Let me tell you about a place that's won my endless love: Lisa's Mexican Restaurant on Bandera Road. The space—soothing, modern and inviting. Warm, saturated jewel tones and walls bursting with bold original artwork by Brother Cletus set the stage for memorable food. Lisa's pays homage to both Mexican and Tex-Mex. Comida estilo casero is elevated to exemplary status thanks to beautifully executed recipes, fresh ingredients and a respectful nod to tradition. The menu features interior Mexican classics like Rajas con Crema. Roasted poblano pepper strips and sauteed onions swim in a silky, rich cream sauce. Lisa's sopes are the best I've had in Texas- fresh masa patties with a discreet slather of bacony refrieds. One topped with earthy, piquant cubes of lean pork in perfect salsa roja, the other crowned with richly spiced papas with fresh chorizo. Both garnished with crisp lettuce, finished with queso fresco and drizzled with Mexican crema. I felt "en casa". I also fell in love with Lisa's two excellent salsas- a vibrant, playful tomato serrano, or a rich, roasted jalapeño, onion and tomato number with slow, lingering burn. Spinach enchiladas are benchmark. These espinacas are clean, vibrant and luxuriously draped in cream, sided with veggies and excellent, fluffy white rice. Classic Tex-Mex enchiladas sing, and San Antonians voted the cheese enchiladas "best in town". Lisa's borracho beans get bacon, fresh pico de gallo, beer and respect. Yes indeed, because the beans remain tender and whole at once, the broth eminently slurpable. These frijoles were also named "best in San Antonio". Pescado a la Veracruzana is lovely. The sauce, a well-balanced, complimentary blend of tomatoes, olives, peppers and spices doesn't overwhelm the mild fish fillets. Tacos al pastor get an achiote marinade for a "toque yucateco," rich, flavorful and alive with fresh cilantro, cebolla and pineapple. I was almost at the corner taquería in the DF, standing at an angle and biting my way to taco callejero heaven. Oh, and the corn tortillas. The flour are righteous, but the corn...oh my Aztec gods. Hand made, light, tender- hechas a mano. Great corn tortillas are hard to find in San Antonio, flour tortilla kingdom. Attention to craft and authenticity are the norm here. Go to Lisa's. Eat your way thru the menu. Enjoy the attentive, warm service. Be a discerning Mex-Tex lover. The server told me many of the regulars are fixtures- they eat here five and six times a week. I smiled, not one bit surprised. I understood. I'm one of them now.
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Jacala is probably one of the best-kept secrets in San Antonio's Mexican food scene. Located in an out-of-the-way West Avenue eatery, it's been in business since 1949. I've been eating there at least that long. When I have out-of-town guests that the first place we go. Their food is true Tex-Mex, and they're noted for their "puffy tacos" ( a mouth-watering conncoction of specially spiced beef and hand-tossed tortillas). But the 'coup de grace' is their Cheese Enchilada plate. Smothered in Jacala's signature chili (the tasty variety, not the super-hot type), Jacala's Enchilladas are 'to die for'. If you want to return to tell your friends that you've had the very best Mexican foot money can buy, tell your waiter you want a Number 3 plate (their most popular). For the lesser appetite, try the 'Lady's Special', or the identical 'Macho's Special'. Wash it all down with a Especial Maragarita, and you can truly go back having eaten the 'real thing'! As to the service; it's incomparable! Richard (now in his 70s, has been with Jacala since he was 18 years old. Hi protogee', Miguel, has been there at least 25 years. Guera (pronounced Wera) has been there at least as long as Miguel and runs the second tier of restaurant help with a professional touch. Want to show your sophistication? Try to find the well-hidden face of Jesus in the mural along the rear wall. As a hint: It's located in the trees where the 'Rosita Bridge' crosses the San Antonio River. A further hint: It's on the right hand side of the bridge. -0-
When you first walk in you will be welcomed by the hostess who will direct you to your table and tell you who your server will be. In my case, Joel. =) The service is personal and you can expect to be asked how your meal is and how your day is going multiple times. The manager was just as friendly as the team he has. You can definitely keep snacking on the the chips and salsa as they are as superb as the sweet tea (garnished with lime) and enjoy the conversation of your company. The food is delectable. By far the best rice, beans and flour tortillas on the northside. The cheese enchiladas are mouth watering topped with their signature enchilada and chile con carne sauce. The flautas are light and crispy. They are filled and you are guaranteed a mouthful of tender chicken in every bite. This is truly a restaurant where the portions are just right or you might even find yourself saying "I ran out of food!" The atmosphere is perfect for the restaurant. You will find yourself dancing and even swaying to the tejano, amongst other types of latin music. The restrooms as well as the restaurant in general is immaculate both inside and out. This is crucial to me.... It was lunch time. A margarita seals the deal as a great before or after beverage. Did I mention the happy hour?