A warren of cobbled callejones (narrow-streets) and charming colonial buildings, San Miguel de Allende is among the prettiest of Mexico‘s towns. Colorful processions and regular fiestas add to its appeal, as do an excellent array of award-winning restaurants and cafes. Ranging from traditional to cutting edge, they are fast earning San Miguel a reputation as one of Mexico’s culinary capitals. Here are ten of San Miguel’s best.
Those looking for serious, high-end cooking in San Miguel can’t do much better than Moxi. Run by Enrique Olvera, one of the country’s foremost chefs and owner of the Mexico City restaurant Pujol, Moxi’s kitchen specializes in innovative and artfully presented takes on Mexican classics. Dishes change with the seasons and include confit leg of suckling pig with almond mole sauce and tamarind puree, and beef carpaccio with rocket and buttermilk. Housed in the boutique Hotel Matilda, Moxi’s dining room is casual but elegant and boasts an impressive art collection.
La Posadita boasts one of the best restaurant locations in San Miguel. The views from its charming roof terrace, with the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel on one side and the surrounding hills and mountains just visible from the other, are a major part of its draw. Homely service accompanies the generous portions of Mexican fare which includes fajitas, stuffed chilies, and cochinita pibil Yucatan-style shredded pork marinated with orange juice. Pozole, a homely broth beloved across Mexico and a cornerstone of the country’s food culture, is regularly available at weekends and well worth trying. Margaritas from the bar, including a tamarind-flavored twist on the classic recipe, are expertly made and uniformly well received, making La Posadita the perfect spot to unwind after a day’s sight-seeing.
More than just a restaurant, Via Orgánica forms part of a local non-profit organization that runs both a nearby organic farm and a school designed to promote sustainable farming techniques, fair trade and environmentally friendly living. The winner of numerous guidebook plaudits, the cafe itself uses all organic produce, and serves local wines and beer from Via Orgánica’s own microbrewery. With freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, salads, and plenty of vegetarian dishes on the menu, this is the place to come for a taco detox. Breakfast is also a big attraction, with options including pancakes with fresh fruit and homemade granola. More produce from the farm is available from the whole food shop on site.
An obligatory stop for breakfast or a late night snack, Cafetería San Agustín is something of an institution in San Miguel. Popular with visitors from elsewhere in Mexico on account of its owner, former Mexican soap opera star Margarita Gralia, its similarly renowned for its churros con chocolate. With its lively coffee-house atmosphere and views of the Iglesia de San Francisco, it’s an excellent place to linger provided there isn’t a lengthy queue. A range of different chocolates are on offer, from dark and rich to sweet. If you’re in the mood for something savory, enchiladas and other Mexican favorites are also available.
Overlooking the church of San Antonio, Cafe Firenze would be worth a visit for the views alone, but the kitchen, overseen by two chefs from Atlanta, USA, also happens to serve some of the best Italian cuisine in town. Perfect if you’re looking for a change from Mexican fair, Cafe Firenze is known as much for bold Mediterranean flavours as for refined presentation. Its beef short rib has won wide acclaim, with classics like porcini mushroom risotto finished with white truffle oil, carbonara and tiramisu also on the menu. Many ingredients are locally-sourced and organic, while pasta and even smoked salmon is freshly made in-house. With strong representation both from Italy and South America, the wine list is a further strength, as is the friendly and attentive service.
Popular with members of San Miguel’s expat community and with good reason, Hecho en Mexico offers a varied menu which ranges from well-executed Mexican staples, including Veracruz-style grilled talapia and stuffed poblano chilies, to burgers and club sandwiches. The restaurant’s elegant courtyard, with its flowering trellises, is a further draw. So too are performances from Cuban-born violinist Pedro Cartas and his quartet who take to the stage on Friday and Saturday evenings between 7.30 and 10pm. If you’re overwhelmed by the choice try the arrachera, chargrilled flank steak marinated with limejuice, chilies and spices. It’s a Mexican classic, and remains the most popular dish on the menu.
Smokey grilled mushrooms and crisp empanadas feature on the menu of this family run Argentinian and Uruguayan establishment, but it’s the steaks that are the main event. Cooked on a grill over smoldering mesquite wood coals that impart their subtle aroma to the meat, they’re the best in town. Many of the tables are set in and around a leafy courtyard while the main dining room is hung with chandeliers and modern art. La Virundela‘s affable owners also keep a cellar full of Latin America wines, including bottles from selected Argentinian bodegas, and are on hand to advise on pairings.
Consistently among San Miguel’s top rated restaurants, MuRo is regularly praised for the warmth of its staff. Breakfast is a highlight and the extensive menu runs from huevos a la mexicana(Mexican-style eggs with onion, green pepper and tomato) to pastries and French toast. Lunchtime offerings include burritos, tortilla soups, salads, and seasonal specials such as chiles en nogada, poblano chilies stuffed with ground meat and served with pomegranate seeds and a cream sauce. A wide variety of freshly made juices are on offer too and there is regularly live music in the tranquil fern-fringed courtyard at lunchtimes.
Next to the Rosewood Hotel just outside the center of town, Cafe Rama is another popular spot with San Miguel’s visitors and resident expats. With mismatched furniture and the contemporary art on the walls (much of which is for sale) it’s heading in the direction of trendy, but the food remains reasonably priced. Good coffee, a wide selection of teas, and classics such as eggs Florentine make it an excellent option for breakfast, while the evening menus offer something to suit all tastes. Open until midnight, Cafe Rama also keeps a well-stocked bar with a long list of cocktails to choose from.
The best of San Miguel’s budget options and a strong introduction to Mexico’s hallowed-street food tradition, Baja Fish Taquito serves fish tacos, seafood cocktails and vibrant, lime-laced ceviche in an informal cafe-style setting. Portions are generous, piled high onto soft maize-flour tortillas and topped with fresh salsas and pico de gallo (a Mexican garnish made with chopped tomato, onion and chili), while the service is swift and accommodating. With it’s low prices (around US$1 a taco) and central location, Baja Fish Taquito is ideal for a quick stop amidst a busy day.