As I was typing…sorry, keystroking…the headline I stole from the most excellent book “100 Places To Visit Before You Die” (which does, of course, include San Miguel de Allende) I was thinking of a line I heard the very first year I came to this town and, by chance, you may have never heard:
People move to Miami to die. People move to San Miguel to live.
Now, as I approach my eighth decade, food remains just as an important part of my life as ever. And sharing the highlights is just as important as ever.
So it’s that time again. Time for Don Day’s annual “best of” list. My favorite things to eat in and around town. The choices don’t necessarily come from the best restaurants. They’re simply what I think are the best dishes. But you can presume that a restaurant that makes at least one dish very well is probably going to make a lot of others very well.
There are many new additions this year. Mostly from brand new restaurants. But some just from new discoveries at restaurants that have been in San Miguel for years. There are quite a few deletions as well. Mostly from restaurants that have joined the dearly departed.
When I first did this list there were 40 best dishes on the list. That number has grown every year until it’s now more than doubled. And, of course, like Robin Hood’s men, the more the merrier.
Here they are, in no particular order. And my apologies for the overflow of gushing adjectives. When you love the food in this town as much as I do, it’s very hard not to get overly excited.
Chicken liver pate. Hansen’s. A tennis ball sized mound of heaven.
Teriyaki glazed pork riblets. The Restaurant. Melt in your mouth meat coated in a sweet and savory sauce.
Cabbage and kale salad. DeliCa Mitsu. Makes me wonder why the Japanese aren’t famous for great salads.
Albondigas. Tapas SMA. Of course a Swedish chef makes the best meatballs in town.
Provolone al forno. Food Factory. Take one of the world’s best cheeses and make it even better with a little heat.
Paella negra. La Casa de las Conservas. The best paella in town is even better with squid ink.
Bacon wrapped asparagus. La Posadita. On a plate that includes perfectly grilled tomatoes and onions.
Squash blossom soup. Los Olivos de Denver. From mother to son comes the recipe for a rich, cheesy version of this seasonal soup.
Lemon cheesecake. Mi Vida. The cheesecake is just the start. Then they add chocolate and preserves and egg whites and strawberries to make one of the prettiest presentations in town.
Barbacoa. El Pato. Can’t think of anything else I’d rather fill a taco with.
Carciofi ai quattro formaggi. Cent’Anni. Gorgonzola, gruyere, gouda and parmesan. Four of the world’s best cheeses. All together on an artichoke.
Onion rings. Hank’s. Not exactly a gourmet dish. But I don’t think you’ll find any better rings.
Eggplant parmesan. Los Olivos de Denver. Not a hint of bitterness in the aubergine. And so generous with the cheese.
Roasted tomato soup. Mi Casa. With chunks of crispy ham in every spoonful.
Sopa de lima. La Casa del Diezmo. The Veracruz classic. And yes, it’s the verdadero McCoy, made with limas not limes.
Sopa de queso. La Puertecita. So rich I want to pour it over fettucine.
Pork in a coffee cream sauce. Sabores y Salsas. Sometimes offered at of one of the best bargain lunches in San Miguel.
Profiteroles. La Cucina di Afrodita. So good we ordered a wedding cake made of them.
Reuben. Hank’s. A classic treatment of the classic sandwich.
Key lime pie. Lavanda. Who would have thought freezing it would make it so special.
Gaby’s flan. Aguamiel. Uncommonly good preparation of a very common dessert.
Chiles relleno con pescado. MuRo. The pomegranate sauce is the crowning touch.
Marlin ahumado. Mario’s Mariscos Frescos. The hint of jalapeño makes Mario’s marlin marvellous.
Tamale mediterraneo. La Casa de Los Tamales. The filling may not be very Mexican but it’s very good.
Hot dog. Costco. No wonder they sell millions each year.
Cremoso de foie gras. Aperi. Yes of course there’s duck liver somewhere on my best of list.
Chiles en nogata. El Arbol. I’ve been eating her chiles for years and I’m never planning to stop.
Cecina de Morelos. Sabores y Salsas. I’d been waiting for years for a good restaurant to put this dish on their menu.
Matzo ball soup. La Frontera. This could be the cure for the common cold.
Lettuce and citrics salad. Cumpanio. When a salad makes my list it must be extraordinary.
Tuna tostadas. The Restaurant. Closest thing to the taste of Japanese sushi.
French onion soup. Zumo. A little lighter than most. Which is perfect when there are so many more courses to follow.
Short rib of beef. Firenze. Tender loving care produces the tenderest, tastiest meat in town.
Geisha roll. DeliCa Mitsu. No, there isn’t much competition but this is the best maki in town.
Cochinita pibil. La Posadita. One of Mexico’s great dishes with the right amount of orange in the sauce.
The bread dip. La Puertecita. Olive oil with orange peel and nuts. What an innovation.
Baked brie on toast. Paprika. Adding peppers, capers and walnuts completes a very appetizing appetizer.
Duck and vegetable rolls. The Restaurant. With that wonderful ginger chili dipping sauce.
Eggplant Sorrentino. Tannat. Absolute raves for this ravioli.
Higaltidos asaltados. La Parada. The best treatment of chicken livers in SMA.
Spaghetti carbonara. Osteria de Mia Italia. That dusting of nutmeg makes the difference.
Squash ravioli in brown butter and sage. Firenze. A classic sauce kisses a classic pasta.
Cebiche La Parada. La Parada. The addition of mango creates pure Peruvian pleasure.
Carnitas. Apolo XI. With lots of juicy belly just for the asking.
Prime rib of beef. Hansen’s. When Dick Weber left he thankfully didn’t take the secret to cooking a great roast with him.
Karne en su jugo. Birria Xalisco. Add a lot of bacon and a lot of beef to frijoles de olla and you’ve got what might be Mexico’s very best bean dish.
Tacos al pastor. Pancho’s. There’s a reason this is one of the busiest stands at San Miguel’s Tuesday Market.
Helado queso con zarzamoras. Jimmy’s. The creamiest of ice creams studded with solid chunks of cream cheese and ripe blackberries oozing juice.
Pepperoni pizza. Mi Vida. The wood-fired oven that bakes some of the town’s best thin crust pizzas. But only on Sundays.
The traditional hamburger. Hansen’s. Fresh ground sirloin served thick with the essential grilled onions.
Pizza Cipriani. Chiquita’s. Because carpaccio, black olives, sundried tomatoes and arugula are four of my favorite flavors. Especially on a wood-fired, Neopolitan style crust.
Pork belly. De Temporada. A nicely butchered belly imaginatively rubbed with allspice, pepper, orange and sage and slow cooked to perfection.
Ginger chicken. Food Factory. One of a few very good dishes there of an Asian persuasion.
Lime meringue pie. Victoria’s. There’s a reason they call them fruit tarts. Because that’s how people like me want them. Not sweet but tart.
Grilled quail. Da Andrea. Crispy on the outside. Fall apart tender on the inside. Delightfully but lightly seasoned. Wonderfully moist.
Gorditas. Ceci. They sell about 2000 of these chubby stuffed tortillas every Tuesday at the market. Enough said.
Bobby Waters soup. Paprika. There’s no such thing as too much avocado in my vocabulary.
Consome. El Pato. So very, very rich in lamb flavor.
Jamon y queso empanada. Empanadas d Loreto. The flakiest crust in San Miguel.
Pay de cacahuates. Hecho en Mexico. As addictive as a can of Planters and then they add thick cream and chocolate syrup.
Sopa la premiada. La Casa del Diezmo. Pumpkin, peppers and cheese blended into one delightful soup.
Birria. Birria Xalisco. Guadalajara’s best dish is available in San Miguel.
Marrow bones. Cumpanio. Divine decadence.
Nopal asado. Don Taco Tequila. Open sesame for the seeds on fire roasted cactus.
Pescado entero a la sal. Mi Vida. Ah, for the moment that the crust is broken and the smell of the fresh fish fills the air.
Tacos de lengua. Andy’s Tacos. This tongue is mightier than a lot more things than the sword.
Bruschetta. Mi Vida. Proof that you should never take a simple dish for granted.
Samosas. Bhaji. So what if they’re not authentic, the phyllo works.
Triple chocolate ice cream. Helado Santa Clara. Like life, you’ve got to enjoy it before it melts.
Seared yellowfin tuna. Hecho en Mexico. A premium denizen of the deep at a deep discount price.
French fries. Hansen’s. Thin cut. Twice fried, Nicely dusted.
Drowned burrito. La Frontera. An absolute, definite, at least once a month experience when I’m in San Miguel.
Enchilado. Cafe Contento. Rabbit piled high on a crispy tostada.
Risotto all’arancia. La Cucina di Afrodita. The creamiest and tastiest rice in town.
Baguette. Cumpanio. Simply the very best loaf in town. Not to mention the best croissant.
Burnt caramel sundae. The Restaurant. Proving that sugar and salt make great bedfellows.
Sopa Azteca. Café Muro. Not sure where the cockles of my heart are but this definitely warms them.
Pulpo a la parilla. Mi Vida. The most tender grilled octopus with a lot of extra added attractions all singing in harmony.
Linguine con vongole. Antigua Trattoria Romana. An old favorite dish at an old favorite restaurant.
Orange chicken. El Dragon Chino. Rivals the very best of Toronto’s Chinatown.
Pozole con puerco. La Alborada. When it comes to pozole, this is San Miguel’s legendary destination.
Vol au vent. Zumo. Pastry so light it might float off the plate. If it wasn’t for all that crab and morels.
Chicken Madras. Bhaji. The perfect amount of chile heat.
Fried steamed dumplings. El Palacio Chino. The plumpest pot stickers in town.
Pizza fantasia. Osteria de Mia Italia. I’d almost give up pepperoni for this tuna topped pie.
Braised short rib tacos. The Restaurant. Peppery heat cooled by cilantro and onion.
Cafe de olla. Sabores y Salsas. Amazing what a a touch of canela does to coffee.
Meat lover’s pizza. Pizza Pig. A conventional crust but a very good one. And I’ve never had too much meat on a pizza.
Gnocchi. La Parada. Mighty clouds of joy no matter what they’re served with.
There you have it. I know I’ve missed at least one or two delights. So I apologize to the restaurants. And even more so to the readers. And if there’s any dish I might not know about that you think belongs on the list, let it be known that I’m always hungry for more. You can share it by posting a comment or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And help me continue to eat my way through the town I love so much.