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what to eat & where to go
RESTAURANTS
Fine Dining Restaurants:
Chamonix
Azafrán
Nirvana
Ristorante da Andrea
Harry's New Orleans

Casual Restaurants:
Bella Italia
Cha Cha Cha
El Rinconcito
El Ten Ten Pie
Villa Jacaranda




HOTELS
Splurge Worthy:
Hotel Casa Linda
Casa de Sierra Nevada

Pricey but Sane:
Villa Jacaranda

Wallet-Watching:
La Mansion del Bosque
   
 
San Miguel for the Food Savvy

By Antoinette Bruno

San Miguel on StarChefs.comThe sleepy city of San Miguel, Mexico, is best known in America as an artists’ enclave and a haven for American expatriates. What most guidebooks won’t tell you is that San Miguel de Allende, located in the central Mexican state of Guanajato, offers a wealth of authentic culinary discoveries. Forget the homogenized Mexican fare commonly found in the U.S – tacos, nachos, quesadillas – and think fresh sopas, hot chiles, and homemade mole. San Miguel provides a variety of venues and ways in which to experience real Mexican food. There are fine dining restaurants, casual cafes, traveling street vendors, bustling marketplaces, and quite a few local cooking schools. A colorful backdrop of brightly painted, intricately carved windows and doors, winding paths, cobblestone courtyards, and lively squares frame San Miguel’s vibrant culinary and cultural scene. The city’s easygoing pace of life beckons visitors to stay a while and do as the locals do; wander, watch, taste, touch, and live life to the fullest.

San Miguel on StarChefs.comThe best way to learn about food in San Miguel is to ask the locals, who are friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Inquiries into eating habits and regional staples led to a lesson about different chiles (Serrano, jalapeno, poblano, habanero, ancho, and chipotle, just to name a few), a conversation about mole sauce (every family and household have their own way of preparing it), and the discovery of queso fresca, a fresh, local cheese with a taste similar to ricotta and a consistency akin to goat cheese. Breakfast was another revelation. Morning meals in San Miguel often consist of steamed tamales and atole, a hot corn drink.

Chef Ana Lilia Galindo Chávez on StarChefs.com
Chef
Ana Lilia Galindo Chávez

Residents of San Miguel are proud to show off their city and their culture. The same is true of the chefs presiding over the city’s fine dining establishments. Unlike many tourist destinations, where restaurants pander to the lowest common denominator, San Miguel’s chefs are eager to introduce visitors to the regional cuisine. In a few instances, such as with Chef Ana Chavez of Chamonix, these chefs are exploring the future of Mexican cuisine with creative interpretations of traditional dishes.

For the budget-conscious, San Miguel offers a number of tiny, local joints that serve up authentic Mexican food without pretense. Ramble through the narrow walkways and chat up a couple in Le Jardin to find out where the locals go. Villa Jacaranda, an inviting, reasonably priced hotel that doubles as the resident movie house, has a kiosk café serving fresh fish and chips wrapped in newsprint. For an even more affordable deal, 15 pesos will buy you a scoop of San Miguel’s best ice cream, at Santa Clara on San Antoine.

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RESTAURANTS


Fine Dining Restaurants

Chamonix

Chamonix on StarChefs.com
Chamonix

Chef Ana Lilia Galindo Chávez
Sollano No. 17
San Miguel de Allende, Gto.
C.P 37700, Mexico
Tel: 52 415 154 8363

My first stop in San Miguel proved also to be one of the best. At Chamonix, Chef Ana Lilia Galindo Chávez serves a sophisticated but unpretentious interpretation of Mexican cuisine. Her small menu, featuring lovely homemade soups and pastas, salads, appealing appetizers and entrees, quickly became my favorite lunch spot. The understated garden setting adds to the already charming dishes. Artichoke soup is simple, flavorful and light: a perfect pairing for Chamonix’s signature salad of pear, spinach, walnuts and Roquefort. The pasta, tossed in lemon sauce with prawns, is fresh, delicate and tasty. For a main course, try the Swiss Fillet, topped with blackened onions and served in a chipotle, sun dried tomato and rosemary sauce. To thoroughly revel in your meal, end with a slice of her delightful key lime pie.

Chamonix Salad  on StarChefs.com
Chamonix Salad

N.B. Chávez opened Chamonix with her nephew, Chef Allen Williams, who grew up in Mexico and completed his culinary training in Switzerland. Now Chef Allen has his own San Miguel restaurant, Food Factory.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Artichoke Soup
    Chamonix Salad
    Pasta in Lemon Sauce with Prawns
  • Hours:
    Tuesday-Saturday, 1:30-10pm; Sunday brunch, 11am-3pm

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Chef Luis Maubecín on StarChefs.com
Chef Luis Maubecín

Azafrán

Chef Luis Maubecín
Hernandez Macias 97
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tel: 54 415 152 7482

Describing his cuisine as Mediterranean fusion, Chef Luis Maubecín is not afraid of experimentation. Employing the freshest ingredients and focusing on healthy, low-carb fare, Luis’ menu melds tradition with current trends. He draws inspiration from Spain’s forward-thinking chefs and adds his own style to new techniques. I started with an excellent terrine of eggplant, mushroom and bell pepper. In his interpretation of Chile Rellenos, the chef stuffs Ancho chilies with shrimp drenched in a goat cheese sauce. Tequila Flambé Shrimp was creative and delicious with its earthy huitlacoche sauce, as was the Salmon in Honey, Ginger and Smoked Chile Sauce.

Tequila Flambé Shrimp on StarChefs.com
Tequila Flambé Shrimp
in Huitlacoche Sauce
  • Recommended Dishes:
    Terrine of Eggplant, Mushroom and Bell Pepper
    Ancho Chile Stuffed with Shrimp in Goat Cheese Sauce
    Tequila Flambé Shrimp in Huitlacoche Sauce
  • Hours:
    Thursday-Tuesday, 11 am- 11 pm

 

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Nirvana

Chef Juan Carlos Escalante
Hernández Macías 56-A
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tel: 52 415 150 0067

Watermelon Gazpacho on StarChefs.com
Watermelon Gazpacho

Mexican born, CIA-rained Chef Juan Carlos Escalante fuses classic Mexican cuisine with his international experiences to create flavorful and artistic food. A bowl of watermelon gazpacho was a refreshing and unusual take on the tomato classic. Another typically savory dish that got the sweet treatment was a hibiscus quesadilla. Light, yummy and very cool, this rendition was sweet but balanced. Heading in a different direction, Escalante’s Thai Soup was rich with curry, cream and coconut milk. The Red Snapper in Talla Sauce had kick, but was countered by a bed of cool cilantro. Chicken breast was stuffed with dried fruit and served in a piquant mole sauce accented with sweet guava. I also enjoyed the Venison in Adobo of Black Pepper, a satisfying tomato-y sauce with black chiles. My dessert of Plum Pie, while outsourced, was outstanding; its provenance was identified as El Petit Four, a bakery around the corner.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    Watermelon Gazpacho
    Hibiscus Quesadillas
    Thai Soup
  • Hours:
    Wednesday-Monday, 1-10 pm

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Ristorante da Andrea
Chef Andrea Lamberti
Carr a Dr. Mora Km. 7.5
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tel: 52 415 120 3481

When the urge to stray from authentic Mexican cuisine strikes, the soulful Italian cuisine of Neapolitan Chef Andrea Lamberti is a must. Each dish is cooked lovingly, tailored especially for his diners in the thrill of the moment. Andrea sources ingredients typically unavailable in Mexico, like buffalo mozzarella, giant basil, and veal; he makes his own pasta noodles from scratch and cooks them to order. Specialties of the house include rabbit, swordfish, veal and squid.

  • Recommended Dishes:
    There is no menu! Put yourself in the capable hands of Chef Andrea and he’ll cook what his heart desires.
  • Hours:
    Thursday-Sunday, 1 pm-11 pm

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Chef Armando Prats on StarChefs.com
Chef Armando Prats

Harry’s New Orleans

Chef Armando Prats
Hidalgo 12
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Tel: 52 415 152 2645

When you’re looking for something more American, hit up Harry’s New Orleans. The talented TV personality, Chef Armando Prats serves tried and true Creole fare. Best bets include Duck Prats, served with a deep, rich raspberry wine sauce, and Rock Cornish Game Hen with maple grits and orange molasses. Harry's is also the spot to start or end an evening with great margaritas and drinks. It's an action-packed gathering place filled with expats, locals and tourists alike.

Duck Prats on StarChefs.com
Duck Prats
  • Recommended Dishes:
    Duck Prats
    Rock Cornish Game Hen
  • Hours:
    Open daily from noon to 1 am

 

 

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Casual Restaurants

Bella Italia
Hernandez Macias #59
Tel: 52 415 152 4989

Bella Italia is a charming little Italian restaurant in the courtyard of the Sautto, one of San Miguel’s oldest hotels. Diners flock here for the mussels and the grilled T-bone; Wednesday and Saturday nights feature live guitar and jazz, respectively.

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Cha Cha Cha
Calle 28 de Abril #37, Norte
Tel: 52 415 152 6586

Boasting the best guacamole in town, this neighborhood bar and restaurant is ideal for a casual lunch or dinner. Don’t miss the chicken mole.

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El Rinconcito
Rufugio #7 North (in the Col San Antonio neighborhood)

This tiny restaurant, situated in the home of owners Mercedes and Michael, serves sincere, home-style Mexican food for almost next to nothing. Try the chicken adobe and the spinach and shrimp quesadilla.

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El Ten Ten Pie
Cuna de Allende, 21
Tel: 52 415 152 7189

Teeming with locals, El Ten Ten is a terrific place for a quick bite at any hour. Bring the whole family and grab some tacos, quesadillas and tortillas.

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Villa Jacaranda
Aldama 54
Tel: 52 415 152 1015

Located in the courtyard of the Hotel Jacaranda, this kiosk café was recommended by a local American living in San Miguel. Fresh fish and chips come wrapped in newsprint; assorted soups and key lime pie are delicious. Villa Jacaranda also serves as the local movie house, showing films most nights at 7:30 pm.


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HOTELS


Splurge Worthy

Hotel Casa Linda on StarChefs.com
Hotel Casa Linda

Hotel Casa Linda
Mesones #101, Colonia Centro
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Mexico 37700
Tel: 52 415 154 4007

A small boutique hotel (only 8 rooms) centrally located just south of the Jardín, Casa Linda features uniquely appointed guest suites with furniture and decorations designed by local artisans and craftsmen. Each suite includes a fireplace and kitchenette.

  • Rooms: 8
  • Rates: $180-$275, 2 night minimum stay
  • Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express

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Casa de Sierra Nevada

Casa De Sierra Nevada on StarChefs.com
Casa De Sierra Nevada

Hospicio #35 Col. Centro
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Mexico 37700
Tel: 52 415 152 7040

Casa de Sierra Nevada offers old world European elegance in a beautiful colonial Mexican setting. A breezy courtyard and climbing palm fronds set the stage for a thoroughly elegant stay. And, they have a pool, which is very unusual in San Miguel!
The hotel is one of the city’s most prestigious properties, offering first-class service and tasteful, luxurious accommodations.

  • Rooms: 33
  • Rates: $205-$420
  • Credit Cards: All Major Credit Cards

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Pricey but Sane

Villa Jacaranda on StarChefs.com
Villa Jacaranda

Villa Jacaranda

Aldama 53
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Mexico 37700
Tel: 52 415 152 1015

Villa Jacaranda is ideally located within walking distance of the city’s center. The property has a popular café and doubles as a movie house, with films showing nightly. Before settling in for the night, take a relaxing dip in the hotel’s hot tub.

  • Rooms: 16
  • Rates: $139-$203
  • Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express

 

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Wallet-Watching

La Mansion del Bosque

La Mansion del Bosque on StarChefs.com
La Mansion del Bosque

Apdo 206
Calle de Aldama No. 65
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Mexico 37700
Tel: 52 415 152 0277

A charming little hotel owned by an American. Rooms are clean, comfortable and cozy, considering the extreme affordability.

 

  • Rooms: 23
  • Rates: $35-$135
  • Credit Cards: Cash and U.S. checks only

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hotlinks_general_narrow
  • Huitlacoche
  • Tapas Challenge
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Forum: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


  •    Published: January 2006
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