Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Best Street Food in San Miguel de Allende

It’s good news for street food lovers everywhere; Hong Kong’s street food vendors are listed in the Michelin Guide for the very first time. A new category was created because street food offers a greater culinary value. Just ask anyone who has eaten on the street and comes home with a pocketful of change from a 100 peso note.   

Mexico has one of the most extensive street food cultures in the world and some of Mexico’s best cuisine is found in the streets. Street food is a unique experience and a voyage into the center of a city’s culture.

Many people who want to try out street food in San Miguel have asked me how I know what’s good and safe to eat. I look for places that are crowded. In other words, eat where the locals eat. As a rule, I do not eat anything that I don’t see being prepared.

San Miguel’s street food scene is growing with new carts popping up everywhere.
Let’s face it, when you see chefs like Donnie Masterton eating at Andy’s Tacos or Matteo Salas wanting to stage at Don Santos Tacos, you know they’ve got to be good.

Need a few reasons to get up early or chow down late after an all-night fiesta with a bottle of tequila?

Here they are…and here’s to making it home by sunrise.

Salud and Buen Apetito!

Bautista Brothers Carnitas
Guadiana #2

If you saw carnitas being cooked in large vats of fat, I’m sure you wouldn’t make a steady diet of this street treat…or would you? The flavor is unmatched so you will be tempted.

Bautista Brothers is an institution in San Miguel. I recently was reunited with the original at Guadiana #2.

Guadiana #2 is the heart of the Bautista Brothers operation. The carnitas are cooked here, along with a house down the alley and up the stairs where you can also buy bones to make soup. You’ll never find it on your own. A local named Johnny, who knows everyone in the neighborhood but doesn’t live here, took me upstairs to meet Mota.

The tortas made here are so much better than the ones I eat at Tianguis de Martes. They come straight out of the fryer and into your sandwich. The bread is also made by a commercial baker and is like no other torta I’ve had in San Miguel.

Bautista Brothers has pop up stands all over SMA that serve late night and two stands at Tianguis de Martes that are serving when I get there at 9:00 AM.

The Bautista Brothers, Pedro, Mota and Flotino, took over the business from their father when he retired after 47 years. Mota’s son Antonio is aspiring to be a chef and is in culinary school in Queretaro. His youngest son, Augustine, who just turned 14, helps him out as well. Mota operates the stand where I eat at Tuesday market every week. Older brother Pedro runs the original restaurant at Guadiana #2. Flotino’s son Danny has the stand near San Antonio church…and the list goes on but one thing is for sure: everyone is related.

In a torta or on a fresh tortilla, carnitas is at the top of my list of the best street food in SMA. Now, let’s see if you can resist going back for seconds.

Pair the Torta with a Mexican Coca Cola for a 30 peso lunch.

Andy’s Tacos
Insurgentes and Hidalgo

If you’re the kind of diner who’s interested in the pedigree of your chef, try this one. Andy was written up in the Wall Street Journal last year and that’s more than other street chefs – or even chefs for that matter – can brag about.

Andy’s is the king of the street in San Miguel and both locals and tourists get a sense of that when the late night lines are five deep.

The mere aroma of Andy’s attracts aficionados who jockey for a plate of flavorful Tacos Al Pastor. This pork is marinated in dried chilies, spices and pineapple and is slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie then covered with a spicy, red chipotle salsa.

Andy's is a favorite of partygoers looking for an after-hours feast and still intoxicated by the magic of the fiesta. 10 pesos each.

Don Santos Tacos
Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur

Don Santos earns its accolades with authentic Mexican food at this location and a satellite at the Tianguis on Tuesday.

It could be called the Tale of Two Tacos; Don Santos famous Taco de Costilla and the other taco; Taco de Res. So this is the secret: The Taco de Res is the best beef taco in San Miguel.

The thin strips of beef are cooked in a pile of intestines and chorizo. It’s so well flavored and tender you can’t stop eating them. Honestly, I could eat the beef right off the grill it’s that good. Heap on a mound of onions, cilantro and some of their remarkable salsas.

The peppery salsas have an indisputable kick that adds a whole other layer of flavor to the dishes.The red salsa is particularly popular, made with tomatillos and cascabel chilies. 9 pesos each. Opens at 6:30 PM nightly.

Note: As with a number of the streets in San Antonio, Clavel is not marked so this place is hard to find. Turn left on Refugio Sur and go down a few blocks until you get to a colorful fruit store on the corner that says San Antonio at the top. Take a left down the narrow, cobblestone street and Don Santos is in the middle of the block on the left.

Fonda Dona Reyes
Mercado Ignacio Ramirez

Dona Reyes is your beloved grandmother reincarnated. She’s owned this stand for over 46 years and she’ll fuss over you until you cry uncle and can’t eat another bite. Such is the case with the Caldo de Pollo con Arroz with a whole chicken leg and a bouquet of fresh cooked vegetables. Smother with chilies and condiments to ramp up the heat. You’ll get a jolt you’ve never experienced at breakfast before. 

Better than a sweater on a cold December morning, you get extra hugs for eating everything in the bowl. It’s mandatory; it’s your grandmother.

Who said you can’t get an adopted family and a warm meal for 50 pesos.

El Pato
Calzada de la Estacion 112

Mixiotes is the next best thing to your mother's pot roast; a traditional, pit-barbecued meat dish made of lamb that is cut with the bone and seasoned with pasilla, guajillo and spices like cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, cloves and garlic. It's then wrapped in small bundles and cooked in the ground overnight.

At this thatched-roof palapa at the end of Canal Street, Pilar and Jose Luis will convince you there is no better comfort food anywhere in Mexico and they are right. Mixiotes got my vote for the best dish in 2014 and it will get it again this year.

If it weren't for the location, this spot would have a line around the block every day. Take a doggy bag because it's even better the next day. 50 pesos.

Sierra Hamburgesas
Salida a Celeya 100 next to Pinturas Doal

Unlike most of the burgers sold on the street, these are 100% beef and taste pretty delicious, especially since I don’t get them cooked on the BBQ every day.
The picture was taken under the lights so it's safe to say it looks better in the daylight but Sierra does not open until 6:30 PM.

You’ll swear the french fries came out of the fryer at McDonalds. I want them extra-crispy and they gladly toss them back in the hot grease to pop the color up to golden brown. Like any culinary soft spot, I savor them one by one.

Get there when they open or you will likely have to eat standing up. Your choice of multiple toppings on the burger and a side of fries for 50 pesos.

Taqueria Gonzalez
133F Calzada de la Estacion

One of San Miguel’s best-kept secrets, this restaurant, located down from the bus station, has some of the best Tacos al Pastor in San Miguel. Let’s just say it runs a close second to the king; Andy’s Tacos in Centro.

 The marinated pork is slow cooked on a vertical rotisserie and not picked off until it is close to perfect; perfect as in caramelized and slightly crunchy. Top it with the colorful orange chimichurri sauce made with vinegar, oil, garlic and Chili de Arbol and you get the aftertaste that pastor lovers hunger after.

Its Mexican street cooking as it should be: fast, cheap and fabulous. Open from 6 PM - 3 AM. Cost: 10 pesos each. Count your blessings and your change.

Tacos Lupita Tacos
Section 3, Aisle 2, Tianguis de Martes

In many cultures, eating eyeballs is a food taboo but not so in Mexico. If you’ve already done all the traditional tacos, try an unlikely combination of cheeks, brains and eyes, piled on a tortilla and smothered in cilantro and onion.

Eating this portion of the brains and eyes does not guarantee that you’ll be smarter or see any better.

Savor every bite. If you swallow it too quickly, you'll miss the nuances.

Tacos Mesones
Corner San Francisco and the Jardin

Location, location, location. It’s no wonder they do an enormous business in the Jardin every night. You’ll get another version of pastor and you don’t even have to ask for the pineapple and fried onions.

I like pastor well cooked so ask them to blacken it on the vertical roaster for a bit longer than the usual. Add just a splash of salsa unless you want the heat.

Tacos Mesones owns another cart that operates nightly on the top of Mesones. 27 pesos will get you a plate of three.

Tamales La Chappis
Insurgentes by Templo del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri in front of the fountain

I hate tamales. That was until I discovered street cooks Maria de la Luz Tovar Hernandez and Educardo Alonzo Zarate Cruz making fiery tamales laced with spicy, green chilies.

The tamales are offered several different ways and always sell out early so get there when the sun comes up.

The blissful half of this breakfast is watching San Miguel come alive in the morning as you savor every spicy bite.

Sunrise isn’t suppose to taste this good. An 8 pesos experience that’s pretty darn hard to beat.