Monday, April 30, 2018

The Best Food and Drink in San Miguel de Allende


San Miguel de Allende is one of the top food cities in Mexico; just ask Chicago restaurant owners Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen of Saigon Sisters and Bang Chop Thai Kitchen who flew in to SMA last month just to eat.
 
     Photo: Saigon Sisters

Some of the best things to see in SMA are found on a plate; celebrated dishes created by chefs like Matteo Salas of Aperi, Marco Cruz of Nomada cocina de interpretacion, Donnie Masterton of The Restaurant, El Vergel Bistro and Market, Birdies Burgers, Taco Lab, Café Casa Blanca and Fatima 7, Marcela Bolano of Marsala cocina con acentos, along with new chefs like Arturo Sandoval of Atrio Restaurant and Alan Carias of Trazo 1810.
 
This past year, we featured SMA’s hottest new restaurants, introduced you to many remarkable chefs and pastry chefs, uncovered new restaurant openings, took you on a whirlwind tour of SMA’s favorite food festivals, looked at the tastiest and most inexpensive restaurants in Mexico City, provided a Hit List of SMA’s most popular restaurants, narrowed down the best burgers in town, discovered the best food on and off the streets and provided a comprehensive list of the cooking schools in SMA.
 
Choosing from over 378+ restaurants and thousands of creative dishes we ate last year was a labor of love. Wide-ranging discussions with chefs, food lovers and artisans along with thousands of photographs brought the entire year of fabulous eating into focus and it was another great one.
 
Here’s a quick look at all of the favorites along with a preview of 2018.
 
Buen Provecho!

CHEFS...

Chef of the Year: Chef Matteo Salas, Aperi

The culinary scene in SMA did a 180 when Chef Matteo Salas came to town. His innovative cuisine, whether he's cooking solo or with other master chefs like Eduardo Gracia, is without equal. Aperi will introduce a new menu shortly and now gives cooking classes for those who want a comprehensive learning experience with one of SMA’s best chefs.
 
We ate one of the best meals we’ve ever had at Aperi last year. 

Best Restaurateur: Chef Donnie Masterton, The Restaurant, El Vergel, Birdies Burgers, Taco Lab, Fatima 7, Café Casa Blanca

This year, Chef Donnie Masterton added two more jewels to his already impressive list of restaurants: Fatima 7, which will open later this spring and Café Casa Blanca. Both restaurants are located in one of SMA’s most attractive properties, the new Hotel Casa Blanca 7. Chef Masterton put together another exceptional team for both restaurants, headed up by Chef Juan Jose (JJ ) Castaneda. Chef Donnie Masterton celebrated the 10-year anniversary of The Restaurant earlier this year, marked by a gathering of celebrity chefs and a week-long celebration. One of the first Chefs in SMA to work with local farmers, ranchers, cheese makers and vineyards, he was a principal chef at the Outstanding in the Field dinner in January.
 
Best Chef: One of the main reasons people fall in love with San Miguel de Allende is because of the food. We salute all the chefs who work with endless passion to make this World Heritage Site one of the most delicious cities in Mexico.
 
Best Chef Team: Chef Marco Cruz and Chef Sofia Antillon, Nomada cocina de interpretacion

After you have a perfect meal, you deserve the same for dessert. At Nomada cocina de interpretacion, you’ll get both. The meals by this chef team consistently rank in the top three in SMA. Chefs Marco Cruz and Sofia Antillon moved Nomada cocina de interpretacion to a new location last year and opened a fine-casual Mexican restaurant, Marchanta Comedor. Both chefs are committed to delivering some of the most innovative feasts in the city. Their Wednesday tasting menu is renowned; the menu changes weekly.  
 
Best Chef - Mexican: Chef Israel Loyola Espinosa, Jacinto 1930

This young chef has produced some of the best Mexican food in SMA since he opened Jacinto 1930 two years ago; his awards are many. An expert when it comes to Mexico’s top flavors, Chef Israel Loyola Espinosa’s creations, many inspired from Oaxaca where he was born, are both complex and unique. 
 
Best Pastry Chef: Chef Sofia Antillon, Nomada cocina de interpretacion

The sweetest city in the world got a whole lot sweeter when Pastry Chef Sofia Antillon came to town. Her relentless desire to expand her horizons is one of the many elements that make her pastries so exciting; we’ve eaten enough of her desserts to know. Always a feast for the eye and the palate, her impressive Pavlova is one of our favorite desserts of 2017.
 
Best New Chef: Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge

Chef Arturo Sandoval fuses cuisines – mainly Mexican, Peruvian, and Spanish. Look at his track record and you’ll understand why he’s the best new chef in SMA. 14 dishes into his menu, we’re already smitten.
 
Best Event Chef: Chef Mariano Alvarez, Buenos Aires de Campo

If you’re attending one of the many festivals around town, you’ll find Buenos Aires de Campo; it’s the one with the longest lines. You’ll never go away hungry when Mariano is doing the cooking.

Our first choice is Chef Mariano Alvarez’s grilled pork belly sandwich but we wouldn’t turn down a single dish that has his name on it.
 
Best Private Chef: Chef Linnea Rufo, Linnea Rufo Events

Long table dinners are what Chef Linnea Rufo is known for but she’s got a lot of other fabulous reserves in her playbook. You get an added bonus with the drop-dead gorgeous views from Casa Linnea. In just three years time, she’s managed to amass a client list that reads like a Who's Who of SMA.
 
Rising Star: Chef Mariana Gonzales Gutierrez, Under the Table

When someone makes a textbook mole, you pay attention. She’s got superb qualifications: she grew up in Tijuana, learned to cook from her grandmother, graduated from the Culinary Art School in Tijuana, interned at Pujol in Mexico City then cooked with Chef Matteo Salas at Aperi. At Under the Table’s Lucky 7 dinner at Casa Linnea last year, her mole was our favorite dish of the meal; everything else was a close second.
 
RESTAURANTS…
 
Best Restaurant: Nomada cocina de interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88

Chefs Marco Cruz and Sofia Antillon, two of the best chefs in SMA, create some of the most exciting food; from the well-known Wednesday tastings to a Sunday brunch that’s cooked entirely on a wood fired grill. The two travel, harvesting inspiration for their new menus, like the Japanese Hamachi they discovered in the Chelsea Market in NYC this past fall. One thing for sure, their changing menus will never consume your palate; there’s always something fresh and exciting to check out, with most dishes under $200 pesos. A second restaurant, Marchanta Comedor, opened in 2017.
 
Best New Restaurant: Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

Put Chef Arturo Sandoval with the Josper Charcoal Oven from Spain and you get magic, pure and simple. We tried 14 things off the menu; every one of them outstanding. Nothing beats great food, remarkable service and a tremendous view. Atrio continues to amaze us with impressive additions to an already outstanding menu. The mouth-watering Rib Rice was our favorite dish in SMA last year.

Above, Atrio owners, José María Calvo (Chema) and Jesús Manuel Calvo (Chus), celebrate another successful restaurant opening.
 
Best Bakery: Panio Atelier du Pain
Salida a Celaya #69

Focusing on three classic styles of French techniques - viennoisserie, boulangerie and patisserie – there’s no more wandering all over SMA to find the best pastries and breads; they’re all at Panio’s new state-of-the-art facility on Salida a Celaya. A go-to for artisan rustic breads, the Outstanding in the Field dinner convinced us it’s the real deal when it comes to a world class bakery. We found sweets beyond the ordinary at their satellite location in Doce 18, where we tried their latest creation, a Parisina, made with puff pastry and caramel with a tall Mocha Frappe on the side.
 
Panio gives workshops on making artisan breads and pastries.

Best Small Batch Bakery: Buonforno
Stirling Dickinson #33

Because so many things we love to eat, from almond croissants to Italian cookies and breads are made by owners, Pedro and Ornelas. Want to catch a cooking class or learn a little Italian? At 11:30 AM every Monday, Ornelas conducts classes in her native Italian language.
 
Best Argentinean Restaurant: Buenos Aires Bistro
Mesones #62

If you count on having a great meal in SMA, Buenos Aires Bistro is a good bet. All of their steaks are top-quality, sourced from Rancho 17. Chef Mariano Alvarez took his food show on the road, creating Buenos Aires de Campo in 2017. It’s one of the first restaurants we went to in SMA; it’s still one of our favorites. We like to sit in the window and watch SMA walk by.

Best Asian: Casa de Cocinas
 
Chef Michael Coon recently sold out an Asian dinner in less than an hour, added a second night and still had people on his waiting list. If this chef ever decides to open a restaurant, we would eat there at least 4 times a week. Michael also does Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean dinners; those best of categories fall to Casa de Cocinas as well. He’s one of the top all around chefs in SMA; we just happen to love his Asian food the best.

Best BBQ Restaurant: Smoked N Low Food Truck
Carretera Dolores Hidalgo-San Miguel de Allende Km 7 (10.05 mi)

We've had great BBQ all over Oklahoma, Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis. This was some of the best BBQ brisket we've ever eaten. 
 
Best Breakfast Restaurants:
We love all of these restaurants for breakfast… and so does the rest of SMA:
 
Café Muro, San Gabriel 1 in Barrio del Obraje – Cathy’s breakfast with pancakes or Tacos Muro.

Café Oso AzulZacateros 17 – Skillet Huevos Mexicanas with sausage.

Lavanda CaféHernandez Macias #87 – Huevos Rancheros.

Moxi at Hotel Marilda, Aldama #53 – Homemade Yogurt, Granola and Fruit. One of the healthiest breakfasts in town comes with a pool view.

Nicasio Comedor Mexicano, Hidalgo #28 – Molletes, Chilaquiles or Pancakes.
 
Preview 2018: Add El Café de la Mancha, Recreo 21 A, to the list with Toffee French Toast, Chilaquiles with optional Chorizo, and a delicious Ramen to which you can add a mound of Beef Shank.
 
Best Brunch Restaurant: Marsala, cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

Duck on a homemade waffle, Eggs Benedict with a pile of hash browns, delicious homemade Scones, Pate, Greek Yogurt and fresh fruit, Mimosa with pineapple-orange juice, stone crab…lucky for us the list of items on Chef Marcela Bolano’s brunch menu just keeps getting longer.  
 
Best Caribbean Restaurant: Trazo 1810
Hidalgo #8

Chef Alan Carias spent a lot of time cooking in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya; his flavors are so clean and tropical, you feel like you’ve been transported to the beach every time you go. Try any of the seafood dishes; many caught fresh and flown in that day.

The extra: A stunningly beautiful restaurant, you get a spectacular view of SMA from any of their many terraces.
 
Best Cheap Eat Restaurants:

These are the top spots to get inexpensive and tasty street eats; one for each day of the week:
 
Andy’s Tacos, Hidalgo y Insurgentes - Tacos al Pastor and cold weather Caldo.

Bautista Brothers, Guadiana #2 – Carnitas and Gorditas Migajas.

El ConejitoTuesday Market/Tianguis de los Martes - Soups, Beef Menudo and Lamb Barbacoa.

El PatoCalzada de la Estacion #175 – Mixiotes.

El Tucan, Hernandez Macias #56 - Flautas de Pollo.

Tacos Don Santos, Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur –Tacos de Res.

Taqueria Brasilia, Salida a Celaya 20A  – Tacos al Pastor and Papas al Pastor.

    Photo: Aperi

Best Chefs Table: Aperi
Quebrada #101

No matter how many chefs tables there are in SMA, this will always be the best as long as Chef Matteo Salas is doing the cooking.  

Best Restaurant - Consistency: Cafe Muro
Cerrada de San Gabriel 1, El Obraje

Café Muro delivers the same great taste every time you go. You see multi-generations of hungry eaters packing the house every day, especially on Sunday for breakfast. Owners Gerardo Arteaga and Carlos Muro know how to make their customers feel at home. Their long list of regulars pays tribute to the terrific food and service.
 
Best Coffee Shop: Ki'bok Coffee SMA
Sollano y Dávalos #25

Ki’bok Coffee SMA has five essential things going for them to land at the top of the list: delicious brews, a calming atmosphere, a healthy menu, sunny patio views and Canada de la Virgen’s wholesome bone broth.
 
Many other coffee cafes fall right behind: Zenteno Café, Buen Dia Café, El Café de la Mancha and Geek and Coffee, just to name a few. I also like Starbucks, where I can be found most mornings; it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A parade of locals keeps me in the SMA loop.
 
Best Farm to Table Restaurant: B’ui cocina de campo
Otomí Residencial, Km2 camino a San Miguel Viejo

When you go to one of the most beautiful spots in the countryside, Farm to Table is a given. Count on some surprises from Chef Stephanie Cerón; her desserts and pastries are well-known. The menu changes every weekend and with the seasons. Many of the equestrian events in the city are held at this scenic restaurant, owned by SMA restaurateur, Daniel Estebaranz.
 
Best Fast Food Restaurant: Birdies Burgers and Taco Lab
Doce 18 at Relox #18

Birdies: not only because they use Canada de la Virgen’s grass-fed beef but because every single time we crave a great burger, it’s the first place we think of.
 
Taco Lab: This spinoff of Tacolicious in San Francisco offers a specialty menu every week, with a long list of favorites. We also love the three crispy taco combination listed under appetizers, ordering one pork belly, one fish and one short rib taco. It’s the best and tastiest taco deal in town.

Birdies Burgers and Taco Lab are located right next to each other in Doce 18 at Relox 18.

Best Feels Like Home Restaurant: Bacco
Hernandez Macias #59

Besides the fact that Carmen makes the best bacon-loaded Amatriciana in town, it’s the place we head to when we need a double dose of home.
 
Best French Restaurant: El Vergel Bistro and Market
Camino a El Vergel #17

Chef Magda Elisa Pablos is the best French chef in SMA… oui and amen. 
From Steak Frites to Lamb Shank to Duck Confit, this carte du jour proves that when it comes to great food, the French still have the advantage. This country sanctuary is closer than you think; a short 10 minute ride from Centro. There's so much love in this kitchen, you know why the food's so good.

Best German Restaurant: Berlin
Umaran #19

Berlin’s German fare is a natural choice with some of the best schnitzels and shank in town. Go for the happy hour from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM; a cast of characters straight from the stools of Cheers.
 
Best Food Truck: Mio Bistrock
Julian Carrillo 7-C 

Mio Bistrock is the happy hour stop for the Colonia Guadalupe crowd. One of the most colorful places in SMA, Chef Lorelai Cordova specializes in Mediterranean food and has a variety of foods on the menu. The lamb burgers are a favorite.
 

Best Hidden Gem Restaurant: Querencia
Julian Carrillo #4B

Once you taste the Eggs Benedict by Chef Esmeralda Brinn Bolanos, you’ll be convinced it was worth the hike to Colonia Guadalupe just to have breakfast. Second times a charm; the sauerkraut sandwich is just as good. You can buy her homemade German bread to take home; a really sour tasting sourdough until you pair it with food. Grab one of two tables during the week; it’s closed on the weekends.
 
Best Italian Restaurant: Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites by La Cucina di Afrodita
Rancho Los Mezquites (4.15 mi) Marroquin De Abajo

Chef Laura Buccheri’s country restaurant boasts beautiful views and remarkable Italian flavors. It’s hard to pick a favorite as her menu changes daily, with most everything either grown or made by hand. Our weekly bacon fix: cocoa tagliolini with walnuts, gorgonzola sauce and mesquite smoked bacon and the bacon-laden Carbonara. Some of the best comfort food in town.

Laura also has a casual restaurant, Nuova Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita, in Mercado del Carmen, Zacateros 45.
 
Best Restaurant Meal: Dinner with Chefs Matteo Salas at Aperi with Eduardo Garcia of Maximo Bistrot, Lalo! and Havre 77
Quebrada #101

Pair up two of our favorite chefs in Mexico and we’ve got one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten any place in the world. All of the dishes and beverage pairings were exciting. Talk about improving on perfection, we didn't love one dish better than another; we loved all 11 of them equally.

Every course was extraordinary, exposing layer upon layer of flavors. I affectionately called it my "last supper"; if I could choose my final meal, this would be it.
 

Best Mediterranean Restaurant: Marsala, cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

With remarkable Mediterranean flavors, Chef Marcela Bolano, a former candidate on Top Chef Mexico, is constantly adding new dishes to an already remarkable menu. It’s no wonder the restaurant made the list – one of three in SMA - of the best 120 restaurants in Mexico in 2017. It’s in our top five.
 
Best Mexican Restaurant: Jacinto 1930
Doce 18 at Relox 18

Expect the unexpected when it comes to creating Mexican food. This Oaxacan born chef brings classic Mexican ingredients front and center with an interesting combination of flavors. It won awards in 2017; it will again this year. One of the most beautiful restaurants in SMA, it’s the centerpiece of another magnificent property, Doce 18. Try the suckling pig or opt for the five or seven course tasting menu.
 
Best Peruvian Restaurant: La Parada
Recreo #94

If you’ve ever been to Lima, you’ll know why the Peruvian food created by Chef Alexandra Gutt is imaginative, authentic and consistent. It’s been at the top of the list of best restaurants in SMA since they opened their door; it’s at the top of our list too.

Chef Alexandra Gutt knows the best of her country’s cuisine; she sent us to MAIDO in Lima where Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s multi-course Nikkei, Japanese inspired Peruvian menu, was one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten anywhere. Try a plate of the chicken livers, one of the many ceviches or anything on her list of daily specials. A flavorful Pisco Sour make this restaurant the total package.
 
Preview 2018:Alexandra and her husband,Juan Leon de Vivero, just opened a Mezcal bar called San Mezcal, located at Recreo #88. They also have some other projects in the works for 2018. Stay tuned.
 
Best Restaurant Manager: Eduardo Perez Calvo, La AzoteaUmaran #6 AND Luis Vela, AtrioCuna de Allende #3

When it comes to running restaurants, owners José María Calvo (Chema) and Jesús Manuel Calvo (Chus), have it down to an art with two of the best in SMA.
 
Eduardo Perez Calvo has only one speed, rapido, and he sets the pace for the rest of the team. One of the many reasons we like La Azotea is because of Eduardo and we feel the same way about Luis Vela, the Manager at Atrio.
In their book, there's only one boss, the customer, and in the case of both Eduardo and Luis, every guest gets treated like a VIP.
 
Best Restaurant Service: There aren’t too many women in highly visible service positions in SMA but in 2017, we can all take a lesson from the ladies. These are three of the best.

Carla Janet Cuevas Soto, La AzoteaUmaran #6

Mireya Cerroblance, The Restaurant, Sollano #16

Teresa Villegas, Lavanda CaféHernandez Macias #87
 
Best Rooftop Restaurant: Atrio Restaurant and LoungeCuna de Allende #3

The great food and drink is responsible for its rise to the top on SMA’s growing list of beautiful rooftop properties. With in-your-face views of the Paroquia, the vista, any time of the day or night, is stunning.

Best Street Food Restaurant: Andy’s, Hidalgo y Insurgentes

We hit the streets of Mexico City for a month last fall to see if we could find better tacos than the ones at Andy’s in SMA; we returned home empty handed.  A favorite of partygoers looking for the after-hours feast, some of our favorite regulars at Andy’s are kids; one who told us that it was her favorite excuse to stay out late. Mine, too!
 
Best Sushi Restaurant: Rosewood 1826 Tequila BarNemesio Diez #11

The Rosewood has some of the best sushi in SMA with a wide variety of choices on the menu. Pair with any of the great tequilas from their knowledgeable tequila sommelier. Their chefs trained in Japan; their quality has never been matched.
 
Best Restaurant Views:

See everything that’s beautiful about SMA from a different angle. No matter which restaurant you select, the views will leave you breathless:
 
Antonia Bistro SMA, San Francisco #57

Atrio Restaurant and LoungeCuna de Allende #3

Fatima 7, Juarez #9 (opening soon)

La AzoteaUmaran #6

Luna Rooftop at the Rosewood HotelNemesio Diez #11

Quince, Cuna de Allende #15

Trazo 1810, Hidalgo #8

Zumo, Orizaba #87-9
 
Preview 2018: Add La Unica’s beautiful new garden rooftop to the list. It opens this week at Sollano #14.

FOOD…

Best Appetizers: The Restaurant
Sollano #16

We love appetizers, they get the party started and at The Restaurant, their long list of starters is the best excuse we know of for another celebration. In 2017, the list got another Asian star: Pong’s Kung chicken wings. Pot Stickers, Eggrolls and Ribs round out the list.
 
Best Avocado Toast: Nomada cocina de interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88

Simple Avocado toast is easy but when it comes to delivering one of the healthiest breakfasts in SMA, Chef Marco Cruz creates intricate flavors to keep you guessing what’s in the mix. The mystery ingredient here is a simple goat cheese; a taste we weren’t expecting but enjoyed down to the very last bite.
 
Look for other amazing dishes on the breakfast menu at Nomada cocina de interpretacion. 

Best Barbacoa: Rodriquez II
Calzada de la Estacion #52

Part of the large and delightful family Rodriquez, son Victor has been operating this tiny store for over a year. He slow-cooks the meat until its fall-off-the-bone tender. Seasoned and infused with flavors, the broth is made with the drippings from the roasted meat. For a perfect breakfast, order a half a cup of broth with a side of barbacoa; pile on the chopped onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime or two.
 
Best Beef Tacos: Tacos Don Santos
Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur, San Antonio

Don Santos has earned its acclaim by serving some of the most genuine, Mexican street food in SMA. The Tacos de Res are thin strips of beef that are cooked with cow intestines and chorizo. Once chopped, they’re placed in a tortilla and heaped with a mound of onions and cilantro. The delicious, peppery salsas add another layer of flavor to the dish. Don’t forget to bring your camera; the visual flavors at this typical Mexican taco joint are magical.

Best Blue Cheese Burger: The Restaurant 
Sollano #16

In the ongoing battle to be crowned SMA’s best hamburger, there are many worthy contenders. We singled out this Blue Cheese Burger from The Restaurant as the one to beat. After all, everything is better with blue cheese on it, especially a burger made from Canada de la Virgen grass-fed beef. Too bad we can only get this burger on Thursday; seriously, we could eat it every night. 
 
Best Bread: Panio
Salida a Celaya #69

Panio is for bread lovers. What’s next? Stay hungry SMA; it will be one of the most unexpected indulgences yet.
 
Best Bread Dish: Soft Bread with Gouda, Nomada cocina de interpretacion 
Hernandez Macias #88

Man cannot live on bread alone? Trust us on this one; we’ve done it!
 
Best Brioche: Three Perfume Brioche, Paino
Salida a Celaya #69

One of the many pleasures in their diverse pastry collection is our definition of a sweet dream: a butter laden brioche integrated with three of our favorite flavors: lemon, ginger and orange. Their almond Brioche is a close second.
 
Best Butter: Goat Butter
We’re so addicted; we’ve been known to consume the entire bar in a single sitting with a loaf of Panio’s Italian bread. Goat butter has many of the same taste factors as cow butter but without the heaviness. Unfortunately it’s one of those eminent pleasures you can only get at certain times of the year; savor it while you can.
 
Best Cake: Petit Four
Mesones #99

We love all the French pastries and cakes at Petit Four but the lemon and champagne birthday cake for Chef Stefania Rosales at Vino + Tapas was some of the best we had last year. We froze a piece and had it one month later; it was still as good as the day we first tasted it.
Chef owners Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero celebrated the 20 year anniversary of Petit Four this year.
Best Carbonara:
 
Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

Nuova Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita
Mercado del Carmen, Zacateros 45

Everyone has their go-to dinner when they’re feeling homesick; ours is pasta. From Marsala’s delicious carbonara, made with an egg on top, to Laura’s bacon-laden, mouthwatering version, it’s our favorite comfort food of 2017.
 

Best Carnita: Bautista Brothers
Guadiana #2

Bautista Brother’s makes all the carnitas for their other restaurants and pop ups at Guadiana #2. Go to the source because nothing is better than the original, especially when it’s hot out of the fryer.
 
Preview 2018: You can now have a Carnitas Vicente fix and not have to go all the way to Dolores Hidalgo to get it. A new roadside location opened up a little over a month ago, approximately 28 km from SMA right after Rancho Viejo antiques on the road to Dolores Hidalgo. Look for the big sign on the right hand side of the road. Close your eyes and dig in; the secret ingredients here are Coca Cola, along with a medley of interesting spices. Two drinks and a plate of carnitas, enough to feed five, is just $150 pesos. We eat them the traditional way: tucked into handmade tortillas, topped with spicy salsa verde and a dash of salt.
 
Best Cheese: La Romita
Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio #123

Eating the blue cheese at La Romita is one of the most heavenly queso experiences ever. A simple recipe for great flavors, we’re a purist when it comes to eating blues, adding only crusty bread and a glass of vino blanco. 
 
Best Cheesecake: Cheesecake de Mandarina, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

We sometimes eat our sweet endings first and anything covered in mandarina is on the top of our list. This frozen dessert is one of two from Eduardo Perez Calvo on the after-dinner menu at Atrio.
 
Best Chicken Wings: Pong’s Kung Pao Chicken Wings, The Restaurant
Sollano #16

You can really ruin a white, linen napkin when you get into a pile of these: Pong’s Kung chicken wings with chili peppers, cashews, green onions and spicy kung pao sauce. How good is the sauce? On a scale of 1 -10, we give them a 12! Double trouble: we were delighted when the wings showed up on one of Birdie’s Burgers special menus.
 
Best Chilaquiles: Nicasio Comedor Mexicano
Hidalgo #28

In addition to the classic chilaquiles with red or green sauce, squash blossoms and cecina make for unusual and appetizing flavors. This is one of Chef Pablo Nicacio’s best dishes from 2017.
 
Best Churros: Café San Agustin
San Francisco #21

The dueña, Margarita Gralia, is a beloved telenovela star; the walls in the restaurant are a shrine to her career. These deep-fried pastries come in a variety of flavors; served plain or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar when they come out of the fryer. Order a side of Mexican hot chocolate just for dunking. One of the most popular restaurants in SMA, expect a wait; there’s always lines, especially on the weekends.

Coming in second are the churros from the Tuesday Market; ask for them hot our of the fryer.
 
Best Comida: Hacienda at Canada de la Virgen 
Happy valley is our nickname for the Hacienda at Canada de la Virgen. 

With a garden-fresh, just picked comida in SMA’s most beautiful surroundings, topped off by an ice-cold Rose and flavorful meat from the ranch, we loved our trips to Canada de la Virgen more than any other place in SMA last year. And you’re twice blessed when Sofia’s in the kitchen.
 
Best Cookie: Fudge Cookie, Artenasa at the Rosewood Hotel
Nemesio Diez #11

For the second year in a row, this fudge cookie takes the prize. Chef Juan Salvador García Valdés, the head baker at the Rosewood, offers a variety of other sweets in this tiny pastry shop that has cozy seating out front. It’s one of our favorite hideaways in SMA. 
 
Best Croissants: Almond Croissant, Buonforno Baker
Stirling Dickinson 31-32, San Antonio

Talk about a simple way of getting your daily dose of protein: a buttery center made with amaranth flour. Their chocolate croissant is a close second.
 
Best Doughnut: Panificadora la Buena Vida #72
Best Empanada: Panificadora la Buena Vida
Hernandez Macias #72

Practice makes perfect and we think Melissa Sumner has made at least a million doughnuts and empanadas. We’ve tasted the menu and there’s not a ordinary flavor on the list.
 
Best Enchiladas: Enchiladas Gloria, Tacos Don Felix
Fray Juan de San Miguel 15, San Rafael

We haven’t stopped eating Enchiladas Gloria since the first time we tried them five years ago. Forget about portion control; these enchiladas are made with chicken and pork and are sided with a generous helping of Mexican beans and rice. A SMA institution for over 10 years, this popular restaurant, which started out as a taco cart, is open on the weekends: Friday through Sunday; Chef Gloria and her staff serve over five hundred meals to local high school students during the week. Another reason to love the chef who flashes her best smile all the while she’s tempting you with dessert.
 
Best Fake Sushi: Chef Ulises Delgado Altamirano, Aperi 
One of the most imaginative desserts in SMA, we were wowed by Chef Ulises Delgado Altamirano’s take on sushi as dessert so we created a category just to feature it: 
 
Gunkan of fake wakame: coconut mousse, with chocolate tile, agave honey with balsamic and green tea gelatin and white sesame.

Gunkan of false masago: Mousse of praline of pistachio and almond, chocolate tile, orange spheres and raspberry sauce.

Gunkan of Fake tuna: pistachio and almond praline mousse, chocolate tile, lemon cream, raspberry jelly with bergamot oil. 

Gunkan of fake fresh salmon: coconut mousse, carrot wrapped with rice vinegar, banana compote and caramel, and mango jelly, passion fruit and lemon yellow.
 
Best Fish: Lobina with Green Sauce, Nomada cocina de interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88

Making an exceptional sauce is the sign of a great chef and Chef Marco Curz is the master of sauces, layering each one with rich, complex flavors. I never liked anything but butter on fish until I tried this sauce, made from green tomatoes, lemongrass and butter. It was the best seafood dish on the menus in SMA last year. 
 
Best Food Art: Chef Marco Cruz, Nomada cocina de interpretacion Hernandez Macias #88

Food is not like art, it is art and Chef Marco Cruz’s creative plates are some of the most beautiful visuals in SMA. Savor his imagination by catching his Wednesday tasting dinners, some of the best in San Miguel.
 
Best French Dip: Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

We grew up eating French dips and this sandwich, piled high with hot, shaved beef and covered with cheese, is the best in SMA, if not Mexico. So good in fact, we skip the au jus.
 
Best French Fry: Bovine
Canal #16

I’ve read a lot of articles on how to make perfect French fries. This upscale brasserie has it down to a science; all six steps of the process. We like this side dish so much, we could have it as a main course…and we have.
 
Best French Fry – Animal Style: Birdie’s Burgers
Doce 18 at Relox #18

There’s absolutely no competition on this one: a pile of skinny fries covered with cheddar cheese, crema, bacon and green onions sent our taste buds into overdrive this past year. Most people split this dish; not us. If we’re going to indulge, we’re going all out. This was our favorite splurge dish last year.
 
Best Gluten Free: Postres Artesanale
Mercado Sano, Ancha San Antonio 123

Try the organic, peanut butter cookies with sea salt from Denise Rosenfeld’s stand in Mercado Sano and you’ll swear you’re going gluten free forever. With a touch of sugar, she makes the best tasting gluten free desserts in town. We also love the Prince Albert, a recipe from her grandmother, who was a successful baker in Mexico City for over 50 years.
 
Best Gordita: Gordita Migajas, Bautista Brothers
Guadiana #2

This is the ultimate pig out, made from the crumbs that are left in the bottom of the pan when you cook a batch of carnitas. The most decadent food find since we’ve been in SMA, we’re making bets you can’t eat two. Our favorite guilty pleasure except we have no shame at all.
 
Best Gumbo: Hank’s SMA
Hidalgo #12

We know the drill: its 1219 miles from New Orleans and the closest thing you're going to get this side of the border. Made with chicken, sausage and shrimp, it tastes like New Orleans, especially when you eat it during Hank's notorious Happy Hour.
 
Best Hamburger: Birdie’s Burgers
Doce 18 at Relox #18  

Birdie’s Burgers are made from Canada de la Virgen’s certified organic, grass-fed, grass-finished beef. That and a baked-fresh-daily bun by Panaderia La Buena Vida is really all you need… except perhaps another one for the road.
 
For another great hamburger, try one of the many specialty burgers featured at The Restaurant, Sollano #16, every Thursday night including our favorite, their blue cheese burger.
 
Best Hot Dog: Costco
The next best thing to a dog at Wrigley; the only thing that’s missing is the relish. Besides that, who can beat the most wanted price outside of SMA.
 
Best Ice Cream: Avocado at La Mezcalaria
Correo #47

Isn’t it great to know we can now have our guacamole as an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert? Try one of their intoxicating Mezcal Margaritas on the side; we love the Pepino and Cilantro.  

The roasted crickets with lime and chilies are a must.
 
Best Lamb:
Lamb Ragu Papardelle with Reueson, Marsala cocina con acentos
Fried Eggs in a Pot of Lamb, Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48
 
Fried Eggs in a Pot of Lamb: Marsala’s Mediterranean lamb dishes are some of the best in SMA. This pot of lamb with fried eggs also has jocoque (some classify this as a queso fresco) and zathar; served with one of the chefs celebrated homemade pitas. It’s one of seven delightful dishes on the Sunday brunch menu and since we’ve eaten the entire menu, we know this dish is one of our favorites.
 
Lamb Ragu: One of the top lamb entrees in SMA; now you just have to beg Chef Marcela Bolano to put it back on her menu. The Requesón in this dish is a Mexican fresh cheese that is somewhat like a Ricotta with a creamy and slightly tart, slightly salty taste, offset by the flavor of the mint.
 
Preview 2018: Try one of the many great lamb dishes coming your way at the 8th Annual Lamb and Mezcal Festival on June 2nd. Unlimited lamb and Mezcal are included in the price of a ticket - $500 pesos in advance; $600 at the door.

Best Lasagna: Lasagnetta Croccante, Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites 
Rancho Los Mezquites (4.15 mi) Marroquin De Abajo

We’ve never had anything quite like this lasagna, made of fresh pasta discs that are fried. Cherry tomatoes confit, organic basil pesto and caprino cheese were used to fill the layers. So unique, it was our favorite Italian dish last year and the hit of the summer food festival season. 
 
Best Lobster: Nomada cocina de interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88

Chef Marco Cruz makes a charcoal-grilled lobster every Sunday and it’s delicious. He’ll get competition later this year (Preview 2018) when Fatima starts flying in live lobsters from Maine. We wouldn’t complain though when we have two places to go for lobster. It’s been a long time coming to SMA and we’re happy Chef Marco Cruz started the trend; something he does quite often.
 
Best Mixiotes: El Pato
Calzada de la Estacion #175

The next best thing to your mother's pot roast, Mixiotes is a traditional, pit-barbecued meat dish made of lamb that’s cut with the bone and seasoned with pasilla, guajillo and spices. Now #1 on Trip Advisor, we've always said this restaurant would have a line around the block if it were located in Centro. It’s one of the best dishes in SMA.    
 
Best Mole: Mariana Gonzalez Gutierrez, Under the Table

A recipe for a perfect mole: classic, simple preparations, involving a lot of technique. Chef Mariana Gonzalez Gutierrez created the best mole in SMA last year; and that’s just one of the many things she’s good at.
 
Best Molletes: Nicasio Comedor Mexicano
Hidalgo #28

The way to crown a bolillo are Molletes, with all the essential ingredients: frijoles refritos, chorizo verde, bacon, pico de gallo and an egg to top it off. Don't forget about the best part: fresh, sliced avocado; the good fat. One of the best breakfasts in town, you’ll be astonished at the variety of the flavors.
 
Best Mushrooms: Simbiosi
Mercado SanoAncha de San Antonio #123

Beautiful mushrooms, vegetables, Microgreens and edible flowers by SMA’s best mushroom expert, Arif Towns Alonso. Go on a mushroom hunting trip with Arif and you’ll never look at mushrooms the same way again. Ask him when you can forage for the blue mushrooms; most enjoyable when Chef Marco Cruz of Nomada prepares them.
 
Preview 2018: Arif is teaching mushroom classes every Monday at 4:30 PM at Chef Alicia Wilson Rivero’s Pura Vida Kitchen in Mercado Sano.

Best Pancakes: Café Muro
Cerrada de San Gabriel 1, El Obraje

Muro’s secret blend of flours, including Amaranth, make for the sweetest stack in town. Skip the syrup; just add lots of butter.
 
Best Pasta: We like good pasta; these restaurants make pasta into something else entirely:
 
Aperi, Quebrada 101

Buenos Aires Bistro, Mesones #62
 
MiVida, Calle Hernandez Macias #97 

Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites by La Cucina di Afrodita,
Rancho Los Mezquites (4.15 mi) Marroquin De Abajo
 
Best Pie: Claudia's Bakery
Year after year we try them all and Lemon Meringue is still our favorite. 

Available at many local restaurants and La Pulga, Claudia works with wedding planners to create some of the most memorable specialties in town. Individual orders are available.
 
Best Pizza:

Fulvio Carbonaro,Pizzaiuolo, AVPN Certified (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletan), Culinarian Expeditions

MiVida
Calle Hernandez Macias #97 

We found the best pizza and it's not available in a restaurant. This pizza has a charred exterior edge and a soft center; it's also not easy to prepare correctly. It was made by certified pizza maker Fulvio Carbonaro, husband of Maestra Gilda Carbonaro of Culinarian Expeditions. Fulvio said the key to making good pizza is simplicity; if it’s got more than 5 ingredients on the top, it’s too many. Fulvio will do a class for the chefs in SMA in May; a 2 day class on consecutive Tuesdays based on the AVPN basic course.   
 
When eating out, it’s a given that the best pizza in SMA is made at MiVida; created by Chef Greta Ortega Casañas. She uses only the best ingredients, which is the key to making a really good pizza. Many ingredients are grown in the garden, flourishing in back of the restaurant. Chef Greta Ortega Casañas was one of the first chefs in SMA to plant a garden in her restaurant.
 
Preview 2018: Except for three, much-loved holdovers, the summer menu is all new at MiVida; try the white mole. MiVida has been remodeled with an Italian deli up front. Take a night off from cooking with some of the best takeout in town: pastas, ice creams, wines, meats, salads and desserts.
 
Best Pozole: La Alborada
Sollano and Dávalos 11

For 17 years now, La Alborada has been dishing up red pozole with a generous portion of pork, beef or chicken. A medley of toppings adds to the experience; I counted 8 bowls on the table including radishes, lettuce and an assortment of spices. We love this tiny place not only for the atmosphere, typical of a small, Mexican fonda but also for the price. At $50 pesos for a medium size bowl, you’ll have enough change left from a $100 pesos note to buy a cold Victoria to wash it down. You’ll need it; the broth is spicy but genuinely delicious.
 
Best Pudding: Caramel Pudding, Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

Chef Marcela Bolano’s caramel pudding is our drug of choice; we’ve been totally addicted since the day she opened and we first tried it. The delicious elixir, covered with a thin layer of hardened caramel, is our favorite ending to a meal. We’ve been known to lick the bowl and not really care who’s watching.

Marcela's carrot cake is another favorite dessert at Marsala cocina con acentos... and we don't even like carrot cake.  
 
Best Pulpo:

Aperi
Quebrada 101

Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88
 
Two chefs; two very different cooking methods; we loved them both.
 
The best pulpo we’ve ever had was at Aperi when guest Chef Eduardo Garcia of Maximo Bistro showed his simple method for cooking it to give it the texture of lobster. He boiled it for 20 minutes and rested it. That's it - no plunging in ice water or as he said "killing the octopus", resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth finish. What did he do to prep it? We preserve culinary secrets, especially when they’re this delicious.
 
We've had way too much pulpo that's been tough and chewy. In fact, pulpo is one of those things that’s terrible if it isn’t perfect. Chef Marco Cruz of Nomada cocina de interpretacion has it down to a science; his is perfect. He brines the pulpo in sea salt, beats it until the muscle fibers break down, gives it a quick bath in boiling water three times and then cooks it for 45 minutes.
 
Best Ramen:

Marchanta Comedor
Nemesio Diez #2 

Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

We’re up for all the good Ramen we can get so don’t even ask us to pick just one place; they’re both worth the slurp. We didn’t ask how long they boil their bones for or if they make their noodles from scratch. All we care about is that getting good ramen is now a reality at not one, but two restaurants in SMA. We’re pretty happy with that.
 

Preview 2018: new to the recent SMA ramen scene, El Café de la Mancha now makes a version with Beef Shank on top. We can tell you early on, it’s one of our favorites this year.
 
Best Rice: Rib Rice, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

Atrio owners José María Calvo (Chema) and Jesús Manuel Calvo (Chus) have been talking about bringing this dish to SMA for as long as we can remember; now we have it. Atrio’s Rib Rice is THE BEST DISH IN SMA IN 2017. How do we know? We’ve eaten it more than a dozen times; we ate it again today and we’ll probably eat it tomorrow. 
 
Best Salads: Chef Donnie Masterton, The Restaurant
Also at: Café Casa Blanca, Outstanding in the Field and Taco Lab
Sollano #16

Chef Donnie Masterton creates some of the best salads in town using super fresh ingredients and a special mix of ingredients for his remarkable dressings. Our favorite is the Shaved Broccoli and Kale Salad at The Restaurant but the BLT Salad at his new restaurant, Cafe Casa Blanca, is running a close second. We also had an award winning beet salad at the Outstanding in the Field dinner where Chef Masterton was a chef and at Taco Lab, where the Marine Girl Salad was one of the most unexpected and freshest surprises all year.
 
Preview 2018: We LOVE Café Casa Blanca, where you can select three, five or seven dishes to split for lunch; three for $310 pesos, five for $480 pesos and seven for $600 pesos. Where else can you get high-quality, delicious food for this price? We think this Mediterranean gem is Chef Donnie Masterton’s best restaurant yet, with Chef J.J. Castaneda heading up the kitchen. See you on the rooftop: Fatima 7 is scheduled to open in May with delicious views of SMA’s historic churches.
 
Preview 2018: One of the most delicious salads we had last week was made by Chef Xavier Pinero Moreno of OCRE. OCRE selects the freshest ingredients that add layers of flavor and texture to every bite. Appropriately named the Fresh Salad, the charred endive was topped with apple, caramelized peach, mustard seeds, goat cheese, nasturtium with a peach dressing; certainly not ingredients you use every day in a salad. At $120 pesos and some of the best flavors around, this is one salad we could eat every day.  
 
OCRE’S Chef, Xavier Pinero, Sous Chef Danny Duran and Pastry Chef Fernando Arias are the new, young trio to beat this year.
 
Best Salsa:

Tacos Don Felix
Fray Juan de San Miguel 15, San Rafael

Tacos Don Santos
Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur

Jacinto 1930 
Relox #18

At the heart of what is Mexican, our choice for best salsa are three: the roasted tomato salsa from Tacos Don Felix, the Salsa Verde from Tacos Don Santos and the fiery salsa made with Costeno and Serrano chilies at Jacinto 1930, which is now served with the octopus.

Best Seafood: Trazo 1810
Hidalgo #8

Seafood caught on the coast of Mexico in the morning, is flown into the Queretaro airport, picked up by Chef Alan Carias later that afternoon, cooked and served at Trazo 1810 that night.
 
Seafood in inland Mexico can’t get any fresher than this.  

Best Soup: Burnt Bread Soup, Panio Atelier Du Pain
Salida a Celaya 69

The signature Burnt bread soup with smoked bacon, cream, crispy bacon and toasted bread; IT’S DIFFERENT, one of the many reasons we like it. Ask for extra garnishes: bacon and bread.
 
Best Steak:
 
Buenos Aires Bistro
Mesones #62

Bovine
Canal #16

When you have a top quality piece of beef, it all gets down to how the chef prepares it. Buenos Aires Bistro and Bovine are a cut above the others; it’s that simple.  
 
Preview 2018: Watch for the MAG Festival - Mercado de Arte y Gastronomia-
coming your way July 12-15, 2018 including Marche in Juarez Park.
 
Best Steak Frites:

El Vergel Bistro and Market
Camino a El Vergel #17
 
Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

We couldn’t love Steak Frites any more, even if they were cooked in Chef Magda Alisa Pablos magic ingredient: duck fat. Our favorite dish on the menu, we like this steak overloaded with butter and plated with a side of crispy frites.
 
We went crazy when we saw three bins of russet potatoes in Marcela Bolano’s storage closet. Russets have arrived in SMA and we couldn’t be more ecstatic. Besides, just look at the size of this steak.    
 
Best Sweetbreads: Argentinean Sweetbreads, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

Chef Arturo Sandoval prepares an Argentinean version with bacon, cream, white wine and leeks. Big enough for four to split, it’s rich but probably our favorite version of sweetbreads yet.
 
Best Sweet Indulgence: Almond Crumble, Chef Abi Verde

Creative, complex desserts are an everyday thing for Chef Abi Verde who worked at Trazo 1810 until a few weeks ago.; this her best with lime zest, baby basil and mint jelly, meringue, lime mousse and natural goat yogurt ice cream.
 
A classic: Burnt Caramel Sundae, Chef Donnie Masterton, The Restaurant . After nearly five years of an ongoing love affair with this dish, it’s still one of our favorite after dinner treats. We don’t need an excuse to indulge; it’s now a SMA classic. 

Preview 2018: La Unica, a new restaurant in SMA with other La Unica locations in Mexico City -Polanco and Puebla, makes a dessert called the Cordelion: a chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse, caramelized acorn, vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. The best dessert in SMA? If you’re a chocolate lover, it’s a yes!

The rooftop at La Unica opens this week.
 
Best Sushi: Rosewood Hotel’s 1826 Tequila Bar
Nemesio Diez #11

You can now get sushi in the 1826 Tequila Bar four nights - Wednesday through Saturday. Their chefs learned from the best; they were sent to Japan to train. It’s pricey but you’ll get the best quality you can find in SMA.
 
Best Taco:

Shrimp Jicama Taco, La Azotea
Umaran #6

Many people think it’s the best taco in Mexico; we would agree. A texturally adventurous bite, the shell is a thin slice of Jicama that’s topped with lightly breaded shrimp, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce. The fried leek finish put this taco in a class by itself. This signature taco is a deal at $55 pesos. We take ours with a sunset view; the best pairings in town.
 
Softshell Crab Taco, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

We use to eat softshell crabs on white bread with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, then we were introduced to Atrio’s version of this soft, flour tortilla complimented with a pile of pico de gallo and red cabbage. When we picked a flour tortilla over a piece of white bread, we crossed the line. We always knew we were Mexican; now we have proof.
 
Best Tamale: Tamales La Chappis
Insurgentes by Templo del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri in front of the fountain.

Discovering street cooks Maria de la Luz Tovar Hernandez and Educardo Alonzo Zarate Cruz making fiery tamales laced with spicy, green chilies forever changed our minds about eating them for breakfast. Get there at sunrise; these SMA favorites sell out early. We’ve eaten a lot of others around town; many are good but these are still our favorite.
 
Best Tapas: Vino + Tapas
Insurgentes #63

Chef Stefania Rosales added more tapas to her menu in 2017 – one of the largest selection around - and opened up a rooftop where you can enjoy them all. Vino+Tapas was a wine store before it became a restaurant so the chef is educated when it comes to good wines. We always get an interesting, new label every time we dine there. She's got an interesting menu selection if you want something other than tapas. Their regular menu has a lot of interesting dishes, too.

 
Best Tart: Caramel Chocolate Tart by Isabelle Ortega, Pâtissier, Madame la lune
Mercado SanoAncha de San Antonio 123

Her quiche and cakes are recognized as some of the best sweet and savory comfort foods in SMA, with the Caramel Chocolate tart as her star offering. Isabelle Ortega once told me “I don’t eat to live, I live to eat.” So with that said Isabelle, I live to eat your Caramel Chocolate tarts.

Best Tea: Green Tea and Strawberries, Marchanta Comedor
Nemesio Diez #2 

We’ve never done a detox with so many delicious, non-alcoholic drinks before. Never a fan of green tea until this year, with a splash of fresh strawberries, this drink takes on a whole different taste. It’s was our favorite non-alcoholic drink in 2017.
 
Best Tongue: Chef Israel Loyola Espinosa of Jacinto 1930 at Canada de la Virgen

Chef Israel Loyola Espinosa used a lot of imagination to create this dish, slow cooking it for 12 hours using certified organic, grass-fed, grass-finished tongue, locally raised at Rancho Cañada de la Virgen, then adding potatoes and cauliflower. It was the surprise dish of 2017; one of the best things we ate all year.

Best Torta:

Nicasio Comedor Mexicano
Hidalgo #28

Tortitlan
Ancha de San Antonio #43

Crafting these Mexican sandwiches with a total focus on quality, Chef Pablo Nicasio of Nicasio Comedor Mexicano starts off with good bread, from Panaderia El Maple, overstuffs them with either cecina or lengua, then brushes them with a secret sauce. The toppings are minimal but talk about flavor. A quick comida, we like them for breakfast with a fried egg on top. Our kind of Mexican food, if we had to live on just one dish, tortas would be it.
 
With the largest selection of tortas in SMA, our favorite sandwich at Tortitlan is filled with lettuce, tomato, and avocado, then piled high with delicious, oven roasted pork; drown in salsa verde and heap on the fire-roasted peppers and onions. SMA sandwich lovers take note: this is how you do an every-day torta.
 
Best Tortilla: Ceremonial Tortillas
Outstanding in the Field and Mercado Rural

When their hearts are connected to corn and the land, it’s a given their tortillas are the best. The women of El Llanito made them for the Outstanding in the Field dinner in January. You can also watch them at Mercado Rural in Colonia Guadalupe the first Sunday of every month.

Chef Israel Loyola Espinosa's restaurant, Jacinto 1930, came in a close second.

Best Tuna: Aperi
Quebrada 101

Sourced from Ensanada, the color of this tuna was blood red; honestly, I’ve never seen tuna this fresh. We loved eating it with our hands, as suggested by the chef. It’s not always on the menu but when it is, it’s the best tuna you’ll ever eat.
 
There are many fresh seafood’s available at Aperi every day. Sourcing ingredients is one art that Chef Matteo Salas has mastered.
 
Best Waffles: Waffles with Duck, Marsala cocina con acentos
Hernandez Macias #48

The duck, perfectly cooked so the skin is crispy; the meat, succulent with no sign of grease. Add a crispy waffle and you have the top menu pick at the best Sunday brunch in town.
 
BEVERAGE…
 
Best Beverage Program: Adrian Garcia-Evans, Levain and Co.

Master mixologist Adrian Garcia Evans is in high demand at beverage conferences around Mexico. He’s created some of the most creative drink menus in SMA at Aperi, Cumpanio and Jacinto 1030. His mole martini is legendary. We met up with this Welch charmer at the Casa Dragones booth in Mexico City last year at Barra Mexico to catch one of his winning performances. Count on more than just a few surprises from Garcia-Evans in 2018.
 
Best Bar: Hendrick's Gin Bar: The Monocle Cocktail Club
Zacateros #47

You don’t need Friday as an excuse to have one of the best martinis in town. In fact, try them all, just not all on the same night. Lucky for us, this little bar is only open on the weekends. We love the atmosphere so much, we’re sure there’s a barstool with our name on it.
 
Best Bar Food Menu: Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Cuna de Allende #3

Well, this one is easy: there’s not a thing on the bar menu we haven’t eaten and loved. One of the many hits coming out of the kitchen, we love the Pork Belly Bao buns; a perfect date-night split with two servings in an order.
 
Best Beer: Dos Aves

The tasty celebration of five years in SMA; it’s one of their best beers yet.
 
Best Chardonnay: Corona Del Valle Chardonnay 2016

When they didn’t have Casa Madero on the menu, local wine expert Arael Gomez Tello selected this bottle of Corona. Beautiful fruits border vanilla and butter and define this wine.
 
Another Mexican white wine we fell in love with this past year, we forgot we were drinking our second choice halfway through the first glass.
 
Best Club: Johnny’s Piano Bar
Insurgentes # 55

A relaxed vibe and a headline of great musicians make this spot one of the hottest places in SMA late night. Look for frequent appearances by SMA’s queen of song, the enchanting Lady Zen; the best voice in SMA...or maybe anywhere.
 
Best Cocktail: The Saints and Sinners Drink, Quince
Cuna de Allende #15

Leave it to one of the best mixologists in SMA, Mike Espinoza, to come up with a special drink for Day of the Dead. With one of the most imaginative selection of drinks in town, he uses seasonal ingredients with local and craft spirits. Visit Quince rooftop bar to try his latest creations; there’s always a new one in the mix.
 
Best Drink Menu: Jacinto 1930
Doce 18 at Relox #18 

We love every single cocktail down to the short list of mocktails. Yes, even without liquor, these liquid remedies are often exactly what we need to get through another day. Don’t think tropical; these mountain high beverages are classic SMA, including an entire series of drinks made with SMA’s own premium brand of tequila: Casa Dragones.   
 
Best Fireplace Bar: Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar
Calle Nemesio Diez #11

Don’t miss this spot no matter how cold it is; you’ll love the view even more than the warm up.
 
Best Happy Hour: La Azotea
Umaran #6

Because 2X1 with a view and the best service in town is more than enough to make us happy.
 
Best Hidden Gem: Olivia’s Bar, Casa No Name
Hernandez Macias #52

Olivia Bar at Casa No Name is no longer SMA's best kept secret. Here, you’re in your own little world; call it a safe haven from the tourist mayhem just a few blocks away. The décor is chic in an understated way and you wouldn’t be in a hurry to head home once you land. It’s our favorite place to chill and enjoy a glass of wine; it will be yours, too.

Preview 2018: Chef Julian Garcia is the star of the kitchen at Casa No Name, cooking brunch from 11:30 AM – 3:30 PM every Sunday.
 
Best Margarita: Mama Mia
Umaran #8

Adalberto Garcia Moreno, the head bartender at Mama Mia's told me that Mama Mia’s makes the best Margarita in town and I only needed a sip of this drink to be convinced. Close your eyes when he pours all of the liquors in to your glass; you don’t want to calculate the damage up front.
 
Preview 2018: We just had a Margarita at the new OCRE, Hidalgo #5. Expect this new hot spot to offer some strong competition this year. It was one of the smoothest drinks we’ve had in a long time. OCRE has its own room that features guest mixologists from all over Mexico.
 
Best Mezcal: ?

Our definition of a road trip: our friend Mike takes an empty bottle and fills it up somewhere between his house - one of the most beautiful locations outside of SMA and San Antonio. If we get a fix on the exact location, we’ll let you know. Don’t count on it though; this is one secret he thinks he needs to keep in order to maintain his supply. We think he’s right; some of the best Mezcal we’ve had all year.

Our next pick: Tierra de Canto, which we found at the Lamb and Mezcal festival two years ago.

Best Mezcal Drink: Pepino with Pineapple, San Mike Restaurante
Canal #18

The taste of the Pepino with Pineapple will surprise and delight you. It was our favorite new drink in 2017. Balancing the taste of sweet and sour, we love anything that contains pineapple…not to mention a great Mezcal.
 
Best Mixologist: Mike Espinoza, Quince
Cuna de Allende #15

Mike Espinoza’s talent for innovation is well-known in SMA. Follow him on Facebook to see his latest catalog of liquid libations, where everything but the booze is made by hand. You'll be hard-pressed to find a bartender more knowledgeable about the latest techniques and ingredients. Bring your blindfold though; his cocktails are way too beautiful to drink.
 
Best Place to Watch Fireworks: Nena Sky Lounge
Nemesio Diez #10

Nena Sky Lounge is the top place in town for your favorite activities: watching people and fireworks; in fact, it's the best seat in town to see the fireworks at neighboring Rosewood. See and be seen; there’s no going casual to this late night spot, famous for its well dressed patrons, many from Mexico City. 

You definitely don't know what's coming next so stick around.
 
Best Rooftop Bar: La Azotea
Umaran #6  

If you sit in the back room, you’ll get the aerial ballet of the birds out the back window. It’s a sight to be seen, along with all of SMA’s picturesque sunsets. Their happy hour cocktails and service are some of the best in town. We love everything about this rooftop bar, especially the people watching.
 
Best Tequila: Chula Parranda 

If we did a blind taste test, we’d swear we just sipped a premium cognac. Of course, many other brands of tequila fall in a very close second. Let’s just say, after nearly 50 years, we’re still enchanted by Mexico's most famous drink.
 
Remember, tequila always tastes best when there’s a parade involved. When you’re in SMA, this is what you do.  
 
Best Tequila Tasting: 1826 Tequila Bar at the Rosewood Hotel
Nemesio Diez #11

The Tequila sommeliers at the Rosewood Hotel help guests to appreciate all of the 120 Tequilas and 20 Mezcals on the menu at 1826 Tequila Bar. You can book a tasting for $1075 - $3620 pesos per person, depending on the brands you select. It’s a great way to introduce your out-of-town guests to Mexico’s most beloved national spirits.
 
Best Wine: Casa Madero

The best pedigree of wines starts with Casa Madero. At the Brussels World Wine Competition this past year, Mexico brought home 18 medals including two GOLD medals for Casa Madero Chardonnays. Always a favorite: Casa Madero Chardonnay 2016. We like our Chardonnay to taste big, full bodied, fat, creamy and buttery. We love their Rose – ice cold - almost as much as their Chardonnays.
 
Best Wine Expert: Sebastian Acosta Quiroz
Levain and Company

This Chilean born sommelier knows wine; he did the pairings for the dinner at Aperi with Chefs Matteo Salas and Eduardo Garcia, along with Beverage Director Adrian Garcia-Evans. Every course was impeccably paired with a superb wine, cava, cider or tequila. In fact, the beet salad, which is never well paired with any wine, was perfectly balanced with a Clos des Tavaux 2014 Mersault A.O.C. Chateau Gaunoux Francia. The highlight of the pairings was the wine from Valle de Guadalupe: Manel Solera, Vino Generoso dulce, 2007, which was a blend of Zinfandel and Petit Syrah that was paired with a Goat camembert, pineapple and mustard.
 
Preview 2018: We had another round a week ago Friday when Chef Matteo Salas cooked with Oswaldo Oliva and the best pairings were delivered again. We were surprised by one pairing in particular, a vermouth, that was paired with Octopus, herbs and crispy pig ears. We never liked the taste of vermouth until we had this one, Mancino Vermouth.  
 
Best Wine List: Bovine
Canal #16

Bovine offers great wine selections; you’ll find many on their list you don’t see at other restaurants around town. We loved this white, Casa Magoni 2016 Manaz, made by Italian born Camillo Magoni, who will oversee his 54th harvest in Mexico this year. For his first 49 years in Mexico, he was the winemaker at L.A. Cetto.
 
Best Wine Pairings: Aperi
Quebrada #101

When one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten anywhere is paired with the finest wines, this category is a no brainer.
 
Best Wine Store: Cava Sautto
Hernandez Macias 59

You could spend hours hanging out in the cellar studying their International labels but you’ll have more fun taking them home and tasting them. It’s not the biggest but we think it’s the best.
 
The Best of the Rest…
 

Best Cookbook: Mexico From the Source

Chef Michael Coon turned us on to this cookbook. Published by Lonely Planet, it presents Mexico’s most authentic dishes, from street-food to Michelin-starred chefs, with 60 of the region’s classic recipes. We bought it, not just for the time-honored recipes, but also for the photographs.
 
We love all of the books published by Lonely Planet, including the World Food guides. We wish they would publish an updated edition of this series; comprehensive introductions to cuisines around the world.
 
Best Cooking Class: Take your pick!

Some of the best culinary teachers in Mexico call SMA home. Take your pick because every one of them listed in our article on cooking classes last year is exceptional.

A special recognition to Chef/Professor David Jahnke, who is teaching a professional cooking class in SMA. I am lucky enough to be a part of the class. 

Here’s another look at all of these amazing teachers: http://www.cupcakesandcrablegs.com/2017/04/a-guide-to-cooking-classes-in-san.html
 
 
Best Dinnerware: Stelara Ceramica Stoneware
Merecado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio #123

Because beautiful food from the Outstanding in the Field dinner still looks best on a Stelara plate; I know, I brought one for it. We were delighted to find out the family of Erik Figueroa, one of the partners at OCRE, owns this company. The stoneware is a favorite of many local chefs including Chefs Matteo Salas and Marco Cruz.
 
We often give these attractive originals away as gifts; many priced under $300 pesos. 
 
Best Mexican Food Destination: Mexico City

We spent a month in Mexico City last year looking for delicious restaurants with great prices as well. One of our finds was Caldos Animo. Chef Antonio de Livier, of restaurant La Panga del Impostor in Guadalajara, brought a spicy and delicious soup to Mexico City called Birriamen: a fusion of Guadalajara birria and Japanese ramen. The birria is a simmer of guajillo chili, pasilla, cumin and other spices with beef and ramen noodles added. What really surprised us was the price: a 62 peso bowl of Birriamen and a 22 peso Corona put lunch at 84 pesos/$4.74 USD. And who said Mexico City is expensive?
 
There are thousands of restaurants like this in Mexico City; one of the best food cities in the world for a real culinary adventure.
 
Best Festival Organizer: Billy Mervin

This year, the Lamb and Mezcal festival will be held June 2nd at Hotel Casa de Aves. We salute Billy Mervin for an outstanding job in bringing this festival to its 8th season.
 
Why do we love it? Unlimited lamb and Mezcal offerings are included in the price of a ticket - $500 pesos in advance; $600 pesos at the door.
 
Best Foodie Day Trip: The Guanajuato Wine Route

Explore all of the wineries along the Guanajuato wine route, just outside of SMA. Most are under an hours’ drive from Centro. La Santisima Trinidad is a great place to start. This 117-acre estate produces one of our favorite Rose wines, along with Cabernet Sauvignons, Malbec, and Merlots.
 
Best Food Enthusiast: The Food Lovers of Colonia Guadalupe

We seriously LOVE A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT SUPPORTS THEIR LOCAL RESTAURANTS. If you want to have an eating place in your neighborhood, you’ve got to go to them; it’s that simple. We also like neighbors who love to eat together often.
 
Fellow aficionados on the food trail, we salute this hungry group of neighbors; many who travel to other parts of Mexico and the world to experience different cuisines.
 
Best Gourmet Market: El Vergel Bistro and Market
Camino a El Vergel #17

Your pitstop for a great French food journey starts here. This high-quality market has a wide-selection of all the things you crave and can’t find any other place. It’s also a good excuse to stop and enjoy lunch with Chef Magda Elisa Pablos; not that you ever need one. French in style and flavors, it’s our favorite retreat in the countryside; just a 10 minute drive from Centro.   
 
     Photo: Victor Hugo

Best Influencer: Victor Hugo

In my next life, I’m coming back as Victor Hugo. He’s our man for all seasons; the best Food, Art and Fashion influencer in SMA. Go ahead, live vicariously through his Facebook and Instagram posts; we do and we have more fun than anyone in SMA, even our esteemed Mayor.
 
Best Ingredient: Amaranth

First Chef Sofía Antillón of Nomada made us Amaranth cookies: Amaranth, edible flowers and chocolate balsamic; now Amaranth pancakes. The pancakes at Café Muro are made with homemade amaranth flour; the only grain to contain vitamin C, and has iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. There’s a million ways to use this pseudocereal; cookies and pancakes are just some of them.  
 
Best Kitchen Store: Williams Sonoma, Queretaro

With top of the line merchandise and excellent cooking classes, Williams Sonoma gives you yet another excuse to take a trip to Queretaro. Opening two years ago this August, it’s a favorite destination for those who love to cook, including many local chefs. Don’t forget to browse in neighboring City Market on your way out of town.

Best Mercado: Mercado Rural, Colonia Guadalupe

To get a close up view of the real Mexico, visit Mercado Rural in Colonia Guadalupe, the first Sunday of every month. Bring your camera; unlike many vendors, this group loves having their picture taken.