our direction. Being a business owner, who’s clientele is mostly local and national restauranteurs and industry folk, I’ve got the low down for what you’ve got see and do in San Antonio. You can also follow me along on Instagram (@jessicagiesey) for new and exciting places and spaces. Below is a list of what you’d catch me doing any day of the week—from outdoor music at historic Pearl, to my favorite local bar where I go to work, after work. I hope you enjoy this place as much as the locals do.
Asian-Peruvian—Botika is where it’s at! Located in the historic Pearl, this incredible space is operated by the most humble and passionate (celebrity) chef, Geronimo Lopez. I’ve spent many a photoshoot with Geronimo, discussing his work in detail and what drives him. The love he has for his Peruvian culture shines through in every bite. Their steak is as good as their sushi and the vibe is familiar and lively. I order the pork belly anticuchos, yucca fries, steamed buns and a pisco, followed by some yummy sake to wrap it up.
Steak—Bohanans goes back to a speak-easier time. Bohanans is known for its steak, and its extensive wine and cocktail list. Mark Bohanan picks every type of steak that comes through those doors, so you know you are in good hands. The vibe is reminiscent of the upscale restaurants in Mid-town Manhattan, with business-clad folk in for a martini after work. I like to pop in for an old fashioned, plop down on a leather chair, and listen to some live music.
CIA trained Ayurvedic chef Elizabeth Johnson is an award winning chef, who was most recently
the first female chef from Texas to cook dinner at the James Beard House in NYC. Her
restaurant, Pharm Table, is a food-as-medicine establishment that is full with umami flavors in
almost every bite. I have honestly never had food that tasted this vibrant—a true chance to
feed your eyes and your belly. Johnson is an expert an umami and it shows in her work. Keto
and gluten free with mostly vegan dishes, I always leave feeling full up and happy with my
choices! Get a spoonful of turmeric and ginger meal starter, the ceviche, tacos, and end then
with the vegan cheesecake!
2M Smoke House
Located in a teeny tiny building on the far east side of town, these guys are doing BBQ right.
Pretty much named the best BBQ next to Franlkins in ATX, this little joint offers up incredibly
good cuts. No frills, to the point. Also, their pickled mixes are OFF THE CHAIN. But get here
early—the lines start forming around 930/10am on some days!
Local Favorite Francis Bogside I live in King William, the arts district that is a little south of downtown (frequently called Southtown.) Fancis Bogside is my go to. It’s my feel good, no judgement, neighborhood bar. But its classy AF. This is where I go to work after work. I can jump online or do some editing while having a cocktail and eating an delicious burger. Order one of their many beers on tap and the Thai fried wings—they aren’t too hot but will knock your socks off with flavor. Although Chef Halston Conella has moved on to opportunities in New Mexico, I continue I go back to taste his food.
Chispas! Patio! Soluna. Those are the only words really needed here. Soluna is an Alamo Heights staple located off of Broadway and Sunset. This place has a patio to DIE for, and a staff that is so friendly you will never want to leave. Order a chispa (basically a “skinny” version of a margarita, but super strong.) This happy hour is not a drill.
Wine—High Street Wine. Even the name is cool. This bar popped up a couple of years ago at Pearl, and honestly, I had never seen anything this thought out, yet so simple at the same time. Mark Stoltz opened the joint, and relied heavily on the expertise of his award-winning sommelier Scott Otta, who has brought in and retained an incredibly knowledgeable and affectionate staff. This is a wine bar that treats you like family, and lets you crash in on their back-patio party. Get a bottle and a charc plate and call it a day.
Coffee—Rosella. Rosella has quickly become a hub to many local startups and entrepreneurs. The owners, Tom Schleunig and Charles Gonzales (former KSAT cohost) saw a need for coffee and space, while supporting the local small business minded folk, creatives, and professionals. They have created a place for creativity and connection among the locals. Order a matcha latte or an Fernet Menthe and Coffee on ice (Rosella at the Rand has a full bar.)
Low key drinks—Low country. Southtown is full of little surprises, so it wasn’t one when a new bar popped up in an old house. This bar is bare simple—a small space to order a cocktail, a few seats to sit inside and some picnic tables out back. Don’t be fooled by the minimal decor—these guys know how to make the perfect drink. I always just go with a tequila and soda, with lime juice and a pinch of salt inside.
Mission Reach, San Antonio Riverwalk. Enjoy a stroll along the beautiful Riverwalk museum reach, where you can make stops along the way to pop in to many local museums like SAMA. If you get thirsty there isn’t a shortage of bar fronts along the way!
Blue Star: First Fridays, or Second Saturdays. This is the arts district of San Antonio. This is when Southtown is full of vendors, art and music. It’s sort of like an outdoor/indoor market that’s like 3 miles long with tons of free booze and awesome local art.
Hemisfair & Yanaguana Park. Hemisfair was just upgraded for the first time in YEARS. We added tons of kid friendly spaces, and a few new fantastic restaurants. The famous Dough Pizzeria, which has been featured on many national food shows, has opened up their 3rd spot here. Enjoy the best burrata in town (seriously, actually the best I have ever had) and a glass of wine while you watch the kiddos play under the Tower of Americas.
Soundcream Airstream: Every Wednesday at Pearl Park. The coolest couple in town, Andres Rizzo and Danielle Collier, are music fanatics and world traveling DJs. On Wednesdays, the couple drives their base pumping refurbished airstream/DJ booth on to the grass of Pearl park in front of the Bottling Department. This free event attracts all different walks of life from families, friends, dates, and the cool kids. Bring your own drinks and a picnic, or purchase wine, beer, cocktails and food from any of the numerous tenants in the food hall!
Pearl. Pearl had become a San Antonio staple and a destination in and of itself. I moved in to the Can Plant 5 years ago from New York City, and I’ve witnessed so much growth through the last few years. With over 40 tenants, this indoor/outdoor space is home to so many incredible and unique vendors. You could start and end your day here, or even spend your whole weekend here! On Saturdays and Sundays, the grounds are filled with their famed farmers market with local and hill country vendors providing everything from hot breakfast, to kimchi, to succulents! Any day of the week is worth a stop here.
Blue Duck Scooters. Want to get around, but your destination is too close to drive and too far to walk? Scoot! Blue Duck Scooters is a local company that offers dock-less electric scooter riding to get you from point A to point B with no sweat. Download the app, and fly away!
Botanical Garden. The San Antonio Botanical Garden has just been renovated and boasts an incredible variety of gardens, including the newly added veggie garden and outdoor cooking space where you can take classes led by professional chefs. Stroll on over to Rosella at the Garden and enjoy a scrumptious garden and tonic, made from gin and fresh botanicals grown on the premises.
Go Rio River tours. This hop on/hop off tour on a riverboat is the perfect leisurely activity and awesome way to see our city, from the water! The route starts at Pearl, and goes down south to downtown. Hop off at any of the stops to museums, grab a snack or drink from a list of local restaurants. Hop back on any time with the day pass! Buy a ticket at one of the Go Rio stops or online through the app.
Jazz, Tx. Located underground at Pearl, jazz musician Doc Watkins has turned this below-the-surface space into a lively jazz club, with an epic cocktail menu from professional mixologists and a full menu from some awesome chefs. Make sure to get a reservation, this place gets packed!
La Cantera. Can we just talk about this view? As my car drives up the hills to the the valet, my brain starts to settle a little…The horticulture on the property is spot on, with cactus and waves of beautiful native Texas plants and flowers. The friendliest staff greets without worry, and I head straight for the spa at Loma de Vida. After some quiet time in the salt baths and steam rooms I head over to the main resort pools where I order some Moet champagne, a shrimp salad, and proceed to pretend that I can float forever in to eternity
Hotel Emma. With many awards under its belt and usually in the top 10 of a list, Hotel Emma will make you feel like you’re at home. Check in, drop your bags, and have a welcome in margarita in the Library. What I love most about Emma is the hygge they have created in this space. They are also dedicated to leave you wanting for nothing, and they take it seriously. I had a stay here for my birthday last year and it felt like the red carpet had been rolled out! You are treated as family. Be sure to have a drink in one of the silos at Sternwirth, before heading to dinner at Emma’s restaurant Supper (lead up by local favorite head chef John Brand). In the morning grab a latte and a local treat (like Wildflower caramels) at their upscale general store, Larder.
St. Anthony Hotel. The newly remodeled St. Anthony is a destination for many FABULOUS events, like the Cocktail Conference! This old hotel got a facelift with lush greens and golds everywhere, reminding one of art deco and old Hollywood glam. Grab a drink at HAUNT while you wait for your reservation at the local favorite restaurant, REBELLE.