This quaint, colonial-era city in Mexico’s Central Highlands draws its dining scene from a range of age-old influences, much like the city’s trademark architecture.
The shady streets of Guanajuato state’s prettiest town clamber over rolling hills to bougainvillea-blushed plazas lined with colorful colonial townhouses. Bells ring from grand gothic spires and baroque church towers, while at dawn before the city wakes, it’s so quiet you can hear birdsong and footfall on the cobbles. A draw for Mexico’s well-heeled, artsy crowd – muralist David Siqueiros taught here – San Miguel is crammed with classy boutiques, galleries and restaurants headed up by famous chefs.
San Miguel’s most-coveted fine dining tables are in this intimate, low-lit dining room in the Dos Casas – a chic boutique set in a Spanish colonial townhouse in the heart of the old center. Run by French-Mexican chef Olivier Deboise, the menu focuses on quality local ingredients like farm-reared Mexican pork and lamb, Baja California scallops and Ensenada tuna, best savored through the six-course tasting menu with matching wines – and served at the chef’s table in the kitchen.
This homey cantina restaurant tucked behind the towering, gothic San Miguel Arcángel church is a genuine local favorite. Food is served in a dining room decorated with kitschy angels and a myriad of black-and-whites of Mexican singers and film stars, or there’s a sunny outdoor terrace. It’s simple fare – tacos, quesadillas, all manner of eggs (including hearty rancheros – served on a corn tortilla in a thick tomato sauce) and the house speciality of pozoles (meat stew with hominy corn kernels and chili).
Set in a handsome downtown house, this boutique restaurant offers a selection of intimate dining areas, including a plush lounge, a rustic-chic kitchen, a formal dining room and a rooftop terrace with views out over terracotta eaves and church spires. The latter is a coveted spot at the end of the day when diners sip pineapple mezcalitos as the sun sinks over the city, followed by a dinner of fillet steak or pistachio-encrusted tuna under the stars.
The best table with a view in this city of beautiful views? It has to be at the Antonia Bistro – where the sun drops as red as a cherry over higgledy-piggledy houses and cobbled streets dotted with churches, to the Laja River and the distant blue ridges of the Sierra de Lobos mountains. Even a poached egg would be good with a view like this – let alone chef Alex Cuatepotzo’s superior rib-eye steaks, suckling pigs and ceviches.
You don’t have to have a banker’s salary to eat well in San Miguel. El Pato serves top tacos, mixiotes (pit-roasted meats) and barbacoa (lamb or pork slow-roasted with maguey leaves) under an awning in a simple, open-plan dining area off Calzada de la Estación near the bus station. The ingredients are fresh, the food beautifully prepared and even with the cost of the 10-minute cab ride from the center, prices are backpacker-cheap.
The Rosewood hotel’s 1826 restaurant serves contemporary Mexican dishes cooked to perfection in a country-club-style dining room – with lounge chairs, low-lighting and colorful folk art hanging on the walls. Signature favorites include suckling pig in sweet Veracuz mole xico sauce and lemon-flower honey, and rack of lamb with Mexican Pepperleaf pesto. The wine list is one of San Miguel’s best.
Tucked up a stairway off Avenida Insurgentes in the colonial center and with little signage, this pocket-sized cafe can be a struggle to find. But it’s worth the bother – for the big breakfasts including eggs and French toast, the bursting brunch sandwiches and the excellent New Zealand-style coffee – served with a rooftop view. And unlike many San Miguel eateries, the cafe has plenty of options for vegetarians.
With a Mexican-Thai fusion menu, Zibu’s food zings with spice and brims-over with flavor. Plates include Phuket salad (Thai and Mexican leaves with seared tuna and mango coulis) and fusion fish, baked in a banana leaf with chili, tomato and coriander and served with mushroom sauce. The restaurant sits in the Live Aqua boutique hotel with a choice of dining areas – under the colonnades, on the terrace, in the leafy atrium garden or in a luxe, carpeted bar lounge.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Chrisa Theodoraki.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in San Miguel de Allende, why not book into one of the best hotels in town? Or, for the most unique experience, book one of these top boutique hotels now with Culture Trip. If you need more inspiration, here are the best things to do in this Mexican city. And to continue the local taste, try one of the top bars.
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