By: Katie Chang | From: Forbes

When’s the last time a restaurant name made you tear up?

That happened to me a few weeks ago. I was researching local restaurants after touching down in San Antonio, and discovered Best Quality Daughter by chef-owner Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin. Beyond the heaps of awards—Dobbertin is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas in this year’s James Beard Awards—craveable Asian-American cuisine, and unapologetically feminine aesthetic, it’s the name—a nod to Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club encapsulating the complex relationships many Asian-American women have with their mothers—that’s lived rent-free in my head since dining there.

Despite growing up with parents who owned a diner and “always being attracted to food,” Dobbertin got pulled in another directions much of her adult life, including a six-year stint in Bangkok to teach English and attend grad school. It wasn’t until she returned to San Antonio in 2011 when things started clicking together. She took on work as a fry cook at The Monterey making nine dollars an hour and “lots of side hustles” like food delivery and catering, before being part of the opening team of the pop-up-turned-restaurant Hot Joy in 2014. From there, she went on to launch Tenko Ramen at the Pearl's Bottling Department Food Hall, before striking out on her own with Best Quality Daughter in late 2020.

“It’s a hard industry, and I put in a lot of hours,” comments Dobbertin of where she is now. “But having my own place was always my pipe dream. Now I get to cook the kind of food I want, that hopefully others will want to eat too.” During the little downtime she has, Dobbertin loves supporting other independently-owned restaurants and bars. Though San Antonio’s culinary scene has boomed in the past decade, Dobbertin appreciates how supportive the local community is. She says, “Everyone wants everyone to succeed.”

Ahead, Dobbertin shares her favorite spots—which include where to find the best breakfast tacos and margaritas—in her hometown of San Antonio.

Liberty Bar

“This has been around since the 80s,” explains Dobbertin of her favorite bar in San Antonio. “It’s a staple, very constant, and reliable. I love their margaritas. Everyone has their own Liberty Bar order. Mine is an Emiliano salad with warmed salmon and three margaritas. The margaritas are tart and fresh with fresh lime juice and the right amount of salt.”

The Magpie

If there’s an San Antonio hidden gem Dobbertin wants you to know about, it’s The Magpie. She believes, “It should be on every awards list. The classically trained chef is Korean, female, and from a fine dining background. The space is very small, and it’s only open three nights a week. You can get Korean dishes and an insane ribeye.”

Cullum's Attagirl

For a terrific quick and casual bite, check out Callum’s Attagirl. “They have fried chicken sandwiches that are tender, spicy, and done right. They also have a good beer selection, and great wedge salads,” shares Dobbertin.

Taco La Gardenia

“The breakfast taco is equivalent to the bodega sandwich in New York City,” says Dobbertin, who recommends trying the bean and cheese, carne asada, and chorizo and egg tacos at this humble but beloved joint that’s been operating for over 30 years.

Il Forno

When it comes to the best pizza in San Antonio, Dobbertin says there’s no contest. “It’s Il Forno,” reveals Dobbertin. “They make all their toppings; the crust is delicious; and they even grow many of their own vegetables.”

Brasserie Mon Chou Chou

This lively French restaurant in the Pearl is Dobbertin’s spot to celebrate a special occasion or “when I have a really hard service and want to validate myself.” Her favorite seat in the house is at the bar, where she treats herself to lobster tails and oysters.

Pharm Table

Dobbertin heads here for food that’s simple, clean, and nutritious. Of the vibrant globe-trotting menu, she says, “It’s mostly plant-based. Plus, they make their own kombuchas and ginger beer.”

Guajillo’s The Shortcut to Mexico

When Dobbertin leaves her “bubble on the north side,” she’ll drive to Guajillo’s for Mexico City-style Mexican food. As for her go-to order, it’s a bowl of brothy Sopa Azteca and margaritas.

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