Outstanding charcuterie at Restaurant Gwendolyn

 

Charcuterie at Restaurant Gwendolyn
A “cheesecuterie” board at Restaurant Gwendolyn combines housemade charcuterie, housemade cheeses, jams, pickled vegetables and local honey.

Restaurant Gwendolyn offers many reasons to love it, but the outstanding charcuterie often finds itself overlooked.

That needs to change.

Of course, there’s a lot to celebrate with creative and thoughtful dishes that come from the restrictions of no electrical equipment and nearly all ingredients sourced within 150 miles.

Still, humanity’s oldest forms of preserving food absolutely thrill..

I’d say the charcuterie speaks to what makes this place special.

Gwendolyn offers a mixture of housemade cheeses and charcuterie called “cheesecuterie.” Whatever you call it, the selection just sings.

The housemade jams, local honeys and even a slightly effervescent pickle keep this party going.

The board costs $45, and it’s best split among a few friends. But if it’s just you and one other guest, you may find yourself a little full for too many other courses. As if that’s a bad thing…

 

Stuffing my soul at Cascabel Mexican Patio

Cascabel Mexican Patio
Pipián, or green mole, at Cascabel Mexican Patio.

One of the joys of living in Mexico was being able to enjoy some truly transcendent dishes that seemed to speak directly to my soul.

Those dishes instilled new level of appreciation of the cuisine of my ancestry, but they also left a hunger for that feeling, the experience of discovering flavors that were brand new for me, yet deeply familiar.

To be sure, I didn’t grow up eating Michoacán-style carnitas wrapped in fresh corn tortillas. No, I grew up in suburban Houston and my treats were barbacoa or chorizo with eggs with my mom’s fresh flour tortillas.

But after three months of home, restaurant and street food in central Mexico, those flavors became imbedded in my memory just as much as my mom’s enchiladas.

Memories of Mexico

The quest to find those flavors again has often left me frustrated, but a visit to Cascabel Mexico Patio put my soul and memory at ease. It’s a small, family-run spot, and the hours often change. Still, one taste of the squash blossom quesadillas, the tacos al pastor and the green mole called pipián, and I knew I had found a home.

I raved about it in a 2010 review and named it as one of the city’s Top 100 restaurants three years in a row.

Don’t look for chips and salsa. Instead, meals here start with a complimentary cup of light chicken broth with fideo. It’s part of the Mexican tradition of beginning with some type of soup.

I have yet to try something here I didn’t love, but for a couple of favorites, I’d suggest the quesadillas de huitlacoche (a corn fungus that’s a delicacy in Mexico), a huarache (like a thick tortilla, but shaped like a sandal, which gives the name), or the pipián.

The puerco cascabel balances heat with the deep roasty flavor of dried chiles, and an underlying touch of sweetness with the pork, while an accompanying salad of sliced cactus paddles, or nopales, add a bright, tart fresh note to the plate.

The limonada pulls its weight just as much as the dishes, but it’s BYO — so you can bring something stronger, if you’d like.

Burger Boy — good memories, great flavors

Burger Boy
No fancy toppings, just good, old-school excellence.

What makes an old-school burger special? Of course, the burgers have to taste good, but they also need to evoke a sense of nostalgia and happy childhood memories.

So as much as I love custom-blended patties and housemade toppings, I delight in the joys of a basic, old-school burger.

For me, that glorious burger comes from Burger Boy. It’s a simple burger that begins with a thin, well-seared patty of high quality ground beef.  Add shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, diced onions, a couple of pickle slices and mustard, and it adds up to greatness.

It’s an old-fashioned burger in all the best ways. I raved about it in the newspaper several times. I happily continue to tout it, even after the restaurant ownership changed.

My burger memories

Disclosure: I didn’t grow up with Burger Boy. My childhood treat, Burger Mart, sat a couple of miles away from my house on the outskirts of Houston. Here’s a page showing how it looked in 2009, shortly before the place was demolished.

We all have our own Burger Marts, the places we treasure for their flavors, memories and what they represent. So how much of my love for Burger Boy really comes from happy memories at my own childhood treat? Can you even separate it?

So when I introduced my son to his first Burger Boy, I felt like I passed an important family torch. He said it tasted almost as good as Whataburger.

What’s the best restaurant in San Antonio?

Edmund Tijerina
I’m explaining some of San Antonio’s classic dishes on “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations.”

What are the best restaurants in San Antonio? It’s important, because when you’re spending your money on dining out, you don’t want to get it wrong.

That’s why people ask me for restaurant recommendations: Where’s the best Italian spot? Where’s the best place for margaritas? Who serves the best bean and cheese tacos?

I understand — you don’t want to waste time or money on disappointing food, and I want to help steer you in the right direction.

In San Antonio’s Best Restaurants, I want to help you make the most of your restaurant experiences.

Here, I’m going to share my recommendations for where to visit and what to order. Why should you trust me? You may already know my previous work when I shared my thoughts and impressions during my tenure as food writer/restaurant critic and later food and drinks editor at the San Antonio Express-News and on my Facebook page. Whether you agree with me or not, you at least know where I’m coming from.

San Antonio offers a lot of great food and excellent restaurant experiences, in different price ranges and cuisine styles — and we’re going to share them here.

As we explore this city’s dining options, please share your suggestions, or disagreements.

¡Buen provecho! and bon appétit!