Discover Winter Romance:
For at least eight months out of the year, many of us find ourselves wondering whether the witch from Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe has cast a spell over us, but instead of perpetual winter, it feels like perpetual summer. And then the December holidays come and officially usher in our reprieve. We rush to put on sweaters, heat up hot chocolate, and, yes, sit by a fireplace. For those of us who grew up north of 1-10, we most likely enjoyed this ritual more often, but regardless of our place of origin, who doesn’t long for a cozy fireplace when the air begins to chill? To some, a winter without a fireplace visit is very much like a summer without a dip in a pool, rendering the season incomplete.
It can be a challenge to find a working fireplace in San Antonio these days, especially in a restaurant. Rest assured, they do exist, making the hunt well worth it. With the colder months upon us and Valentine’s Day in view, here are several popular restaurants offering enticing fireside options along with some warming dishes to spur on the taste of winter. Carpe diem — before the extreme heat returns.
Relatively new to San Antonio, Whiskey Cake is not new to Texas creature comforts. Birthed in Texas, it is a welcome addition to La Cantera neighbors and shoppers alike.
Unique fireside appeal: The indoor red brick fireplace with relaxing lounge seating offers an especially rewarding reprieve after long hours of shopping. The fireplace ambiance (and high-quality food experience) is so compelling, particularly when the weather is chillier, the drive for those living outside the area is well worth it.
Favorite dishes for winter: Their “farm to fork” menu is as locally sourced as possible, inspiring a menu composed of classic American favorites with creative and whimsical twists. The local goat cheese fondue, for example, is meltingly delicious. The rotisserie “farm birds” are first raised in Nixon, TX, before landing in several dishes accompanied by vegetable sides. Probably the most succulent for the winter weather is the mesquite-grilled short rib, braised in whiskey and accompanied by fresh vegetable sides. For dessert, there is no competition; the whiskey cake is a heavenly torte surrounded by bourbon creme anglaise, spiced pecans, and whipped cream. Sharing is highly recommended. The full bar menu features a carefully selected array of wine and specialty beers, whiskeys, bourbons, and Scotch, as well as craft cocktails featuring just-squeezed fruit juices — they call it “garden to glass.”
Valentine’s Day: Call for reservations or use opentable.com. Specify if requesting fireside dining — seating is limited.
Restaurant Details: The Shops At La Cantera, 15900 Via La Cantera #21200, San Antonio, TX 78256. Serving food: Mon – Thu, 11 AM – 11 PM; Fri, 11 AM – 12 AM; Sat, 10 AM – 12 AM; Sun, 10 AM – 10 PM. (210) 236-8095. www.whiskeycakesa.com.
After 40 years in San Antonio, the owners of Paesanos strive to maintain tradition, yet keep their menus fresh and ever-changing. The contemporary restaurant is nestled among Texas live oaks and features a sophisticated design of warm rust and olive tones. Paesanos is perfect for a romantic evening and boasts one of the largest wine lists in town.
Unique fireplace appeal: The lounge and the sun room both have cozy fireplaces that set a mood for romance. Both fireplaces are lit most of the time unless outdoor temperatures are super hot. The staff will try to accommodate those who wish to sit by a fireplace, but cannot guarantee it. The lush outdoor patio with a koi pond is also a romantic setting.
Favorite dishes for winter: Of course, Shrimp Paesano is a favorite all year long! Other winter favorites: lobster bisque, Peroni braised pot roast with mashed potatoes, center-cut beef tenderloin with truffle croquettes and balsamic glaze, lobster ravioli. Chef Clark McDaniel relocated from Fort Worth to be executive chef over a decade ago. He created the fall/winter menu and changes it out for spring and summer.
Valentine’s Day: There is a special three-course prix fixe menu, and reservations are required. The menu includes a Caesar salad, choice of entrée with wine option, Shrimp Paesano or Lemon Chicken, and Limoncello Cheesecake. $125 per couple.
Restaurant details: 3622 Paesanos Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78231; Open Sun-Thurs 11AM-10 PM, Fri-Sat 11 AM-11 PM. 210-493-1604. www.paesanos1604.com.
GREY MOSS INN
For more than 80 years, the Grey Moss Inn Restaurant has been serving and charming diners amidst Hill Country beauty.
Unique fireside appeal: Not only one, but two fireside options woo and wow. The most captivating is on the scenic limestone patio, where the smells and sights of steaks and other cuts of delicious meats being cooked on the circular stone grill fill the air while Texas oaks sway overhead. On colder nights, however, consider dining indoors, near the cozy fireplace.
Favorite dishes for winter: For a taste of truly local fare, try the roasted Texas quail appetizer (from nearby Broken Arrow Ranch), stuffed with homemade beef chorizo. The renowned steaks are grilled over mesquite charcoal and basted with their special concoction called “witches brew.” The rib-eye “choice” is their premier steak, and the smoked prime rib (12 ounces) is another signature item — cold smoked with a special seasonings for eight hours. Choosing a dessert will be another matter with nine decadent options, but staff members relay that their chocolate pecan pie is the favorite among regulars.
Valentine’s Day: Praised as one of San Antonio’s most romantic restaurants, they offer their regular menu as well as a la carte Valentine’s Day specials for each course. Call as soon as possible for reservations and specify if requesting a fireside option — space is limited.
Restaurant Details: 19010 Scenic Loop Road, Helotes, TX 78023. Open Mon – Sun, 5 – 10 PM. Phones answered beginning at 1 PM on weekdays, 2 PM on weekends. (210) 695-8301.
By Lauren Browning