Good food isn’t hard to find in San Antonio. As one of only two cities in the entire country recognized as Cities of Gastronomy by UNESCO, San Antonio is brimming with delectable dishes. What is difficult to find is a food tour that not only showcases authentic foods native to San Antonio, but also digs into the heritage of the locals and the history of the foods. Providing this unique combination of food, heritage, and history all in one tour is one of the many reasons that Food Chick Tours is the premier food tour company in San Antonio.
Owner Julia Celeste Rosenfeld brings her considerable culinary knowledge and insider information about the San Antonio food scene to tourists, offering food tours that are more substantial than just chichi restaurants. On the Uniquely Texas Mexican food tour, you’ll experience the essence of San Antonio food, and go where real locals go to enjoy the beloved Tejano culinary delights of the city. Here are the reasons not to miss it! If you’re not a Tex-Mex fan, check out her other tours!
I was hosted on this tour, but all opinions are my own.
1. Incredible Insights From A San Antonio Food Writer
Food Chick Tours owner Julia Celeste Rosenfeld is a food expert and journalist. As a food critic for the San Antonio magazine for more than 10 years, she got an intimate look at the San Antonio food scene and she shares those insights on her food tours. As an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, she gained insight into the culinary world from a chef’s perspective.
Her work as an author brings together her love of food and writing. Her second book, San Antonio Cooks offers recipes from San Antonio’s best chefs, most of whom Julia knows personally. According to Julia, other Texas cities may be known as cool and hip, but San Antonio is where the real magic happens in the Texas gastronomy world. That magic and incredible knowledge are what we experienced on our food tour, and what you will experience, too!
2. Learn The Art Of Making Masa
A huge part of Tex-Mex cooking is the corn tortilla, which of course all starts with masa. There’s a big difference in the taste of this uniquely Texas food depending on how it’s made. We learned the intricacies of masa and the making of corn tortillas at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory. A behind-the-scenes tour let us see the process in this artisanal factory from start to finish. The process starts with locally sourced fresh kernels which are soaked in an alkaline water solution, with lime, for several hours. This centuries-old nixtamalization process offers greater nutritional benefits and simply makes a delicious final product.
After rinsing, the corn is put into the molino, the traditional stone mill, where it’s ground. Depending on the final product, the corn can be ground into a very fine masa or a more coarse one. Once the dough is made, it’s pressed into the correct shape and goes into the oven for baking. Every step is crucial in making the perfect tortilla, which is exactly what they make at this small, hundred-year-old factory. Up front in the store, you can purchase fresh tortillas, authentic tortilla chips, taco shells, and more. Grab some to go, and while you’re here, try the homemade barbacoa tacos, and pork tamales. Seeing the small-batch masa-making process makes this food tour stop something special.
3. Go Behind The Scenes At Legendary Lala’s Gorditas
As we arrived at Lala’s and stood in front of the brightly colored building that houses the kitchen, owner Steven Pizzini greeted us and immediately invited us in. Steven has been cooking up Mexican goodies his whole life, starting in his father’s kitchen at the Taco Hut, which Steven eventually took over and ran until he opened his place, Lala’s Gorditas, a few years ago. At Lala’s, the gorditas are the star of the menu. Corn tortillas, fried and split lengthwise, are stuffed with chicken or beef, lettuce, tomato, crema, and a garnish of cabbage slaw. These gorditas are huge and tasty.
Also available are puffy tacos, enchiladas, and other homemade specialties including the unique and delicious Bryan’s cup, a homemade corn tortilla formed into the shape of a cup filled with creamy refried beans, ground beef, guacamole, and cheddar cheese. Everything here is amazingly fresh and prepared to order. The masa, made by hand every day from nixtamalized corn that’s stone ground right here on site, is the reason the tortillas taste so good. Artisanal Mexican food is what Steven does here.
Not fancy or flashy, this is just wonderful food to enjoy with friends, and it’s some of the best food we had in San Antonio. From the homemade green sauce made fresh with perfectly ripened tomatillos and chiles to the tamales expertly made by hand, what you’ll find at Lala’s gorditas is uncomplicated, Tex-Mex fare made the traditional way that’s meant to delight their customers, old and new.
4. Visit Historical Mission San Jose
Julia’s background as a culinary anthropology instructor was on full display as we toured the historical Mission San Jose and learned the origins of Tex-Mex food. As we explored the mission, acequia, and the mill, Julia explained that as the Spanish and Indians intermarried and mixed with Tejano cowboys, the culture and foods were co-mingled, and out of that came this wonderful food that San Antonio is now known for. The missions of San Antonio are the birthplace of Tex-Mex.
5. Fabulous Fruits At Fruteria La Mission
Texas is hot so I was thrilled with the promise of cool, fresh fruit at Fruteria LaMission. This cute little spot with a drive-thru and picnic tables out back seems like a throwback in time. The colorful menu on the side of the building shows a small list of items including fruit cups, corn, and something called a mangonada. Julia ordered at the window and brought to the table more food than our group could eat. We started with the heaping fruit cup, full of fresh pineapple, melon, jicama, grapes, coconut, and cucumber, sprinkled with tajín.
Next up was the corn. A delicious blend of fresh corn, Mexican crema, butter, cojita cheese, chili powder, lime, and tajin, it could be described as an addict’s worst nightmare — in the best possible way! It’s-out-of-this-world-good and impossible to stop eating. My favorite item at Fruteria La Mission is the incredible concoction called a mangonada. A mango-what-a you ask? It’s fresh mango chunks in a semi-spicy chamoy sauce — a plum-based chili syrup — and sprinkled with tajín. You just have to experience the mangonada!
6. Shop An Authentic La Michoacana Market
An authentic Mexican grocery, La Michoacana Grocery offers typical Mexican groceries and products. For someone like me that doesn’t do a lot of authentic Mexican cooking, Julia’s commentary was super helpful in deciphering what’s here and how it’s used.
7. A Variety Of Customizable Tours
Julia offers a variety of totally different food tours so you can choose the one that appeals to you and your group. If you’re looking for something that Julia doesn’t have listed, reach out to her. She can make arrangements that may not be listed on her site, so just ask. This website lists multiple food tour offerings. In addition to the Uniquely Texas Mexican Food Tour that we did, you’ll find Up In Smoke Texas Q Experience where you can learn about (and taste) the different types of authentic Texas barbecue.
The International Cuisine Tour will leave you feeling as though you’re in a faraway land as you dine on Moroccan, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, and/or Filipino cuisine from expert chefs overseas, now living in San Antonio. Choose the Progressive Dinner to enjoy a progressive meal, with courses at a variety of local restaurants. Julia also does walking brunch tours through historical areas of San Antonio, and she offers custom tours for groups large and small.
I’m already planning my next food tour with Julia. I can’t wait to learn more about the culinary history of Texas and San Antonio.