NAO at The Culinary Institute of America San Antonio

4.3
696 reviews
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$30 and under
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Latin American
Nao is a classroom for students in their last semester at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio. Both Culinary and Service is provided by students earning an Associates of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts.



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Private dining
Dining Style
Casual Dining
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Cuisines
Latin American, South American, Mexican
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Hours of operation
Student Run Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday, starting at 5:30pm
*subject to closures based off student academic calendar*


Outdoor Kitchen at The Pearl Farmers Market
Saturday: 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Closed for major holidays, due to students being off campus.
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Phone number
(210) 554-6484
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Payment options
AMEX, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
Chef Instructor Sofia Sada and Hospitality Instructor Samantha Fletcher
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Catering
no off site catering is available
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
Isleta / Emma Kohler
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Parking details
Recommended parking in the Koehler parking garage. From there, go to first floor.

If you are being dropped off, please direct your driver to Hotel Emma. We are directly across from the entrance of the hotel
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Public transit
public transportation is through VIA bus routes. please visit https://tripplan.viainfo.net/#/app/tripplanning

if using a taxi or uber, have them drop you off at 136 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215. this is the address for hotel emma, which is directly across from us.
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Special events & promotions
210.405.6484
Additional
Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Chef's Table, Cocktails, Counter Seating, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Happy Hour, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Wheelchair Access, Wine

Private Dining

We love sharing food with people. Celebrate benchmark birthdays, recent retirements, or much-deserved promotions. Let our staff help you make a lasting impression on colleagues, association members, family, or friends while you share a great meal.

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What 696 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.3based on recent ratings
4.4
food
4.3
service
4.3
ambience
4.3
value
Noise · Moderate
89% of people would recommend it to a friend
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B
San Antonio
1 review
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 3

The waitstaff is not well trained. On two occasions, waiters have tried to clear away my plate while others at my table were still enjoying their meals. This is rude and inappropriate.

On my last visit, the waiter asked the gentleman for his order first. I believe it is customary to ask the lady first what she would like to order.

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S
1 review
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 5

This has got to be the best value in San Antonio, although I understand that the value is due largely to unpaid labor. Our waiter was gracious, accommodating, attentive, and intelligent. I think it' a great idea that you make future chefs experience and solve the typical problems faced by those on the floor. I was a bit disappointed that the place was billed as a no-tip establishment, but there was a mandatory 20% surcharge added to the bill to support the institute. I would have gladly donated 20%, but I would also have liked to signal our waiter that he did an excellent job. Normally, the tip conveys that signal, and it's voluntary. I think a better approach would be to let people tip, but let them know that the waiters will turn over all tips to the scholarship fund. That way it's still voluntary, we get to express our evaluation of the waiter's performance, and we still get to donate to the scholarship fund. The non-voluntary nature of the gratuity really rubbed me the wrong way.

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FF
1 review
Dined on November 11, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Enjoyed a great time, as usual, amazing food, great service, enjoyable wine, not rushed.

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OT
San Antonio
1 review
Dined on November 10, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Good service, great food.

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OT
Orange County
1 review
Dined on November 7, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

As a visitor in town fir a convention, the reservation site was a bit confusing for putting in number of people and open table still did not show correctly when I come after I modified the reservation . Servers and greeters were great. Just disappointed that they did not have tea even though it was on the menu. Prices were reasonable for the food. Flavors were good.

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PK
1 review
Dined on November 7, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Awesome place, would love to come back soon. Thanks for having us

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HC
1 review
Dined on October 27, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We really enjoyed the food at Nao. It’s a special treat to interact with the staff who are all in their last semester of culinary school.

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C
San Antonio
6 reviews
Dined on October 27, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

Great location near Pearl Brewery and Emma. John was very gracious. We believe in supporting the local community and what a great way to do that by choosing a school for culinary arts. Minimalist decor, very relaxed atmosphere yet stylish. Decent wine selection.

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KL
New England
2 reviews
Dined on October 23, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 2ambience 4

The food was very good, but the portion of 1/2 chicken was small. I think that it was a canary. The flavors were excellent. Server was nice, but server/student needs better training. We ordered two tapas and one meal to share... everything arrived at once. Too long to get my glass of wine. Water glasses never refilled automatically, and still had to wait too long after I asked.

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T
San Antonio
1 review
Dined on October 23, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Fabulous dinner at Nao! It was interesting to speak with the culinary students and learn about their education. The food was excellent!

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DA
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 20, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Staff are students who are thrilled to interact with you and serve you. The menu is limited but the food selections we msde were delicious. Definitely a good value.

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r
Toronto
1 review
Dined on October 13, 2018
Overall 1food 1service 1ambience 1

A totally unprofessional organization. I received a phone call from the restaurant at 2 pm on the day of our reservation, asking that I confirm our reservation for 715 pm, which I did. I added that we may be a bit late due to other plans, to which the restaurant replied 'No problem at all'. At 715 pm, we called the restaurant to let them know we had just left our hotel, which was 15 minutes away, and again the answer was 'No problem, thanks for letting us know'. Ten minutes later, the restaurant called back informing us that they were closing the kitchen and we were no longer welcome - a first for me in 30 years of travel all over North America. Needless to say, I'll never even attempt to eat at this sad excuse for a service organization.

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OT
San Antonio
3 reviews
Dined on October 10, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

David provided great service and the food was delicious!

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n
Washington DC
17 reviews
Dined on October 10, 2018
Overall 3food 4service 2ambience 4

Food is nice. Good vegetarian and fish options. Nice ambiance. Service uneven, but part of CIA description of expectations.

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OT
Atlanta
74 reviews
Dined on October 7, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 5ambience 3

They start off telling you that you’re in a classroom but they aren’t giving any breaks on the pricing. This is an expensive menu for something that isn’t really all that.

The grouper ceviche has not “cooked” long enough. The Duck Flautas were great. The pizza was too heavy and greasy. The wine list is terribly restricted and even the high end bottles are not well regarded.

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HM
Denver
1 review
Dined on October 6, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

A real treat while visiting San Antonio. Yummy food. Waiter who was happy to be there, but wasn't overpowering.

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IG
1 review
Dined on October 4, 2018
Overall 1food 3service 1ambience 2

While vacationing in San Antonio to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary we visited the Pearl district and fell in love with this area and it's wide variety of restaurant choices. Unfortunately we chose to celebrate our anniversary dinner at Nao at the CIA. As we were seated our student waiter Jarell read off of a paper that it was our anniversary but unfortunately failed to acknowledge it in a sincere way. We both felt that this was quite odd. The service overall was slow considering it was not crowded. The food flavorful with beautiful presentation was the most memorable and pleasing part of our meal. At the conclusion of eating our entrees our student waiter Jarell presented us with our check failing to offer us dessert and coffee/tea service. We were puzzled since we could see that adjacent tables had dessert and coffee/tea. With our disappointment and disgust we both agreed to go elsewhere in the Pearl district for this service since we didn't want to give any more of our money to Nao. In fact if there wasn't an automatic 20% gratuity applied to our bill we most certainly would not have provided such a generous tip for service that was clearly not on point. We filled out our comment card with similar comments as referenced above and left it with our payment. Prior to leaving the restaurant we motioned to our student waiter Jarell that we wanted to speak with him. We informed him of his oversight. He told us he thought he had asked us if we wanted dessert and coffee service. We enlightened him that he did not and we're going elsewhere in the Pearl. It's surprising that Jarell, graduating in December, lacks sincerity and the ability to provide appropriate and timely service. It was our mistake in choosing Nao for our anniversary dinner - we're sorry we didn't make a better choice.

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OT
Denver
1 review
Dined on October 2, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Andrea and Jacob provided AMAZING service and the food was SUPERB! I will be back and will also recommend my friends and family!

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SP
San Diego
7 reviews
Dined on September 29, 2018
Overall 3food 4service 3ambience 2

Good food, don't of the house needs work.

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MG
1 review
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 5

Service and restaurant interior were excellent, had the empanadas, insides were great, exterior pastry was heavy and thick. Grilled octopus exterior breading was soggy on the inside and undercooked. Bourbon and blueberry cocktail was outstanding. Tres leches cake was good but have nothing to compare it too.

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DS
New York Area
4 reviews
Dined on September 26, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

The food was delicious, fresh and creative. My husband and I loved our two appetizers so much, we ordered a third. It wound up being a too much food but CIA never disappoints. I also tried a new cocktail and it was awesome! Price is reasonable also! Definitely recommend CIA.

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BG
San Antonio
7 reviews
Dined on September 22, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

food and service were outstanding. had a great evening.

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ML
Dallas
11 reviews
Dined on September 21, 2018
Overall 2food 1service 4ambience 3

Very disappointing experience with the food. We both ordered a medium ribeye and they both came well done. They brought us another steak - my wife’s was ok but mine was almost raw. The third steak was ok. That aside, food taste was bland. Potatoes were just warm. The chimichurri was the standout - very good! This was our third meal there and will be our last as all three at best were just ok. I will say that the service was very good however.

As a comparison, we have been to the CIA in Napa CA several times and it was FANTASTIC!! Food was perfect as was the service and ambience.

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RR
1 review
Dined on August 30, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Wonderful concept, entire dining experience is presented by Culinary Institute of America students. Menu is not overwhelming but has enough variety to satisfy varying palates. We are told that the menu changes frequently... hook, line and sinker - we'll be back!

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AF
1 review
Dined on August 28, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 5

I enjoyed dinner here with my friend. It was super cool that the culinary students were the chefs, and I love how vegan friendly this place is.

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CL
1 review
Dined on August 25, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 5

We went for the restaurant week menu, which we found to be overpriced compared to their regular menu. The appetizers were alright; the empanadas had too much dough and not enough of the meat filling. My steak was fantastic -tree seasoning as delicious and consistent in every bite, and it as cooled perfectly. The tres leches was incredible ... My husband amidst didn't share!

The service was great. A little forced in terms of attentiveness, but very polite and professional.

The ambiance is pleasant. Not too quiet, not too loud. And it's fun to see the kitchen while the chefs and students work!

Overall, an enjoyable experience. Would probably go back if we're in the area, though the competition in the area is stiff!

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JG
1 review
Dined on August 25, 2018
Overall 2food 1service 4ambience 4

Portions were too big and the ribs were tough and not tender.

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MM
1 review
Dined on August 25, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

NAO has great menu options, the food is delicious, and the service is good. Our server told us they were closing. That’s too bad. :(

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OT
San Antonio
86 reviews
Dined on August 24, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Flavor of the food was good for the steak & ribs. However, the ribs were a bit too salty. Empanadas were good but a bit small. Duck flautas were really good. Tres leche cake a bit dry & chocolate cake too small.

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W
Austin
1 review
Dined on July 21, 2018
Overall 3food 2service 2ambience 4

Our 4th visit to Nao was disappointing this time. Service needs to be improved- forgot an appetizer serving spoon until requested, forgot an ordered drink from the bar, duck flautas overdone, Grilled octopus was poorly prepared and rubber-like compared to the other times at Nao. Server was polite.

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L
San Antonio
13 reviews
Dined on July 14, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The food never disappoints! Every dish we tasted was superb--especially the paella!

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E
Houston
9 reviews
Dined on July 14, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

Our selections were beautifully presented with great flavors.

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OT
1 review
Dined on July 13, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The food was so delicious & the service was great. I cannot wait to go back!

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S
Austin
14 reviews
Dined on July 13, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great food and menu - nice service with student wait staff - bring back the MOLES! We'll be back......

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OT
Milwaukee
1 review
Dined on July 12, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great Service and great Food!

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HR
1 review
Dined on July 11, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Nicely served fresh food; delicious, interesting and sophisticated flavors, good menu selections and very professional wait service.

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KS
1 review
Dined on July 3, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Food was excellent and the staff were friendly and very knowledgeable. Looking forward to a return visit soon!

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D
1 review
Dined on July 3, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

Service was outstanding, wait staff very knowledgeable
Appetizer and entree was very good
The cale for desert was dry and crumbley

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S
Dallas
1 review
Dined on June 30, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

I cannot say enough good things about Nao. The food, drinks, presentation, atmosphere, and service were all outstanding!

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OT
San Antonio
1 review
Dined on June 29, 2018
Overall 3food 5service 3ambience 4

Overall we had a good time. The venue itself felt very cozy and comfortable. We were greeted as soon as we walked in and the waitstaff were very attentive when it came it making sure we always had water. But our server though he was friendly seemed very nervous. He took our order but apparently forgot to put it in so we were left waiting for our food. He also forgot one of our appetizers. The food that we did get was all amazing. I don’t think there was one person in our group who didn’t enjoy their meal. Everything-food, drinks and dessert were amazing. We would definitely return!

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