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Tamales and Tacos and Beers, Oh My!

Tamales and Tacos and Beers, Oh My!

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns: Eating Well in San Miguel ~ for Less
By Jan Baumgartner

You are guaranteed many things while visiting the picturesque 16th century Colonial village of San Miguel de Allende. Regardless of how sensible your shoes, you will stumble on the ancient stone cobbled streets whether or not your lips have yet to make contact with a cold cerveza; you might very well find yourself wonderfully intoxicated before noon by the sensuous aromas of roasting corn and chipotles, succulent meats sizzling from neighborhood grills, wafting on a gentle breeze the scent of tender homemade tortillas, the buttery sweetness of freshly baked pastries, breads and custards; and you will most assuredly find a rich variety of affordable fare that is both delicious and wholesome, no matter how few pesos you sport in your fanny pack.

If you’re dining out, grabbing a quick bite para llevar (to go), or cooking at home, now is not the time to count carbs, deny yourself the sinful indulgence of afternoon Mexican hot chocolate and melt-in-your-mouth churros, or embark on a futile search for the ugly sister “slimcado,” the tasteless, lo-cal version of the real McCoy. So treat yourself and indulge in some of the fantastic food that San Miguel has to offer. Whether in an outdoor café, a romantic candlelit hacienda, a rooftop terraza, or in your own Mexican kitchen, embrace the flavorful and colorful bounty, seize the day ~ worry about your expanding fanny pack manana.

Rest easy and enjoy, keeping in mind that San Miguel de Allende is a major tourist destination and recently awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. What this means is that the locals make their bread and butter on serving, and serving well, the tourist trade. Restaurants are diligent in ensuring that produce is disinfected, food fresh, clean and healthy. Ice cubes, too, are safe but if you prefer, drink bottled water which is readily available. The tourist-driven trade coupled with the exuberant pride the Mexican people take in their establishments is almost always guaranteed to offer fear-free dining and healthy cuisine at every turn.

By and large, all restaurants and cafes listed will get you delightfully fed, satiated, and out the door for around $20, including drinks and tip. Most places will be well under, others slightly above depending on how thirsty you are, how many calories you claim to have burned stumbling your way up and down the steep cobbled streets, or how stressful your day might have been people-watching from a shady park bench in the jardin while serenaded by mariachis. Feel free to use any excuse for ordering a second margarita, a velvety smooth flan resting in a pool of creamy caramel, or both. While adopting the mantra “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” might not do wonders for your waistline, it will become music to your ears and in perfect harmony with the rhythm and beat of magical San Miguel. Just don’t attempt the Funky Chicken on the cobbles. Salud!

(Key: $ <$10>, $$ <$20>)

Calles Canal, Hidalgo, Reloj, Mesones, Insurgentes, Loreto, Correo and Sollano

Olé Olé (Loreto #66, 152-0896, no credit cards, $)
If you are a steadfast vegetarian and not particularly fascinated by the art of taxidermy, you might very well want to pass by the sign of the bull. But, if you like good food, generous portions, cheap eats, and camp, this place is for you. Upon entering this small neighborhood café, you will be greeted by a life-sized stuffed bull and find yourself surrounded by additional mounted heads. However, the framed vintage posters, photographs and other memorabilia of matadors and bullfighting are wonderfully colorful and downright campy and you can’t help but crack a grin when you look up and into the cocoa colored eyes of El Dandy, a large framed poster of a legendary bullfighter whose suave smile and ill-fitting cummerbund will make your platter of sizzling fajitas all the more tantalizing.

The menu is limited but the specialties are truly delicious from the beef or chicken fajitas, to the juicy grilled shrimp or vegetable brochetas, or my favorite, the sautéed garlic mushrooms served with your choice of homemade corn or flour tortillas or a combination of both. If you never believed you would entertain indecent thoughts about fungi, think again. You may order a small or large size of their mushroom dishes – the small is plenty for two people as an appetizer, enough for one as an entrée. The small portion runs around $4. Alongside the succulent, garlicky mushrooms which taste like they’ve been kissed with a hint of sherry, comes a lovely variety of condiments. Before you wrap these tender fungi in a warm tortilla, top them with the spicy salsa, a generous heaping of the dark, creamy sauce that is smoky and reminiscent of mole, and a healthy dollop of créma, a squeeze of lime, and indulge. With a glass of vino tinto, you’ve reached nirvana. The shrimp, too, is plump, tender, sweet and perfectly grilled. For meat eaters, the fajitas are some of the best in town. This place is no frills but the real deal. It’s frequented by locals and tourists alike. Upon leaving, and no matter how smitten by El Dandy, do not pull a Debra Winger and mount the stuffed bull. You are not an urban cowboy.

Mercado Ignacio Ramírez (east on Mesones at Plaza Allende)
The most well known of the Centro markets and a treat for the senses. Whether purchasing produce, fresh ranchero cheese, dried goods, an armload of fragrant flowers, or just strolling through to marvel at colorful mounds of perfectly smooth mangoes, fresh avocados, chilies, nopales, or bucketfuls of calla lilies, treat yourself to the visual extravaganza. It is worth your time. Sheer eye candy.

La Media Naranja (upstairs, Hidalgo #83 at Calle de la Luz, $)
Vegetarian friendly. Great place to take a load off and enjoy good, wholesome, healthy fare. Fantastic fresh fruit smoothies, fabulous tortas and goat cheese omelets, fresh bagels, soups, salads. Their specials are highly recommended; the salmon cakes with mango salsa were plump, tender and bursting with flavor, and the tangy salsa was the perfect acidic bite of both sweet and tangy that gently cut through the richness of the fish. Casual, bohemian atmosphere, great lunch stop with friends or solo with a good book. One of my favorites.

Café Etc.(Reloj #37, $)
Small neighborhood café, great for breakfast or lunch. Inspired menu, creative specials board - an often intriguing, if not perplexing mix of herbs, spices, and other flavors that initially sound funky and yet somehow seem to work, delightfully surprising the palate. Laid back atmosphere, small outdoor patio, nothing fancy. The daily specials are consistently delicious. Great smoothies, omelets and salads. You can buy whole coffee beans to go or have coffee ground at the front counter. A good place to start your day, or slip into if you’ve been walking beneath a relentless afternoon sun and need a no frills place to grab a cool liquado or bite to eat.

Café Santa Ana (Inside the Biblioteca Pública, Insurgentes #25 at Reloj, 152-7305, $)
Lovely plant and tree-filled patio upstairs from the public library and directly across from Teatro Santa Ana. Feels like someone’s private hacienda courtyard. Good food and large portions; savory burritos, the enchiladas verdes are packed with flavor, generous salads. Ideal place to relax with a cold cerveza or glass of wine and a smooth guacamole appetizer before a performance at the Teatro or Quetzal Room. Friendly, attentive service, intimate atmosphere. Very reasonably priced considering portions and overall quality of the food.

La Colmena Panadería (aka The Blue Door Bakery, Reloj #21, 152-1422, self service)
Okay people, now is not the time for discipline. Live a little. This family-run bakery, since 1901, will make you feel like a kid in a candy store, or an adult with a serious sugar addiction who is about to have a major relapse. Enjoy it. Flaky, mouth-watering pastries, rolls, donuts, cupcakes, cookies, breads and empanadas. Grab a metal tray and tongs and load ‘em up. You can ruminate about how these decadent sweets have settled around your hips and thighs when you’re wondering why you’re having trouble fitting into your airlines economy seat. The sugar coated donuts are ethereal, feather-light, the custard filled pastries, sinful. Take your bounty to the cashier and don’t be surprised to walk out the door with your brown paper bag filled with pastries for all of a buck or two. Slip on your dark glasses and walk quickly down the street clutching your brown bag. Do not make eye contact with anyone, particularly street dogs. Don’t go to confession until after you’ve consumed the goods. There is such a thing as guilty pleasure. And it’s dusted in sugar.

Bonanza (Grocery store, Mesones #43-A, 152-1260)
Ab-fab. Good variety of basic grocery items, some wines, great deli counter with local and imported cheeses and meats. Fantastic nuts and grain selection, dried fruits, chocolates, difficult to find herbs and spices by the ounce. Natural foods, too, a dozen eggs in a clear plastic bag run about 80 cents and burst with flavor, the yolks the color of coral suns, tortillas, some breads, crackers and cookies from La Buena Vida bakery, but it’s all about the yogurt, my friends. Outrageous selection of quart containers of homemade yogurt that will make you sour on anything offered in the States. The plain is a wonderful item to have on hand – mix it with fresh fruit and nuts or use it for cooking or condiment in place of sour cream or créma. The mango, orange, banana, and peach yogurts, just to name a few of those usually in stock, are smooth, creamy and rich. If it’s 2:00 a.m. and you wake up needing an ice cream fix or something else lusciously silky and cool on your tongue, these fruit yogurts are rich enough to pass the test. Great place to pick up bags of almonds, pistachios, chunks or shards of Mexican chocolate, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried apricots – all available in the well stocked health food aisle. Friendly cashiers; on occasion you’ll find one of their children helping bag your groceries. It is customary to tip the bagger for their service – whatever small change you have handy is greatly appreciated, typically around 20-50 cents.

Bugambilia (Hidalgo #42, 152-0127, $$)
Charming, romantic plant-filled courtyard dining in a Colonial setting. Interior trees and plants twinkle with white fairly lights, the ceiling sparkles from tin star fixtures. Traditional Mexican fare with all the trimmings. Guitar player at night, usually quite good and CD’s are offered for sale if patrons are interested. Fantastic service. The dishes are lovingly prepared and presented, large portions, excellent value. On a warm San Miguel eve, there’s nothing more refreshing than their cool avocado soup, the best I’ve tasted, rich, velvety with a hint of lime, and their citrus salad. The enchiladas, too, are particularly flavorful but it is their house specialty, the classic Mexican dish chiles en nogada that they are best known for.

Chiles en nogada is a unique creation and if you haven’t tried it, throw your taste buds a party. It is decadently rich so don’t plan of counting calories or leaving light. This luscious entrée uses the three colors of the Mexican flag, red, green, and white and is almost as delicious to look at as it tastes. Poblano chiles are stuffed with picadillo, a mix usually consisting of ground meats, aromatic fruits, nuts, and spices. A walnut based cream sauce sprinkled with juicy red pomegranate seeds slathers the meat plumped chiles.

Tío Lucas (Mesones #103 at Hernández Macías, 152-4996, $$)
Fun, lively restaurant with fantastic food and service. Beautiful dining areas and live music after 9:00 p.m. Owner Max Altamirano is delightful - suave, gracious, and flirtatious all rolled into one – a veritable Fernando Lamas. He makes you feel genuinely welcomed and works the room each evening moving from table to table to say hello, ask if you’re enjoying your meal, bestow a “you look mahhvalous” as velvety as flan, or to give you a quick peck on the cheek. The bar and wait staff is equally as warm, genuine and attentive and are some of the hardest working in the business.

Food is tasty, consistent and portions muy grande. Their steaks are tender, flavorful and cut like buttah, sometimes wrapped in juicy strips of lean bacon, or smothered in garlic laced mushrooms, traditional Mexican fare never disappoints, desserts are splendid and the overall ambiance and energy of Tío Lucas makes for a memorable evening out. The live jazz is some of the best around. So offer up a cheek for the pecking, enjoy one or more of their tangy margaritas, a satisfying meal, and some cool jazz – it’s worth every penny. As popular with the locals as with the tourists. Like El Dandy, you will become smitten by Max’s charm as well as the attentive but not intrusive wait staff.

El Tomato (Mesones #62B, 151-6057, no credit cards, $)
Vegetarian. Small, cute décor, clean and wholesome foods that will make you feel like you’ve done your body good. All produce is disinfected. Daily lunch specials are great bargains, a few courses plus coffee or tea, aqua fresca, usually under $9 and more than you can eat. Bi-lingual owner Senora Lourdes Harrsch is friendly and easy going.

Tofu, veggie or grain burgers are packed with taste, plump and satisfying. Salads are fabulous, try their Niscoise. Great appetizers from guacamole to whole wheat quesadillas. The condiments will make a grown man weep. Tiny vessels of bright tangerine and celery-colored citrus sauces are an explosion of flavors and are the perfect accompaniment for anything and everything. Like Marie Antoinette’s quirk for bathing in champagne, if one could haul these tangy delights home in 5-gallon buckets there would be no water shortage. Spoon them on burgers, veggies, salads, quesadillas, straight onto your tongue. These creations feel like a tiny circus in your mouth ~ without the scary clown.

A regular haunt for those who need the boost of a healing smoothie or tonic, a list of some 20 different concoctions are offered to help with an assortment of ills, aches or crises. Blended with fresh fruits, veggies, grasses, flaxseeds, honey, and a host of other healthy ingredients, a great place to detox if you’ve had one too many margaritas the night before at Tío Lucas, just across the street. Their tonic/smoothie for “hangover” is a refreshing pick-me-up loaded with vitamin C; scroll down the tonic list for remedies for anything from high blood pressure to nausea, arthritis to menopause. All they’re missing is a cure for hammertoe. One of my regular stops and highly recommended.

La Europea (Wines and spirits, Canal #13, 152-2003)
Fine selection of imported wines, spirits, some deli items, canned condiments and snacks that make for fine appetizers in a pinch. Good prices, helpful staff. If you’re serving up martinis, might be one of the only places to find decent gin, but expect to pay premium prices.

Bella Italia (Canal #21 at H. Macías, inside Plaza Colonia, 152-4989, $$>)
Tasty Italian food, reasonably to moderately priced. Lovely courtyard dining, great service, open kitchen, lively atmosphere. Titillating if not intoxicating wine list. Reservations recommended. This charming restaurant is known for their delicious homemade pastas and succulent grilled meats, from hearty T-bones to duck breast to tuna steaks. Their goat cheese salad is a perfect starter. The delicate duck breast, grilled to perfection, is melt in your mouth dreamy and complimented by the savory kick of a tangy blueberry sauce. Save room for the tiramisu. While the food is satisfying, treat yourself to a night when they offer live jazz. It will blow your socks off – even though no one in their right mind would be wearing socks.

Doc Severinsen regularly performs here along with the fantastic Gil and Cartes. To guarantee a table during one of their performances, plan on reserving two weeks in advance by stopping in and making a “down payment” of ten dollars per head for those in your party. You’ll get a receipt and your dinner bill will be credited for the amount. This is not your grandparents jazz. You’ll see enthusiastic fans ranging from 25-85, sporting anything from pierced eyebrows and assorted unseen sundries, to blue hair and leopard print leisure suits – all digging the vibes of the still fabulous Doc, Gil and Cartes and their back-up ensemble. Hands down some of the best music you will find in San Miguel and coupled with the reasonably priced fare, a steal for your buck. Make this a special night out.

La Ventana (Sollano #11, 154-7728)
Small coffee café or beans to go. Organic, fair trade coffee from Chiapas. Delicious variety of roasts; order by the kilo (kilo=2.2 lbs.) whole bean or ground. For my money, the richest, most flavorful and full-bodied ground coffee to go.

Bagel Café (Correo #19, interior, 154-6524, $)
Nice plant-filled respite off the jardin. Slip in and have a fresh fruit or veg jugo or smoothie. Tender bagels and wholesome grain breads baked daily. Healthy sandwiches and sopas, daily specials. Laid back atmosphere conducive to hanging out solo with a magazine or a book, or just to savor a bit of quiet. Call ahead to order take out.

El Burrito Bistro (Correo #45, 154-8956, $)
Generous, if not obscene burritos, but in a good way, and reminiscent of my old Mission haunts in San Francisco. Gussy ‘em up with the “extras” offered. Refreshing aqua frescas, beer and wine. Creative and delicious Mediterranean inspired salads and wraps, hearty sopas, tamales. Great value for portion and taste. Colorful interior, casual ambience.

Calles Hernandez Macías, Jesus, Umarán, Cuadrante

La BuenaVida (Hernández Macías #72, 152-2211)
Bakery. Outrageously delicious breads from French to wholegrain, tender and flaky with a perfect crust. The sourdough gets a thumbs up, and being raised on sourdough in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is big snaps. Wonderful crackers, breadsticks, cookies, donuts, muffins and rolls. Their breadsticks and parmesan crackers are light and crisp and perfect dippers for a homemade guacamole. A few of their products can be found in local stores including Bonanza, Espino’s and Natura natural foods.

Mama Mía’s (Umaran #8, 152-2063, <$$>)
Fun, lively place with yummy pizzas and attentive service. Their grande margaritas are served in vessels in which you could bob for apples, but while thick on taste, are a tad thin on tequila. Don’t let the punchbowl size fool you. I’ve enjoyed some good live jazz during my pizza capers, however, later in the eve it takes on a nightclub flavor with an energetic dance scene. Live music can range from rock to salsa to just about everything in between.

Romano’s (Hernández Macías #93, 152-7454, no credit cards, <$$>)
Great Italian food, wood burning pizza oven, huge portions, lovely rooftop dining terraza. This is one of the places where the food is so good and in such grand scale, you’ll be tempted to eat the whole thing. Go ahead, nobody’s looking – they’re too busy licking their own plates. Begin with one of their crisp salads or the prosciutto and melon. Move onto the ultimate comfort food in the form of one of their pasta dishes, preferably their savory, cheesy lasagna. You won’t have room for dessert, but have it anyway – they are massive and equally as sinful on taste and texture. You will be reminded that there is indeed a fine line between pleasure and pain. But there is nothing quite like mama’s lasagna and homemade chocolate cake to make you feel warm and fuzzy, and that pleasure will far outweigh the extra poundage you drag out the door and along the cobbles. Just don’t fall off the curb as you’ll have a hard time getting up.

El Gallo (Hernández Macías #97, 152-7482, <$$>)
New Mexican restaurant from the owner of Nirvana. Excellent food, service and ambience. Lovely, intimate dining rooms, romantic soft lighting. The tortilla soup is truly delicious with a rich and heady chicken broth, hint of citrus and covered with thin, crispy tortilla sticks. Their flan drapes across your tongue like cool satin, and yet oddly enough what I remember with equal fondness, are their mojitos. These bad boys are so refreshing and bossy the mint leaves almost jump out of the glass, slapping you on both cheeks while shouting olé! They go down far too easy, so beware. They are cocktail perfection and if you’ve had enough margaritas for awhile, treat yourself to a mojito, especially on a sultry evening. Ideal meal ~ mojito, tortilla sopa, flan, mojito?

El Buen Café (Jesús #23 at Cuadrante, 152-5807, $)
Diminutive and cozy café offering up creative dishes that are both healthy and oh so good. Their daily lunch special of salmon with a Thai twist was delicious, brilliant flavors and satisfying, as were the creamy mushroom and cheese quesadillas. Freshly squeezed fresh fruit and veggie smoothies, airy homemade desserts like tres leches cake that is delicate and light without being overly sweet. Small deli area and corner laden with natural food items. The owner, Kris Rudolph, also offers cooking classes.

El Ten Ten Pie (Cuna de Allende #21 at Cuadrante, 152-7189, no credit cards, $)
Great outdoor café right on the corner but not overwhelmed with traffic or noise. Perfect stop for a bit of people watching and grabbing a quick bite. Enjoy an ice cold limonada or cerveza; good selection of “small bites” that will satiate and tide you over until your next big meal. Great tacos and quesadillas.

Calles Zacateros, Codo, Ancha San Antonio, Calle Nueva

La Cava Delicatessen (Zacateros #42-A near Tenerías, 152-1549)
Wonderful selection of imported foods. If you are throwing a cocktail party or just need a fix of a French cheese, stop in and enjoy. Vast assortment of cheeses including perfectly aged Brie, roasted turkey breast, prosciutto, smoked Norwegian salmon, olives. Dried pastas and hard to find condiments. Not cheap but excellent quality and otherwise hard to find items.

Espino’s (Grocery store, Codo #36, a little jag of a street that turns into Ancha San Antonio, 152-1009)
A gem of a neighborhood grocery store. Beer, wine, spirits. Deli counter, fresh eggs and homemade breads, some from La Buena Vida, small fresh fruit and vegetable section, canned and frozen foods, yogurts, ice cream, cookies, chips, nuts, dried goods, olive oil, soy sauce, laundry detergent, soap, herbs, spices – the basics. Fresh produce is sold on their front steps by an outside vendor, pay him directly. The produce is beautiful, cheap, and hard to pass up. Make sure you disinfect all produce you buy at markets. Liquid disinfectant is available inside Espino’s in their produce section. If you’re diligent in disinfecting all of your fruits and vegetables, you shouldn’t have any problems. In nearly half a year in town and doing much of my own meal preparation, never a grumble or ache to be had. Friendly, family-run business. Make sure to tip the bagger – it is customary and greatly appreciated.

La Palapa (Calle Nueva #8, next to Espino’s, $)
A handful or so outdoor tables shaded beneath a large beer tent. Super casual - stop in for cheap grilled tacos – fish, shrimp, beef or chicken, burgers too. Nothing fancy but good flavor and they hit the spot. Nice variety of condiments, tasty salsa. Cold soft drinks and beer, no coffee. Homemade carrot cake wraps up the menu.

Natura (formerly Bee Natural, Calle Nueva #7, across from La Palapa, 154-8629)
Organic store offering a multitude of fabulous items – a veritable mini Whole Foods stocked inside one tiny room. Get excited. If organic, delicious, healthy foods get your motor running, zoom-zoom. Owner Jorge Catalán, one of three owners, has done marvels in finding some of the best locally grown organic produce and meats, and a mouth dribbling selection of scrumptious prepared foods from local chefs and companies; A la Carte, el Capricho and Comida d’Alicia.

Foods to go include wonderful soups such as white beet, tangy carrot, and chicken broth. Marinated salads of beans and lentils, Asian noodles, potato salad, cheesecake that is more savory than sweet and garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary that gently infuses without being overbearing, slices of rich chocolate torte, brownies that dreams are made of, yogurts, garlic/herb goat cheeses, large round knots of Oaxacan cheese, luscious mangoes and papayas, tofu, crunchy flax seed cookies and nut bars, whole organic chickens, turkey cutlets, frozen grain breads and dense, decadent loaves of cocoa bread, pastas, pre-washed, disinfected and bagged mixed greens from mesclun to arugula to baby spinach.

Small assortment of natural skin and bath products from soaps to moisturizers to shampoo. Organic dog food, soy milk, herb teas, mosquito repellant, honey suckers, crackers, eggs ~ more fun than a barrel of monkeys. If the above gets you half as excited as it does me, you’ll need a cold shower. Jorge is personable, outgoing with an ever-ready smile, whereas alter ego, his full-time employee with his quiet, brooding, smoky-eyed reserve and soft spoken demeanor is rather disarming. Hands down, my favorite store and though not particularly cheap, for superior quality and taste, they are worth every peso. You’ll walk away feeling so unnaturally healthy, you’ll need to stop for ice cream or warm, sugar dusted churros. Conversely, if you bought the cheesecake and briefly inhaled the smoky eyes, you might need to relax with a good cigarette.

Hecho en México (Ancha San Antonio #8, near the Instituto, 154-6383, <$$)
Friendly service, extensive menu, consistently good food, large portions, separate bar area. You can do it any way you like here – super cheap or lay it on. Their starters, soups and salads are delicious and hearty; the chicken vegetable soup is like mom’s homemade and for about 4.50, eats like a meal. The fish is quite good, always fresh, the salmon dinner particularly flavorful. The side dishes are memorable; the steamed veggies are perfectly done, the jicama and coleslaw salads are crunchy, refreshing, and wholesome. Good enchiladas, fajitas, and steaks.

But so much for the yahta, yahta, yahta. Did I mention the brownie? If your mother ever told you never to eat anything larger than your head, ignore her. Besides, did she mean as an infant or an adult? This brownie covers a plate like a room-size area rug. It is so rich, so dense, so sinfully drizzled in warm caramel and topped with a melting pool of vanilla ice cream, you might find yourself blushing. Most reasonable diners will order one brownie, extra forks and share. However, I say, be unreasonable, if not selfish. You can walk it off in two days time as it will take a full 48 to digest. If you’ve watched National Geographic and often wondered what it would feel like to be a large African snake that has just swallowed whole a baby warthog, now is your chance.

Bariloche (no address but worth the hunt, Ancha San Antonio, across from Hecho’s, $$))
This little jewel is a real find. I stumbled in quite by accident and became a repeat customer. I’m not even sure if there’s a sign but near their door is a sign for a yoga studio, so keep a look out. Beautiful Colonial courtyard dining, intimate, reasonably priced, lovely menu selection, to die for beef from Argentina.

Steaks are grilled in front of you, perfectly tender and juicy, served with a bowl of chimichurri sauce that you’ll want to spoon across your steak, dip your rolls into, and drizzle on your salad or rice or potato. This Argentinian herb condiment usually served with steak is pure tango for the tongue, bursting at the seams with flavor - a mix of parsley and/or cilantro, garlic, olive oil and vinegar, herbs and spices. For tongues that prefer waltz to tango, go for the chicken and stuffed zucchini blossom entrée, moist, subtle flavors that soothe the buds rather than excite. The owners are friendly and the service, attentive. On our first visit, one of the owners insisted we have a second glass of wine – on the house. Subsequent visits were capped with “treats” of espresso. No guarantee you’ll get a freebie, but for fantastic service, food, atmosphere and most of all, the steak and chimichurri sauce, hunt this place down. Just don’t slip into the yoga studio and order up a T-bone.

Rica Comida (Salida de Celaya #34, Ancha San Antonio turns into Salida, $)
As teeny holes-in-the wall go, this is the holiest. This pint-sized lunch café has a handful of tables and a counter – the open kitchen is behind the counter. Walk up and order your comida from the lunch menu sprawled on the wall board. Rickety chairs, plastic table cloths, don’t dress for the occasion. This is real homestyle Mexican fare and some of the best in town. For about 3 bucks, you’ll get a platter of food that might be the only meal you need all day. Their enchiladas, rice and beans are as good as it gets. No bells, no whistles, just a wallop of taste. Excellent salsas. Aqua frescas, sodas.


Jan Baumgartner is a freelance writer and managing editor for Some of her articles and essays can be viewed at

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