If you and your partner were foodies pre-children, it might seem like the fun of new food and dining experiences is something you need to retire until the children are older. But not so! There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants that can still satisfy a foodie’s palette, and in this new series we round up our favorite restaurants for “foodies for families” on a city by city basis. Exploring new venues, new tastes, and new experiences is something the whole family should be able to take part in. Read on for our top restaurant picks in San Antonio.
Bella On The River
Bella On The River tops our list for families with older children. This restaurant is located on the west end of the Riverwalk, right before the river turns to run north-south. Situated amongst shady trees, the restaurant boasts an intimate atmosphere perfect for a sophisticated dinner away from the hustle-and-bustle of the rest of the Riverwalk and downtown.
Bella On The River is independently owned and this is evident in everything from the menu and quality of food to the atmosphere and decor. Together the owner and head chef, a graduate of the local San Antonio Culinary Institute, offers a menu of Southern European and Mediterranean food that parents and children alike will love. The menu changes yearly but one thing that doesn’t change is the variety of sophisticated dishes that adults will love and “epicurious” children will delight in dining on.
At any time, you’ll encounter mouth-watering dishes such as duck breast with apricot brandy sauce, Texas red fish pan-seared in truffle oil, or even braised rabbit. If your child is not in the mood to try something totally new, you’ll find some more familiar dishes that are kicked up (quite) a few notches like butternut squash soup made with fried sage, or Pasta Alla Norma: spaghetti made with grilled eggplant and sweet and hot Italian sausage. Seafood-loving adults will not be disappointed either: dishes like seafood paella with Texas Gulf shrimp or pan-seared scallops with lemon thyme broth are sure to tantalize your taste buds. Many dishes are already naturally gluten-free but you can request Bella’s gluten-free menu.
Plan plenty of time to enjoy dinner, as you’ll want to have time to linger over dessert. With choices like Virginia pistachio cake and salted caramel ice cream you may have a hard time choosing. In the spirit of trying new dishes, we like the idea of ordering several different desserts so every family member can try each!
As all foodies know, food makes up only a small fraction of an entire dining experience. At Bella On The River, you and your family can count on an intimate atmosphere to complement your dining experience. Outside seating among shady trees along the river is available (and as the boat tour will point out—the tree growing out of the wall of the restaurant originates from the 20’s!), and a good choice for families with children who may want to stretch their legs in between courses. Bella’s is located at the far end of the river and away from all the hustle and bustle upstream.
For an even more intimate dining experience, we recommend dining inside the restaurant and taking in the elegant atmosphere. As soon as you enter Bella’s you feel like you’ve left Texas and have been transported to a charming, rustic restaurant somewhere in Italy or France. The dining area is located up a short flight of stairs and elegant decor greets you as you enter. Crisp, white linens and candles deck the intimately placed tables which seat only up to 45 guests total, bottles of wine line the walls near the bar, and exposed original natural limestone walls and wood ceiling beams all make the ambiance of Bella’s one not to be missed.
Restaurants like Bella on the River make dining an event, and here you will have a fun, elegant evening with your family that is one that will be memorable.
Bella On The River
Ambiance: Elegant, sophisticated, & relaxing
Best for: Older children who love eating out
Reservations: Recommended but not necessary. The dining room seats a limited number of guests so families are encouraged to make reservations in advance.
The River’s Edge Cafe
For a leisurely lunch or dinner with any aged kid, we recommend heading to The River’s Edge Cafe + Patio Bar. Part of Hilton Palacio Del Rio, this restaurant offers up American and South Texan fare sure to please even the youngest of guests.
Located right along the Riverwalk, River’s Edge offers outdoor seating perfect for people (and boat) watching under the shade of leafy palms while you relax with family and good food. Sip on a cool cocktail (kids will love the root beer float) and watch boats from the river tours motor peacefully by, leaving subtle ripples in the water that glisten in the Texan sun. If you prefer dining indoors, a light and airy dining room with pops of vibrant green and stained glass decor await you (ask for a table by the big windows to enjoy the view of the river and passersby).
At River’s Edge, there’s no need to ask for a kid’s menu — the head chef, a father of eight himself, has prepared a selection of healthy and delicious dishes with a Texan kick that everyone in the family can choose from. Everyone will love the appetizers like the chicken fajitas made with roasted peppers and Spicy South Texan cream or the oh-so-delicious red beet hummus and pita (one of the many great choices available if you’re doing baby-led weaning with your child). For entrées, the chef created the yummy River’s Edge Mac & Cheese with kids in mind—this classic dish is kicked up a notch with grilled chicken and jalapeño bacon.
Other dishes are sure to surprise and satisfy such as the braised pork belly with creamy polenta and spicy watermelon. For a special meal, you won’t go wrong with the grilled Texas strip steak that’s served with Boursin cheese and veggies.
And while there’s much to recommend on the menu, we suggest leaving a little room for dessert. The moscato sorbet, tart and slightly sweet, makes the perfect dessert to top off your meal. Chocolate lovers won’t be disappointed with the praline mousse or the tuxedo cheesecake that comes topped with a chocolate-covered strawberry. For mom and dad: There’s also a great selection of red and white wines, Texan handcrafted beer, domestic and imported beer, as well as a build-your-own margarita option and other cocktails. For a mid-afternoon treat, we recommend a house margarita that can be had for $4 during the 12-6pm daily happy hour.
At River’s Edge you’ll find the perfect place to have a relaxed meal with your family. Whether you’ve got a baby and a toddler in tow or older children along, this restaurant is great for families looking for a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy delicious food with a Texan twist.
The River’s Edge Cafe Patio + Bar
Ambiance: Relaxed and leisurely
Best for: Families with younger children and babies, as well as older children; large families
Reservations: As with all Riverwalk restaurants, recommended for dinner, especially during festivals and events. Otherwise the dining area and patio seating are large enough that you shouldn’t need a reservation.
We round out our top picks with a festive restaurant on the Riverwalk with lots of energy and good Mexican street food: Barriba Cantina. This restaurant is located in the Southbank, a level up from the Riverwalk which offers a fantastic view and refreshing breezes on hot summer evenings. Open for lunch and dinner, Barriba Cantina offers up fresh Mexican food with a flair that foodies and their families will love.
But, food is not the only thing with a flair—the decor in Barriba Cantina is a sight to behold and worth stopping in for even for just a drink and light appetizer. Día de los Muertos decor, Mexican folk art, paintings, and curious light fixtures cover every inch of the restaurant to create a fun atmosphere that everyone in your family will love to marvel at. What’s more, Barriba hosts live music every evening, seven days a week!
Barriba Cantina’s menu boasts Mexican street food with a little something special about each dish. Tortilla chips are made fresh from the restaurant’s own vintage 1920’s tortilla maker. Try these oh-so-thick-and-crispy chips with salsa or guac or try the Queso which features Barriba’s signature red salsa sauce. For a twist on a classic, don’t miss the Mexican deviled eggs made with crispy jalapeño bacon.
Children and adults alike will have their pick of a great variety of tacos from Chicken Tinga Tacos that feature a mild tomato-chipotle sauce to the Mango Pescado Tacos, tacos made with grilled tilapia. Vegetarians will also be pleased with the Hippy Tacos made with ancho grilled veggies, avocado salsa, and cotija cheese. For picky eaters, the kids menu includes tortillas with choices such as cheese or even PB&J. Staff are also very accommodating and happy to tweak your order for your kids or yourself if you’re sensitive to spicy ingredients. For dessert, the restaurant offers one dish which is so delicious it justifies being the only one on the dessert menu: traditional Mexican sweet custard topped with whipped cream, fresh fruits, and mint — the perfect end to a spicy dinner.
For mom and dad, handcrafted cocktails made with freshly squeezed juices are the way to go. The bar makes an especially good Mojito with fresh lime juice that’s not to be missed. If Mojito’s aren’t your thing, ask for the drink menu and you’ll find 8 pages of drinks to choose from including infusion cocktails, margaritas, wine, and South Texas beers. If you’re planning your visit in advance, check out their website for specials and happy hour times. Children wanting a little something special to drink too will love the strawberry lemonade.
Baribba Cantina is the perfect place to head for a fun and festive lunch or dinner with your family. Whether you sit inside or outside, the laid back atmosphere is perfect for families of any age and size. The ambiance is great for newer parents wanting some great food in a very laid back atmosphere, while older children and teenagers will love the energy Barriba has to offer. With a great energy, delicious Mexican eats, a wonderful view of the River, and live music, Barriba Cantina is the place for you and your family to have a fun time.
Ambiance: Fun and festive
Best for: Any age. Older children and teenagers will love the high energy of the restaurant. Parents of young babies and toddlers will appreciate the casual, relaxed atmosphere. (And if you happen to bring your dog on vacation with you Barriba Cantina is pet-friendly!).
Reservations: As with all Riverwalk restaurants, recommended for dinner, especially during festivals and events. If you happen in without reservations though you should most likely have no problem getting a place compared to the long waits of other restaurants on the Riverwalk.
Whether you and your family of foodies travel just to eat, or just relish in new dining experiences wherever you happen to be, our top three picks for San Antonio are restaurants not to be missed! Have you dined at these restaurants or have any leads on great places in San Antonio? Let us know in the comments! And if you’re headed to Alamo City check out our city guide to San Antonio for Families for more stuff to do while you’re in town.
Photo credits: Laura