Saturday, May 2, 2015

Just Like Home

Having good food and service meets a minimum requirement when it comes to dining out these days. A restaurant has to offer more.

These SMA restaurants are all very different but have one thing in common; they know it's the little things that differentiate their restaurant from the next.  

I am as dedicated to the owners as I am to their food…one of the many reasons that these restaurants feel just like home.

Buen Apetit!

augamiel cocina rustica
Pipila 3A
You all know Chef Gaby Green, a restaurant legend in San Miguel forever. Chef Sandor Rodriguez spent time at The Restaurant as sous chef to Donny Masterton and recently worked with ex-Cafe Rama chef Jason Mallof in Nelson, BC. Together, with media savvy co-owner Jennifer Posner, you get a fine-tuned team that not only understands good food but also knows how to make a table full of customers happy.

They begin your meal with great bread; augamiel buys theirs from the bakery down the street, Buonforno, and then pairs it with a delicious Baba ganoush; a Levantine dish of cooked eggplant mixed with olive oil and various seasonings. They've kept it secret and little wonder since this one is superb.

I tried their signature dish, the Fried Avocado Taco. Slather black bean spread on a taco, top it with a fried, panko-crusted slice of avocado, kimchi and a touch of spicy mayo for just $30 pesos. This is one of the best new takes on a taco that I've had recently.

The Panuchos are tortillas with a spread of black beans, cochinita pibil, habanero sauce and pickled red onions. This gets high marks as the combination of flavors was surprising and delicious. In fact, nothing we ate at augamiel cocina rustica was predictable. That’s one of the many things I like about this place.

The next day, we came back to order Chef Sandor’s BBQ Ribs. The sauce was the perfect blend of 15 ingredients. It was so good that it made us wish they were on the menu every day.

Happy Hour is from 4-6 PM; Dos Aves Cerveza or 2x1 Margaritas with three Argentinean Empanadas for $120 pesos. Without a doubt, this is one of the best fiestas and deals in town.

We tried the mango, tamarind and the not-so-standard Margarita and all of them were magnificent…and strong. Hats off and good night to friends who could drink more than two.

The empanadas were a mix; one stuffed with corn, one with meat and one with cheese. I’m not sure any of us could decide which one was the favorite. All of them are worth another order just to figure that one out.

The restaurant is just off Sterling Dickinson; it’s the little street with the tree in the middle of it. Walk up the hill and the restaurant is on the left.

I love a restaurant that starts out running. This one is already on my top 10 list.

garambullo fonda gourmet
Animas 46
Team up mother and daughter Maye Cordova and Jimena Tamayo Cordova and you get a made-for-locals hang out with strong coffee, great conversation and really good food.

Maye was at Cumpanio and has been a catering maven in Mexico for years, delivering some of the most creative and beautiful dishes in San Miguel. 

Try my favorite, the poached eggs and beans with spinach (a substitute for nopales) green sauce, and toast points.

Look for the signature pink door, and interior pink wall, on the right-hand side of Animas. It’s the first left as you head down Colegio around from Mercado Ignacia Ramirez.

Casa de Cocinas
San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende

Casa de Cocinas is part of my monthly culinary tradition that is anything but routine. Its tasting dinners make it one of the best "restaurants" in town.

If you don't know owner Michael Coon, he's the former Travel Director and co-creator of the Culinary Institute of America's Worlds of Flavor tours.

He now owns and operates The Inside Route at Casa de Cocinas here in San Miguel. 

Michael is one of the top chefs in SMA. Ask him about any place in the world and he’s likely been there. He a dedicated scholar of global cuisine and works his magic in the kitchen at Casa de Cocinas.

On the first bite at every tasting, I wonder what backstreet he traveled down to inspire the recipe. His gift is innate. I’m certain if he were handed a golden beet, he would do something astounding with it. There’s something totally stimulating about watching a really great chef at work.

When he’s not out leading culinary tours, he’s in his kitchen doing tasting dinners and teaching classes. His talent is so broad, you’ll never have a repeat adventure.

If you want to get on his mailing list for tours, classes and dinners, email him at:

No surprise that all seven of the meals I've had at Casa de Cocinas have been among the best I've had in San Miguel. Go once and I guarantee you’ll become a regular.
Refugio Sur no. 28

You'll likely see your country's flag in their front yard when they come out of the house to greet you.
The tables are just close enough together to get to know the people sitting next to you. It’s like dining with one, big, happy family.
They are doing everything right these days…

Having moved around for many years because of increasing rents, they've found a little piece of heaven with their own space where the garden is overflowing with fruit and flowering trees.

La Lonja Carniceria is their meat supplier and the meat is delivered fresh every day. I've bought from La Lonja since the first day I came to San Miguel.

I go there because I like their burgers. They have added steaks and chicken to the menu. 

I love to spend time with Oliver and Ellie, who both love to talk food.

Dog friendly.

Andy’s Tacos
Hidalgo and Insurgentes

Every evening at 7PM, there’s a long line at Andy's Taco cart. The smell is a magnet for aficionados who jockey for one of the few seats and an overflowing plate of savory Tacos Al Pastor.

The pork is marinated in dried chilies and spices then slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Cover the taco with a spicy, red chipotle salsa and slices of cooked pineapple and you’ll likely be totally unaware of when to stop eating. This stuff is habit forming.

Andy's is also a favorite of partygoers looking for an after-hours feast and still intoxicated by the magic of the fiesta.  A bargain at 10 pesos each or 67 cents; have 3 and you’ve spent $2.01.

I need a frequent Pastor fix so you’ll find me there at least once a week just as they open. It’s a great time to chitchat with Andy as he caramelizes the Al Pastor to the stage of almost-burnt perfection.

I have the recipe which I am going to make this weekend. It’s pretty complicated so I can’t imagine I’m going to give up going there any time soon.

It’s the only food I missed when I was in Guatemala. 

Dog friendly.

Hernandez Macias # 87

This is my go-to place for an outstanding breakfast. I’ve eaten the old menu and there was not one dish I didn’t like. There now have several new items on the menu.

This is the place to go when you have out-of-town guests and want to make an impression. You can always count on fresh ingredients and a more than attractive presentation. In my world, presentation counts just about as much as the food itself.

Straight-up best? It will always be their signature Huevos Rancheros. Died and gone to the food heaven of my dreams every time I taste them.

Karla is one of the most consistent and talented chefs in SMA.

Ancha de San Antonio #10A

Nobody in SMA happens to be more charming than these two…

Add this lovely owner/mother Siobhan with daughter/Chef Joanna Bryne, and you get a culinary dream team; a match that knows exactly what to give to their customers.

On the grounds of this former 17th century palace of the Counts of Canal, the restaurant is not only visually beautiful but the food is splendid as well.

The dishes are layered with such amazing flavors that it always surprise me. Joanna is a chef that knows how to get the best out of all the seasonal ingredients that she uses.

The soups are a stand out and they change up their specials every week.

Call it your everyday Irish home away from home.

El Tucan
Hernandez Macias 56
Dog friendly

Since I came to San Miguel, I’ve been friends with El Tucan owner, Alex, who cooked in Chicago for 11 years.

He’s got inexpensive, Mexican items on his menu. My favorite is the flautas; 5 for 35 pesos. Knowing that something deep fried has been covered in a pile of healthy vegetables takes away at least half the guilt for eating them.

This is a guy who not only will cook anything you’re hungry for on any given day – just ask him- but he will also do anything for you as well. He a shirt-off-his-back kind of guy.

Want to know something or just get something done? Ask Alex, a SMA native with a remarkable network of contacts.

Last year, when several of us were on the hunt for pork cheeks, Alex not only told us where to get them but he also went with us to Comonfort and introduced us to the butcher. Turns out Alex use to buy all the meat at the Longhorn when it was in its’ prime.

His English is textbook perfect. Don’t let the dive surroundings throw you. This place is as local as it gets.

If you get it to go, you’ll miss the “Alex experience”.

Independencia #47

Call this place unpretentious. At this dog friendly restaurant, 90% of the customers are Mexican. Mix that with good food, cheap prices - everything on the menu is about 50 pesos- and a charming owner with 6 beautiful kids and you get a place where you want to go as often as you can hike up the hill. 

Go for the tasty liquiado which on a split 15 pesos.

I'm trying to remember the last time I got anything this good for $1.