Thursday, May 13, 2021

2020 – Remembering the year that many would like to forget… We’re singing the praises of all of San Miguel de Allende’s chefs and restaurant owners who were put to the test this past year. Although every week seemed like a year to them, most restaurants survived and are now on the road to a slow recovery.
A round of applause to all the chefs who quickly answered the call for food delivery. By mid-March, both Bovine and Marsala cocina con acentos were running clever ads for food delivery service. In addition to trying a lot of new restaurants, we also got our repeated fix of Chef Marcela Bolano’s carrot cake, Panio’s bread and pastries and Chef Linnea Ruffo’s Chicken Pot Pies. The biggest surprise was Eduardo Perez Calvo’s Rustica, who was delivering ice cream, still frozen, to our front door in order to feed our major obsession while we were still under lockdown.
So how did the chefs benefit from a Covid downtime? Chef Vincent Wallez at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende used his time to overhaul his menu at Restaurant 1826 and other Rosewood properties including Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar and 1826 Tequila Bar. Casa de Sierra Nevada came out with new spring menus. The hotel also built a beautiful, new, outdoor patio behind Casa del Parque to use for events and weddings.
Chef David Jahnke of Chef David Jahnke Cooking Classes Lab, the number one cooking school in SMA and one of the top cooking schools in Mexico, taught hundreds of student in SMA how to cook online via Zoom. He also started a YouTube Channel, giving free instructions on everything from cleaning fresh, black Mussels to simple knife skills and cooking techniques.
Chef Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez of La Dona moved his restaurant upstairs, opening up the beautiful patio, which also serves as an intimate concert venue for musicians like Lady Zen, who plays most Sunday nights. Congrats to La Dona who hit the #1 restaurant spot in SMA out of 514+ restaurants on Trip Advisor this past week; a bold prediction from one of the owners, Billy Mervin, back in 2018.
Chef Donnie Masterton’s COVID insight kicked in when he consolidated his properties, bringing Birdies Burgers and Taco Lab into the kitchen at The Restaurant for pick-up and delivery only. The Bar at the R has reopened Friday and Saturday at 6:00 PM. You can order off the full menu from The Bar at the R every day in the patio at The Restaurant. Chef Masterton is featuring a burger of the week on Thursdays for Burger Night. Watch for his post on Instagram early Thursday morning; last week we missed the Pavo Negro: blackened turkey parry, smoked brisket, chipotle honey BBQ sauce, grilled onion, cheddar cheese and special sauce on a garlic bun. Always ahead of the curve, Chef Masterton built a sustainable ranch in the country to provide for all of his restaurants. How was that for timing?
Places like Juan Carlos Escalante’s Nirvana, Chef Jorge Avendano’s Bastardo, the wineries of La Santisima Trinidad, Fran Fisher’s La Playa at Los Senderos and Mama Mia Campestre became our go-to spots during the lockdown just to get out of the city for a day. Thanks to these chefs and restaurant owners who continue to provide The Great Escape for all of SMA food lovers. Dining options in SMA have grown significantly this past year, including these restaurants that took a huge risk to open or relocate during the pandemic:
Chef Marcela Bolano’s Kouyin Asian Eatery in the Apapacho Hotel at Bajada del Chorro #11, serving Asian specialties.
Chef Arturo Sandoval’s Aquila Brasa at Jesus #3, offers a wide variety of imported, grilled meats.
Chef Marco Cruz’s Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion is NOW in Doce 18 Concept House at Relox 18 with Mixologist”Gabriel Avila. Look for a new breakfast menu on Saturday and Sunday morning from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.
Bruce James and Chef Paul Bentley’s Mui Ramen Bar and The Monkey Bar are both new in Hotel Matilda at Aldama #53. The Mui Ramen Bar serves Ramen, Asian food, gyozas and traditional fried Japanese chicken. The friendly, Jamaican bar Manager, John Vaz, is Bruce James nephew. The Monkey Bar offers Mixology Pop Ups and guest bartenders, including house Mixologist, Mike Espinosa.
Chef Erick Medina will open Pork Belly Tacos on the main level at Cuna de Allende #15 in about three weeks. They will also have an extensive cocktail menu. The original Pork Belly is NOW at Stirling Dickinson#10, along with Mixologist, Jose Ignacio Avila Padilla.
Chef Paco Gonzalez’s Tarragon in Hacienda San Jose Lavista at KM 10.2 Nuevo Libramiento 37700 offers daring cuisine using Mediterranean techniques. The restaurant is located at the San Jose Lavista vineyard. All wines are produced at the hand of oenologist, Hugo D’Acosta, who opened the first wine making school in Baja California, “La Escuelita” which has produced some of the world’s most prestigious winemakers.
Fran Fisher at Los Senderos has partnered with restaurateur/sommelier Juan Pablo Ballesteros and Chef Atzin Santos (Limosneros/Café Tacuba) to open Sal y Canto; a renovation and makeover of the Manaia Restaurant at La Playa at Los Senderos. We’re excited to try this restaurant next week given that Limosneros is one of our favorite restaurants in Mexico City.Photo: Fran Fisher's Facebook.
Chef Aidee Prado’s La Hija del Manantial at Correo #14 is next to El Hotel La Morada in Centro. This gourmet cantina serves the same Mexican seafood dishes as the original El Manantial at Barranca 78. El Manantial celebrated its 100 year anniversary during the pandemic (1920-2020).
Chef Abel Hernandez’s Anonimo Rooftop in Hotel Selina, Cuna de Allende #11. A newcomer from Mexico City, the chef created three of Mexico City’s most popular restaurants: Eloise Chic Cuisine in San Ángel, Loretta Chic Bistrot in Álvaro Obregón and Margaret Chic Kitchen, a French-American kitchen in the Polanco. The hotel also has an outdoor cinema where movies are shown every night at 7:30 PM.
Chef Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero’s Petit Four is NOW at Jesus 2-B in Centro. Celebrating their 23rd anniversary, Petit Four is the oldest Restaurant/Patisserie in SMA.
Chef Pablo Nicacio’s Merken Campestre MX is NOW at Ecoaldea "Las Acaciaz"serving traditional Mexican food with products from the South Pacific and South America.
Jose Luna and Berta’s Mama Mia is NOW at Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias #91, along with Mixologist, Adal Garcia. With five other locations in Mexico, the menu now offers one of our favorites: the Arrachera Burger. There is also a new coffee living room up front at the restaurant.
In Mercado del Carmen, Chef Jj Castaneda’s Mesa Marrakesh specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. Chef Adrian Gorton’s Bhaji serves Indian cuisine and curry. Chefs Jj Castaneda and Adrian Gorton’s The Smokehouse Texas BBQ SMA Casa de Humo recently opened for Texas BBQ, including smoked Brisket and Ribs with all the sides.
April Pedersen’s restaurant and winery, El Pavo Real, at El Pavo Real #2 37898, serves Mexican cuisine by Chef Gabriela Landin.
Chef Sam Hernandez’s Restaurant SÄM at Calle Colegio Militar #4 in Colonia Guadalupe has Mexican Haute Cuisine along with a tasting menu and other special dinners.
Chef Kenten Marin’s Kentens Fried Chicken (KFC) is NOW at Calle Del Rosal 3, Colonia San Antonio, with a new spring menu, brunch and live music.
Chef Vanessa Romero’s Raices Restaurante SMA is at Salida a Celaya, Sin Nombre 37700. Partner, Omar Campana, owns Sushi Gami. Raices serves traditional Mexican cuisine using original, one-of-a-kind recipes.
Chef Cristobal Antunez’s Kookaburra, at Pila Seca #2, specializes in International Mediterranean cuisine with French techniques. Ask for Manager, Jenaro Arroyo, and get a free, welcome drink. Chef Elias Joaquin’s Bistro mädi in Hotel Mädi at San Francisco #34 serves International cuisine and pre-Hispanic dishes, using local elements. The original Jacques Café opened 11 months ago during the pandemic. It’s owned by Guadalajara brothers, Moises and Omar Perez and is located at Del Pueblito 3A. Jacques specializes in American, Middle Eastern and Vegan food.
A second location of Jacques is now open in Doce 18 Concept House at Relox 18. Also new in Doce 18 are Roagi The Bar, run by German Ortega and Eduardo Brambilia. The bar serves a variety of food prepared by L’hotel. In addition, you’ll find Shale Urban Seafood, a modern and innovative seafood concept with simple and healthy flavors along with a cooking school, run by Chef Andres Trillo Sans Bruler.
Districo Soma, a new shopping mall is located at Estacion del Ferrocarril – Lupita #2 and is currently renting restaurant space to interested tenants. Currently, there’s a small wine bar pouring private label wine produced in various parts Mexico and the Hercules Beer Bar from Ceveceria Hercules in Queretaro, run by Daniel, one of the friendliest bartenders in town.
A long standing gem, Aperi, has launched with a new menu and chef: 27 year old Omar Alejandro Henriquez Martinez. After his professional training at the Technological University of Bahía de Banderas, in Nuevo Vallarta, he worked at Vista Grill Puerto Vallarta and in the restaurant of chef Edgar Núñez, Sud 777, a place that has been in the Best Restaurants in Latin America ranking.Photo: Aperi.
Back in January 2016, we wrote: “if you’ve come to SMA to eat, you picked the right place. SMA is now on Mexico’s list of culinary hotspots and it’s about to move up a few places. A wealth of notable restaurants and food vendor openings, around 40 of them in the next few months, will go a long way to feed your food obsessions.” So what’s the forecast for 2021-2022? It will be 2016 all over again and then some. Just one year after the pandemic, an influx of chefs from Mexico City will open restaurants in SMA, including the Master himself, Chef Enrique Olvera. Stay tuned for the updates; many of which will begin this fall.