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Fearless Critic restaurant review
San Antonio
Casual restaurant

Wed–Fri 11:00am–6:00pm
Sat noon–7:00pm
Sun noon–5:00pm

Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

East Side
1816 N. New Braunfels Ave.
San Antonio, TX
(210) 226-2200
Ma Harper’s Creole Kitchen
Southern fare from a saint that sometimes sins, sometimes blesses

Alice “Ma” Harper is perhaps the closest San Antonio has to a living saint—and in San Antonio we take saints seriously. For decades, she has fed the indigent on the city’s east side and has opened her restaurant to parties for the disabled. Even though she’s now 80-plus, she always has a hug and a few words of encouragement in her distinctive New Orleans drawl.

For years, her cooking has been lauded for its healthier take on Creole fare, using baked flour instead of fat-filled roux as the base of her dishes. The flavor is usually there, but something can be missing in execution. A gumbo on a recent visit was thin and brackish, though the spices, shrimp, and okra proved potent. But what’s gumbo without the body?

The red beans and rice, though, are a slow-cooked and meaty treat, the po’ boys can be quite satisfying, and the popular cornbread is “moist and delicious,” according to one panelist. Wash it all down with “Swamp Water,” a mixture of lemonade and iced tea that really hits the spot—all this from a former aircraft mechanic for the Air Force, no less. There are many paths to sainthood.

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