Thursday, April 23, 2015

Querétaro: El Bajío’s Rising Star

20°35′15″N 100°23′34″W. Mexico’s best kept secret. Querétaro!

With the fastest growing economy in Mexico, Querétaro is a picturesque city known for its mix of 17th and 18th century Baroque architecture and its thoroughly modern buildings. 

There is construction everywhere you look. 

Some have compared Querétaro to Alicante, Spain...minus the ocean. 

Crawl inside Querétaro and you’re likely to stay awhile. It feels just like home.

The city, known for its many jacaranda trees (street art; the buds on the street in Alamos) and green spaces, is visually one of the most appealing cities in Mexico. 

Call it a mini-Mexico City.  In fact, ask anyone who has moved here recently and many will tell you they’re from Mexico City and repositioned for a better life. Querétaro is renowned for the highest quality of life in Mexico.

The city is expected to increase in size about 35% over the next 20 years. It’s one of the safest and cleanest cities in Mexico.

Cost of living? its’ less than both Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.

Gringos? not many so better start practicing your Spanish. 

Modern? Querétaro’s downtown is the first in all of Latin America to be wireless. 

The high speed train between Querétaro and Mexico City? Not canceled, just postponed. 

Moving here? For now, I’m just excited that a city I somewhat know and love a lot is less than an hour from my doorstep.

Querétaro: The Culinary Scene

My trip to Querétaro was an eye-opener. There are not only many fine dining restaurants offering upscale Mexican food and also wonderful cafés, cafeterias, taquerias and street eats waiting to seduce the food lover.

According to Trip Advisor, there are already 371 restaurants and Querétaro continues to add premium eating spots every day.

Walking around Mercado de la Cruz is a feast for the eyes… and nose. 

Just take a look at how fresh this seafood is. The only other place I found seafood this fresh was at the Mercado de San Juan in Mexico City.

Mercado de la Cruz also happens to be one of my favorite markets in the Bajío region because just about everyone is eager to have their picture taken.

On the Wine and Cheese route between Tequisquiapan and Querétaro, there are farms producing remarkable Mexican and European artisan cheeses. The vineyards have the ideal climate and soil for making excellent wines; all testimony to the fact that Querétaro's culinary scene is flourishing.

Try the Bodegas de Cote winery at Libramiento Norponiente km. 5+900, Ezequiel Montes, for an enjoyable day trip and some out of the ordinary wine selections.

Creating "The List" 

     Photo from Chef Edgar

The list of where to eat came together rather quickly. On the first draft were the two chefs I stayed with, Edgar and Laurent. 

When we were drafting it, I asked Laurent why a certain restaurant was not on the list and he simply replied “No love in the food.” Passion is everything when it comes to cooking. 

Among the many celebrated restaurants in France where he cooked, Veracruz native Edgar was at the renowned Le Quinzième in Paris with Michelin-starred chef Cyril Lignac. 

For those of you who don't follow French chefs, Cyril Lignac is a Michelin-starred chef and well-known television personality in France, appearing on several cooking shows including those related to travel in different French regions. He owns Le Quinzième which earned him a Michelin star in 2012. Their menu highlights French ingredients such as Landes foie gras and Brittany lobster. Photo from Wikipedia.

French born Laurent is a former Mechanical Engineer turned chef. With that broad path of engineering skills at hand, he immediately applied it to cooking with impressive results.

Together as a team they make magic in the kitchen. It was an immediate coup de foudre.

One morning, I observed them making pastry for Sucre Sale Delicatessen (Av. Universidad Oriente 42 in Centro Querétaro) and I was astonished at their technique. Why did making French pastry look so easy when I knew it wasn’t?

Their new pastry shop, La Maison Gourmande, at Felipe Luna 2 in Centro historico between 5 de Mayo y Santa Cruz Church, will be open in the next few weeks.

What is the Best and Where Can I Find It?

As for the Holy Grail of what should be consumed in Querétaro, this list was drafted by Chefs Edgar and Laurent and Ernesto and Sally of Casa Peti Bed and Breakfast. All of them have an educated taste when it comes to food.

A week was not enough time to go through the entire list but every place is worthy of a visit.  

Independencia #64, Centro Historic

This restaurant, with a French cafe feel, is renowned for their sandwiches but it’s also one of my favorite breakfast spots.

Some of the best Chilaquiles made with strips of fried corn tortillas served with cheese, poached eggs, and chicken. Their secret? Pour the sauce over the dish at table so it never turns soggy before you hit the bottom of the bowl. 

Laurent was sweet on the Waffle with strawberries and bacon as if he was suddenly transported back to France with a single bite.

Cocono Restaurante Bar
Blvrd Bernardo Quintana 18, Calesa  

Blending old traditions with new techniques, people are singing the praises of this food establishment and I can see why. Every typical Mexican plate brings something different.

From eye-catching drinks like Lemonade with chia seeds and spearmint and the delicious Margarita Maracuy to meat platters grilled and served with a salsa of habanero and chile de árbol and a pile of requeson to cut the heat, just about everything at Cocono's will grab your attention…especially the service.

5DMayo Experimental
Calle 5 de Mayo 128

A 7-course menu with new and interesting flavors. 5-star and totally worth the spend. You'll leave this place wondering what's on the menu next weekend. Make a reservation in advance.

NOTE: As of October, 2015, 5DMayo Experimental has a new chef. We have not eaten the food there since this posting done so we cannot recommend this restaurant until we go back.

Elea Restaurante Griego Greek
Av. Manufactura 48-9,  Parques del Alamo, Plaza Bosques

Plenty of authentic Greek indulgences but the perfectly seasoned pork leg is just too good to pass up. 

16 Circuito a Jardin Sour

Food lesson #1: When it comes to hamburgers, calories don’t count.

They don’t get any bigger or better than this one. Supersized? Try the GordoSanto, piled high with a tower of bacon or the CardoSanto, topped with everything and then an egg. 

The salmon burger is one of the best cooked a la parilla and served with cream cheese and capers. Not sharing my fries treated to a peppering of thyme and parmesan.

La Sirena Gorda
Calz. De Los Arcos 25, Jardines de Querétaro

Just like San Miguel only bigger.Legendary at both locations for their Margarita de Jengibre. 

Logan's Beer House
De Los Arcos, Jardines de Querétaro

Order the fish and chips and select from a large variety of artisan craft beers from all over the world. Come thirsty and stay late. Great views of the aqueduct.

Taberna El Quillo
Paseo de la Republica 135, Cuitláhuac

This classic tavern-restaurant has an extensive menu that's hard to narrow down but Spanish natives swear this is the most authentic ticket in town.

The chef dishes out so many impressive eats, you’ll want to start planning your next vacation in Alicante.

Alioli Gastro Bar
16 de Sept #28

There is a reason this place is often the #1 restaurant in Queretaro. The food is prepared by people who have been trained in Michelin Star restaurants in Spain.

In other words, as Laurent would say, there is so much love in this food; you wouldn’t need any other reason to come back.

Tikua Sur Este
Ignacio Allende 13

Mexican moles and pickled grasshoppers? A varied menu with an emphasis on Oaxaca, Yucatan, Chiapas, Capeche and Tabasco cooking.

Tikua is a favorite that will not disappoint even the most hard to please eater. Look for the superb recommendations for vegetarians and vegans. Sit on the patio and drink in the murals...and San Miguel's favorite beer, Dos Aves.

Cenaduria Blas
Av 5 De Mayo 125

Indulge yourself with pickled pork legs, turkey and all your favorite regional cooking. With over 50 years of history, this place has a record to maintain. Don’t leave without trying the gorditas.

El9 Restaurante Lounge Yucateco 
Blvd. Bernardo Quintana #9, Alamos 2a Secc

You would think by now I was beginning to feel a bit of overkill when it came to Chamorro. Never too much where this Chamorro al Pibil is concerned because it’s better than almost everywhere else in Querétaro.

Hacienda La Laborcilla 
Prolongación Corregidora Norte 911-Bis, Parques Residenciales

This visual stunner is like no other in the city. A renovated hacienda, you’ll want to come here for the architecture but the food, wine and service are superb draws as well.
Fine cuts of meat and a great wine list make this worthy of a repeat. 

Maria y Su Bici
Calle 5 de Mayo 91, Centro

Go for genuine Oaxaca and grab an order of the Tacos de Chapulines with a glass of tasty, chili-dusted margaritas.

This rather touristy restaurant has some of the most extraordinary decor around so bring your camera.

Love thy neighbor as the communal tables give you a chance to get to know everyone in the place before you finish your dessert.

Cafe Breton
Andador Libertad #82

The owner is from Bretagne and the food is dependably French. A great breakfast and lunch so you pick.

My philosophy? You can never get your fill of French food so go again tomorrow.

Restaurante Orange
Meson Santa Rosa Hotel
Calle Luis Pasteur Sur 17, Centro Historico

The see-and-be-seen spot for coffee or a drink. Best to dress like Angelica Rivera. Not the most warm and cozy owners but a charming site to watch the beautiful people of Querétaro walk by.

San Miguelito
Andador 5 de Mayo 39, Centro Historico

Owned by the brother-in-law of Claudia, SMA’s beloved pie professional, you’ve got to go for a drink and an appetizer (the beef carpaccio) at this visual tour de force. 

Pure fiesta décor that’s tiled inside and out. Stunning, one-of-a-kind table place settings you’ll want to gather up and take home with you. Too bad you don’t have seating for 200+

Calle Angela Peralta 7, Centro Historico

Enchiladas verdes con pollo and a homemade milkshake for breakfast? Let’s get a little adventurous because this place is a slice of Mexico… 50 years ago.

One of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the city is always full to capacity but the sweets make it totally worth the wait.

5de Mayo 99A 

This petite coffee house serves high-quality brew from Veracruz. Ask them to open a bin and soak in the aroma of the beans.

Drink up and savor the history. I got excited just thinking the beans were picked by worn hands and voyaged all the way across Mexico to end up in my cup. A daily indulgence.

Bar Alquimia
5 de Mayo 71, Centro

Just one block from Plaza de Armas, this attractive, little cantina-style bar caught my eye and it was love at first sight. Get there early or you are likely to spend the night standing. Great place to meet locals who will end up being your BFF’s by the end of the night. Open from 18:00 to 2:30 hrs; Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Street Eats... 

Don Chamorro
73 y 74, La cruz

When the owner pulled out a leg so I could see just how much meat is on one, I almost dove in the pot. That’s how good this dish looked.

Smother the best pork leg taco in Querétaro with onions, cilantro and pico de gallo and you’re in for a serious feast. Bring a bib and a pocketful of change.

Las Tortugas
Anda 5 De Mayo 27

Institution status? This carnita torta with its secret tomato sauce has been served by Las Tortugas for over 59 years.

Also flavoring this mouth-watering torta? Plain old mustard. I am addicted to the combination which became my breakfast for the two mornings while I was there.
This pork Sloppy Joe was more than an appetizing deal at 39 pesos each.

Tortas Nico
Calle Independencia #13

The line at this torta shop convinced me that something inspirational was coming out of the kitchen.

Try the Torta de Milanesa which was the favorite of everyone waiting to get a first bite.
A tasty, local choice, where nobody’s leaving until their number is up.

Las Gorditas del Portal 
Corregidora 15B Sur

Chalk up another one for the vegetarians. My new favorite gordita is stuffed with just two ingredients: Guacamole and Oaxaca cheese. 

There’s something in the Guacamole that makes this better than just about every other one I’ve tried…

and true to the name, I ate a bunch of them.

La Cabaña
Avenida Constituyentes 130

Best Cabrito in town? The mastermind behind the cooking has been here since 1957. 
Rivals the famous El Rey del Cabrito in Monterrey? You tell me.

This is one local specialty where you have to eat the skin, it’s that good. Go for another helping. No vegetarians allowed.

Barbacoa Santiago
Carretera Mexico-Queretaro Km. 152, San Juan del Río, QRO

This cash only place off the highway is now world-famous. Blame it on Chowzter, the gastronomy powerhouse out of London who awarded Barbacoa Santiago with the title of “best taco in the world.” Since then, it’s seen carloads of visitors hungry for both the food and the experience. BEST TACO IN THE WORLD

This pit-cooked, Mexican-style barbacoa is a flavor epiphany. Bring a $20 bill and call it the best food ritual in Querétaro. Can we go again tomorrow?

Other tasty distractions …

Sabores Boutique Gourmet
Av Universidad 33, Centro Histórico

This place is packed with things to stir up your taste buds. A routine stop on its wine tasting circuit will trigger your addiction to all of its outstanding reds.

Juan B. Alcocer 236, Candiles, Qro.

Expect the wurst because there’s nothing better than wonderful homemade sausages made to order using old world recipes and ingredients.

Roll out the BBQ and order a barrel of anything that slightly resembles sauerkraut. Make up a batch of German potato salad, close your eyes and swear this isn’t Berlin. I’m so there.

The Food Trucks…

Querétaro's food trucks gather once a month on Friday and Saturday to put on a not-so-ordinary feast.

Some of the best food comes from these mobile eateries; taste the burgers at La Burguesia and Bisrroka and have a bite at one a favorite of my favorite trucks, Chef on Fuego, who also spends a fair amount of time in San Miguel.

Sweet Dreams…

Instead of making this a day-trip destination or a place to shop as many people in the area do, I suggest going for a week; you’ll want to stay a lot longer.

LA CASA DE LOS CHEFS is in the Alamos section of town and an easy 20 minute walk to town. You’ll walk through green spaces with walking paths much of the way.

The chefs have a beautiful French style bedroom with the most comfortable bed and linens. I slept like a baby and had a great week with Edgar and Laurent.

If you want the chefs to cook for you, be sure to ask for pricing and menu selections in advance. Don’t miss this experience because the food was beyond magnificent.

Book this room with Airbnb at the link below but please leave some nights for me.

Casa Peti

Many of you remember Ernesto from Red Tree House in Mexico City. So happy that he is one step closer to San Miguel.

When I went for a visit, the space was starting to come alive. Sally was planting gorgeous flowers to pave the center courtyard and Ernesto’s sister Alexandra, the head architect, had all the tile designs laid out in her head. Getting them done is just a matter of time. It is a huge work in progress and they currently have 4 rooms completed with one of them already occupied by a long-term guest.

When they’re completed, you'll want to bring your extended family, a wedding party or a large group of friends to this property; it's the perfect spot to reconnect right in the middle of downtown Querétaro. Just don't forget to invite me to the party. 

Book at this airbnb link :


You can take a full weekend just for shopping in Querétaro . You’ll want to check out these stores along with the new Antea LifeStyle Center at Paseo de la Republica with many high-end stores and restaurants.

Luba Arte Dulce
Calle 5 de Mayo #100

An amusing candy store stocked with the sweetest of treats. Go here and you’ll remember why you’re still a big kid at heart.

Hecho a Mano y Mas
Calle 5 de Mayo #60

Want something authentically Querétaro? This is the place to buy it with artists from all over the state contributing to the stash.

Take a part of Mexico home with you…

Don’t you just love it when people accuse you of always picking the perfect gift? Abrazos pretty much has all of my Mexico-manias coveredtequila, piñatas, mariachis, Day of the Dead, fiestas and siestas, fireworks, Virgins, Frida’s, rosa mexicano, chili peppers, hugs and kisses…

Check out these Querétaro shops that carry products from Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs by Patrice Wynn.

You may even want to buy something for yourself.

Reforma 80 

Andador Libertad 35A