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Great Beginnings: 7 Appetizers to Kick Off Your Meal in Style

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Panela en Salsa Roja at Aldaco's.

Starting off a meal with a bite of food, whether you call it an appetizer, a tapa, or a small plate, can really whet your appetite for the meal to come. Here is where you’ll find many a chef letting his or her imagination run wild with the freshest ingredients and the most flair. Or, you will find pure comfort in tradition.

Here are seven great starters to enjoy. Several are new, one has been a San Antonio tradition for years, others are ethnic comfort foods. All are a wonderful prelude to your main course, whether it’s burgers, sushi or a gyro platter.

The dishes on the list are not the only great appetizers to be had in town. They are not listed in any order. They are merely meant to remind you of what the city’s restaurants have to offer.

1. Grilled Chinese Chicken Wings at Nosh, 1133 Austin Hwy., 210-824-8686 — Chicken wings are nothing new. But these beauties, with a taste of both peanut oil and sesame oil, are plump and juicy. You’ll be licking your fingers to catch every last drop of the Asian sauce or the creamy cilantro sauce on the side.

The sampler platter at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.

2. Panela en Salsa Roja at Aldaco’s Stone Oak, 20079 Stone Oak Parkway, 210-494-0561, or 100 Hoefgen St., 210-222-0561 — It’s hard to describe just how good this appetizer is, given that it is simply a slab of fried Mexican cheese topped with salsa. But put the two together and you’ll discover culinary alchemy.

3. Scotch Eggs at the Lion and Rose, various locations — The Cardiff Clam Strips and the English Chips with Guinness Cheese often call us, but not as often as the Scotch Eggs. The pub grub favorite is made from a hard-cooked egg wrapped in sausage and cheese before cooking. Serve it with a mustard sauce on one side and a pint of Smithwicks or Newcastle on the other.

4. Sampler platter at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, 19239 Stone Oak Parkway, 210-497-8500 — You want a lot of food? This sampler has it. Dolmas filled with beef and rice, hummus, eggplant dip, spanikopita and more fill the platter. As vast and varied as it is, a party of three managed to clear it and have a fine dinner afterward.

5. Ham and Tomato Shypoke Eggs at Timbo’s, 1639 Broadway, 210-223-1028 — When was the last time you had a skypoke egg? This Alamo City classic originated at Little Hipps Bubble Room and can be found at its descendant, Timbo’s. It’s essentially a nacho made to look like a fried egg, but the addition of silky ham and bright tomato takes it to a new level.

Onion pakoras from Pavani Express.

6.  Beef Sashimi at Sushi Zushi, various locations — Who among us carnivores doesn’t love a generous portion of beef? In this Asian equivalent of Italy’s carpaccio, the seared beef is served with a lively soy dipping sauce, ginger and onions. After one taste, you’ll clear the plate quickly.

7. Pakoras at Pavani Express, 5755 Evans Road, 210-680-3134 — San Antonio’s newest vegetarian restaurant offers several appetizers, including perfect pakoras. These crispy, deep-fried snacks are made with a variety of vegetables, a favorite of which onion.  The tangy tamarind sauce and the cilantro sauce both add to the fun.

Bonnie Walker contributed to this report.

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