GLOBAL FLAVOR — San Angelo offers a variety of dining options.

By Rashda Khan
There was a time San Angelo’s restaurant choices included only really good steak, barbecue and Tex-Mex — fare any self-respecting Texas city should offer. Diners can still find the standards, but the local food scene now offers a cornucopia of global flavors.

“The variety of food offered in San Angelo is much greater than what was here when I first moved here about four and half years ago,” said Tim Condon, president of the San Angelo Restaurant Association and owner of one of the city’s first food trailers, Lonestar Cheeseburger & Catering. “There’s a whole lot more variety and quality now. That’s what’s helping the local food scene thrive — the quality.”

He remembers when there wasn’t a single Vietnamese restaurant. Now there’s an Asian explosion — Cambodian, Korean, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and more. Choice is a wonderful thing.

The San Angelo food scene is growing and adding gems in all directions. The south side of the city is home to Twin Mountain Steak House, serving up steaks and fried onions and more for almost 55 years. It is also home to the more hip Cork and Pig Tavern, which offers gourmet pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven, sandwiches, salad and dessert, with both indoor and outdoor dining.

The north side is home to the Tex-Mex generational favorite: Franco’s, where locals and law-enforcement flock for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is also home to newer additions like TJ’s North, a locally owned frozen yogurt and coffee place, and Peachez Ann Gritz (soon to reopen as a food trailer), where Chef Ishma Parker serves up Southern Soul Food that sticks to your ribs and make your heart sing “Hallelujah!”

Not to be outdone, central San Angelo has Armenta’s, the original that gave birth to younger — but equally delicious — ventures like the Cork & Pig as well as The Grill. It also has Peasant Village, a packed gourmet deli by day and fine dining venue on certain evenings, with items like duck, lamb, seafood, dishes from around the globe, and desserts to die for.

But it’s the downtown restaurant scene that’s buzzing and vibrant. Tucked in between offices, bars and eclectic stores — like Eggemeyer’s, which is packed full of items for people who love cooking, eating, Christmas, Texas, or all of those things — are plenty of good eats.

The San Angelo location of the gourmet burger chain Twisted Root Burger Company, at 333 S. Chadbourne St., with a deck overlooking the Concho River and surrounding park area, has house sauces and creative burger combinations in an atmosphere that is casual and fun. Instead of numbers, they hand you a famous name when you order — I wanted to be Calamity Jane, but got Harry Potter. My favorite burger has no beef. It’s their vegan patty made with black beans, chickpeas, quinoa and rice, then topped with avocado and Sriracha hot sauce. I’m hoping they’ll inspire other restaurants to open riverside locations.

Stango’s Coffee Shop, at 221 S. Chadbourne St., offers retro nostalgia, old fashioned diner treats and Italian food. It recently put in a special pizza oven and now serves New York-style thin crust pizza.

“I wanted good pizza again and now I got it,” said owner Steve Stango, originally from Connecticut, who grew up eating pizza. “We’re going for pure taste. It had to be whole milk mozzarella, which melts beautifully, and the thin crust just had to be on the crispy side.” He and a friend spent weeks perfecting the pizzas and giving them away for free before adding them officially to the menu. Besides pizzas, Stango’s also has calzones, pasta, salads, beer and wine.

Chandler’s Bar and Grille opened in early 2016 and offers fine dining and old world elegance at 421 S. Chadbourne St., with its fabric covered walls, gracefully shaped mirrors and lighting, black lacquered chairs and a lavish bar with a huge window as a backdrop.

Diners who want something quick can choose the buffet, which has a different theme every day. Others who want a more leisurely lunch can check out the menu. It features a wide range of options, including a cheeseburger and a grilled chicken sandwich, steaks, pasta and more.

Peepsi’s BBQ also moved downtown this year, into 208 S. Oakes St., the former location of the Sealy Flats live music venue and diner known for its blues.

“For this venue, barbecue just fits,” said John Young, chief executive officer of the Rio Restaurant Group, which operates Peepsi’s, The Concho Pearl Icehouse and Rio Concho Catering. “Barbecue, blues, music — all of it seems to go together.”

There’s music once again on the stage located in the venue’s back patio, with live music Friday and Saturday nights, and Young hopes to have gospel music Sunday afternoons in the future.

The menu has must-have barbecue offerings: a selection of sandwiches with different meats with plates of one, two, or three types of meat, and beer. Diners can order traditional sides such as potato salad, coleslaw and beans, or they can try some more innovative fare — green chile creamed corn, with the subtle sweetness of creamy corn and an underlying layer of Hatch green chile smokiness, or Peepsi’s poppers, a battered and deep-fried jalapeño stuffed with house-smoked turkey, cheese and other seasonings.

Peepsi’s barbecue process is slow and low — for example, brisket is smoked at a low temperature for 15 to 18 hours. Young also uses a special house recipe for the sausage, which is made for the restaurant by locally owned Green’s Grocery & Cafe.

There are two types of barbecue sauces on hand — a regular Texas style with a nice kick of heat at the end, and a thinner, more vinegary and peppery Southeastern style sauce, like the type usually served in the Carolinas.

For those not into barbecue, the restaurant offers a smoked turkey Caesar salad and hamburgers, which feature house-mixed patties made from beef and pork.

Young aims to serve the downtown area. “We know how important timing is for business and work lunches, so we know we need to be fast,” he said. “We’ll even bring people their lunches.”

Another downtown favorite, Iggy’s Italian Ice, moved out of its original location at 37 West Concho Ave. to a new larger location — 113 E. Concho Ave., suite #160 — in the Concho Crossings Courtyard.

This is just a sampling to give you a taste of what’s there — and more new eateries are coming soon.

A new contract has been signed for the Stephens Central Library café. Charlie Slack, the new operator, has created a fusion menu of Western and Eastern food consisting of simple and quick salads, sushi, sandwiches and soup.

Tim Condon is remodeling an old warehouse — a roughly 9,000-square-foot space — at 1 W. Concho Ave. and hopes to open the Angry Cactus West Texas Bar & Grill in a couple of months. This will be more upscale than his Lonestar Cheeseburger & Catering trailer, which offers laid-back casual open air dining, takeout and catering.

“We’re wanting to take West Texas favorites and reinvent them and modernize them,” Condon said.

His plans include an open kitchen, indoor waterfall, a blue tree, private area for wine and beer tastings and a grand chandelier of 300-400 lights.

He said the trend is for restaurants to offer a complete dining and entertainment experience. “More and more places are going the ultralounge route, and combining food and entertainment so that it becomes more of a full entertainment experience in one place,” Condon said, adding that’s it’s opposite of the idea of a dinner and movie at two different locations. “With more variety, comes more excitement.”