Chef Jason Dady has ingrained himself into the San Antonio community. After 16 years as a restaurant chef, owner and operator, there are few things he doesn’t know about this sprawling city.
Dady runs eight restaurants and a food truck in San Antonio that feature cuisines ranging from Italian (Tre Trattoria and Tre Enoteca) to Texas BBQ (Two Bros. BBQ Market), Oysters (Shuck Shack) and his latest project, a traditional tapas bar (The Bin).
At the end of the day, we are like any other big city — it's just getting people here to experience it themselves.
It’s not just feeding the community that he loves; it’s getting out and enjoying all that his home city has to offer. He remains amazed that the seventh-largest city in the country can still have some of that small town feeling he adores.
Dady tells Marriott TRAVELER all about the best places to eat, visit and explore to have a true San Antonio experience.
How’d you end up in San Antonio?
I went to high school in Dallas and college in Lubbock, Texas. I went to culinary school in San Francisco, but it was too cost-prohibitive to stay there. My wife’s parents moved close to San Antonio around that time. We came to visit and were blown away by how cool of a city it is.
There wasn’t a saturation of chef-driven concepts at the time (around 2001). We thought it would be a great city for a young restauranteur and chef to plant their roots and see what happens.
You have a wide range of restaurants — how do you decide which concepts to pursue?
It has always been based off of small niches in the market that we felt were missing. We feel like we’ve given San Antonio the restaurants they were missing at that period in time. For example, we opened Tre Trattoria because we couldn’t find a good bowl of linguine and clams. When we opened Two Bros. BBQ Market, we felt that there wasn’t a good Central Texas market to order BBQ by the quarter-pound.
What is the San Antonio food scene like?
It’s burgeoning. We’ll always be known for great Mexican food — a great plate of enchiladas, tacos and such. But we are on this great verge of really exploding with chef-driven concepts, ethnic foods, etc. At the end of the day, we are like any other big city — it’s just getting people here to experience it themselves.
Where would you tell someone to eat who is visiting San Antonio for the first time?
For a classic San Antonio Mexican food experience, go to Los Barrios. They are famous for their puffy tacos, and they just have that hospitality that screams, “We are from San Antonio, and we’ve been here forever.”
For chef-driven restaurants, I love Feast by chef Stefan Bowers. It is a great modern-American small-plates restaurant — great bold flavors. Really special stuff. Boudro’s on the San Antonio riverwalk is a great option, one of our classic riverwalk restaurants. Lots of great options in the Pearl district, which is becoming a hot spot of central San Antonio right now.
You seem to be pretty active across San Antonio. What are must-see attractions or must-do activities?
You can experience the Texas Hill Country and the explosion of Texas wine not too far outside the city.
I think what’s great about San Antonio is its history. You have the Spanish missions south of San Antonio that have been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. Beautiful architecture — such a special place.
We have such a great sports franchise in the Spurs. When they are in season, it’s a must to see them play. It’s such a fabric of this city. We have SeaWorld and Six Flags and really great museums. The Witte Museum for nature and science and The McNay Art Museum.
If you have kids, the DoSeum children’s museum is a must. It’s world-class and brand new. I can’t keep my kids away from this place.
Any hidden gems?
The River Reach/River North area — kind of in between the Pearl and downtown. You could spend a half- day along the river just enjoying the weather. We often have beautiful spring and fall weather.
Only about 45 minutes give-or-take are great Texas wineries. You can experience the Texas Hill Country and the explosion of the Texas wine not too far outside the city.