Food Tours and Good Eats in San Miguel de Allende

In previous articles on San Miguel de Allende, we told you about the history, art, and our experiences in town. This article endeavors to describe anything on those topics that we might have forgotten but also to tell you about our experiences with the food. There is plenty of food p*rn for your enjoyment in this article.

Power Struggles in Mexican History

The indigenous Chichimeca inhabited the area around San Miguel de Allende for centuries prior to the arrival of the Spanish. A village with a chapel was founded by Friar Juan de San Miguel early in the 16th century. After some fighting with the locals, the townsite was moved to its present location, which allowed for better defense and access to two springs, both of which supplied the town’s water until the 1970s. The colonial town flourished and grew to have twice the population of Boston in the 1700s and was a major mining and textile hub.  In need of some local muscle, King Joaquin gave a lot of land and huge sums of money to Spanish aristocrats to entice them to move to this remote area and rule for the king.

The appendage of de Allende is a bit more complicated. In 1810, there was a power struggle for control of Mexico. Born in San Miguel, Ignacio Allende was such an aristocrat, but he got involved in 1810 in a conspiracy with Miguel Hidalgo against the colonial government in Mexico City. The rebels were discovered before their plans could be put into motion and both men were put to death, although there is some speculation that Hidalgo turned on Allende after a disagreement. Thirty years later, the revolt succeeded and the new nation chose to honor their martyred son by adding his name to the town, hence San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Had the crown prevailed over time, I’m sure Allende would have been cast as a villain. History is of course written by the victors.

Architecture in Centro

Some stone buildings in the Centro area date back to the 17th century. The architecture evokes images of how you would imagine contemporary towns in Spain, with tightly packed 2 and 3-story townhomes. Owing to its UNESCO World Heritage designation, the look and feel of the downtown will likely remain for many years to come. The UNESCO area is designated by signs of the Archangel Michael (San Miguel), the city’s patron saint.

There is a small, interesting history museum, Museo Histórico Casa de Allende, in the Centro area. It briefly covers the indigenous time but mostly covers the ascendance and demise of the Allende family. The family villa in Centro has since been purchased by a bank and often serves for gala functions on the top floor.

Normally 70 pesos, we got in free with our freshly minted residence cards from Playa del Carmen. We have a lot of museums to visit at that rate to make a dent in the cost of the cards.

Always Take a Food Tour

We were introduced to the churros near the end of a food tour. We also tried cochonita pibil and enmolada, as well as a visit to an ice cream cart, Nieves Las Monjas, outside La Parroquia. It had many familiar and unfamiliar flavors. We tried rompope (eggnog) and marzipan, which surprisingly was made with peanuts.

Apparently, there is some amount of regularity to how some dishes are named. Enchilada, for example, can be deconstructed to En (in) – chil (Chile) – ada (with a tortilla). Hence, it is something wrapped in a tortilla covered in chile sauce. Enmolada, then, is something wrapped in a tortilla covered in a mole sauce. That’s your food lesson for today. You’re welcome.

Food Carts in Town

I was tricked into thinking there was a significant food cart presence in town. Most days, there were a few at the base of the street we were staying on. But, it was impossible to predict their timing. Some days, they were there early and left early, other days they didn’t arrive until the early afternoon. One day, only one vendor showed up at 9 pm.

The food in the carts and in the stalls in the markets we visited were cheap, fast, and good. Diana particularly grew to like the tortas (sandwiches). It was common to see tacos and tostadas and guisados (stews) as well.

Taco cart

Breakfast Discoveries

Since I don’t eat eggs and I’m not big on bread, breakfast is often a challenge for me. Any item with “breakfast” in the title, e.g. breakfast burrito, translates to something egg-filled to me. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could get chilaquiles con pollo nearly everywhere, and often pozole with chicken or pork. It was nice to be able to say yes to breakfast again.

Despite my aversion to bready things, an exception for churros is in order here. Café y Churrería San Agustín was started by Margarita Gralia, a popular Mexican actress. You can get fresh churros with sauces inside, like chocolate or strawberry. Our choice was caramel, which was to die for. So good.

Wine Country

Owing to favorable weather conditions of warm days and cool nights due to its altitude of 6000ft, wineries have emerged in the area in the last 30 years. Still, there is a lot of room for improvement. Mexican wine is surprisingly expensive throughout Mexico and you’re generally better off getting a bottle from Chile or Argentina.

Also, it was difficult to find a place to taste the local wines in town. A couple of nearby wineries had outlets, but only for sale, not tasting. We did finally find a tasting room at Fabrica La Aurora and we had a pleasant time tasting 3 bottles for a nominal price.

Big Market

The best place I found to buy wine (and any other foodstuff for that matter) was the City Market on the edge of Centro. This supermarket is run by the company that runs the La Comer markets around Mexico and it was impressive, the best one I’ve found in Mexico, IMHO. It was very well stocked with many products.

For example, I like natural peanut butter, which can be hard to find in Mexico. This market had a peanut grinder so I could make my own. Many of the items were not cheap, but if you’ve gotta have it…

We wound up having lunch at one of the 3 restaurants in the market. The variety was impressive, but our selections weren’t great. Perhaps we chose poorly.

Restaurants Worth a Mention

Being in town for a couple of weeks, we tried a few places. In several cases, we learned the place we chose had lost its alcohol license and could only serve soft drinks. Seemed a little fishy to me.

After trying a few, my favorite chilaquiles dish turned up at Amapola Café. Cafe Rama, down the street from our hotel, served a good pozole. Luna, the rooftop bar at the Rosewood Hotel, had a great view.

Another nice night was at Tostévere, a cool little bistro near our hotel. We had our best meal, by far, at Atrio. The rooftop setting was very pleasant and the food was very well executed. The service was top-notch, too. I look forward to another visit when we return to town.

Things We Want to Do in the Future

SMA is known for street art, there are even some self-guided walking tours you can take. Now that we have a condo in Playa, we can begin to think about decorating it. Given the many art-filled shops in town, it’s a good place to seek out some unique furnishings.

We would probably stay outside of Centro next time. With a rental car, we could explore some of the surrounding areas and hit a few of the local wineries, artisan shops, and restaurants.

Where is your favorite breakfast joint?

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