Entrepreneur. I think I wanted to be one from the very time I learned what the word meant.
I remember the day I walked into The Ad Club. Someone came over to the bar and said, “Hear you left McLaren. Who picked you up?”
“No one,” I said. “I went out on my own. Opened my own shop,”
“Ooooooh, entrepreneur, eh?”, came the reply with a tone of voice that made me realize he knew that “left” was a synonym for “been let go by” and that I didn’t have a single, solitary client.
I was thinking of that day when I was in the new restaurant Nicasio last week. That job I “left” was the last time I ever worked for somebody else and I was wishing that might be the case for Hugo, Manny and Pablo, the three guys who had opened this imaginative restaurant a couple of months ago. They’re about the same age as I was and have the same amount of enthusiasm and, I suspect, a lot more confidence.
Hugo Tepichin, Manny Flores and Pablo Nicasio met about eight years ago, working in a restaurant in Mexico City along with another entrepreneurial guy called Marco Cruz. Three years ago, when Marco came to San Miguel de Allende to work at the restaurant Bui, the guys joined him. It’s obvious that the three have a lot of respect for Marco Cruz’ talents so, last year, when Marco and his wife Sofia opened their own restaurant, Nomada, I’m sure they were proud but I’m also sure there was a little envy.
“When I heard this place was available and took a look, I knew it was our turn”, said Manny Flores. “I talked to Hugo and Pablo and it was a go.”
“The dishes we’re trying to create are the dishes we grew up with. What we ate with our families. What we’d eat when the guys were out for the evening,” said Manny, who looks a little more like a revolutionary than a restauranteur. “We’re not trying to invent anything but we are trying to improve some things.”
There are very few things on Nicasio’s current menu (it changes monthly) that you won’t find in a lot of the classic Mexican restaurants in San Miguel, places like El Correo, Don Tomás, Los Milagros or El Pegaso. What you will find though is a little tweak here, an extra ingredient there, and artistic plating that rivals the not so classic Mexican restaurants in San Miguel, places like Moxi, Aperi or Nomada.
Enchiladas verdes is a good example of an everyday dish you’ll find at Nicasio. Though it never gets the amount of plaudits it deserves when Mexican cuisine is discussed, the simple green sauce made primarily with tomatillos and chiles is one of the best combinations of tart and tangy you will find anywhere.
There is a delightful freshness to Nicasio’s version and the topping of a fanned avocado, verdolaga and cilantro criollo is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue.
Between stints at Bui and Nomada, Manny Flores operated Tuna Maria, a small tortilleria in Mercado Sano. There, he produced tortillas using some of the non-hybridized corn varieties original to Mexico and flavored varieties using chocolate and mushrooms.
The second last time I was at Nicasio, Manny told he, “I’m going to be bringing my old grinder and some of the other equipment here.”
The last time I was at the restaurant, Pablo Nicasio was making chicken enchiladas using blue corn tortillas.
A slightly less common dish on Nicasio’s menu is the torta de lengua empanizada. Now I grew up eating tongue about once a week. Don Day’s Wife grew up eating tongue about once in a lifetime. Despite my constantly singing this most delicious of meats’ praises, coaxing her over to the other side has been a long and slow process. But I think this tongue dish may have sealed the deal.
The tender meat is coated in a cutlet style breading and served on a toasted roll with tomato, avocado, lettuce, a fruity sauce and jalapeño mayonnaise. The little extra on the side of this dish: a not too hot slice of jalapeño, pickled in-house.
“OK”, said Don Day’s Wife, “call me converted. This tongue is terrific.”
Other highlights on the lunch (or early dinner) menu are a pipian rojo over spinach and seasonal squash blossoms as well as a huarache topped with air dried beef and Nicasio’s signature sauce made daily, not in a blender, but in a traditional molcajete.
Plus there’s one other highlight worth mentioning on the menu; 120 pesos is the max for any of the dishes.
Hidalgo 28 has always been a restaurant for the 15 or so years I’ve been coming to San Miguel and was most recently Miguel and Jatziri Kegel’s pizza cafe, Cool Cat Bistro. It’s nicely located, less than two blocks from the jardin, San Miguel’s social center, but it does require climbing a flight of stairs which will hurt some of the walk-in traffic.
There’s seating for about 20 in a light, breezy and casual-feeling space. With the room being split into two levels, there a table with a bird’s eye view of the open kitchen and more intimate ones a couple of steps below.
I started this blog post by reminiscing about my first days owning my own business in the ad industry. There was a popular line in those days, used (if not originated) by H.J. Heinz, that read, “common things done uncommonly well”. Those words almost perfectly describe what Pablo Nicasio, Hugo Tepichi and Manny Flores are doing at Nicasio.
Nicasio Comedor Mexicano is located in front of Hotel Aqui es Mexico, upstairs at Hidalgo #28 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open every day except Tuesday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm for breakfast and 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm for lunch.