BY ROBERT GLAZE
Splitting my time between Chicago and my home in San Miguel for the past 12 years, I have seen a great number of changes to this small, central Mexican city—particularly in the past few years. As a result of recently taking fifth place in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards in the Best Cities in the World category and number three on Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Cities list, San Miguel de Allende has become a weekend and holiday destination not only for residents of nearby cities like Mexico City but also for American, Canadian, and European tourists.
With this increase in tourism, the city is booming with new restaurants, wineries, boutiques, and hotels. I just returned and tried eight new restaurants in the past three weeks! I highly recommend the following new finds:
Cuna de Tierra is a stunning winery about 40 minutes from San Miguel, on the outskirts of Delores Hidalgo. The area is perfect for red wines. Tierra’s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Franc just won a medal in Madrid, Spain, and was a rich, full-bodied red with berry notes.
They offer wine tastings, tours, and special dinners by appointment—call or email them to set something up.
The buildings are located in the middle of the vineyards and are very contemporary and sleek in design. There is a winery, a separate wine cave, and a beautiful tasting room. The views are really exceptional, so make sure to climb the observation tower, a short walk from the winery. You can now buy their wines at a small store at Correo #12 in San Miguel, just a block from the Jardin at the corner of Sollano. Here you can shop for, but not taste, their great wines.
On the other side of Delores Hidalgo, closer to San Miguel, is the new La Santisima Trinidad. This is a spectacular property consisting of a luxury housing development, lavender fields, olive trees, a vineyard and winery, a small boutique hotel with six rooms, and a restaurant. They produce their own dried lavender and essential oil, olive oil, and wines. Make sure to book a tour and wine tasting ahead of time on their website or by phone: 556 926 5657.
I enjoyed the tour by Argentinian-born winemaker Mailen Obon. It was followed by a lovely tasting in the winery/tasting room that featured local cheeses and a rosé blend of malbec, cabernet, syrah, and carminetti, plus two red wines: a malbec and a blend of tempranillo, malbec, syrah, and cabernet franc. All were excellent.
After the tasting, I enjoyed a lovely lunch of a salad and pasta in their small farm-to-table restaurant featuring their local organic produce. You can buy wines at the winery or at their new tasting room at Doce 18 Concept House in San Miguel.
Markets and Food Halls
Mercado Sano/Saturday Organic Market is a large farmer’s market at Ancha de San Antonio #123, where I go every Saturday when I am in town. It is now located outside of Mercado Sano, which now features permanent stands on two levels by local purveyors of organic produce, breads, cheeses, eggs, milk, coffees and coffee drinks, olive oils, and other products. I always love La Panaderia Buena Vida for their multi-grain bread, muffins, and, yes, a few cookies for the week. I am glad they have a permanent stand in the new Mercado. Mente Cacao, my favorite chocolate shop in town has a location there, as does Pork Belly, a branch of a fun casual restaurant. It is a great place for coffee and a snack or for lunch upstairs.
North of the Jardin is Doce 18 Concept House. The former Casa Cohen at Calle Relox 18 now houses high-end boutiques featuring jewelry, designer clothing, books by The Library San Miguel, and gourmet cuisine. There are galleries, a champagne bar, a new Cumpanio bakery, and a food court with Donny Masterson’s Taco Lab and Birdie’s Burgers, plus Milpa, a farm-to-table restaurant by Nomada chef, Marco Cruz. Aperi’s chef, Matteo Salas, has opened a fine dining restaurant outside the food court. Upstairs, L’Otel, one of the top boutique hotels in town, has opened a number of boutique hotel rooms. It is a wonderful addition to San Miguel. You do feel like you are in Mexico City, New York, or Chicago!
Located across from Namuh at Cuna de Allende 15 is MUNHA Boutique for women’s jewelry and accessories. Up the street is Marquesa de Mancera. Recently opened at Cuna de Allende 3, they feature lovely antiques and home furnishings and accessories.
Inside Sollano 16, Casa Acanto is a gallery and retail space from Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman, world-famous interior designers from San Francisco.
New stores I like include Ted Wolter’s WABI for contemporary home furnishings in a beautiful store at Aldama 13. Timeless Pieces at Aldama 33, features handcrafted cotton, linen, and cashmere clothing, plus jewelry and perfumes. The owners are delightful.
In the Colonia San Antonio neighborhood, my newest find is Zumo. This is one of San Miguel’s newest fine-dining restaurant experiences. The upstairs terrace has wonderful views of Centro and the Parroquia. The staff is extremely attentive and helpful. Chef Gabriel Ferrant, originally from France, is delightful and stops by each table to introduce and explain each dish.
They offer a five-course and seven-course tasting menu. We opted for the seven-course, which included two entrées. You might consider the five-course if you want a lighter meal. The dishes were all very good and nicely presented. I would suggest going during warmer weather, as the patio can be a tad chilly, or ask to be inside downstairs. Plan on a fun (and long) evening, as you are not rushed.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion is located in the rear of the former Mercado Centro. Opened by talented chef, Marco Cruz, and his wife Sofia, this is a great addition to the SMA food scene. They also feature a tasting menu on Wednesday evenings. I loved my beet salad and a white fish with salsa verde. The mushroom risotto was also excellent. (Codo 36, but I expect them to move in early 2016, so make sure to check before you go.)
Jacinto 1930: I enjoyed a lovely meal with friends at this new restaurant in Doce 18 Concept house opened by Matteo Salas. They feature a number of small plates and entrées that you can easily share in order to try more dishes. I enjoyed the mushroom tacos, scallop entrée, and papaya dessert with ice cream.
I have tried both locations for the small gourmet grocery and café, Luna de Queso. The original location has moved to a larger building at #79 Salida de Celaya, where it has some nice outdoor seating—I was just there a week ago. I also really enjoyed their second location at Jesus #2, just down from the Jardin. Here you can buy cheese and other specialty food items or grab a lovely quiche and salad in their small courtyard cafe.
Another new spot is El Vergel. Located at Camino la Alborada 17, a short drive outside of town near Candelaria, this is a restaurant and market with Chef Donnie Masterson as one of the owners. I enjoyed a lovely lunch on the terrace with local friends. The chicken sandwich with asparagus pesto was excellent. It is a great spot to go to when San Miguel gets crowded during festivals and holidays.
Opened in April 2016, is the sleek new restaurant, Quince, located at Cuna de Allende 15. Opened by American restaurateurs, it features upscale Mexican cuisine in a spectacular setting overlooking the Parroquia and the city of San Miguel. I was there on one of the first nights it opened and thought the food and service were both excellent. It is also a great spot for an early cocktail to watch the sunset. They have some wonderful specialty cocktails made by their talented bartenders.
Another new 2016 opening was in late December: Marsala Cocina con Acentos (Herdandez Macias #48). They remodeled the former restaurant space into a comfortable contemporary space with very good food. I enjoyed my quinoa salad and a great lamb ragout. Make sure to add it to your list of places to try.
I also loved trying Buenos Aires Bistro with local friends. At Mesones 62, they feature a large number of salads and steaks but do have fish and chicken entrées, as well. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the service excellent.
A new find is Ba-Bite, located at Salida de Celaya #51. This is a small bistro with a very good menu, a contemporary design, and great food. There was much to choose from, from starters, soups, salads, entrées, and desserts. I was there for lunch and enjoyed an excellent lamb burger served with coleslaw and a mixed green salad. It is nice to find a good restaurant outside of Centro to enjoy if the weekend crowds are large.
Located at Quebrada 18, Mi Bistro 300 is a new restaurant opened by five partners from Mexico City, who all met in a restaurant there. They have a creative menu of tacos, tostados, larger entrées, and more.
The boutique Clandestino Hotel recently opened at Recreo 31, just south of the Jardin. It is a lovely small property with eight rooms, a rooftop bar, and garden patio. Breakfast is included with the room. I would however, suggest asking for a room in the back, as the front rooms might hear traffic noise.
Also recently opened is Casa No Name, a small luxury hotel at Hernandez Macias #52. Thank you to local friends who found it. It has a lovely courtyard where you can eat breakfast, a sitting room off the lobby, and rooftop bar. If you can’t stay there, at least enjoy a drink on the roof!
For more travel destinations and recommendations, visit globalphile.com.