Will Travel for Food

Texas Restaurants Worth Visiting on the Road This Summer

DeWese's Tip Top Cafe
DeWese's Tip Top Cafe (Photo By John Anderson)

DeWese's Tip Top Cafe

In San Antonio

2814 Fredericksburg Rd.


Tue-Thu, 11am-8pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-9pm; Sun, 11am-7pm

When most Austinites head south to San Antonio, there's usually something other than food on their minds. Sometimes the lure of Lone Star history leads them to the Alamo complex and the nearby Mission Trail. Other times the promise of summertime tourist action takes them to downtown's Riverwalk or the city's outlying theme parks.

And while these are all noble reasons for a Southerly migration, there's a far better (and tastier) reason to visit the Alamo City. I'm referring, of course, to Dewese's Tip Top Cafe, the finest urban diner in Texas and source of the best chicken-fried steak in the known universe (restaurant division).

Located on the old main road to Fredericksburg, DeWese's Tip Top Cafe is the primeval Texas diner -- one that deals exclusively in homestyle foods in frighteningly large portions. The knotty-pine dining room is cluttered with mounted deer heads and dusty trophy bass. Worn formica tables creak with the products of truly transcendent fry pits, transported by surly waitresses working there since God was a girl. Things don't change much at the Tip Top, and generations of San Antonio natives seem to be eternally thankful for it.

Every day around lunchtime, old-school city politicos, working folk, and prim ladies' clubs pack the joint for a dose of what the Tip Top does best -- anything fried in deep fat. Simply put, the cooks who work the Tip Top's fry pits should get Nobel nominations for their work. Everything emerges from the kitchen perfectly crispy and in colossal portions. On the "not technically retro" menu, the designated house specialties -- fried chicken, veal cutlet, onion rings -- are conveniently marked with a star.

It's customary to start any meal at DeWese's with light flour-battered onion rings. Piled perilously high on a dinner plate, the rings are always perfectly crunchy, salty, and sweet enough to melt on the tongue.

By house standards, the chicken-fried steak is as big around as a manhole cover but tender to the fork and light on the tongue. Rich, peppery cream gravy is served in a pool under the steak -- the better to preserve the crunch.

Chili-drenched enchiladas of the Texas diner variety also sport the coveted star. Filled with molten cheese and covered with chili con carne, these oniony marvels just serve to make an eater's choice difficult. Tortilla purists would insist on having the native flatbread served alongside enchiladas, but DeWese's house-made yeast rolls make that choice tough, too. Served only at the tail end of the daily lunch rush, these rolls are fresh-baked, flavorful, and addictive.

And even if it were possible to "save room," there would still be dessert to contend with. Fresh fruit and meringue pies -- including a rich coconut custard variation -- are displayed on a mirrored pie board and usually disappear during the lunch rush. Luckily, the kitchen always keeps a strong back stock of icebox pies -- banana or chocolate -- each piece individually topped with whipped cream as you order. Sweet, smooth and dependable -- you really can't ask for more.

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