In the old days, ice houses were the quintessential San Antonio gathering places—family-friendly watering holes. Many times they were old gas stations converted to taco spots, where beer and Coca-Cola bottles were iced down, and people sat on picnic tables outside while their kids ran around playing tag or marbles. La Gloria has that same vibe (reservations are not accepted), but with a more colorful, contemporary approach. Chef Johnny Hernandez calls his fare "street foods of Mexico," meaning it's mostly casual, affordable, eat-with-your-hands cuisine. The cooking fits in with a place that has garage-door walls that transform the restaurant into an indoor-outdoor space when the weather allows. You can sit indoors, or on the patio by the river, and on weekends you can wander over to the farmer's market, where Hernandez gets lots of his produce. Diners grab a Mexican soda or cold Corona out of a box of ice as they walk in the door and the atmosphere is vibrant and busy and hip. One of the nicest chefs I've ever known, Hernandez tells me he has no freezers in his kitchen—why would he need to keep anything overnight? Great bites of simple, zesty Mexican fare are fresh and made to order. Tacos and gorditas in handmade corn tortillas are finished with a light crumbling of fresh white farmer's cheese, or a dried cotija with a drizzle of Mexican cream. Chiles can sometimes burn the lips (making the lime and beer taste better), so alert the waiter if you want to avoid spicy choices. The back of the menu explains many of the different offerings, and the staff is happy to make suggestions, too. Hernandez has several other hopping eateries just south of downtown and meticulously plans everything, right down to the plates designed by artists from the interior of Mexico. Look for Hernandez's La Gloria and Fruteria satellite restaurants, now popping up in several Texas airports.
San Antonio› Restaurant
Pearl Brewery, 100 E. Grayson St.
Our Rating Neighborhood Mid-Town/Tobin Hill, at the end of the River Walk Museum Reach Hours Sun–Thurs 11am–10pm, Fri–Sat 11am–midnight Phone 210/267-9040 Prices Dishes $5–$14 Cuisine Type Mexican Web site La Gloria