Food for thought: San Antonio cuisine comes to Helena.

San Antonio Grill in Helena offers area residents a spicy new alternative to the typical family, meat and three restaurants.

Situated in the Winn-Dixie shopping center, the five-month-old restaurant serves southwestern classics like fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas and burritos. It also offers several items fresh off the grill as well, including hamburgers, steaks, chicken and kabobs.

This is the second San Antonio Grill owners Diana and Rusty Autry have opened. Mrs. Autry said their first restaurant was such a success they wanted to establish one in the growing Helena community.

&8220;A lot of people are moving here. [The city] doesn&8217;t have a big business industry, but it has a lot of residents and it&8217;s still growing so we wanted to put one right here and grow with the community.&8221;

It hasn&8217;t taken Helena residents long to flock to the new restaurant either. &8220;It&8217;s been five months and already there are a lot of regular customers who I recognize when they come,&8221; Mrs. Autry said.

ATMOSPHERE

Unlike typical restaurants serving Mexican food, San Antonio Grill is not decorated with Corona posters, Aztec blankets or other tacky fare. Instead, customers can unwind in tasteful and pleasant surroundings decorated in a Southwestern theme, complete with color-coordinated wallpaper, decor and booths.

The restaurant caters especially to families and large parties. One room is entirely set-aside for larger parties, with several tables capable of seating 8 or more. The large smoking section with bar is also set aside entirely in a third room.

MENU

The salsa at San Antonio is very good, unique with the liberal use of onions. Their cheese dip is also delicious, but was a smaller portion size, so if ordering for a table of more than three it is wise to request two. The dip is very thin at first, but hardens over the course of a meal.

The margaritas at San Antonio are a great way to unwind after a day of work, and come in an array of sizes, ranging from a &8220;lunch&8221; size, to a small, medium, large and extra-large size.

The quesadillas are very cheesy, and are not cooked with as much butter as other restaurants might make them with, which make them less messy but still just as delicious. The enchilada sauce is also of a more mild variety, so if you prefer spicier food you may need to kick it up with the hot sauces provided on the table.

SERVICE

Service at San Antonio Grill is outstanding. There is never a lack in beverages, chips or salsa. The food comes out promptly and the waiters are very attentive and courteous. Even with many patrons at busy hours, the service never slacks.

FIND IT

425 Helena Marketplace

Helena, AL

35080

Phone: 620-1222

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m