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Pockets of cruelty-free food at Beto's

Meatless in Steer City

Mark Greenberg
Clockwise from front: Banana with leche quemada and pecan dessert empanada; grilled fish taco with cilantro cole slaw and Betos' poblano sauce; jicama salad with pico de limŘn y naranja, jicama, mandarin oranges, and mixed greens in a lime vinaigrette, topped with coconut; Betos' Cesar Chavez salsa.

Beto's Comida Latina

Address:8142 Broadway
San Antonio, TX 78209
Empanada aficionados can breathe a sigh of relief: Beto's is back. Torta fanciers, on the other hand, are pissed. On the streamlined menu that accompanied Beto's move to scaled-down quarters up Broadway a piece from the previous location, the south-of-the-border subs are absent, and their vocal partisans have made management amply aware of their displeasure. Lay off, guys: Tortas, we're told, will be back. But nobody seems to be complaining about the missing platos. Roasted chicken, grilled whole fish, Beto's Mixed Grill are also AWOL, victims of the pared-down (but definitely not down-and-out) mindset that characterizes the new location. There is a new enthusiasm: Symbolic of tenant-landlord discord, an office building is said to soon be going up in Beto's old backyard. The current backyard, reclaimed from a parking lot and casually landscaped, is utterly anti-office in its laid-back demeanor. This is the place to chill, even in the heat. A mojito won't hurt at other times, despite, or perhaps because of, its reduced rum content. - Ron Bechtol

More on Beto's Comida Latina.


There are two distinct views from which to experience Betoís Comida Latina. There are the rows of bright-red wooden patio benches leading to a listing wooden play gym outside, and thereís the interior view of the jet stream of steaming plates taxiing behind the kitchenís aquarium glass. From either perch at this tried-and-trusted staple of the cityís foodie circuit, the only place to go is spiraling for the rocks of abandon.

Thatís really the only question in my mind as I dissect a fat-portioned plate on a recent 59-degree day, my shoulders cooking beneath a high-noon open-sky sun: Just how hard and fast do I want to fall in love again? Yeah. Any vegetarian from any mid-sized-and-up metropolis will find this interior-Mexican food a nice change of pace. Weíre cruising hundreds of feet above the plains of cheese quesadillas and bean burritos.

Some keys to experiencing the Betoís amor: Donít get distracted by the ADD child who doesnít even notice the sun-bleached outdoor television broadcasting Doraís ever-loving exploring. Donít sweat all the options you canít have (pozole, fideo ... how hard would it be to drop the chicken broth or pork bits?). Focus instead on the 20 percent of yum made with you in mind. On a first visit, assemble a $9.99 Number Two by choosing a taco and an empanada.

The ďveggieĒ is the only meat-free taco. According to the menu (and past experience) it comes stuffed with ďassortedĒ mushrooms, squash, onion, and corn. Today, Iím shorted the mushroom and corn, but the wide-sliced squash holds the caramel-rich flavor of sweetened onion and the suspiciously elastic corn tortilla magically stands up against the broth. A sprinkle of fresh cheese is a nice accent, but thankfully itís just that. So many omnivore lunch wagons, unsure how to actually cook the greens, golds, and yellows, throw a fat slab of queso over top as if fat can heal bland food. Here, a softer touch is a welcome one.

A veggie taco and
a spinach-potato
empanada at Betoís

The spinach and potato filling in my empanada has its share of dairy, too, but itís kept to a complementary ratio. By the time Iíve worked my way around to it, Iím happy to find the flaky crust holds the heat like a champ. The rice is worth mentioning for the lack of gluten that makes chopsticks at other eateries a workable gullet-delivery mechanism. Here, the grains are plump as grubs and speckled with peas and carrot. A sprinkle of paprika adds spark to the yucca fries I opt to replace the salad garnish (for an additional 75 cents), but two of the four finger-sized slivers are too solid to masticate despite their frying and the vinegary chimichurri dipping sauce.

But all the thoughtful eating in the world wonít save you from the last question of your meal. Let me answer for you: Yes, you would love a dessert empanada. The banana with leche quemada and pecan would be perfect, thank you. After initiation, break out with the jicama salad and black-bean soup for a second take. After all these years and a wall-full of recognitions, those empanadas arenít going anywhere. ē

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