Though chef Daniel Nemec specialized in classic French cuisine at the Texas Culinary Academy, his heart lies in the smokehouse. As the leader of Woodfire Kirby’s kitchen, he draws from his experiences growing up in Corpus Christi, where steaks and barbecue pepper the culinary landscape and are considered legal tender.
Nemec imbues hickory flavor in ribs, chops, and sirloin burgers, but demonstrates the wood’s versatility with a menu that also includes wood-fired soups and thin-crust pizzas. New york strip steaks and blue-ribbon fillets are cooked to a choice of six temperatures, including classic medium rare and charred-yet-red pittsburgh. Available raw, grilled, or poached, seafood showcases spices that range from asian to argentine to creole.
A private room welcomes up to 48 visitors with a high-definition TV and four banquet menus, and the dining room attracts nighttime guests with handcrafted cocktails and a buzz as vibrant as a birthday party inside a hornet nest.
A high-quality cut of beef really lets chefs express themselves, and Ounce Steakhouse’s owner, who works closely with cattle ranchers throughout the country, provides his chefs with handpicked USDA beef and renowned Akaushi beef. Akaushi grades three levels above prime and is raised in Texas in the strict tradition of Japan’s highly sought-after Kobe beef. With a menu of Akaushi, Angus, and USDA Prime, the restaurant’s chefs find plenty of inspiration for high-end dining techniques and rock operas about Meat Loaf and other fine beef. Among stone walls, original artwork, and sleek, modern decor, diners also relish equally elegant entrees of Chilean sea bass, Australian rack of lamb, and cabernet-braised short ribs. The restaurant strives for the highest fine-dining experience, complementing dishes with wine from vineyards across the globe while keeping small-batch, handcrafted California cabernet sauvignons as its main focus.
If diners close their eyes and inhale as they approach Grey Moss Inn, the scent of mesquite charcoal might trick them into thinking they've been transported to old Texas. Opening their eyes would confirm this, as a rustic rock wall runs the perimeter of the property, which stays cool beneath the limbs of enormous oak trees. For 60 years, much of the menu has gone unchanged, with dishes made fresh every day with herbs culled from the onsite garden. Free-range chicken and aged chops get seared on the outdoor mesquite grill, and the Zagat-rated restaurant keeps an extensive wine list, which earned it Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence 2013, among other laurels.
Ye Kendall Inn, a registered national historic landmark, offers a blend of old-school antebellum charm and modern hotel amenities. Built in 1859, Ye Kendall Inn once housed both Robert E. Lee and former president Eisenhower during a brief but thrilling rift in the space-time continuum. Depending on availability, the inn offers accommodations in charmingly furnished cabins, cottages, suites, and guest rooms. Restored, vintage cabins contain regal queen beds and prime-ministerial sofa beds, and suites and cottages hold either a king or queen bed. Wired Internet and cable TV are provided. Guests also receive 20% off at the inn's luxurious spa, where massages and skin treatments evaporate stress into a fine mist used to hydrate thirsty trees strewn about the lush, 5-acre grounds.
Coco Chocolate Lounge has more to offer than just chocolate. That's why readers of the San Antonio Express-News voted the spot Best Neighborhood Restaurant and Best Nightclub in North Central San Antonio in 2011. Though there are plentiful cacao-based desserts served, including single-origin chocolate mousse and chocolate fondue with housemade marshmallows, Chef Hector Villarreal also experiments with savory dishes. Among his creations are stone-baked pizzas topped with house-smoked brisket and venison steaks with fried okra and béarnaise sauce.
The cuisine complements decor the San Antonio Express-News called “scrumptious with plenty of chandeliers, candlelight, and plush ruby-red velvet booths and bar seating.” As the sky darkens and everybody throws away sundials that seemed cool during the day, Coco Chocolate Lounge transitions into a nightclub, and chocolate martinis, wine, and champagne flow more freely. DJs on a dance floor and an outdoor patio spin Latin music, hip-hop, and club hits until 2:30 a.m.
Twelve chefs clad in black uniforms and red hats stand at attention over tableside hibachis. All eyes on them, they start to play with their food: the culinary wizards wave lobster tails at guests, set onions aflame, and flip shrimp high in the air to land in their tall hats. “It is not just about the food, it’s about the show,” says Sumo Japanese Steakhouse owner Brad Meltzer. “The show brings you in and the food brings you back.”
Prior to landing on the hibachi grill, beef is butchered in-house and dressed in its Sunday best. Filet mignon shares grilling space with salmon, chicken, tuna, and scallops dipped in house-made ginger sauce. Meltzer and a small army of trained sushi chefs designed their menu of more than two dozen nigiri and sashimi rolls to please even the prickliest taste buds. Meltzer himself favors the 210 roll, a cyclone of scallops, shrimp, and crab slathered in sweet-and-spicy sauce and topped with crabstick, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and a snowfall of tempura flakes.