You may remember them from their days at Flash Fish on Salida a Celaya. Or when they worked at La Noche on Mesones. If you do, then like me, you’ve probably missed them. If you do, then like me, you’re probably happy to know they’re back in business with a charming new restaurant.
I’m talking about Miguel and Jatziri Kegel. And Cool Cat Bistro.
The restaurant, which opened about a month ago, occupies a comfortable, split level space on a second floor on Hidalgo, just a block and a half from the jardin.
There has been a restaurant there for as long as I’ve been coming to San Miguel but the set of stairs kept me and most everyone else from ever venturing up. Being around a while gives the space a cozy, comfortable, lived-in look. Musical motifs and instruments were the obvious addition knowing that Miguel Kegel’s other career is as a percussionist.
If you’re there by yourself or there are just two of you, try to snag the table right at the front. It’s a sardine can when it comes to space but there are not to many better places in this town to watch the world go by.
There are three segments to the menu at Cool Cats. A breakfast section includes very traditional Mexican dishes such as tecolotes, chilaquiles, molletes and huevos rancheros and some untraditional Mexican dishes such as brioche with fruit and maple syrup, ratatouille and eggs benedict. A lunch section includes salads, soups, and four different sandwiches: Cold cuts, grilled vegetables, corned beef and a baked-in-house turkey. It was the section on the back of the menu though that excited me; on the back of the menu is pizza.
There are really only two important parts to a pizza. The crust and the sauce. The rest is just a matter of purchasing the best ingredients and generously placing them on top.
Jatziri Kegel was trained as a pastry chef so you can expect her to make a good crust and she lives up to those expectations. It’s what I call a thin crust or a wafer crust or a cracker crust or a Neopolitan crust. And it’s my favorite kind of crust. It’s not blistered or charred like some pizzaphiles would wish for but eating half a Cool Cat pizza doesn’t require eating half a loaf of bread like eating Chicago or Detroit style pies does. And both my appetite and the belt on my jeans really like that.
I suspect that Jatziri would be making an even better crust with a hotter oven. The best crusts come from wood-fired ovens that can reach temperatures of over 500 degrees C. Cool Cat’s oven, that they purchased in Mexico City, is gas-fired with a top temperature of 300 degrees C.
For the pizza sauce, Cool Cat brought in an old pro. Tony D’Avanza’s reputation in San Miguel is for making superb sausages. But he also has been making red sauces for decades. His recipe has none of the bitterness you get from canned paste and it leaves the plum tomatoes in chunks. When I asked Miguel Kegel what sets his pizza apart, he was quick with his answer. “It’s our sauce”, Miguel replied, “Anthony’s sauce.”
Jatziri’s pizza-making technique is different than most. After she has rolled out the crust, she places it in the oven for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, then removes it, spreads the sauce, decorates it and places it back in the oven to melt the cheese and heat the toppings.
My favorite pizza topping has always been and I believe always will be pepperoni. My second best favorite topping has always been and always will be sausage. My favorite pizza at Cool Cat has them both and both toppings are locally made and very good. The quality of the mozzarella and parmesan also gets top marks.
If I had to recommend a second pizza at Cool Cat (and I’m one of those pizza people who is guilty of ordering the same old same old every time), it would be the black olive, goat cheese, onion and fresh basil.
For a third, the Neopolitan classic, pizza marguerita, with tomatoes and basil, also scores high marks.
One other thing I should mention about a Cool Cat pizza is the size. Even for a porker like me, one pizza is enough for two, especially if you want to leave room for Jatziri’s apple pie. It’s on the desserts that Jatziri really shows off her pastry training.
Cool Cat Bistro is located at Hidalgo 28 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Sunday. Cool Cat is currently unlicensed but guests are welcome to bring their own wine or beer.