Eating and Drinking in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, a “magic town” in central Mexico, has long been a traveler’s paradise. Backpackers, luxury-seekers, and everyone in between don flower crowns and stroll the cobblestone hills, photographing the Spanish colonial architecture. In San Miguel, you can soak in the hot springs, visit a world-renowned mask museum, and people-watch in the jardin. You can also eat some of the country’s best food at reasonable prices, on the streets and in the many restaurants. But the culinary scene has never been as impressive as it is right now.
“San Miguel has been on the radar for years, but people didn’t come here specifically to eat until 2016,” says Susan Wright York, who has been bloggingabout San Miguel’s gastronomy since 2013. “In 2016, we saw the openings of forty new restaurants, as well as some multifunctional marketplaces. It was great news for our passionate chefs and for the growing number of day-trippers hoping to sample a variety of culinary options in a matter of hours.” Here’s a guide to some of the old staples and new hot spots, so you can eat and drink in full San Miguel style.
Stand up and eat in the street: Ok, you’re in Mexico. So let’s start with street food. Taco carts don’t usually have visible names, but on any weekend night, walk to the corner of Mesones and Hidalgo, right outside a bar called Hank’s, and you will be in the presence of some seriously gifted taco guys. Pick your meat and let them whip you up the taco of your dreams. Note: tacos in Mexico are tiny, so you’ll want to order two or three.
Mid-range: For a sit-down taco experience, hit La Brasilia. It’s a no-frills restaurant with a huge menu offering all the staples: tacos al pastor, gringas, quesadillas, as well as stuffed baked potatoes, and your server will bring you a variety of homemade salsas.
Tacos for the fancy: And by fancy, I mean the waiters wear uniforms and you can order your tacos vegan. Sabroso is still quite inexpensive, though. Go sit on the rooftop and don’t expect fast service. Just drink some beers and enjoy the fresh air.
MOST DELICIOUS NEW HOTELS
Once you’re stuffed full of tacos and need to take a siestaand set your suitcase down, check into one of these brand-new hotels that are both gorgeous and foodie-focused:
For the luxury traveler, the new Live Aqua Urban Resort is the place to be. It offers an impressive spa, a huge outdoor pool, the best hotel robes you’ll ever have the pleasure to wear (they’re ankle-length hooded sweatshirts…swoon!), and a cigar bar, where a professional cigar-roller might teach you a few things while you sip your whiskey. Live Aqua is also home to one of the finest restaurants in town, Zibu Allende. The Oriental seafood rice is perfection.
For a more minimalist stay, try the boutique Hotel Amparo. Each of the five rooms is unique in design – handmade bedding, artisanal tiles, fancy bath products – and they encircle a charming courtyard with a soothing stone fountain. The place has a nice oasis feel to it, even though it’s located in the heart of San Miguel, and the customer service is flawless. In the morning, hit the on-site coffee bar; their java is a blend of beans from Veracruz, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, the three Mexican states most famous for their coffee. And the on-site restaurant, Locanda Amparo, is Italian (home-made pasta! negronis!) with a central-Mexican twist: they serve locally raised and produced cheeses, eggs, and meats.
BEST RESTAURANT WITH A VIEW
One of the staples of the San Miguel experience is climbing up to some high point in town to sip cocktails and watch the sunset. La Azotea is the obvious and often quite crowded choice, and if you wind up there and aren’t sick of tacos yet, you must try the shrimp tacos served on thinly sliced jicama in lieu of tortillas. But I prefer Antonia Bistro. It’s a bit off-the-beaten-path, the service and food are top-notch, and the view of the town is unobstructed and stunning. As the sun turns bright pink, enjoy a beet salad prepared in the wood-fired oven; as the sky fades to dark blue, move on to tuna in red wine sauce; and as the moon rises, top it all off with the sweet potato crème brûlée.
BEST MEZCAL MARGARITAS
La Mezcalaria is a cozy little restaurant where each recipe might be better described as an assembly of a few fresh ingredients. Everything is clean and simple and high-quality. Share a cheese plate (Oaxaca cheese, orange slices, grasshoppers, and worm salt) with a friend and try one of those mezcal margaritas. Careful! They’re strong.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT ONLY MEXICAN FOOD!
One unique feature of San Miguel is its sizable international population and the tourism it recieves from around the globe. That worldliness is reflected in its cuisine. Many delicious restaurants feature authentic recipes from other countries. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss:
Head deeper into South America without the eight-hour flight: La Parada is a Peruvian restaurant where you can get your fill of pisco cocktails and Peruvian ceviche.
Uber-talented Sri Lankan chef Dilshan Madawala will serve you some of the best Sri Lankan food you’ve ever had at Dila’s Restaurant. Get your curry fix and enjoy some samosas.
Don’t miss Berlin Bar & Bistro! The menu is German, but the draw is the bar. Berlin is an expat hangout. It’s always packed, always lively, and you’re guaranteed to have interesting conversations with strangers.
Diana Spechler is the author of the novels Who by Fire and Skinny, of the New York Times column Going Off, and of a forthcoming nonfiction book from Crown Publishing. Her work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Afar, Travel & Leisure, Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and many other publications.