Boo Dawg’s Backyard was designed by owner Mike Buie to be a laid-back hangout for friends and family. But that comes second to its most important assets: the kitchen’s mouthwatering burgers and steaks. The menu stars grilled and seared burgers and hand-cut aged steaks, with fresh seafood, sandwiches, and kids’ items filling out the chalkboard menu hanging above the ordering counter. Live music several times a week entertains diners as they sup at wooden tables in the warehouselike restaurant, whose corrugated and wood-paneled walls show off mounted buck heads and rustic artwork. A spacious outdoor patio⎯complete with shade for warm months and electric heaters to set perms in winter⎯offers the chance to catch a breeze with a burger in hand.
More than 40 years ago, Charlie and Mary Garcia founded El Chaparral Mexican Restaurant to share their culinary heritage with the local community. Though the business has now been passed down to the next generation of the family, the restaurant adheres to the made-fresh recipes of its early days, delighting diners with hearty enchiladas, fresh seafood dishes, and its signature bean soup.
Strings of multicolored lights twinkle above Mi Casa Tamales' three spacious acres, which are home to an intimate dining room, a cantina, a breezy, tree-shaded patio, and a kid-friendly play area. Known for their Texas-sized tamales that weigh more than 3 pounds per dozen, Mi Casa's chefs ably combine Texan and Mexican cuisines into appetizing dishes accented with house-made sauces including avocado salsa, cowboy stew, and tomatillo sauce. Music floats on the air during warm summer nights, serenading diners with guitars, piano, and tacos thumped rhythmically on drumheads.
The Grill at Leon Springs is the answer to a hypothetical—what would you get if you mixed downhome Texas charm with European class? Chef Thierry Burkle took on this equation by crafting a menu full of international flair inside a glowing, rustic space. His Parisian roots and frequent travels to France inform much of the cuisine, from the escargot to the baked brie. Yet italian thin-crust pizzas emerge from the kitchen's brick oven, spanish chorizo dapples housemade pastas, and asian slaw adorns the crab cakes. The global nature of the food—and the catalog of wines that stretch across two cellars—foretells the grill's fondness for from-scratch cooking, variety, and accessibility. Alongside manager Armand Obadia, Chef Burkle aims to satisfy devoted foodies and simply hungry diners alike, a practice that helped win the 2010 award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant/Northwest from the San Antonio Express-News.
A unified atmosphere of community and charisma offsets the restaurant's eclectic offerings. On Thursday through Saturday, guests flock to the Hill Country Terrace for dance breaks, drawn by live music and the survival instinct that makes us look bigger when conga-lining. Parties mingle in one of three rooms—the Alamo Room, the Candle Room, or the Fireplace Room—as the staff prepares their meals in a separate catering kitchen, devoted solely to private events. The public dining room's rustic rock walls might contain gatherings and fundraisers, as well. For example, during a benefit for the San Antonio Food Bank, the San Antonio Spurs donned aprons and waited on grill patrons, raising $180,000.
Near the idyllic balconied homes and 19th-century architecture of the Hill Country town of Boerne, Smittyville General Store exudes its own old-fashioned charm with tasty deli lunches, stunning pastoral scenery, and a bustling jewelry and housewares market. Past the open-air porch of the store's Old West–style façade, a treasure trove of freshly brewed coffee, piping-hot baked goods, and chicken-salad sandwiches headlines the food at Smitty's Lunch Box Cafe. The shop also stocks a selection of souvenirs and home accents, and a sun-filled garden building—a tree-framed pavilion—evokes a small-town amiability from bygone days when neighbors said "howdy" to each other and horses doffed their caps to passersby.
Originally founded in 1929, The Grey Moss Inn Restaurant gives the impression that the world has spent the last several decades growing around it. A canopy of Texas oak branches practically conceals the eatery's outdoor patio?complete with a low stone wall?and main dining room. At night, this canopy bursts to life as strings of colored lights flicker on above diners' heads.
The views are no less impressive during the daytime though. Whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and other animals occasionally meander across the nearby expanse of lush, green meadowland and blooming flowers are almost always within sight. "The number of couples who have held secret rendezvous here must be astronomical," posited Texas Monthly "But how could they resist? Romance fills the air like incense at this oak-shaded cottage in the woods."
The Fiery Heart of the Restaurant
The most eye-catching set piece on The Grey Moss Inn Restaurant's patio also happens to be the eatery's most used feature: a circular stone grill filled with smoldering mesquite charcoal. Originally, this pit served as the building's main water well. However, it was eventually capped off and converted into a massive pit where the chefs can roast everything from free-range chicken and lamb chops to Choice rib eye steaks and Pacific salmon. The subtly sweet smokiness of these freshly grilled meats helps lend a distinctively rustic and traditional charm to the menu of refined southern cooking.
Comfort Food With an Elegant Touch
There's no reason for the chefs to completely change the classics, although they do elevate these dishes whenever possible. Using organically grown herbs from the restaurant's own gardens, the chefs follow recipes that haven't changed in decades as they prepare everything from cumin-tinged squash casserole to chocolate pecan pie. At the same time, they are willing to experiment with new flavors to create entirely new dishes, such as the roasted Texas quail stuffed with homemade chorizo.
The selection of more than 500 wines?which earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence?features premier cru Burgundies alongside local Texan wines, similarly demonstrating the restaurant's dedication to refined dining.