There’s a set of filters that click into place when I talk about restaurants on the River Walk. I call those filters my River Walk goggles.

I put them on when someone asks for recommendations along that watery carnival midway and I have to answer the ultimate question:

Is it good? Or is it River Walk good? You know, like just good enough to fool the out-of-towners, or at least wash away their discernment with bottom-shelf tequila.

I’ve worn these goggles throughout this four-part River Walk series. I’ve worn them to pick the nine best locally owned restaurants. I’ve worn them to sort out the seven best hotel restaurants. I’ve worn them to pick the six best chains.

And I’ve worn them to every single restaurant on the River Walk on the way to making those lists. More than 50 on the stretch between César E. Chávez Boulevard and Fourth Street, if you’re keeping track of who’s open, closed or just winging it in the aftermath of the pandemic’s devastating impact on tourism.

Now it’s time to take off my River Walk goggles and rank the 10 best River Walk restaurants overall, folding in the locals, the hotels and the chains. Restaurants that aren’t just River Walk good, but good enough to recommend without an asterisk, without a caveat.

Anybody want my goggles?

Shrimp Paesano, foreground, Special Salad and lasagna are among the favorites at the Italian restaurant Paesanos Riverwalk.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

10. Paesanos Riverwalk

The best Italian restaurant on the River Walk is famous for Shrimp Paesano, and rightly so. Lightly fried with lemon butter garlic sauce, it’s copied all over the city. Have a bottle of Italian red, a respectable red sauce lasagna and ask for one of the bistro tables right on the river. 111 W. Crockett St., Suite 101, 210-227-2782,

Lamb chops are part of the endless parade of grilled meats at Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse on the River Walk.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

9. Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse

Bite for bite, this might be the best value on the River Walk, a nonstop procession of grilled meat and a market table of salads, cheeses and marinated vegetables that’s practically a meal in itself. With the white-tablecloth elan of a high-end steakhouse, Fogo de Chão is nevertheless fine with your shorts, your hat and your baby stroller. Ask for the bay-windowed front room overlooking the river. 849 E. Commerce St., Suite 393, 210-227-1700,

Ribeye Valentino is a 20-ounce bone-in rib-eye topped with scallops, shrimp and crab at Landry’s Seafood House on the River Walk. The bar also mixes a top-shelf Perfect Patrón margarita using Patrón Silver tequila and Cointreau.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

8. Landry’s Seafood House

Landry’s parent company owns a lot of the tourist-trap concepts on the River Walk. They’re not on this list. But the flagship is, thanks to its sense of style, a strong margarita and a properly grilled rib-eye piled with crab, shrimp and scallops. The dining room’s like a cattle baron’s parlor, but the umbrella tables on the riverfront give you a better sense of the wildlife, human and otherwise. 517 N. Presa St., 210-229-1010,

A cast iron-seared rib-eye steak is a centerpiece of the menu at Range at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk Downtown.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

7. Range at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk Downtown

Yes, you can go for a nice rib-eye here, seared and seasoned to enjoy at your table with a window view of the river. But Range has so much more, well, range thanks to celebrity chef Jason Dady’s creativity with dishes like the South Texas answer to beef tartare called parisa and deviled eggs topped with brisket jam. 125 E. Houston St., 210-227-4455,

The menu at Acenar on the River Walk includes Tres Enchiladas (verde, queso and mole), jicama shrimp tacos and a hand-shaken margarita.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

6. Ácenar

There’s no way you can make a River Walk Top 10 without a Mexican restaurant, right? It’s not that simple, because among the dozen or so dedicated Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, only a few rise above processed cheese and homogenized spice. The best of those is Ácenar, a lively resort-style place with creative spins on enchiladas, tacos and grilled meats, with reliably strong margaritas and one of the biggest riverfront patios on this list. 146 E. Houston St., 210-222-2362,

Ostra at Mokara Hotel & Spa on the River Walk is a seafood restaurant featuring roasted Gulf redfish, foreground, fresh East Coast oysters and a pineapple jalapeño margarita.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

5. Ostra at Mokara Hotel & Spa

Ostra is the River Walk’s best overall seafood experience, with fresh East Coast oysters and a deft touch with roasted and grilled fish. It’s formal without being stuffy, and the striped beach umbrellas on the riverfront sidewalk have a nice synchronicity with margaritas served in giant blue martini glasses. 212 W. Crockett St., 210-396-5817,

A 16-ounce New York strip steak comes with chile pequin au poivre sauce, with the option of adding foie gras, at Landrace, the restaurant by chef Steve McHugh at the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk hotel.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

4. Landrace at the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk

Maybe you want the comfort of a big-city cosmopolitan grill when you travel. Landrace is down with that, with modern furniture, grilled steaks, smart cocktails and a posh side room overlooking the river. But look deeper and you’ll find Texas in a menu that celebrates local produce, grains and proteins overseen by perennial James Beard finalist chef Steve McHugh. 111 Lexington Ave., 210-942-6026,

The menu at Boudro’s Texas Bistro on the River Walk includes a center-cut beef filet with chipotle bordelaise, a prickly pear margarita and tableside guacamole.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

3. Boudro’s Texas Bistro

Guacamole made right at your table has turned into a kind of running joke at places where avocado-juggling is in fashion. But not here. Making guacamole tableside is serious business at Boudro’s, with studied precision and custom spice levels that produce a shaggy, engrossing guacamole. It’s a handshake for the broader Boudro’s experience that includes a great Black Angus beef filet and creative Southwestern options. Look for the ochre-colored umbrellas that look like the brim of a cowboy hat. 421 E. Commerce St., 210-224-8484,

At Ocho at the Hotel Havana, the menu includes lamb chops with mamey mole, foreground, and a roasted chile relleno.

Mike Sutter /Staff

2. Ocho at Hotel Havana

Chef Jesse Kuykendall describes Ocho as a Latin melting pot, where you can get the steak-and-weenie quesadillas that helped Kuykendall win an episode of “Chopped,” as well as a comforting roasted chile relleno or even lamb chops with aromatic mamey mole, at least until the fall menu comes online in a few weeks. The restaurant itself is perched above the River Walk like a glass-walled greenhouse for growing a reputation. 1015 Navarro St., 210-222-2008,

Grilled Australian lamb chops with cheesy grits and mushroom veal reduction are popular at Biga on the Banks on the River Walk.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

1. (tie) Biga on the Banks

The No. 1 spot is a tie between Chef Bruce Auden’s Biga on the Banks and chef Michael Sohocki’s Restaurant Gwendolyn for their shared sense of place, execution, settings and great food.

Biga is the place for big expressions of game like Axis venison with Lockhart quail or more subtle renderings of Scottish salmon or grilled Australian lamb. The staff is polished and professional, the wine and cocktails lists are by turns creative and lavish, and the second-story terrace overlooks one of the river’s calmer settings. 203 S. St. Mary’s St., 210-225-0722,

A cheese and charcuterie board at Restaurant Gwendolyn on the River Walk includes house-cured meats and condiments and locally made cheeses.

Mike Sutter /Staff file photo

1. (tie) Restaurant Gwendolyn

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, the good news is that Restaurant Gwendolyn is still outfitted like a 1920s Parisian coffee house, with food that stays true to a 150-mile foraging limit and a kitchen that shuns electricity in favor of pre-industrial muscle. And the charcuterie board is still the best in the city.

The bad news is that Gwendolyn’s last day of service on the River Walk is Dec. 18. After that, it’s moving to the former 5 Points Local restaurant building, where Sohocki plans to retool the concept. Enjoy the magic of the River Walk spot as long as you can. 152 E. Pecan St., Suite 100, 210-222-1849, | Twitter: @fedmanwalking | Instagram: @fedmanwalking

By Taba

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