I’ve eaten at Rosario’s a number of times throughout the years and I’m glad I returned this evening so I can relate to you a fresh perspective of this restaurant. It has become somewhat of an anchor business in the King William/Blue Star Arts area of San Antonio, helping to revitalize the neighborhood. The restaurant is a trendy spot for locals and tourists alike offering live music on the weekends. The walls feature the colorful Latino art and portraits of local artist Gilbert Duran. The place is spacious with plenty of seating, somewhat loud (actually, very loud), and boasts a large bar and waiting area (and you will wait if you get there past 6:30).
Rosario’s website says they make traditional Mexican dishes prepared with a contemporary twist. My opinion is that this claim is a bit of a stretch. The food here is actually TexMex with a bit of originality (let’s call it what it is). Many of the traditional Mexican dishes are missing from menus. The moles, the pipians, the nogadas, all of these are the traditional sauces known to Mexico, but none appear on the menu. Instead, what you find is traditional TexMex fare – tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas. Yes, these are Mexican foods, too, but they have been overdone in underwhelming style in TexMex cuisine. I am excited to see the use of several chiles, like the pasilla, and guajillo, but the unique dishes that I have had in the past have slowly disappeared from the menu, only to be replaced by another enchilada offering. But enough of my ranting. The fact is that despite some disappointments, the food here is good and the atmosphere upbeat and hip.
The table sauce is made from roasted tomatoes and jalapenos, producing a dark color and smoky taste, though not spicy. It is a little bitter, but could really get a lift if the restaurant made its own tortilla chips instead of serving bagged chips.
My two girls decided to share the Queso Flameado (‘flamed,’ or melted cheese). This appetizer is made with asadero cheese and can be ordered with either chorizo, a soft and somewhat spicy Mexican sausage, or mushrooms (which the waiter could not find out what kind are used), and served in a flour tortilla. I’ve had this dish here before and its been better. It used to be served with strips of dried chile pepper, adding a smoky depth to the taste. It should have also come with pico de gallo, but mine was missing. My nine year old daughter complained that the chorizo lacked flavor, and I had to agree. It lacked the usual pungency of paprika and tanginess of vinegar. Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for melted cheese. If you order this, eat it immediately since the cheese will develop a nasty texture as it cools. This appetizer should serve six people.
I ordered the Flautas Especiales. Flautas are, pretty much, rolled tacos made with corn tortillas and fried. They should have a crispy shell and are usually served with pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream. My flautas were filled with grilled beef fajita meat (usually flank steak), mushrooms, spinach, chipotle, and cheese. To be honest, I missed the chipotle (whether in pepper form or sauce), the cheese was a little tasteless, and I could have used more spinach since I couldn’t taste it at all. Nevertheless, this is the best flauta I’ve tasted, and the filling was unique. The beef was tender and had an excellent grilled flavor, the mushrooms added a nice, earthy depth to the meat (my waiter could not tell me what kind of shrooms were used), and the spinach was fresh (as far as I could tell, since I could distinguish the stems). My corn tortilla was not as crispy as I would have liked, but the filling was generous and the taste was very good. The Mexican rice that accompanied my dish was fluffy, and the taste was augmented somewhat by the intermixed corn and carrots. The side of beans, however, was unmemorable.
My wife ordered Griselda’s Tacos. As with my flautas, the beef fajita had an excellent taste and texture. The lightly fried corn tortilla is filled with a dab of refried beans, cilantro lime slaw, and cheese. The tacos had so little cheese (it appeared to be cotija, a crumbly white cheese) that it was barely discernible. There was almost no coleslaw in the tacos, either. It is unfortunate because these ‘street tacos’ rely on the crispness of the fresh cabbage and the acidity of the limes. Nevertheless, I found the tacos to be very tasty and tried to trade my flautas with my wife, in vain.
Rosario’s is a mainstay in San Antonio. The wait on some evenings is a testament to its popularity with locals and tourists alike. If I had never been here before I would have been pleased, despite the few quality missteps. I, personally, have become disenchanted as the once-unique menu has been replaced by banal and tame offerings better suited to unadventurous palates. Even the spicy nature of traditional Mexican cuisine is non-existent. The fact is, however, that the restaurant business is just that – a business – and must change and adapt to the tastes of the masses if it wants to achieve greater success. That being the case, then, Rosario’s exemplifies San Antonio. So, when I am in the mood for some of the best TexMex around, Rosario’s is my place of choice, and continues to be a recommendation for experiencing San Antonio through its food.