It was about six, maybe seven years ago. I was perched at the far end of Harry’s Bar in San Miguel de Allende. From there you could have a bird’s eye view of pretty much everything that was going on. And there was always something going on.
What was going on mostly on that afternoon were three women. They were what Don Day simply calls lookers and they were graduates of the cattle ranch school of fashion. Painted on jeans, two in faded blue, one in black. Tooled leather belts with gleaming Navajo buckles. Tony Lamas on their feet with a just-come-from-the-jardin polish. Puffy blouses with yoked backs and pearl buttons, two in silk, one in satin. Big hair. And a little too much make-up for 4:00 pm. Maybe even 9:00 pm. Hard to tell how old they were. Definitely north of 40. Yet possibly still south of 50.
Not every man would have but Don Day liked the way they looked. They had found that exact middle ground between crass and class. John Ford could have cast any of them as the wife. Or the other woman.
Don Day rated a couple of glances. And maybe half a smile. Especially from the one with the extra button undone on her blouse. The one who kept tapping her cigarette in time to the music. But really, the stares were on someone else. The bartender.
The guy’s upper body was shaped like a yield sign but that wasn’t slowing down the visual attention of the three lookers. There were massive shoulders under his white shirt and his biceps were testing the seams. Over the shirt was a black leather vest like Randolph Scott used to wear, with an embroidered logo for somebody’s tequila. Below the shirt was the focus of the lookers’ attention though; it’s where all eyes really were. This bartender had a waist size that probably started with a two and below it was something that kept the ladies’ heads bobbing back and forth like a felt dog in the back of a sixties muscle car.
It was right about then that I realized their plan. They’d been pointing at some of the bottles that were stored out of arm’s reach, on the highest shelf at Harry’s. Specifically, it seemed it was a bottle of Galliano that they’d sighted.
Harry’s had one of those ladders that you see in libraries on Masterpiece Theatre. The kind that glide along the wall on rollers. The bartender was now inching it along. The lookers had the knuckles of one hand on their mouths. As though they were trying to prevent any schoolgirl giggling. The bartender positioned the ladder directly below the Galliano and he began to climb.
I could just make out a whisper, “He’s going up, he’s going up.”
The lookers hands came down from all of their faces and their mouths opened. From fifteen feet away I was sure I heard a sigh. I was definitely sure of the words that came out of one of their mouths.
“Those are the best buns ever in San Miguel.”
There’ve been a lot of changes in San Miguel since then. Harry’s is now Hank’s. That bartender is now at La Sirena Gorda. Those lookers probably haven’t had a Harvey Wallbanger or whatever drink the Galliano went into since. And Don Day? Well he always had his own idea of who had the best buns in town.
The best buns? In Don Day’s opinion, that prize goes to El Maple, the Canadian bakery.
Now this wouldn’t be the kind of a bun that Don Day would put in a basket on a dinner table. That would be a baguette from La Mesa Grande or Cumpanio. Or a pan rustica from Mivida.
No this would be Don Day’s choice of sandwich bun. The kind he’d fill with pulled pork, or sopressata and Swiss, or tuna salad, or Italian sausage, or a thick juicy burger.
You can see these buns through the window before you even enter the bakery. There’s always a big basket of them as long as you get there early enough.
They’re not crusty which is the way that Don Day likes most of his other breads. They’re soft and puffy and covered in a dusting of flour. They don’t fight with what you put inside them. They caress it.
These buns are very big and Don Day’s Wife has even been known to perform the cruel act of cutting them in half. Don Day, though, likes his buns big. That way you can get more meat on them and less mustard on your shirt. Anything less than six ounces of burger, in fact, looks lost on these bolillos.
El Maple‘s buns are simply, the best buns in San Miguel.
El Maple is located on Salida a Celaya in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.