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 dear 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 over the century mark. 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.
Tacos al pastor. Sabroso. To quote Don Day’s Wife, “The meat is extraordinary. Some crispy. Some juicy. All of it so rich in taste. And I’ve never had so much pork in a pastor.”
Enchiladas verde. Nicasio. The topping of a fanned avocado, verdolaga and cilantro criollo is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue.
Chicken liver pate. Fat Boy’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.
Chocolate souffle. Berlin. Prep time of 20 minutes is worth the wait.
Smoked salmon. Smokehouse SMA. Mix the cold smoked with the candied for a superb penne al salmone.
Parmesan crisps. Bacco. Hold my pizza or pasta. I want to fill up on these freebies that are always placed on the table.
Escamoles. Vinos+Tapas. With the larvae spilled over melt-in-your-mouth bone marrow, Don Day’s Wife was transformed into an anteater.
Farfelle with figs and blue cheese. Chamonix. Tastes so much better than it sounds.
Tomatillo and onion salad. El Nidal. Why don’t we see tomatillos in salads more often. This dish proves they can be wonderful.
Marlin ahumado. Mario’s Mariscos Frescos. The hint of jalapeño makes Mario’s marlin dip marvellous.
Hot dog. Costco. It’s no wonder they sold 285 million of them last year.
Cremoso de foie gras. Aperi. Yes of course there’s duck liver somewhere on my best of list.
Tortillas ceremoniales. Casa Mercedes. The most basic Mexican cuisine becomes so much better, so much cornier, when made with non-GMO corn.
Provolone al forno. Food Factory. Take one of the world’s best cheeses and make it even better with a little heat.
Guajillo braised short rib taco. Taco Lab. A great cut of beef in a great chile sauce.
Tlayuda. Salon Oaxaca. Calling it a Mexican pizza just doesn’t do it justice.
Squash blossom soup. Los Olivos de Denver. From mother to son comes the recipe for a rich, cheesy version of this seasonal soup.
Wild turkey sandwich. Cocineria del Campo. Can’t get enough smoked turkey. Especially on a sandwich this good.
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 in San Miguel 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 melting and melding together on an artichoke.
Pay de cacahuate. Hecho en Mexico. When a guy who doesn’t eat peanut butter falls in love with a peanut butter pie, it must be very special.
Onion rings. Hank’s. Not exactly a gourmet dish. But these ring my chimes every time.
Eggplant parmesan. Los Olivos de Denver. Not a hint of bitterness in the aubergine. And so generous with the cheese.
Sopa de lima. La Casa del Diezmo. The Veracruz classic. And yes, it’s the verdadero McCoy, made with limas not limes.
Mole negro. Salsabor. Chef Alfonso says his black mole sauce is “not too salty, not too sweet, not too spicy.” Smother your pork or chicken with it.
Profiteroles. La Cucina di Afrodita. So good we ordered a wedding cake made of them.
Don Day’s Wife’s Chicken Liver Pâté. Mon Bistro. How could I leave off a dish based on the missus’ recipe.
Reuben. Hank’s. A classic treatment of the classic sandwich.
U.S. Prime grade beef. La Comer. Your home could become the best restaurant in San Miguel when you barbecue a couple of their ribeyes.
Pecho de vaca. Smoked ‘n’ Low. It takes eight plus hours of mesquite smoke to create the town’s best brisket.
Lettuce and citrics salad. Cumpanio. When any salad makes my list it must be extraordinary.
Croquetas cochinita pibil. La Azotea. Come for the golden sunset. Stay for the golden batter that encases fall-apart pork in a sour orange sauce.
Chiles rellenos con pescado. MuRo. The pomegranate sauce is the crowning touch.
Empanadas. Casita Feliz. The best fillings in town, especially the chicken and poblano.
Matzo ball soup. La Frontera. You don’t have to be Jewish to know this dish schmecks.
Tuna tostadas. The Restaurant. Closest thing to the pleasures of Japanese sushi.
Short rib of beef. Firenze. Tender loving care produces the tenderest, tastiest meat in town.
Cochinita pibil. La Posadita. One of Mexico’s great dishes with the right amount of orange in the sauce.
Moronga. De Quen Chon. I grew up eating blood pudding and I have no plans to ever stop.
Wednesday tasting menu. Nomada. Impossible to choose one dish from an ever changing and so imaginative menu.
Tuna tostada. Mi Bistro 300. These guys appreciate the pleasures of raw fish and this dish is a testament.
Salade Niçoise. El Vergel. With fresh, fast seared tuna. Not canned.
Pescado a la Veracruzana. Grille Torres. Mexico’s very best fish dish done very well by Chef Mauro.
Baked brie on toast. Paprika. Adding peppers, capers and walnuts completes a very appetizing appetizer.
Borscht. Verintort. Served hot or cold in a charming cafe.
Duck and vegetable rolls. The Restaurant. With that wonderful ginger chili dipping sauce.
Higaditos asaltados. La Parada. The best treatment of chicken livers in SMA.
Squash ravioli in brown butter and sage. Firenze. A classic sauce kisses a classic pasta.
Tacos de mole de olla. San Mike. Now that’s one succulent short rib.
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.
The traditional hamburger. Fat Boy’s. When Dick Weber left San Miguel, he thankfully didn’t take the secret to creating a great burger with him. Including the essential grilled onions.
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 very good 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.
Prosciutto and mushroom pizza. Mi Vida. The wood-fired oven that bakes some of the town’s best thin crust pizzas. But, darn, not available every day.
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.
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.
Huaraches con cecina. Garambulla. The very hard to find air-dried beef from Toluca is presented beautifully with avocado, verdolaga and a tastes-like-just-made salsa verde.
Grilled quail. Da Andrea. Crispy on the outside. Fall apart tender on the inside. Delightfully but lightly seasoned. Wonderfully moist.
Shrimp. Grille Torres. The challenge is choosing which one of the many ways they prep and cook them.
Arrachera. El Rinconito. Arrachera is Mexico’s best beef cut and nobody preps and grills as well as Miguel and Mercedes.
Gorditas. Ceci. They sell about 2000 of these chubby stuffed tortillas every Tuesday at the market. Enough said.
Consome. El Pato. So very, very rich in lamb flavor.
Sopa la premiada. La Casa del Diezmo. Pumpkin, peppers and cheese blended into one delightful soup.
Tomato soup. Mi Bistro 300. Oven roasting the tomatoes and topping with Manchego cheese takes the soup from simple to superb.
Birria. Birria Xalisco. Guadalajara’s best dish is available in San Miguel.
Marrow bones. Cumpanio. Divine decadence.
Linguine con vongole. Antigua Trattoria Romana. An old favorite dish at an old favorite restaurant.
Enchiladas verdes con pollo. Tacos Don Feliz. In a place that absolutely buzzes with atmosphere.
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 salt crust is broken and the smell of the fresh fish fills the air.
Spanakopita. Greece On Wheels. Wrapped in the finest of phyllo.
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.
Seared yellowfin tuna. Hecho en Mexico. A premium denizen of the deep at a deep discount price.
Drowned burrito. La Frontera. An absolute, definite, at least once-a-month experience when I’m in San Miguel.
Ginger chicken. Food Factory. One of a few very good dishes there of an Asian persuasion.
Enchilado. Cafe Contento. Rabbit piled high on a crispy tostada.
Shrimp risotto. Trazo 1810. Creamy rice with an abundance of seafood served in elegant yet casual surroundings.
Doner kebabs. Turk. After so many years of longing, an oh so good Middle Eastern kebab has arrived in San Miguel.
Risotto all’arancia. La Cucina di Afrodita. The creamiest and tastiest rice in town.
Masseman curry. Orchidea. Beef stew gets an Asian hit of cardamon, cloves, cumin and cinnamon.
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 can 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.
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.
Chicken Madras. Bhaji. The perfect amount of chile heat.
Molcajetes. Don Lupe. First the basalt bowl sizzles. Then your tastebuds.
Cafe de olla. Barbacoa Rodriguez. Amazing what a touch of canela does to coffee.
New York style pizza. Pizza Guy. Good crust. Good cheese. Good sauce. Good toppings. Very good pizza.
Gnocchi. La Parada. Mighty clouds of joy no matter what they’re served with.
Guangdong dumplings. Dragon Chino. The eggplant and noodles description on the menu doesn’t sound so appetizing. But order it with shrimp and wow.
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.
If you want to know more about any of the restaurants, such as their locations and hours, you will probably find them by using the blog site’s search engine.
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.