I keep reading in various travel and food publications that San Miguel de Allende is becoming a major culinary destination in Mexico, even in the world. I just don’t see it yet. True, the culinary scene has improved dramatically in the 15 years we’ve been coming here. Time was you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee or loaf of bread here, and cheese was limited to the(admittedly delicious) fresh farmer’s cheeses, but there was little variety, and no aging of cheeses going on anywhere in the area. Now, great coffee is really ubiquitous here, and the question of whether to go all the way to Calle Sterling Dickenson to get the best baguette in town, or just to Calle Correo to get the 2nd best(but still fabulous), and perhaps a perfectly made croissant while we’re at it, is one of the most stressful decisions in our day! The Organic market on Saturday mornings offers a magnificent choice of beautiful aged cheeses, goat, sheep and cow’s milk, made and aged in the area, in the style of the great European cheeses: Manchego, Gorgonzola, and so many others. So the available product to put together a fabulous meal or picnic is as good as anywhere on the continent. But I still have major doubts about the quality of the restaurant scene here. Oh there are some very very good ones, but a lot of mediocre ones as well. And the prices are often higher than expected, and certainly higher than they used to be. I don’t mind at all paying for a great meal- after all, Ariel’s is not cheap, though we certainly stand behind the value we provide. But sometimes….Anyway, here are a few impressions of restaurants that Richard and I have been to more than once(in two cases, once a week, for the past two years).
APERI I have to say that I’ve eaten two of the best meals in my life at Aperi. The chef – Matteo Salas- is a brilliant young chef, talented and humble. We’ve had dinner at the chef’s table in the kitchen twice, and both times the food was creative, beautiful, innovative, but most importantly – delicious. Food you want to eat, not just look at. Matteo himself presented the food, chatted about how it was made, gave us tastes of things he was preparing for other tables – just an amazing experience over all. The service was exquisite – knowledgeable, thoughtful, anticipating our needs and desires. Yes, it’s one of the most pricey meals in San Miguel, but totally worth saving for. We’re going back soon!
DON TACO TEQUILLA On the other end of the price scale is this hip little place on Hernandas Macias. We discovered it two years ago, shortly after it opened, and it’s become our Friday night dinner spot ever since. It’s one of Noah’s favorites too. The selection of mezcals and tequilas is one of the reasons that Richard likes it so much, but the real draw is the free salsas(5 of them, all made there, all imaginative, delicious, and most of them SPICY and freshly made chips that get brought to the table as soon as you sit down. The menu offers house variations on tacos, Gringas(like quesadillas in the states), baked potatoes with toppings like al Pastor and Arrachera(thin sliced grilled beef) and a few other well cooked, simple Mexican specialties. The waiters are sweet, funny and attentive, and it’s definitely our “go to” evening out with friends. We like places where we all get hugs when we walk in the door!
TACO TRUCK ON THE CORNER OF INSURGUENTES AND HIDALGO OK, I admit it – our very favorite place to eat in San Miguel is a Taco truck. Not just any taco truck however. This place is the bomb! It’s well know as being the best place for Tacos al Pastor in San Miguel, and maybe anywhere in Mexico. Tacos al Pastor is God’s gift to taco lovers. A cone of chile spiced Pork, reminiscent of (and descended from) the Middle Eastern Gyro, rotates on a vertical spit in front of a roaring gas fire, and is sliced, along with a roasted pineapple from the top of the spit, into a small, delicious fresh corn tortilla. Grilled onions are the only thing that are added to the taco, but you can doctor it with a selection of salsas, pickles and salads ranging from mild to Oh My God! They also have other tacos(the Lengua – tongue-is Richard’s favorite, and the chorizo is excellent) but my meal is always three Tacos al Pastor(30 pesos total, just a bit under 2 dollars), and I walk away as happy as I can be. The truck doesn’t open until 7:30 each night, so an evening walk to the taco truck and an ice cream cone in the Jardin(town square) afterwards is our favorite weekly(or sometimes 2x per week!) treat.
MOXI OK, it’s time for a not so happy dining experience. We only went here once, but the cost and the terrible service and mediocre food guarantee that we won’t go again. I will only write negatively of a place if it’s obvious that they’re not even trying. This place bears the name of a famous, and fabulous Mexican chef, who’s Mexico city restaurant is on the 50 best in the World list. I don’t know why he allows his name to remain on this place. The food lacks imagination, flavor, and the feeling that anyone in the kitchen really cares. The service was nonexistent at best, at worst it was actually disdainful. I know this place has some good reviews so maybe our experience was not typical, but many of our friends shared our feelings and will not go back. This was the most expensive meal we’ve had in San Miguel, and with restaurants like Aperi out there, who do so much more for about the same amount of money or slightly less, it’s beyond my understanding how a place like this can continue to thrive. Ok, I’ve said enough. I’ll write again about happier experiences, I promise!