The Best Day Ever at

The Pearl

Visit the best restaurants, best shops and explore best entertainment from morning till night.

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Go ahead and pay for parking (or don’t) and make the most of your day at one of San Antonio’s most dynamic spots that boasts some of the city’s best restaurants, world-class accommodations in the historic Hotel Emma, a retail wonderland, entertainment from the morning till late night and stunning views along the Museum Reach of the River Walk passing directly behind the sprawling campus that once played host to the storied Pearl Brewery.

With more than 25 restaurants, bars and specialty food and drink operations, the Pearl is San Antonio’s culinary Disneyland, a self-contained theme park that caters to tourists and townies with a sense of adventure, variety and quality.

Unlike San Antonio’s biggest walk-around food bazaar, the River Walk, the Pearl steers away from mainstream mall restaurants to cultivate local and regional operations. The result is a mix of small food hall kiosks, a coffee shop, a bakery, a few bars, a brewery, a culinary-school bistro and some of San Antonio’s best restaurants, with styles that embrace Italian, Mexican, French, Mediterranean, Chinese, Peruvian, Japanese, Caribbean and distinctly American.

It’s a lot to squeeze into one day, especially when you throw in shopping, pampering and entertainment.


Early Morning

Get caffeinated while people- and pet-watching

Coffee options at Local Coffee Founders at the Pearl in San Antonio include drip coffee, an iced salted caramel latte, cappuccino and espresso. Mike Sutter, Staff

The caffeine starts flowing at 6:30 on weekday mornings, 7 a.m. on the weekends. The shop’s tall windows offer a great view of the dogwalkers, restaurant workers and early risers that get the Pearl’s day going. Go for a strong drip coffee, a properly bitter espresso or the sweet, refreshing jolt of a salted caramel iced latte.

Address: 302 Pearl Parkway at the Pearl

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

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Fill up and chill out

Breakfast at Supper, the restaurant at Hotel Emma at the Pearl in San Antonio, includes Emma’s Breakfast (eggs Benedict, ricotta, fruit), French toast, bacon and coffee. Mike Sutter, Staff

Breakfast at Supper. I like the contradiction in that. Hotel Emma’s elegant flagship restaurant starts serving breakfast at 7 a.m. from an all-day menu that runs until 5 p.m., with a menu that includes eggs Benedict with sweet ricotta and fruit (Emma’s Breakfast) and French toast with a maple and pepita crumble so sweet you don’t need syrup.

Address: 136 E. Grayson St. at Hotel Emma at the Pearl

Hours: All-day menu and breakfast 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; dinner 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

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  • Chilaquil I’m obligated by local ordinance to alert you to the presence of breakfast tacos at the Pearl. This is where they live, at Chilaquil at the Bottling Department food hall from 8 a.m. to noon every day, where they offer seven varieties on soft flour tortillas with spicy orange and green salsas.
  • Hiatus Spa and Retreat Those seeking some high-end pampering during their day at the Pearl will find plenty of options at the Hiatus Spa and Retreat, which is part of a statewide chain. It’s located right across from the Hotel Emma, and includes such services as body wraps, hot stone and deep tissue massage and mani-pedis. MedSpa services are available as well, including Botox; those services require advance consultation with the spa’s medical director. Folks who are planning to indulge in a little more “me time” in the new year may want to look into the H-Circle membership. For $79 a month, members get one essential service each as well as discounts on other services.

Late Morning

Walk off your breakfast while shopping and taking in the sights

Hot food vendors such as Taverna have sold at the Pearl Farmers Market. Chuck Blount /Staff File Photo

Held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, this is San Antonio’s premier farmers market with dozens of vendors, restaurants, artisans and, of course, farmers, peddling their wares. Often boasting live music, plenty of margaritas and a legion of kids splashing in a large water feature on the grounds, this farmers market is just as much of a block party to catch up with friends at as it is a place to stock your pantry.

Address: 312 Pearl Parkway

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays

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  • Bike World Bike World has kept San Antonio rolling on two wheels since 1971 and now has five shops across the city. While you can purchase bicycles, accessories, apparel and more here, visitors will likely be most interested in the shop’s bicycle rental program. Bike World is well stocked with bicycles perfect for exploring beyond the boundaries of the Pearl that are available for as little as four hours to a five-day rental period.
  • The Twig Book Shop The Twig Book Shop’s shelves offer much to explore, including plenty of books by San Antonio and Texas authors, first-rate fiction and non-fiction and a marvelous children’s section. There also are plenty of fun tchotchkes available. The shop has a busy slate of free readings and author appearances, too. The December lineup includes Peter Scamardo, a copy editor at, who will be on hand to talk about his first novel “The Boys in the Brazos River Bottom” on Dec. 1; Elise Krentzel, who will chat about her memoir, “Under My Skin: Drama, Trauma & Rock ‘n’ Roll” on Dec. 3; and Michael Camarillo, who will talk about his dystopian novel “Warder 516” on Dec. 15; and Littlest readers aren’t left out of the mix: The popular Miss Anatastasia’s Wild and Wacky Pre-Weekend Twiglet Storytime takes place at 10:30 a.m. Fridays.


Have a leisurely Italian lunch

Arrosta is an Italian restaurant restaurant at the Pearl in San Antonio. Mike Sutter, Staff

This new rustic Italian trattoria just outside the Pearl’s main campus showcases the cooking of respected chef Robbie Nowlin, who can be seen rolling out pasta with dusty hands as lunch service gets going at 11 a.m. Try his robust lasagna Bolognese with a glass of aggressive Sicilian red wine, or order the chef’s special three-course lunch.

Address: 1803 Broadway, Suite 101

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Sunday

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  • Ladino Chef Berty Richter grew up in Israel speaking the Sephardic Jewish language called Ladino, and he’s brought the culture and its mix of Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine to the Pearl. Let go of your gyro-and-pita fixation and embrace spicy lamb ribs, rich lamb-and-beef dumplings called shish barak, roasted red pepper muhammara with pecans and the fresh fish  revelation of agristada. Mainly a dinner destination, Ladino recently added lunch hours Friday through Sunday.
  • Full Goods Diner Brunch is whenever you say it is, and Full Goods is there for it from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. This stylish diner arose from the popular Austin breakfast food truck Paperboy, and the menu features steak and eggs, a thick Dutch baby-style pancake, cocktails, coffee and Texas Hash with roasted pork, sweet potatoes, a poached egg and pecan mole.
  • Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery Southerleigh’s always been the kind of place to roll-your-sleeves-up and get some fried chicken, fresh oysters and house-brewed beer. They closed for a few weeks this fall to polish and upgrade their dinner menu and refresh their outlook. But hey, the fried chicken’s as good as ever, marinated in a salty brine, fried hot to order with biscuits and red-eye gravy. Even at lunch, maybe especially at lunch, it goes great with whatever the brewers have up their tattooed sleeves.


Pick up a souvenir or a pick-me-up

The menu at Bakery Lorraine includes macarons, house-baked Pop Tart-style pastries, almond croissants and cappuccino. Mike Sutter, Staff

Bakery Lorraine pours the full range, but cappuccino in a giant white ceramic mug is just the thing to set down beside Lorraine’s fabled pastel rainbow of featherlight macarons, a layered almond croissant and its pumped-up version of a Pop-Tart. They’re open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

Address: 306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 110

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Sunday

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  • Adelante Boutique Adelante has been in business since 1975, and known for its selection of women’s clothing that reflect the city’s puro San Antonio spirit. The selection ranges from fun and modern attire to clothing inspired by traditional Mexican styles. The bright and colorful store is also stocked with a large assortment of candles, home decor, jewelry, seasonal decorations and more.
  • Feliz Modern This quirky and playful shop was founded by Ginger and Mario Diaz in 2017 and expanded to the Pearl two years later. With a vibrant collection of artwork, jewelry, fashion accessories, home decor and more, many made by San Antonio-based artists, this is the best spot at the Pearl to pick up a small memento from your time in the Alamo City.
  • Niche The mother-and-daughter tag team of Nilgün and Ayse Derman launched the clothing company Niche 25 years ago and opened their first retail shop at the Pearl in 2014. Niche’s apparel line is exclusively designed and stitched in the United States. In addition to an eclectic and colorful range of women’s fashion, Niche recently added men’s clothing to the lineup, making the store one of the few places at the Pearl for a fella to grab some new duds.
  • Larder Located inside the historic Hotel Emma, this spot doubles as a small coffee shop with several grab-and-go food options. But the main draw here is a selection of merchandise perfect for any visiting foodie. From local cookbooks to bottles and jars of San Antonio-produced jams and condiments to a robust selection of beer and wine available to-go, Larder has something for just about anyone looking for an edible way to remember their time at the Pearl.

Late Afternoon

Celebrate the day with Happy Hour

At the Chinese-American restaurant Best Quality Daughter at the Pearl in San Antonio, weekday happy hour specials from 5 to 6 p.m. include half-price cocktails such as the tequila-lychee Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita. Mike Sutter, Staff

One hour isn’t very long to take advantage of half-price cocktails and $3 beers, but it’s enough time to take in the custom San Antonio wallpaper and the charming Insta-ready cuteness of this Chinese-American restaurant named for a line in “The Joy Luck Club.” Try the cheeky tequila-lychee cocktail Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita, grab a $3 Singha beer from Thailand and add on a few regular-price appetizers, including giant Bougie Egg Rolls and vegan-friendly Impossible Potstickers. Happy hour: 5 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Address: 602 Ave. A at the Pearl

Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; brunch, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

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  • Botika This Peruvian-Chinese-Japanese restaurant is an education in world foodways, and the teaching doesn’t stop at happy hour, when a $10 flight of five sakes will take you beyond hot cups of the cheap stuff to explore the worlds of ginjo, junmai, draft and sparkling sakes with names like Winter Warrior and Bride of the Fox. Pair those with $6 achiote chicken wings or $10 sushi rolls, including the Dragon Roll’s double crunch of tempura shrimp and crispy noodles. Happy hour: 4 to 6 p.m. daily.
  • Carriqui If dinner at Carriqui is a platter-size commitment to the barbacoa, achiote chicken, smoked brisket, grilled seafood and ceviche of South Texas and Mexico, think of happy hour as a handshake to meet this Pearl newcomer, housed in the former leaning home of Liberty Bar, now a modern Southern mansion of a place. For $8, let tequila guide you to a respectable frozen margarita or a cocktail made with Mexican Coke, tequila and lime called the Charro Negro. Another $8 buys some of the best tacos dorados with potatoes in the city. Happy hour: 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
  • Cured There’s a reason Cured chef and owner Steve McHugh’s been nominated a million times for a James Beard Award. His mix of Southern spicing, Midwestern heartiness and Texas swagger makes Cured one of the best restaurants in San Antonio, not just the Pearl. During happy hour, Cured’s signature heritage hog poutine with turmeric cauliflower is just $8.50, a double cheeseburger made with Pabst Blue Ribbon is just $7.50, and fried quail legs clock in at 50 cents apiece. Drink a $5 Rose Quartz Cocktail with gin and $2.50 locally made HighWheel Betty kolsch. Happy hour: 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.


Enjoy a taste of the CIA

A recent four-course dinner at Savor, the student-run restaurant from the Culinary Institute of America, included lamb chops with pipian verde. Mike Sutter, Staff

One of the Pearl’s greatest accomplishments was luring the Culinary Institute of America to its basecamp. Great for the students; even better for us. Because the CIA operates Savor, an elegant little bistro across from Hotel Emma that offers three- or four-course dinners during the school year for $45 and $53 respectively. It’s one of the best fine-dining restaurant values in the city. And with hospitality professionals Fabien Jacob and chef Sofía Sada supervising the advanced student crew, Savor turns out white tablecloth-quality roasted lamb, softshell crab, lobster tlacoyo and deconstructed tres leches cake with service that feels like the staff has some skin in the game.

Address: 200 E. Grayson St., Suite 117, at the Pearl

Hours: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday

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  • Brasserie Mon Chou Chou When the Express-News started doing full restaurant reviews again in 2020 after a pandemic grace period, Brasserie Mon Chou earned a full five stars with a fully immersive French experience, from the confident European decor to the hospitality of a veteran staff led by Philippe Placé to the perfectly tuned kitchen of chef Laurent Réa. It’s still all of those things, with a dinner that might include classic steak frites seared rare, a strong Vieux Carre cocktail, a charcuterie plate like an oil painting and scallops with lobster served on half-shells like The Birth of Venus painting.
  • River of Lights This time of year, there are the holiday lights strung throughout, as well as the River of Lights, the illuminations of the Museum Reach of the River Walk created by the San Antonio River Authority. The river meanders past the complex and is an excellent spot to stroll. Those who would rather ride than walk can get an up-close look on one of the river barges that pass through. The holiday themed night market on Wednesdays includes carolers and other holiday music.
  • JazzTx JazzTx, which opened in 2016, is tucked below the Bottling Company. It seats around 100, creating an intimate environment. Owner Doc Watkins and his band play the space most weeks, and they’re playing their popular Christmas show through Dec. 22. (Those who want to see them in action in a larger space can catch Watkins “Charlie Brown Christmas” program just down the river at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 14. And folks who want to hear the music year-round might want to pick up the ensemble’s new album, “A Tribute to a Charlie Brown Christmas.”)  The club also features the likes of Marcia Ball, Aaron Prado and Nestor Torres. No worries for those who work up an appetite while they listen. The club also is a restaurant, with a small menu that includes veggie enchiladas, steak and a classic shrimp cocktail. Offerings from the bar include the Lavender Berry Fix and the club’s own take on an Old Fashioned.

Late night

Finish with a sweet treat

Ice cream flavors at Lick Honest Ice Creams include dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt; roasted beets with mint; and salted caramel. Mike Sutter, Staff

Sometimes you just want ice cream. Lick honors that desire with ice cream that’s simple and complex at the same time. Simply cold, simply creamy, simply delicious. But complex enough to embrace ingredients like roasted beets and fresh mint or dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt. They’re open until 11 p.m., late enough to catch dessert after just about anywhere at the Pearl.

Address: 312 Pearl Parkway, Suite 2101, at the Pearl

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

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  • High Street Wine Co. The bottle list goes on for pages and pages at High Street, a wine bar and retail shop with a speakeasy vibe inside and a wall of windows that opens onto a courtyard when the weather’s nice. The staff speaks the language of wine aficionados, ready to nerd out over tannins and terroir, by the glass or by the bottle. And they’re always ready with a flight of three well-chosen wines built around a theme for about $25. A flight called Home for the Holidays featured French wines made with the sauvignon blanc, garnacha and malbec grapes that found fame in other parts of the world. A 3-choice charcuterie board for $20 included lamb salami, smoked duck ham and deep orange mimolette cheese with baguette, pickles and jams.
  • Sternewirth There’s a fine line between turn-of-the-century industrial design and steampunk, and Sternewirth is happy in both worlds. The cavernous tavern inside the equally eclectic Hotel Emma is decked out with fermentation tanks as private booths, columns like a Goth cathedral and a second-floor mezzanine to watch it all unfold. There’s a food menu served until 11 p.m. that includes a first-class double cheeseburger, but the bar’s the thing, rolling until midnight Sunday through Thursday and all the way to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Here’s your chance to try the Three Emmas cocktail. Take it. Made with gin, Pearl Beer and sherry, it’s named for the true-crime story of the Pearl founder and the three women in his life, all named Emma.

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Mike Sutter • @fedmanwalking

Paul Stephen • @pjbites

Deborah Martin • @DeborahMartinEN

Features Editor

Jan Waddy • @waddy_jan


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