Amazing Eats in Mexico's San Miguel de Allende

by  Shevin Tantula | Oct 23, 2018
Al fresco dining at Nirvana
Al fresco dining at Nirvana / Photo courtesy of the restaurant

Although vibrant San Miguel de Allende is a relatively small city, its eclectic dining scene packs a flavorful punch. Over the past few decades, the city’s culinary offering has evolved from traditional Mexican cuisine to refined, globally influenced gastronomy. San Miguel also takes pride in being home to some of the country’s best farm-to-table restaurants. The best part: Dining out is by no means an expensive affair. Since the majority of tourists to San Miguel hail from surrounding regions in Mexico, restaurants — just like hotels — are extremely affordable. Whether you’re in the mood for cheap street eats or lavish multi-course tasting menus, you’ll be thrilled to find exceptional bargain bites in this city.

When You’re On a Budget

A trip to a country renowned for its street food should certainly include a taste of its treasured antojitos (quick, casual foods served from street carts and markets), especially given their super low cost. For the less adventurous eaters, rest assured that this is one of the safest and cleanest places to enjoy street food in Mexico.

A great place to kick off a tour of San Miguel de Allende’s culinary offerings is Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, near the historic center. This buzzing market is the city’s oldest, where locals shop for produce, meats, fresh tortillas, and more. There's a large selection of prepared foods, like tacos and robust elote asado (grilled corn). To prepare this beloved rustic snack, a steaming hot cob of corn is sliced into chunks, spiced up with chili powder and lime juice, and served straight out of a no-frills plastic bag. This quick treat delivers big flavors at a small cost — just about $1 USD per serving.

Another particularly noteworthy antojito can be found at the street market on Calle Principal next to the sanctuary of Atotonilco (a UNESCO World Heritage site referred to as “the Sistine Chapel of the Americas”). You’ll need to venture outside the city center to track this down, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with what locals consider to be the best sopes in the region. Made fresh to order, these popular street eats consist of meats, cheeses, and vegetables served atop a thick blue corn tortilla with an outer ridge, which allows the sopes to be served open-faced. They sometimes contain huitlacoche, an earthy corn fungus which was common in the diet of the Aztecs and is now considered a delicacy. Each sope costs approximately $1.30 USD; treat yourself to two for a delicious and satisfying meal.

A Good Meal at a Good Price

If you’d prefer the comfort of a more traditional sit-down restaurant, head to Cuna de Allende, a cobblestone street leading into the city’s central square, and what could be unofficially considered San Miguel de Allende’s restaurant row. Many eateries, like La Posadita, offers rooftop seating areas with some of the best views of the city’s eye-catching Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church. The menu here encompasses Mexico’s diverse regions and local specialties, like a Oaxacan soup made of black beans, cheese, and avocado ($5.75 USD), and the Yucatán’s prized cochinita pibil, slow roasted pork marinated in orange juice and spices ($13.60 USD). La Posadita’s tamarind margarita (offered frozen or on the rocks) is the perfect drink ($7 USD). 

A few doors down, elegant Maria Xoconostle, with its stunning courtyard and artfully presented dishes, serves as one of the city’s best value dining experiences. The building dates back to the 17th century and was property of the Malo family, prominent residents of San Miguel de Allende and key players in the Mexican independence movement. At Maria Xoconostle, an exceptional aguachile is served with shrimp, avocado, pink onion, and cucumber in a bright green sauce made of chili, lime, and cilantro. Although the dish is on the appetizer menu, it’s big enough to be enjoyed as a main ($8 USD). It should be noted that although San Miguel is inland, seafood preparations can be surprisingly good here, as long as you’re enjoying them Thursday through Sunday, when deliveries are still fresh to cater to the city’s many weekend visitors. The restaurant would also be a smart location to order an arrachera, a regional specialty skirt steak. This flavorful cut of beef is served with roasted vegetables and guacamole and costs just $13 USD.

Another fantastic option for traditional Mexican cuisine in San Miguel’s historic center is Los Milagros. This unpretentious and lively restaurant is known for their molcajetes. These bowls made of volcanic stone remain hot for extended periods of time, and are filled with your choice of meat, seafood, or vegetables and boiling broth that will be bubbling when served, making for a fun, shareable meal. A molcajete will run you $12 to $20 USD, depending which variety you select. Los Milagros also offers an array of more familiar Mexican comfort food, like burritos, enchiladas, and tortas.

For a tranquil setting, escape to top-rated Nirvana, an oasis-like restaurant, spa, and boutique hotel approximately 25 minutes from the city center. Dine al fresco amidst the property’s leafy surroundings and consider kicking back with a refreshing hibiscus margarita. A fusion-style menu includes options like Yucatán-style pork wontons and Argentinian tenderloin, but the true stars at Nirvana are the desserts. You can’t go wrong here, but the cheesecake in guava sauce ($5 USD) is incredible. 

For Smart Splurges and Special Occasions

With bargains abundant in San Miguel, this city can be an excellent destination in which to splurge on a high-end meal for less. A major player in transforming the city’s dining scene, Moxi at the 5-star Hotel Matilda, is helmed by Enrique Olvera, the owner of acclaimed Pujol in Mexico City, and widely considered the country's best chef. At Moxi, you’ll be treated to modern Mexican cuisine in a chic but inviting space. The six-course tasting menu includes options like onion soup with zucchini blossoms and mushroom tamales in green sauce. Priced at just $52 USD per person, this meticulously crafted dining experience will cost you a mere fraction of what it would elsewhere.

A relatively new player in San Miguel’s dining scene and situated slightly further out of the city center atop the upscale Hotel El Palomar, Antonia Bistro is a sleek, top-rated restaurant boasting panoramic views of San Miguel’s skyline and the Bajío mountains beyond. Chef Alejandro Cuatepotzo has developed a global menu with Mexican accents using high-quality local ingredients, like a soft-shell crab taco appetizer with herb mayo, serrano chile, and avocado puree ($8 USD) and suckling pig confit with gorgonzola sauce and pork skin chicharron ($22 USD). To wash it all down, inventive cocktails and a wide selection of both Mexican and international wines are on hand. Although Antonia is one of the pricier restaurants in town, it offers excellent value as the experience delivered is top notch. 

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