Imagine thousands of people tightly packed on the streets of Pamplona, Spain. Everyone is dressed in the traditional white clothing with red scarves adorning their necks and waistbands. You hear an approaching roar. Thundering hooves become louder as the bulls approach the crowds, and then the scramble begins. It is the annual Running of the Bulls at the Festival of San Fermin.
Sadly, the festival did not take place this summer for the first time in decades due to the pandemic, but you can still enjoy a taste of Spanish culture here in San Antonio at Toro Kitchen + Bar. The name of this outstanding restaurant comes from this renowned event, as co-owner, Gerardo De Anda, was once gored while participating in the Running of the Bulls. He and his sister, Vanessa, grew up between Mexico and San Antonio, and their grandparents are from San Sebastian, in northern Spain. They opened Toro Kitchen + Bar in February of 2017, and they currently have two locations serving traditional Spanish cuisine, creative cocktails, along with a carefully curated wine list featuring Spanish wines you will not find anywhere else in town.
Vanessa states, “Our goal was to create a locally crafted Spanish culinary experience, and to evoke the warm feeling of being in Spain.”
If you are not familiar with the flavors of Spanish cuisine, then you are in for a unique and delightful experience. Begin with a Tablado, a delicious selection of Spanish meats and cheeses to share with the entire table, or an order of Toro’s Serrano ham plates. Toro features the decadent Jamón Ibérico de Bellota 5Js. It is considered the finest jamón in the world, and Toro is the only place in town where you will find it. Diners must indulge in several of Chef Juan Carlos Bazan’s tapas – or small plates best shared with friends – to become acquainted with Spain’s cuisine. From their Gambas al Ajillo, garlic sautéed shrimp, to their crispy Croquetas, fried fritter bites stuffed with vegetables, seafood, chorizo or jamón, you will find the freshest and most traditional Spanish dishes, along with a few delicious surprises.
Toro has changed up their menu with fall approaching to include a small Pulpo Gallego, or Galician Octopus menu. Try this Spanish favorite sautéed in butter, onion, and garlic with a seafood reduction and squid ink, or even ceviche style, marinated with avocado, onions, green pepper, lime and cilantro. This delicacy should put Toro on the immediate bucket list for true seafood lovers and can only be truly appreciated with an ice-cold pitcher of Spanish sangria.
If you would like to feel completely immersed in authentic Spanish culture, then you must make Toro a dining destination for Chef Bazan’s award-winning Paella. For those who aren’t familiar with the dish, Paella is a hearty rice dish that incorporates whatever the household has on hand. Each Paella is made to order, and you can choose a small or large serving, depending on how many hungry diners you are entertaining. Toro’s Classic Paella features jumbo shrimp, mussels, chicken, calamari, pork belly, and Spanish chorizo. You will be hardpressed to eat the entire pan, so plan to take home the leftovers. It will be even better the next day as the flavors marinate and soak into the rice.
Toro Kitchen + Bar is open at both locations from Tuesday to Sunday, and features live music on the patio on Fridays and Saturdays. They also feature the extremely popular Noche Bohemia at the Stone Oak location on Wednesday’s from 7:30 to 9:30 with live music and an all-day Happy Hour. They have created an active takeout program during the dining pandemic restrictions, and they also specialize in catering and private events. You won’t find any wild-eyed, snorting bulls at Toro. What you will find, however, is a friendly staff ready to welcome you like an old friend, an outstanding wine and cocktail selection to quench your thirst, and an abundance of flavorful Spanish dishes sure to convert even the most conservative palate.
Toro Kitchen + Bar Downtown Location
1142 E. Commerce St. #100
Sunset Station Stone Oak Location
115 N. Loop 1604 E. #1105
BY MEREDITH KAY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AL RENDON
This article was originally published on SanAntonioWoman.com and in the Sept/Oct 2020 Issue of San Antonio Woman Magazine.