Thursday, February 23, 2017

Taking A Bite out of San Miguel de Allende: The Best Eats of 2016

From the renowned Chefs table at Aperi to a street taco at Don Santos, a burger, fries and a malt at Birdie’s Burgers to an Argentinean steak at Buenos Aires Bistro or a ceviche at La Prada, San Miguel has it all.

For visitors and locals alike, we think some of the best things to see in SMA can be found on a plate. The lineup of SMA’s notable new restaurants in 2016 is diverse including Jacinto 1930, Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Quince Rooftop, Birdies Burgers, Taco Lab, El Vergel Bistro and Market, Antonia Bistro SMA, Vino + Tapas, Marsala cocina con acento, Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, OMA, Ba-Bite, La Crepe du Chef, Pork Belly, Fat Boys, and CARNEVINOGrill. In fact, if you didn’t get Mi Bistro 300, Mon Bistro and the new food truck Mio Bistrock SMA mixed up, then you’re further ahead of the game than most.

After going on an eating spree in both Lima and Oaxaca last year, both considered to be some of the best cities in the world to eat, we’re convinced more than ever that SMA is ahead of the game when it comes to delivering great eats to food enthusiasts on many different levels and budgets.

With over 100 categories, all of the restaurants listed below are a mark as to why living in SMA is the best place to be for a food lover in 2017.  

Buen Provecho!

Best Amatriciana: Bacco Restaurante at Hotel Sautto, Hernandez Macias #59
This old world setting serves up a Mexican version of Amatriciana - fresh tomatoes, smoked pancetta, garlic, onion and Italian basil. Their bread – a crispy, Italian cracker - is so addictive; you wouldn’t get away without devouring at least a second basket. The enchanting patio is lit up like Christmas at night.
Best Argentinean: Buenos Aires Bistro, Mesones #62
This restaurant delivers a compelling Mexican spin on superb Argentinean food.  World class cuisine with the best steaks in town and so many great sides and desserts, - like the burrata salad and the Argentinean version of Bananas Foster, - you’ll wonder which one is their signature dish. We love every last one of them.  

Best Appetizers: The Restaurant, Sollano 16
One of our favorite dinners in SMA, it’s inspired by the best flavors of Asia. Eggrolls and Pot Stickers are a great split along with your favorite bottle of wine. Ask expert wine director, Adrian Huerta, for a pairing suggestion.

Best Artichoke: Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Codo 36
Say cheese to one of the most stunning dishes in SMA - this artichoke made with parmesan, goat cheese and garlic butter. And that’s just the starter. Don’t forget to grab a bib on the way in.

Best Asian: Casa de Cocinas, San Antonio
Go inside of Chef Michael Coon’s kitchen and you’ll find some of the best Asian flavors in SMA from Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese. Get on his mailing list to find out when he’s cooking your favorite cuisine. Veggie options are just as good as the meaty ones. Call it impossible when it comes to picking a favorite dish. Behind every great meal is a story and Michael is the master storyteller. There hardly a place in the world he hasn’t been to eat.

Runner up: My House
Get your cookbook out until someone decides to open a restaurant with great Asian fare. At my house, we survive by stir frying a pan of Kung Poa Chicken weekly.

2 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 egg white 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
2 cups oil, for deep frying 
1/2 cup skinless roasted peanuts 
10 whole dried hot chili peppers 
2 scallions, cut into 1/2 in. lengths (or onion cut into thin slices)
2 garlic cloves, minced 

1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic 
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce 
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sherry wine 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 
1/4 cup chicken stock 
1 teaspoon cornstarch 
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil 

Combine chicken, salt, egg white, and cornstarch. Mix well by hand. Set aside. In small bowl, blend sauce ingredients. Set aside. Heat oil to 350 in a wok. Deep fry chicken until it separates and is almost cooked. Remove by draining through strainer into another pot. Deep fry peanuts over moderate heat until golden brown. Remove. Reheat 2 tbs. oil in wok till smoking hot. Stir-fry red chili peppers till they are dark red. Lower the heat. Add scallions and garlic. Stir-fry 30 seconds. Pour in chicken. Stir-fry on high for 1 minute. Add sauce. Stir-fry until heated and glazed thoroughly. Add peanuts.

Best Bacon: SaBio organic bacon from Natura in Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123.
We can’t think of any ingredient that we would bow down to other than bacon. It’s a little pricy but the flavor will convince you that the quality of this bacon is well worth the splurge.

Best Bakery: El Petit Four, Calle Mesones # 99-1
The best French pastries and tarts are made with pure butter and you have a wide selection at El Petit Four. We love this bakery for a hundred reasons, including the owners, Chefs Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero. They also offer one of the best cooking classes in SMA.

Best Bar Food: La Azotea, Umaran #6
The star of the show: the original Jicama Taco topped with lightly breaded shrimp, fried leeks, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce. It’s one of the best tacos in SMA and we can’t get enough of them, no matter how many we eat.

Best Barbacoa: Rodriquez Family Barbacoa, Tianguis de Martes
We’ve eaten at just about every barbacoa restaurant in SMA and can’t find another one we liked better…for the second year in a row. A favorite at San Miguel's Tianguis de los Martes. it’s a weekly routine for many locals, especially when the weather turns cold. Hungry shoppers are lined up to get a cup so go early.

Best BBQ: Gaby’s Mexican Style BBQ Ribs at Aguamiel cocina rustica, Pipila 3A
With no sign of a great, BBQ joint surfacing in SMA any time soon, we get our fix from Chef Gaby Green’s Mexican version of BBQ ribs; the best we’ve found for fork-tender pork bathed in a semi-sweet sauce. Just follow the smell as you walk up the hill on Pipila; it permeates the neighborhood for blocks.

Runner Up: Fire up your grill and get cooking. We heard you’re the best BBQ chef in town. You don’t need a Green Egg to prove it, just good Texas brisket and a hungry group of friends.

Best Beef Tacos: Don Santos Tacos, Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur
There are some iconic foods in SMA and beef tacos are one of them. With some of the best street food in town, Don Santos also has a satellite location at the Tianguis de los Martes that’s standing room only on Tuesdays.

Best Beer: Cervecería Dos Aves
Who doesn’t love a Belgian Blond? From the first craft brewery in SMA, multi-metal winner Cervecería Dos Aves nails it once again. A pleasure paring with the BBQ ribs from Aguamiel.

Best Bone Marrow: Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
When it comes to eating bone marrow, we have just one rule: we don’t share. This is the most fabulous bone marrow we had all year. It’s not always on the menu but ask to order it ahead of time.

Best Breakfast:

Breakfast is our favorite meals of the day and there are plenty of restaurants in SMA that offer memorable ones. Those listed below are exceptional.

High End: Moxi, Hotel Matilda, Calle de Aldama #53
If Moxi Restaurant by Chef Enrique Olvera is high-end, then why does one of our favorite breakfasts – yogurt, fresh fruit and granola - cost less than 100 pesos? This is one of the least expensive, best, healthy meals we’ve eaten all year. A meal with a pool, fine china instead plastic and a cloth napkin instead of paper gets my vote every time. You could go for weekend brunch but we like the attention we get during the week.


Lavanda Café, Ignacio Hernandez Macias 87
How does the chef makes these perfect poached eggs look like little balls of Oaxaca cheese? I love everything that Chef Karla cooks, including the Poached Eggs Ranchero style and her Cazuela de huevos. We go when they open at 8:30 AM to avoid the long line, especially on the weekends.

Café Oso Azul, Zacateros 17
This cast-iron skillet, sizzling to the touch, is filled with Huevos Mexicanas: a combination of eggs, tomatoes, onion, cilantro and cheese. Add on a side order of delicious, homemade Italian sausage. Typically Scandinavian with its white walls and blue-washed wooden tables and chairs; you might even think for a moment you're in Denmark instead of San Miguel. Owner Jens is a charming host and serves a delicious cup of coffee to pair with your eggs.

El Rincon de Don Tomas, Portal de Guadalupe 2
I love mornings and this place has two things going for it...people watching and Huevos Otomi, a hearty bowl of scrambled eggs in a bean stew. It will remind you that food doesn't have to be fancy to be good. Perfect for a cold morning while you’re watching the sun come up over SMA.
Home Cooked:
For recipes, we often source I am a food blog. A fan of Momofuku, we love that they have cooked and eaten every recipe in the Momofuku cookbook. Here’s our favorite breakfast we had for the first time last fall, cooked by food and travel blogger, Valen Dawson:

Bacon and Egg Yakiudon

4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch slices
1 brick frozen sanuki udon
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dashi powder
1 teaspoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 soft boiled egg, cut in half
Sliced green onions, to serve

Soak your frozen udon in a bowl of warm water making sure that all of the strands of noodles are separate. Drain and set aside. Over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp in a cast iron pan or heavy bottomed non-stick skillet. Drain off the majority of the fat and then add the drained udon noodles as well as the soy sauce, dashi powder, and sugar. Toss to coat the noodles and turn the heat to medium-high to slightly reduce the sauce, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off, taste and season with freshly ground pepper to taste. Garnish with the sliced green onions and soft boiled egg. Enjoy hot!

Best Bread: La Crepe du Chef, Insurgentes #120
We like anything that’s loaded with bacon, like Max’s cheese bread. He also bakes one with loaded with caramelized onion and another with olives. The best bread and rolls in town, you’ll be lucky not to devour them on your walk home.

Best Bunuelos: Quince Rooftop, Cuna de Allende #15
Chef Gonzalo Martinez has a limited menu of postres and we can’t resist anything on the menu, especially these soft Bunuelo fritters that are lightly sugared and served with ice cream and fruit.

Best Burrata: Buenos Aires Bistro, Mesones #62
Burrata with pan seared pears and Arugula with a balsamic reduction is addictive. This meal comes with a price; see if you can leave without ordering one to go.

Best Cajun (Gumbo): Hanks New Orleans Café and Oyster Bar Hidalgo #12
It's not the Duck Fat Gumbo from The Tavern in Tulsa but hey, 1,985 km from Tulsa, it's the closest thing you're going to get this side of the border. Made with chicken, sausage and shrimp, it's the warm-up before you boogie in the parade.

Best Cake: Chocolate Cake at Starbucks, Canal #3
I dismissed the pastries from Starbucks until a friend told me about the chocolate cake. This cake is so rich, enhanced with large pockets of fudge. Borderline gooey, it’s a sweet morning pick-me-up that makes a plate of bacon and eggs seem pretty boring.

Quince Rooftop, Cuna de Allende #15
The best cake in town is full of corn flavor and so moist and sweet, you’ll never get away without ordering another helping. You’re stronger than we are if you do.

Best Caldo: Andy’s Tacos, Insurgentes and Hidalgo
An impressive opening to any Taco feast, this Caldo is made with the scraps, bones and drippings of the meat. It’s as intoxicating as it looks.

Best Carnitas: Bautista Brothers, Gudiana #2
Bautista Brothers is a SMA institution and we were recently reunited with the original at Guadiana #2, the heart of the Bautista Brothers operation, where everything is made fresh. The meat attached to the bone is insanely delicious so ask for the rib (Costilla) when you place your order.

Best Chamorro: Chamorrito Calle Heroes #3, San Antonio
This place is dedicated to pork Chamorro; pork shank cooked in a vat of fat that’s so tender you’ll likely to be an aficionado on the first bite.

Best Cheap Eat: El Tucan, Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 56
Alex cooks everything fresh so expect a short wait. We learned to make a simple mole from his mother, who can do it with her eyes closed. His flautas are the best thing on the menu, fried but covered in a healthy salad. The American BLT comes with an overly generous serving of bacon; we provide the bread. Good burgers, chicken wings and chicken fingers. Most things on the menu are under 50 pesos.

Best Cheese: La Romita, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
We love the cheese at Quesos del Rebano outside Queretaro from Maestra Quesera, Gabriela Flores Silva, sister of Marene Flores, the pastry chef at Jacinto 1930 but when we can’t get over to Queretaro, our favorite local place for cheese is the new La Romita in Mercado Sano. Eating their blue cheese is a heavenly experience.

Best Chicken Wings: El Tucan, Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 56
Taking its place second only to the burger as our next-favorite meal in SMA, we love Alex’s version of crispy, chicken wings. We can devour an extra-large plate even without the TV.

Best Chilaquiles: Aguamiel cocina rustica, Pipila 3A
We’ve eaten Chilaquiles all over Mexico and Chef Gabriela Green Pizarro’s are the best.
A tower of the best, crispy corn tortillas play on flavors because you get both the red and green sauce, much like huevos divorciados. Perfectly cooked beans are peppered throughout the layers. The egg is then topped with fresh chorizo. Dig in!

Best Chocolates: dolcenero, Doce 18, Relox 18
Chocolate art and design is inspired by the obsessions of two artists: Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Try the one that’s loaded with Mezcal. A melting moment you just can’t savor without smiling.

Best Churros: San Agustín Chocolates & Churros, San Francisco 21
Life's too much fun being a big kid for the second year in a row. Duena Margarita Gralia is a beloved telenovela star and the walls in this restaurant are a shrine to her career. Not giving up sugar any time soon after tasting these. Try one drizzled with sweet, warm cajeta; it’s one of our favorite bites of sweet.

Best Cocktail: Mole Martini at Jacinto 1930, Relox 14
The Mole Martini is a delicious classic from one of SMA’s best restaurants, Jacinto 1930, where the cocktails get the same respect from beverage director Adrian Garcia-Evans as the food does from Chef Matteo Salas, one of Mexico’s Top Chefs.

Best Cocktail - Non-Alcholic: Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
Gabriel Avila creates enchanting cocktails with one significant omission: booze. The drinks are balanced but not too sweet and always makes use of the freshest ingredients including herbs and flowers. We made it through three weeks of detox by drinking these celebratory creations.

Best Coffee: Zenteno Café, Hernandez Macias Esquina Codo y Tenerias
Beans from Veracruz are freshly ground and the crowd at the door is a confirmation of the coffee’s great taste. Go check out the second location that just opened up on Zacateros and Canal in a marvelous, old house.

Best Cookie: Artesana Boutique, Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
Chocolate ecstasy and the best 15 pesos you’ll ever spend, this cookie is from the bakery at the Rosewood, who creates some of the top pastries and confectionery in town.

Best Crepe: La Crepe du Chef, Insurgentes #120
The smell of butter and buckwheat fills this petite restaurant from the open kitchen. Roll them up and you have the ideal fast food to go. Feel good French that’s seriously delicious.

Best Croissant: Buonforno Casa de Arte y Pan, Sterling Dickinson 33
There’s no such thing as a bad Croissant and we’ll admit the choice was a difficult one. We just loved this one a little bit more than all the other ones we tried. I know, it’s a tough job, especially when it comes to butter duty.

Best Dessert: Pavola at Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
We’d pick a dessert over a main course any day. This Pavola not only wowed the guests at the chefs table at SMAFF last year, it’s also the favorite of almost everyone we know who loves Chef Sofia Antillon’s desserts as much as we do.

Best Doughnuts: Panaderia La Buena Vida, Hernandez Macias 72 Int. 5
How to make a big girl cry? Tell me I can't have one of Panaderia La Buena Vida's doughnuts at the Organic Market on Saturday morning. Oversize in orange, chocolate, vanilla or sugar. Buy more than you think you need; by early afternoon, they’re history.

Best Empanadas: Panaderia La Buena Vida, Hernandez Macias 72 Int. 5
These tasty, Mexican turnovers are splendid, especially when filled with ham and cheese (jamon con queso). In fact, we can recommend the entire list Panaderia La Buena Vida makes; we’ve tried and love them all.

Best Enchilada: Tacos Don Felix, Fray Juan de San Miguel 15, St. San Rafael
This enchilada is chicken and pork topped in both a red and green sauce. You’ll need a fishbowl Margarita to wash them down. Go for double or nothing - Don Felix just gave you permission to have two.  

Best English Muffins: Buonforno Casa de Arte y Pan, Sterling Dickinson 33
Good ingredients make the difference like the ones used to bake these English Muffins from Buonforno Casa de Arte y Pan. We use the leftovers to make a tasty French toast covered with a pile of bacon. They don’t keep or freeze well so eat them the day you buy them.

Best Fast Food: Birides Burgers and Taco Lab, Relox 18
Chef Donnie Masterton has redefined fast food so now you have two more reasons not to cook. A delicious burger, fries and a malt or tacos served with remarkable fillings, these two restaurants are side-by-side making your choice for dinner definitely a last-minute decision - the only thing we can live with considering we never know what we want to eat until the eleventh-hour.

Best Fish Tacos: Berlin Bar and Bistro, Umaran 19
Yes, even I broke the rules and ate seafood inland. At Berlin, these fish tacos come with a spicy, dipping sauce. Lightly breaded, all we could taste was how good the catfish is. These tacos are only served in the bar and are not on the regular menu. Get there at 5:00 PM when they open. It fills up quickly.

Best Flautas: El Tucan, Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 56
With a massive salad served on top, you’ll forget these flautas were ever fried in a pan of oil to begin with. Alex cooked in Chicago for many years and speaks textbook English so you can leave your Spanish dictionary at home. All you need is some small change for this meal.

Best Flavor: Pisco Sour
My friend Roasrio’s bar, Huaringas in the Miraflores section of Lima, is filled with altars in tribute to the Pisco culture of Peru and decorated in the elements: earth, air, and water. We savor the flavor of Pisco because it reminds us of everything we love about Peru.

Best French Food: El Vergel Bistro and Market, Camino a El Vergel 37880
We don’t have to give you any reasons why we love French food; you already know. From the Steak Frites - a mouth-watering ribeye with pommes frites, laden with butter to the French onion soup - lightly caramelized onions and good broth and plenty of good bread for dunking - anyone who loves French food eats at least two desserts. A gorgeous sanctuary just outside of SMA.

Best French Fry: Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar, Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
What’s the definition of delicious? Just out of the fryer hot and covered in salt with a side aioli. What’s not to love about a dish with a feel-good factor of 10.

Runner up: Luna de Queso, Jesus #2 and Moxi at Hotel Matilda, Aldama 53

Best German: Berlin Bar Umaran #19
A fun happy hour with a Cheers-like atmosphere, Berlin provides that warm, fuzzy feeling every time we go. We love it for the German comfort food including the delicious, homemade sausages. 

Best Gin: Onilikan Gin
When I declared “I hate Gin”, Adrian Garcia-Evans, the Beverage Director at Jacinto 1930, Aperi and Cumpanio came to the rescue and had me try Onilikan Gin, a 2015 bronze medal winner in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Onilikan Gin is made by a distillery in Mazatlan and uses a base of agave and sinaloa fruits. It's made from 100% Blue weber agave and because it's not made in Jalisco, it cannot be called a tequila. This was the second agave based gin we’ve had that didn’t taste like last years Christmas tree.

Best Gluten Free: Postres Artesanales at 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.  

Best Gordita:

High End: Chicharron Gorditas at Jacinto 1930, Doce 18, Relox 18
We can’t get off ordering this dish, which is one of the most popular things on the menu. Taste one and you’ll know why this is one of our favorite dishes. Chef Matteo Salas changes up the menu frequently, depending on what is in season.

Street: Gorditas: Bautista Brothers, Gudiana #2
Crumbs or migajas are what’s left in the bottom of the pan after cooking carnitas. They are tucked into a pocket of masa and hand-formed into a neatly stuffed gordita. Full of magnificent pork flavor and so rich, we can only handle one on a split with a friend.

Best Hamburger: Birdies Burgers, Doce 18, Relox 18
Chef Donnie Masterton has got the corner on Burgers in this town. After I’ve come down from eating the gourmet burgers for dinner on Thursday night at The Restaurant, we opt for the burgers from Birdie’s. If we’re going to eat a burger, we want a good one that's so delicious and sloppy it takes a stack of napkins to get to the finish. There is no getting enough of the best burger in town no matter how many times you eat it.

Runner up: La Canica,Pila Seca #2
Asian burger with homemade chips; only a hamburger made with high-quality meat can taste this good.

Best Happy Hour: How to spend $200 pesos?

Aguamiel cocina rustica, Pipila 3A
You’ll always be in high spirits no matter what you choose: a Soup or Salad plus a main course and a margarita, national beer, soda or iced tea for $200.

Berlin Bar and Bistro, Umaran 19
Two drinks, an order of fish tacos, add a tip for great service and you’ve just spent under $200 pesos. You’ll leave happy with plenty of money in your wallet for another round tomorrow night.

Best Hard Shell Taco: Taco Lab, Relox 18
What’s the best meal deal in Doce-18?? Without a doubt, Taco Lab’s three crispy taco combination, listed under appetizers. Try a combination plate - one each of Pork Belly, Fish and Short Rib. Our Sunday morning taco fix.

Best Hot Chocolate: Panio (Cumpanio), Doce 18, Relox 18
How to get through the winter, or the summer for that matter - Baileys Hot Chocolate with Cookie Butter and Cajeta Cream. The topping is so thick you can practically stand a spoon in it. Save room for some of their incredible desserts.

Best Huevos Rancheros: Lavanda Café, Ignacio Hernandez Macias 87
The taste will astonish even the most die-hard Eggs Benedict lover who has never given this Mexican gold standard a second look. Perfectly cooked eggs are topped with Chef Karla’s tomato-chili sauce; a recipe that’s been in the family for years. Art on a plate you’ll crave long after you pay the tab.

Best Huarache Huarache Rancheros, El Huarache Veloz, San Juan de Dios Market
Since 1986, this stand in the Mercado San Juan de Dios makes fresh huaraches; an oblong, masa base that is dressed with selected toppings such as salsa, potatoes, onions, or meat then covered with a pile of ranchero cheese. We love this place so much its’ taken the honors two years in a row.

Best Ice Cream: Burnt Caramel Sundae with Marshmallow and Peanuts at The Restaurant, Sollano #16
Give into temptation because this superb dessert takes sweet indulgence to the next level. The custom made Ambrosia ice cream is topped with caramel then laced with marshmallow and a sprinkling of cacahuates. Throw out the calorie book on this one. We still love this dessert after three years of eating it a lot.

Runner up: Chef Cecy Alvarez’s Mango Granita at MiVida Restaurant, Calle Hernandez Macias #97

Best Italian:

In town: MiVida Restaurant, Calle Hernández Macias #97
From their homemade pizza on Sunday to their amazing, tender pork cheek, this restaurant serves up authentic Italian food that’s so high-quality, you’ll want to make this a weekly stop on your food-lover rounds of SMA. Outstanding wines, appetizers and desserts. Ask them about the regal private room for romantic, candlelit dinners.

Out of town: Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, Camino Real a Marroquin de Abajo 1
This restaurant, with beautiful views of the SMA countryside, is owned by an Italian that’s so passionate about her food culture she insists everything should taste just like home. What looks good at the market or in her garden dictates what’s on Chef Laura Buccheri’s menu. You wouldn’t get more authentic Italian food anywhere in SMA.

Best Japanese Delica Mitsu San Miguel de Allende, Calzada de Luz #49, Guadalupe
The food tastes pure, clean and simple. We like everything that Delica Mitsu does, especially this Japanese noodle salad.

Best Juice: Genesis, Relox 34B
They select some of the best fruit and squeeze it fresh in front of you; reasons enough for it to be our favorite go-to spot for fresh made juice.

Best Lamb: neXtia, Nemesio Diez 10
From Chef Alonso Dominquez: Lamb with mashed membreo, mashed sweet potato, plums, peach, mashed onion, chocolate air and tamrind sauce. We find this dish irresistible for its beautiful presentation and heavenly flavors.

Best Local Spirit: Bacio del Sole Limoncello
People have been growing lemons on the cliff of the Amalfi coast since the early Middle Ages but growing them in SMA is another story. Owner Renee Markulin uses her Grandmothers recipe that is so creamy good, you wonder why you settled for drinking other Limoncello all these years.

Best Mac and Cheese: El Vergel Bistro and Market, Camino a El Vergel 37880
Seriously, we can’t think of a single Mac and Cheese that’s as good as this Lyonnais Macaroni and Gruyere cheese with red wine braised Oxtail. You went to the gym today so have a second plate. We like to eat it by the bucketful.

Best Macaron: Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Codo 36
Macarons are as much about looks and style as they are about taste. We can easily go through a dozen or two of this French confectionery in a single sitting. These beautiful gold ones were made by the golden guy himself, Chef Pablo Nicscio.

Runner up:The Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11 and Le Macaron Boutique, Doce 18.

Best Margarita: Aguamiel cocina rustica, Pipila 3A
What made tequila’s success was the Margarita, the most ordered drink in the world. This classic Margarita acquires a hearty boost when Jalapenos are added. Made with all natural, fresh ingredients, the only thing that you’ll be missing the morning after is a hangover…that is unless you drink the bar dry. Don’t give in no matter how much you’re tempted.

Best Mediterranean: Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias 48
Finally, a good Mediterranean restaurant in town! From the homemade pita bread with za'atar and Tzatziki to her delicious take on rib eye tacos and our new favorite, the caramel pudding, the food is both delicious and fresh. Cheer on Chef Marcela Bolano in this season’s series of Top Chef Mexico.

Best Mexican: Jacinto 1930, Doce 18, Relox 18
One of the reasons we live in Mexico is to eat the food at restaurants like Jacinto 1930. Our choice for best new restaurant of 2016, it’s the showpiece of Doce 18. The menu is simple but elegant Mexican and there’s absolutely nothing on the menu that we don’t love two times over.

Best Mezcal: Tierra de Canto
We stopped short of looking for a great Mezcal when we discovered this one from Oaxaca at the Lamb and Mezcal festival this past year. Not only were we crazy about the taste but we also love the people who create it.

Best Mole:La Canica,Pila Seca #2
We’ve had our share of moles this past year but this one made by Chef Luis Pablo Dominquez is unforgettable; made with red fruits and served over a mouth-watering Lechon.

Best Menudo Dona Bola, Corner of Calle Calzada de La Luz and Calle Amado Nervo
With 50 kilos of tripe each week, Doña Bola's starts the cooking process every Thursday morning with both tripe and pork trotters (pigs’ feet).You wouldn't find this one in the guidebooks; it's all word of mouth and totally worth the Sunday morning cultural experience.

Best Mixiotes: El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes, Calzada de la Estacion 175
El Pato is on the rise... now #24 of 327 restaurants in SMA. The next best thing to your mother's pot roast, Mixiotes is a traditional, pit-barbecued meat dish made of lamb that is cut with the bone and seasoned, wrapped in small bundles and cooked in the ground overnight. If it weren't for the location, this spot would have a line around the block every day. Worth the repeat for the second year in a row.

Best Mushrooms: Arif Towns Alonso’s Hongos Comestibles y Medicinales, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
No arguments here; Arif always has the pick of the crop. Ask him about his mushroom foraging tours for a great day trip from SMA. We quit counting the varieties we found in Santa Rosa de Lima.

Best Onion Rings: Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar, Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
All the flavors we love in one little bowl: sweet onions, chilies and Aioli.  

Runner up: Hanks New Orleans Café and Oyster Bar, Hidalgo #12

Best Parrillada: Don Lupe Grill, Pila Seca 34-B
The carnivores dream we can’t stop thinking about: the Parrillada. There’s nothing like a combination of steak, chicken, and chorizo with a smidgen of shrimp to get you really excited about BBQ. Don Lupe takes this category for the second year in a row.

Best Pasta: Aperi, Quebrada 101
I always have time for a little pasta therapy from the kitchen of Chef Matteo Salas at Aperi. The oxtail flavors inside this ravioli, is the triple P: pure pasta perfection.

Best Pasta Carbonara: Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, Camino Real a Marroquin de Abajo 1
From Chef Laura Buccheri, this dish is absolute bellissimo because we love anything that’s loaded with bacon and cheese. Also served daily at her other restaurant, Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita, inside Mercado SANO, Ancha de San Antonio 123.

Best Pate: The Restaurant, Sollano 16
Made in SMA but tastes like Paris, we were just getting ready to go back to France for good pate when Chef Donnie Masterton came up this brandy turkey liver crostini with pears and pickled shallots for Thanksgiving and saved us about $5,000 US.  

Best Peruvian: La Parada, Recreo #94
Chef Alexandra Gutt is responsible for heightening the profile of mouth-watering, Peruvian flavors in San Miguel for another year. This restaurant has consistently great food and is always in the top ten on Trip Advisor. The ceviches at La Parada are legendary. We discovered this restaurant is as good as most of the places we ate at in Lima last year. Go for the chicken livers and savor the Pisco Sours.

Best Pie: Claudias Bakery, Colonia San Antonio
Claudia Martin del Campo makes these delicious sweet and savory pies to order and we have to say, after three years, we’re still partial to her lemon meringue. Look for her at La Pulga.

Best Pita: Genesis, Relox 34B
Fresh made daily, these wheat pitas are perfect for a sandwich when you need a change from your daily bread: the tortilla. Other healthy items to eat with bargain prices.

Best Pizza: MiVida Restaurant, Calle Hernández Macias 97
We can’t wait for a MiVida kind of Sunday every week. This dish isn’t new but it’s the best kept secret in SMA. It’s only available on Sunday night because the dough ferments for 5 days before it’s turned into an incredible pizza topped with homemade Italian Sausage and parmesan cheese. You can order a different topping on the other half like the Bianca: mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, goat and camembert cheeses.

Best Pork Shank: Berlin Bar and Bistro, Umaran #19
The best pork shank in SMA is cooked a full 7 hours and falls off the bone. Succulent and flavorful from the long braise, this shank is the ultimate comfort food.
Runner Up: El Manantial, Calle de La Barranca # 78

Best Prime Rib: OMA, Carreta 1, Fracc. Villa de los Frailes
Salt crusted prime rib cooked to perfection. We’re surprised by the incredible taste and the crispy crust on the outside of the meat. Served every Wednesday and cooked Chef Armando Pratt style: low and slow over hot river stones on the BBQ.

Best Pozole: Pozoleria y Antojitos La Guera, Calle Mario Talavera #1 in Col. Guadalupe
Mexicans celebrate special occasions with pozole but we like pozole for its superb healing properties when we’re feeling a bit under the weather. Our new favorite place for pozole verde is only open Friday and Saturday nights from 5:00 – 11:00 PM. This pozole has so much taste, we’ve forgotten all the rest. It’s teeny tiny so get there when they open.  

Best Pulpo: Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
We’ve never liked Pulpo (octopus) until we had it prepared by Chef Marco Cruz. So tender, we can cut it without a knife. This pulpo is definitely worth all the hype.

Best Queso Fundito: La Posadita, 13 Cuna de Allende
Queso Fundito; hot melted cheese and spicy chorizo. Just like a cheese fondue only better.

Best Salad: The Restaurant, Sollano #16
Chef Donnie Masterton cooks with fresh ingredients purchased from the farmers in SMA, many located within a five mile radius of his restaurant. This exceptional shaved Brussels sprout and kale salad with pecorino cheese, almonds and lemon vinaigrette is testimony as to why fresh ingredients work. Don’t blame us if you want to eat it every day. We do, too!

Best Salsa: Tacos Don Felix, Fray Juan de San Miguel 15, St. San Rafael
We can’t think of another salsa we’d rather eat with chips. The more we have, the more we want.

Runner up: Bautista Brothers, Gudiana #2 and Don Santos Tacos, Clavel 8 off Refugio Sur

Best Seasonal Drink: Vino + Tapas, Insurgentes 63
Holidays aren’t the holidays we know without eggnog and Vino + Tapas makes some of the best. Creamy and slightly sweet, rich but light, this eggnog is thicker than we’ve had in the past but the taste is amazing. Get a boozy spike for the asking.

Best Shortrib: Quince Rooftop, Cuna de Allende 15 
Just mention braised short ribs and we sigh with delight just thinking about the superb flavor and tenderness of the meat. Mark this as one of our SMA favorites. Now we just need to convince Chef Gonzalo Martinez to put it on the regular menu.

Best Signature Drinks: Antonia Bistro SMA, San Francisco 57
Choose from Antonia’s four signature cocktails along with a short but distinctive selection of tequilas and mezcals that play from uplifting to smoky.

Cocktail Antonia: Prosecco, limoncello, midori, watermelon and mint.

Cocktail Aguachile (pictured): Mezcal, cucumber, coriander, lemon and chile serrano.

Cocktail Piña Pox: Pox (A traditional liqueur from Chiapas), pineapple, mint and lemon.

Cocktail Violeta: Frangelico, ginebra and strawberry.

Best Soup:

Asian: Pork Belly Ramen at Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
Two good reasons why this is one our favorite soups: It tastes as beautiful as it looks AND it has pork belly in it.

Bean: Black Bean and Cheese Soup by Chef Linnea Rufo, Private Chef
The garnish is a Tempura squash blossom. The white on the top is creama drizzled. The black bean soup is pretty basic but the jalapeno jack cheese soup has a beer and white wine base. It’s the most delicious black bean soup we’ve had in SMA. In fact, everything Chef Linnea Rufo cooks is magnificent.

Chicken Soup: Milpa, Doce 18, Relox 18
Another soup with an attractive presentation, this dish is loaded with chicken and vegetables and is the perfect solution for cold weather although we can eat it when it’s sizzling outside, too. Look for a new menu, also under the direction of Chef Marco Cruz.

Cold: Cold Bean Soup with Tortilla Foam at neXtia, Nemesio Diez  #10
I thought I wouldn't like a cold beans until I had this whimsical soup made by Chef Alonso Dominguez at Nextia in the Nena Hotel. The topping is tasty tortilla foam which brilliantly compliments the cold beans in the soup.

Potato Soup: MiVida Restaurant, Hernández Macias #97
It’s like Vichyssoise except it's hot with a centerpiece of panchetta floating on the top. Nobody makes potato soup quite like Chef Cecy Alvarez.

Best Spirits Collection: Antonia Bistro, San Francisco 57
The view, the food, and a wonderful collection of agave based liquors makes this the place to be to watch a sunset. Grab the high center table for the best views.

Best Splurge Meal: Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Codo 36
From Chef Marco Curz, this Steak Baked Potato with Béchamel Sauce and Bacon is loaded with calories and quite frankly, we don’t care. Throw discipline and self-control out the window. Guilt free, this is one dish you’ll not have any regrets about eating.

Steak: Buenos Aires Bistro, Mesones #62
Because every good steak in town is not quite this good!

Best Street Food:

Andy’s Tacos, Insurgentes and Hidalgo
Andy’s is the king of the street in SMA and both locals and tourists get a sense of that when the late night lines are five deep. The 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.

Taqueria Brasilia, Salida a Celaya 20
Fire up the vertical grill and get a thin sliced version of Tacos al Pastor at this roadside restaurant or a pastor-stuffed potato. Chefs Salas and Farjeat call Tacos al Pastor food therapy. Mine, too any day of the week.

Tacos Don Santos, Clavel #8 off Refugio Sur
Amazing to me that I have a Mexican friend who grew up in SMA and an American friend that lives within blocks of this restaurant and neither one of them knew anything about it and these are people who LOVE TO EAT. The beef tacos represent some of the best street food in SMA. Go early or you’ll be standing.

Best Surprise: The Flower Pot by Chef Cecy Alvarez at MiVida Restaurant
The Mango granita at MiVida was accompanied by a flower pot filled with soft chocolate brownies with a flower of spun sugar. A 5 star surprise we can’t stop talking about or wanting again.

Best Sushi: Rosewood Hotel, 1826 Tequila Bar, Calle Nemesio Diez #11

(a)  the Rosewood sent their sushi chefs to Japan for training.

(b) the best inland seafood we’ve had in SMA is at the Rosewood. AMEN.

Best Sweet: Caramel Pudding at Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias #48
There’s a reason we can eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner; it’s one of the most delicious thing we ate last year. Just one request: leave some for us. We can’t get through a week without ordering it at least once.

Best Taco: Lamb Shawarma by Chef Donnie Masterton
Chef Donnie Masterton’s answer to what makes a food festival great. Served at Sabores San Miguel, this dish is in a league of its own. Hopefully we wouldn’t have to wait an entire year to eat it again.

Runner Up: Jicama Taco, La Azotea, Umaran #6
A texturally adventurous bite, the shell is a thin slice of Jicama that is topped with lightly breaded shrimp, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce. The fried leek finish continues to surprise everyone who tries it. How many of these have we eaten? We quit counting when the number hit 100 the first year.

Best Tacos al Pastor: Andy’s Tacos, Insurgentes and Hidalgo
I once asked Andy why he works so hard and continues to run his taco cart night after night and he looked at me, smiled and said “because I love it.” Maybe that’s why this al Pastor tastes better than the all the others; it’s made with love.

Best Take Out: Yaya by Marsala at Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias 48
Beautiful cakes and tarts, Terrines, Canelones, Lasagna, Mousaka, Spanakopia, Bacalao and other large or individual portion take out. The best selection of take out in SMA tastes splendid too. 

Best Tamales: Tamales La Chappis, Insurgentes by Templo del Oratorio
The masa and filling of pork and green chilies are perfectly balanced, flavorful and moist, and don’t need any extra salsa or toppings. The other blissful half of breakfast in this square is watching San Miguel come alive in the morning. An 8 pesos experience that’s pretty hard to beat for the second year in a row.

Best Tapas: Vino + Tapas, Insurgentes #63
With a variety of interesting tapas on the menu now, Chef Stefania Rosales is adding 10 more as their rooftop gets ready to open. Try the sweetbreads. Mussels and a glass of wine are on special Thursdays for $199 pesos. Wine parings are spot on. Ask about the free rides to and from the restaurant when you make your reservation.

Best Tart: Isabelle Ortega’s Salted Caramel Tart at Madame la lune, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
This tart tastes exactly like the best caramel and chocolate on top of my Grandmother’s butter cookies. And did I tell you I’ve been trying to recreate her butter cookie recipe for over 40 years? I like it cold and keep mine in the refrigerator.

Best Tea: Euro Te, Doce 18, Relox 18
A sensory experience; serving over 160 varieties of the world’s best teas including their green tea, which we favor with loads of ice.

Best Tequila: Chula Parranda 
The best tequila is the one you like and we LOVE Chula Parranda. Discovered at SMAFF last summer, if we did a blind taste test we’d swear we just sipped a premium cognac.

Best Tequila Tasting: 1826 Tequila Bar at the Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
Angel Estrada challenges your taste buds with the best tequila tasting in town. From $850 pesos up depending on the brands of tequila you select.

Best Torta: La Sirena Gorda, Hernandez Macias #85
The Torta Ahogada de Chamorro (Pork Hock Torta) is stuffed with pork, avocado and red onions and smothered in a sweet sauce of tomatoes and chili peppers. We haven’t had a torta this good since the last time we were in Guadalajara. Take the sauce on the side.

Best Tortilla:

Restaurant: Maiz station, Jacinto 1930, Doce 18, Relox 18
If you try the blue tortilla underneath the plate of Pulpo you just ordered, you’ll know exactly why we love this tortilla. There is a significant difference in the taste.

Market: TunaMaria, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
You’ll quit buying those factory made tortillas when you taste these. Tucked in the back of Mercado on the top floor, this little tortillaeria makes them fresh every day.  

Best Tuna Tartare: B’ui Cocina de Campo on the equestrian grounds at Otomi’s residential area outside of San Miguel de Allende. Km 2 Camino a San Miguel el Viejo, C.P. 37700
Under the direction of Chef Marco Cruz, Tuna tartare is one of those dishes we learned to love because the sushi-grade tuna bathed in Asian flavors has a fresh, clean taste. We are partial to this dish in the heat of summer with a cold glass of Espacio en Blanco. The venue is heaven on earth.

Best Vegetarian: Aperi, Quebrada 101
We’re pretty sure if we turned vegetarian, there’s only one place we would eat: APERI. Chef Matteo Salas can do anything with a simple vegetable and make it taste magical, even without a sauce. There’s no other restaurant even close in this category.

Best Waffles: Garambullo fonda gourmet, Privada Animas 46
Morning euphoria: fresh made waffles topped with raspberries and blueberries, drizzled with cajeta and sprinkled with pecans. We don’t even need a cup of coffee to go with this mound of delicious.

Best Wine :

Red: Casa Madero 3V blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo
Ruth Chris’s trusts this wine with a great steak and so do we. An interesting blend that will make anyone love red wine even when they really don’t. I know. I’m one of them.

White: Espacio en Blanco, Chardonnay, Mexico, Valle de Guadalupe
A well finished and complex wine, it has tones of green apple and guava with flavors of milk, white chocolate and vanilla and an aftertaste of chestnuts. This is our favorite wine – summer or winter.

Best Wine Pour:

Berlin Bar and Bistro, Umaran #19
La Azotea, Umaran #6
Bacco, Hernandez Macias # 59

Fill it up! Most restaurants try for a 5 – 6 ounce pour and deliver pretty much that. With a similar size glass and price point, Berlin Bar and Bistro, Bacco and La Azotea all have generous pours and offer great food to go with your oversized glass of wine. Bring friends and stay late; you can afford it at these prices.

On the flip side: Forget about the price, we go for quality: You deserve to drink well this year and these favorite wine lists will get you started.

The Restaurant, Sollano #16
Take in San Miguel by the glass. Chef Donnie Masterton and Wine Director Adrian Huerta select great pairings to go with your meal. The best quality at any price point, you’ll want to purchase most of them by the case; ask them for a source. These wines will take you enjoyably out of your comfort zone.

Aperi , Quebrada 101 and Jacinto 1930, Relox #18
Adrian Garcia-Evans, the Beverage Director at both Jacinto 1930 and Aperi creates wine lists where even the most novice wine drinkers can find their perfect pairing. The lists are a resource because, if it’s on their list, it’s probably pretty terrific.

Aguamiel cocina rustica, Calle Pipila 3A, Col San Antonio
Jennifer Posner finds wines that you don’t get at other restaurants in town. With a small list that delivers big flavor and values, many of their wines are just now getting the recognition they deserve. Their list is constantly changing and Jennifer’s eager to educate for the asking.

We also love the wines at B’ui Cocina de Campo on the equestrian grounds at Otomi’s residential area outside of San Miguel de Allende. Km 2 Camino a San Miguel el Viejo, C.P. 37700. B'ui first introduced us to Espacio en Blanco, our favorite Mexican Chardonnay from Valle de Guadalupe.

For a delicious day trip, explore the wineries along the Guanajuato wine route, just outside of SMA. La Santisima Trinidad is a great place to start.

Next post: The last in our three part series - Taking A Bite out of SMA: The Best of the Rest… all 50 categories.