Hotel restaurants

The 7 best hotel restaurants on the San Antonio River Walk, including Landrace, Range, Ambler and Ocho

Previously, any discussion of hotel restaurants along the River Walk began and ended with Las Canarias’ epic Sunday brunch at the Omni La Mansión del Rio RiverWalk, a buffet filled with crab claws, ribs of beef, Foster bananas and bottomless mimosas.

But the pandemic has hit hotels particularly hard, and Las Canarias has been reduced to serving breakfast only for now. No dinner, no lunch, no Sunday buffet. The same is true for hotel restaurants along the River Walk, with reduced hours and menus as they struggle to navigate the new normal.

Even so, there’s a wake-up light rippling across the water as tourists return, slowly walking their penguin walks, necks stretched skyward, where they’ll find two of the River Walk’s newest hotels reaching the blue: the elegant Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk and the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk, a stack of projecting Lego walkways and balconies.

The Thompson and Canopy are home to two of the seven best hotel restaurants on the River Walk, a list I compiled after stepping into each of the more than 20 cafes, bars, bistros, pubs and hotel cafes on the section of the River Walk beginning at César E. Chávez Boulevard on the south and ending at Fourth Street on the north.

The beauty of hotel restaurants is that they allow you to eat right where you are staying. But these seven are worth seeking out on their own merits, with seats on the river and the added luxury of a full bar to relax in after the River Walk Shuffle.

This is the second in a four-part, bi-weekly series covering restaurants on the River Walk. I started with the nine best local spots. I’ll then rate the chain’s best restaurants, on my way to naming the 10 best River Walk restaurants overall — in time to plan your cool-weather vacation treks to this underrated San Antonio treasure.

The menu at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk includes a prime beef and brisket burger, pasta pappardelle with lamb sausage, and a spicy mango and jalapeño margarita.

Mike Sutter / Staff

Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails at the Contessa Hotel

Ambler’s second biggest asset might be Marriage Island just outside the restaurant’s riverside patio, a small heart-shaped pier perfect for Instagram couples on selfie patrol. Ambler’s biggest highlight is a menu of Texas-inspired dishes that includes velvety pappardelle pasta with lamb sausages, plus a premium beef and brisket burger.

It’s an upscale bar destination for lunch and a full-fledged steakhouse at night, with cocktails like a spicy margarita that embraces mango and jalapeño. 306 W. Market St., 210-229-9222, amblersanantonio.com

Domingo Restaurant at the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk hotel offers Baja fish tacos.

Domingo Restaurant at the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk hotel offers Baja fish tacos.

Mike Sutter / Staff

Domingo Restaurante at the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk

The wide patio that stretches to the river at the modernist Domingo is decked out with loveseats and pillows like a lounge on “The Bachelorette,” and it cultivates a Latin American vibe that translates to a menu of tacos, guacamole , street corn, quesadillas and Latin-influenced seafood.

Crispy Baja fish tacos and green chili chicken enchiladas are some of the best Mexican food you’ll find on the river walk, complete with a robust and blessed signature margarita and a frothy Oaxacan colada with mezcal, banana liqueur and coconut cream that is not afraid to wear pink. 123 N. St. Mary’s St., 210-404-7516, domingorestaurant.com/domingo

The menu at Dorrego's at Hotel Valencia Riverwalk includes, clockwise from top left, beef empanadas, New York steak, Porteño Margarita and grilled provolone cheese.

The menu at Dorrego’s at Hotel Valencia Riverwalk includes, clockwise from top left, beef empanadas, New York steak, Porteño Margarita and grilled provolone cheese.

Mike Sutter / Staff

Dorrego at the Valencia Riverwalk Hotel

I’ve always found it a bold idea to have an Argentinian restaurant at the heart of a hotel’s dining program. Travelers aren’t afraid to go new places, but their appetite isn’t always so adventurous.

Dorrego’s responds with dishes that resonate regardless of nationality, like empanadas with spiced beef inside puff pastry and an iron skillet of flambé provolone cheese with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. A perfectly seared New York Striploin is accompanied by a quartet of sauces for an Argentinian adventure just your way.

The dining room is bold and reassuringly masculine, but the veranda — where I once saw Carlos Santana pontificate at dinner — is the perfect place to perch among palm fronds overlooking the river. 150 E. Houston St., 210-230-8454, dorregos.com

A 16-ounce New York strip loin comes with pequin peppercorn chili sauce, with the option of adding foie gras, at Landrace, chef Steve McHugh's restaurant at the Thompson San Antonio - Riverwalk Hotel.

A 16-ounce New York strip loin comes with pequin peppercorn chili sauce, with the option of adding foie gras, at Landrace, chef Steve McHugh’s restaurant at the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk Hotel.

Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Landrace at the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk

You can smell Landrace’s wood-burning grill from across the river, announcing that it’s Texas food, ranch-to-table. The bar and main dining room could be an upscale restaurant almost anywhere, but it’s unmistakably San Antonio along the high curved windows of the side dining room and patio, offering views of the river and the glittering Tobin Center for the Performing Arts across the water.

Celebrity chef Steve McHugh’s menu draws on grilled meats and local produce, with crispy Hopi blue corn hushpuppies, a bowl with various summer squash preparations and one of the best steaks in town, trimmed new with foie gras. 111 Lexington Ave, 210-942-6026, landracetx.com

Brunch in Ocho at the Havana on the River Walk hotel includes plantain cakes with carnitas.

Brunch in Ocho at the Havana on the River Walk hotel includes plantain cakes with carnitas.

Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Ocho at Hotel Havana

Housed in a glass-enclosed room like an art deco terrarium with the River Walk along one wall, Ocho is the playground of chef Jesse Kuykendall, who recently won an episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.” In Ocho, the brunch menu includes a tall stack of plantain cakes covered in pork carnitas made by a Laredo native who knows carnitas well.

The dinner menu mixes Latin and Cuban flavors, with specialties like arroz con pollo, steak chimichurri and lamb with mamey mole. 1015 Navarro St., 210-222-2008, havanasanantonio.com/restaurant-and-bar/ocho/

Ostra at Mokara Hotel & Spa on the River Walk is a seafood restaurant featuring roasted Gulf rockfish, top tier, fresh East Coast oysters and a pineapple jalapeño margarita.

Ostra at Mokara Hotel & Spa on the River Walk is a seafood restaurant featuring roasted Gulf rockfish, top tier, fresh East Coast oysters and a pineapple jalapeño margarita.

Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Ostra at Mokara Hotel & Spa

Fresh east coast oysters set the tone for a well-rounded seafood experience at Ostra, perched by the river with striped umbrellas billowing in the breeze. These oysters pair well with a spicy yet refreshing pineapple jalapeño margarita served in a tall martini-shaped glass.

Ostra isn’t afraid to up the ante with perfectly roasted Gulf redfish over golden oatmeal with roasted tomato. 212 W. Crockett St., 210-396-5817, omnihotels.com/hotels/san-antonio-mokara/dining/ostra

The Range at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk Downtown menu includes, clockwise from left, cast-iron seared rib eye, margarita, parisa beef tartare and eggs stuffed with breast jam.

The Range at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk Downtown menu includes, clockwise from left, cast-iron seared rib eye, margarita, parisa beef tartare and eggs stuffed with breast jam.

Mike Sutter/Staff File Photo

Range at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk Downtown

Chef Jason Dady’s chophouse at the Embassy Suites survived the pandemic by downsizing. No more martinis and Caesar salads at the table, no more sprawling menus bound in leather. What’s left is a well-curated dinner menu of Dady’s greatest hits at Range: a South Texas beef tartare concoction called parisa that’s fresh, tangy and silky smooth; deviled eggs topped with sweet and smoky brisket jam and seared mahogany rib eye that fills the plate.

Admire the river from the second-story window near the ballroom staircase, or opt for the alfresco steakhouse experience on the patio with an invigorating Tres Agaves margarita. 125 E. Houston St., 210-227-4455, rangesa.com


To note: This story has been updated to correct Chef Jesse Kuykendall’s pronouns in their/them.

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