- Las Canarias (San Antonio): For a romantic dinner for two, dine either along the River Walk or inside one of the cozy, softly lit dining rooms, accompanied by the soft music of a guitar or piano. Start off with one of the aperitifs, for which the bar has a good reputation. Then move on to a meal that, like San Antonio, represents the melding of unlikely cultural influences.
- Silo (San Antonio): This place serves New American cooking exactly the way it should be done -- with much art and little fuss. The surroundings are spacious, low-key, and comfortable. And the service is attentive and knowledgeable, but without attitude.
- Liberty Bar (San Antonio): This is the place for letting your hair down and enjoying a little local society. There are few other places in San Antonio that so effortlessly reflect the culture of their town, especially in matters of eating and drinking.
- Uchi (Austin): Don't think of Uchi as just a great place for sushi and Japanese cuisine. It's a great restaurant, period, with creative cooking that transcends its humble roots. The setting, in a beautifully revamped 1930s house, is transcendent too.
- Best for a Romantic Dinner: On a quiet stretch of the River Walk, Las Canarias, at La Mansión del Río, 112 College St. (tel. 210/518-1063), is a haven from the hustle and bustle experienced at other restaurants on the River Walk. You'll enjoy candlelight and superb, unobtrusive service.
- Best Movable Feast: It used to be that you could dine on the river only if you were with a group, but among the restaurants that now offer reservations on communal tables to individuals and couples, Boudro's, 421 E. Commerce St./River Walk (tel. 210/224-8484), tops the meals-on-river-barge-wheels list.
- Best Place for Fat Expense Accounts: If you need to wine and dine someone in San Antonio, whether for business or personal reasons, you will really impress them at Bohanan's, 219 E. Houston St. (tel. 210/472-2600). Not only is it considered one of the best steakhouses in Texas, but it also completely looks the part -- soft lights, white tablecloths, lots of woodwork, and a serious menu.
- Best Seafood: Andrew Weissman's small seafood restaurant, Sandbar, at the Pearl Brewery, Ste. 117 (tel. 210/222-2426), serves the best seafood in town. Like his other restaurant, it's all about the food.
- Best Place to Listen to Music While You Dine: Enjoy creative South American, Mexican, and Caribbean fare at Southtown's Azuca, 713 S. Alamo St. (tel. 210/225-5550), while listening to salsa, merengue, and other Latin sounds.
- Best Blast from the Past: Schilo's, 424 E. Commerce St. (tel. 210/223-6692), not only serves up German deli in portions that date back to pre-cholesterol-conscious days, but also retains prices from that era.
- Best Fine Dining Kept Simple: It's a tie: Not only do I like the food at both of these places, but I also appreciate the lack of ostentation and the effort to keep things simple. Silo, 1133 Austin Hwy. (tel. 210/824-8686), offers enough variety to please just about anyone, while steering clear of strangely worded descriptions and playing at one-upmanship. The dining experience at the new Liberty Bar, 1111 S. Alamo St. (tel. 210/227-1187), is comfortable and casual and belies all the effort going on back in the kitchen to create this kind of cuisine. The atmosphere is quite in keeping with its new Southtown location.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.