The Austin Chronicle

The Take-Out

What Austin dining can learn from San Antonio

By Brandon Watson, February 26, 2016, Food

Besides a few residual clicks, there's probably not much benefit in me jumping into the brouhaha spurned by Matthew Sedacca's now infamous Eater Austin piece on "How Austin Became the Home of the Crucial Breakfast Taco." As Robbie Rodgers mentions in the delightful petition you've probably seen circulating on social media, Austinites (or those claiming some stake in our land) get into that particular kerfuffle once every year. I'm sure come next year's SXSW, we'll all be at it again, irritating our neighbors to the south with similarly boastful claims. So instead of arguing, I'd like to give credit.

I know that it is a violation of Austin's notoriously militant civic pride to say this, but the truth is there's a lot that Austin's restaurant scene can learn from San Antonio.

I became semi-obsessed with the Alamo City after attending Culinaria's festival week. Probably the last thing San Antonio's emerging food scene needs is an Austin food editor using words like "emerging" to describe it, but wherever it may be standing in the race for "Hot Food Town USA," one thing was clear: everyone was having a lot more fun than I have seen people having at an Austin food event in years.

It's not that Austinites don't know how to party, it's just that we seem to be increasingly self-aware of how we party. The zeitgeist swells quickly here. Suddenly everyone you know is eating the same pizza and drinking the same cocktail. We know this because we see the same overhead shots on everyone's Instagram feed (I'm certainly not immune; the photos I take from the @chronfood account more or less show the same things too).

It would be silly to suggest that San Antonians use social media less than Austinites, but I certainly see less people there pausing to photograph before they enjoy their food and drink. That's nearly universal now in Austin, and I worry that our constant remove from the things we consume makes our various riches seem less special.

San Antonio certainly has its share of serious restaurants, from Jason Dady's various ventures to Hot Joy to Cured with its recent James Beard nominee Steve McHugh, but they never seem to take those things for granted. I would dare say that you will never see my colleague from the San Antonio Current, Jessica Elizarraras, write a column about how everyone in her scene is blasé. Even this obsession we have with proving our breakfast taco primacy seems at this point less about a friendly rivalry and more about being smug.

Let's stop talking about the damn things. It's time we just eat them.

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