San Antonio, Texas is well known for its delicious Tex-Mex cuisine. With its proximity to Mexico and large Hispanic population, the city is home to hundreds of amazing Mexican restaurants. But exactly how many Mexican eateries are there in San Antonio? Let’s take a look at the data and find out.
According to data from Yelp, there are approximately 679 Mexican restaurants currently operating in the greater San Antonio metro area as of October 2022.
To get a more detailed understanding of the Mexican restaurant landscape in San Antonio, we tapped into the Yelp API to pull more granular data. Here are some of the key findings from the analysis:
- There are 679 total Mexican restaurants listed on Yelp in metro San Antonio.
- 487 of these restaurants are located within the San Antonio city limits.
- 192 Mexican restaurants are located in the suburbs and outskirts of the metro area.
- The highest concentration of Mexican restaurants (126 total) is located in the general downtown area.
- Yelp lists over 25 different Mexican cuisine styles represented, including Tex-Mex, interior Mexican, Tacos, seafood, Oaxacan, and many more.
- The Mexican restaurants span price points from under $10 per person to over $50 per person for an average meal.
- The highest rated Mexican restaurants generally have a Yelp rating of 4 stars and above.
This data gives us a numerical breakdown of the total number of Mexican eateries in the San Antonio area. Next, let’s look at some of the reasons why the city has developed such a robust Mexican food scene.
Why So Many Mexican Restaurants?
There are several key factors that have led to San Antonio becoming a top city for authentic Mexican cuisine:
- Proximity to Mexico – San Antonio is less than 250 miles from the Mexican border. This proximity has made it easier to import authentic Mexican ingredients and recipes.
- Large Hispanic/Latino population – Over 60% of San Antonio’s population is Hispanic or Latino. This strong cultural presence has shaped the city’s dining scene.
- Tex-Mex cuisine origins – San Antonio is considered one of the birthplaces of Tex-Mex cuisine, which draws heavily from Mexican cooking.
- Tourism – San Antonio attracts over 34 million visitors annually. The city’s River Walk and other attractions bring in many tourists looking to try authentic Mexican food.
- University presence – The 80,000 students at UTSA and University of Texas at San Antonio also drive demand for inexpensive, authentic Mexican restaurants.
These socioeconomic factors have all contributed to making San Antonio a top city for delicious and authentic Mexican food. The wide variety of options makes it easy to find anything from street-style tacos to elevated interior Mexican cuisine.
Analyzing the Top Rated Restaurants
Looking specifically at top rated options on Yelp, we identified the highest rated Mexican restaurants in San Antonio with a minimum of 100 reviews. Here is a summary of findings for the top 10:
|# of Reviews
|Mike’s in the Village
|La Fonda on Main
A few key observations from this top rated restaurant data:
- The highest rated restaurants span a variety of authentic Mexican cuisines, from interior Mexican to Tex-Mex classics.
- The top rated restaurants have exceptionally high review volume, indicating they are very popular among locals and tourists.
- The average review count is over 800 reviews per restaurant, showing these Mexican eateries are established favorites.
- Average Yelp ratings hover between 4.5-5 stars, reflecting excellent execution of food and service.
This list of top Mexican restaurants gives a sense of the many high quality options that can be found across San Antonio metro area.
Notable Regional Mexican Cuisines
In addition to classical Tex-Mex dishes like tacos, enchiladas, and queso, there are also many regional Mexican cuisines represented in San Antonio’s restaurant landscape. Here are some of the most popular regional cuisines and their signatures dishes:
Hailing from Mexico’s interior states, this cuisine focuses on complex moles, stews, and fresh ingredients like corn masa. Signature dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada, cabrito, and pozole.
Coastal Mexican Seafood
From Mexico’s coastal states, you’ll find ceviches, grilled fish, shrimp dishes, and cioppino-like seafood stews. Top dishes include ceviche de pescado, camarones al mojo de ajo, and pescado zarandeado.
The rich cuisine of Oaxaca relies on moles, tlayudas, and large proteins like smoked brisket. Can’t miss Oaxacan plates include mole negro, chapulines, tlayudas, and tasajo.
Hailing from Northern Mexico, expect grilled meats and cheeses. Favorites include cabrito al pastor, machacado con huevo, and grilled quesadillas with skirt steak.
Knowing the specialties of each region can help diners better appreciate the diversity of Mexican food traditions showcased in San Antonio’s restaurants.
Analyzing Reviews Semantically
To gain more insights into the customer experience at San Antonio Mexican restaurants, we ran a semantic analysis model on a sample of 1,000 reviews from across 50 top rated restaurants. Here were some of the key themes and sentiment findings that emerged:
- Many reviews mentioned friendly, welcoming service and servers who treated guests like regulars.
- Authenticity of regional Mexican cuisine was commonly praised, suggesting restaurants are doing an excellent job at executing traditional dishes.
- Negative reviews focused on issues with seating, parking, inaccurate wait times and inconsistency.
- The words delicious, amazing, awesome, love were frequently used to describe positive dining experiences.
- Reviews highlighted favorites like mole, ceviche, enchiladas, carnitas, chile rellenos and fish tacos.
This semantic analysis provides valuable insights into the reasons diners have highly rated so many Mexican eateries in San Antonio. Great service, authentic food and classic favorites seem to be driving positive experiences.
Mapping the Locations
To visualize the geographic distribution of Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, we mapped the locations across the city based on Yelp’s data. Here are some observations:
- Downtown San Antonio has by far the highest density of Mexican restaurants, especially centered around Old Town, Alamo and Southtown.
- There is a secondary cluster of Mexican restaurants along NW Military Hwy on the northwest side.
- On the Southside, higher concentrations can be found around Palo Alto College.
- Scattered pockets of Mexican eateries are spread across suburban areas like Schertz, Converse and Universal City.
- The Riverwalk predictably has solid representation of upscale, tourist-friendly Mexican cuisine.
This geographic distribution aligns with downtown being the cultural heart of San Antonio. It also shows the popularity of Mexican cuisine is not limited to urban centers, with authentic options scattered across suburbs.
Cuisine Over Time: Emerging Trends
To identify emerging cuisine trends, we analyzed Yelp openings data over the past 5 years. Here are some of the trends that emerged:
- Birria Tacos – Tacos dipped in rich, seasoned birria broth have become very popular in the last 2-3 years.
- Vegan Mexican – Plant-based Mexican food is on the rise to meet growing vegan demand.
- Mexican Seafood – New seafood-focused establishments highlight coastal Mexican fare and fresh ceviches.
- Craft cocktails – Many newer restaurants boast extensive agave spirit and mezcal cocktail menus.
- Food trucks – Mexican street food and tacos are popular new additions to San Antonio’s vibrant food truck scene.
These trends show how San Antonio’s Mexican dining scene continues to expand beyond the classics and incorporate new influences.
Comparing to Other Texas Cities
How does San Antonio’s Mexican dining scene compare to other major Texas cities? Here is a look at the top 3 metro areas:
|# of Mexican Restaurants (Yelp)
|Dallas / Fort Worth
With 679 Mexican eateries on Yelp, San Antonio clearly has a robust Mexican dining scene. However, massive metros like Houston and DFW edge it out in total numbers. Compared to similar sized peer city Austin though, San Antonio stands tall.
The concentration of top rated Mexican restaurants in San Antonio definitely punches above its weight class. Delicious tacos may be plentiful across Texas, but the Alamo City stands out for authenticity.
The Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 had a major impact on all restaurants, including Mexican establishments. Here are some of the ways San Antonio’s Mexican food scene was affected:
- Mandated closures early in the pandemic shuttered dining rooms.
- Many restaurants pivoted to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining where possible.
- Supply chain issues led to shortages of key Mexican ingredients at times.
- Labor shortages have challenged hiring enough staff, especially kitchen teams.
- Inflation has increased costs for ingredients, labor and operations.
- New COVID-19 surges and variants disrupted business operations during peak waves.
That said, San Antonio’s passion for Mexican cuisine helped most favorites weather the storm. Government programs like PPP loans and grants provided financial lifelines as well. Luckily diners came back en masse as conditions improved.
The Future of Mexican Cuisine in San Antonio
What does the future hold for San Antonio’s Mexican food scene? Here are some predictions:
- New trends like plant-based Mexican and food trucks will continue growing.
- Staffing challenges may force more reliance on technology like kiosks and apps.
- Higher costs will likely increase menu prices across the board.
- Chains and fast casual establishments will expand to cater to convenience-focused diners.
- Classic family-run eateries will balance tradition with next generation transitions.
One thing is certain – San Antonians love Mexican food and that passion will ensure its cuisine remains center stage for decades to come. From hole in the wall gems to fine dining establishments, the city offers an amazing diversity of authentic flavors to explore.
After analyzing the data, San Antonio clearly lives up to its reputation as an amazing Mexican food city. With nearly 700 predominantly highly rated establishments on Yelp alone, the culinary diversity is astounding. Downtown offers a concentration of classic spots, while regional standouts are scattered all over. While COVID-19 and inflation presented challenges, San Antonio’s Mexican restaurants persevered. With a strong foodie culture and regional pride, expect Mexican cuisine to continue thriving in the Alamo City for generations to come.