In addition to fine dining options there are some wonderful casual Mexican restaurants and a growing number of ethnic neighborhood spots to try while in town. My top recommendations include:
Polp SMA Gastrobar: Polp means octopus in Catalan. The Catalan reference is a nod to the time that, San Miguel born, chef and co-owner Patricio Fuentes Alvarez spent in Barcelona, working at the Michelin-starred Restaurante Hofmann. Patricio and his partner, Jose Pablo Diez, have created a small but great menu of Spanish-style tapas along with wines and cocktails. I enjoyed the typical Spanish omelette and the great scallops served on a perfect cauliflower cream. My friend really enjoyed the mushroom risotto. I just went back and enjoyed it for the second time. It is a small spot at Relox #3 just north of the Jardin.
After reading about the recently expanded Inside Cafe at Insurgentes 66, I had to try it. I just went for lunch and really enjoyed the experience. The delightful owners are Teu Campbell from New Zealand and David Barajas from San Miguel. They opened it just as a coffee shop, but have expanded to a rooftop restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. They feature a menu of breakfast and lunch items including sandwiches and salads. I thought the grilled cheese sandwich was one of the best I have had. I will definitely go back!
One of my favorite new spots is Jardin Rama at Nemesio Diez 8. One of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Rama, took over the former La Palapa restaurant across the street, built a new permanent structure and now offer wonderful tacos and other Mexican street food. It has a fun, colorful design and is the perfect spot for a casual lunch. I tried the shrimp and fish tacos and loved the experience. I have now been back twice!
Mercado del Carmen: Zacateros #45. The newest food hall in San Miguel has a very attractive contemporary design. It features Mexican and international cuisine with a number of vendors selling beer, cocktails, burgers, crepes, salads and more. I recently enjoyed a delicious salad and tacos on a recent trip. There has been some turnover in some of the restaurants. Getting good press is Lima 502 for Peruvian cuisine.
Another fun new spot now in Mercado Carmen is Chikitana. I enjoyed lunch with new friends who are buying a house in San Miguel. They feature a menu of Latin and Asian cuisine. I enjoyed the coconut fried rice with shrimp and chicken, plus a tostado with grilled pineapple, plantains and a tamarind salsa. Chef/owner Aleysha Serrato Garfias, is from Mexico, but lived in Berkeley, CA for several years. Here she loved trying Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants with her friends. When she opened the new restaurant in San Miguel, she wanted to focus on the Asian cuisine she loved with Mexican flavors. It was formerly located at Hernandez Macias #68 in the back of a gallery space, but has recently moved.
The recently opened TURK, is a new casual spot for Mediterranean street food at Salida a Celaya 16. I enjoyed dinner with a local friend. The owner Ali Sarraf, of Iranian and Mexican descent, grew up in Los Angeles. I was able to share some great dishes including a beet salad, tabouleh, humus and baba ganoush. They are in the process of expanding their menu to add more entrees.
Next door to TURK is Kafé W at Salida de Celaya 16. This is a casual coffee shop and cafe that is known for its murals. It is also a fun spot for coffee, tea, breakfast and lunch. I just went to lunch and enjoyed a very good omelette, salad and a latte. The staff is very friendly!
Another great find in the area is Le Mexicain Bistro at Salida de Celaya #71. This is a casual spot owned by the team behind Mi Bistro 300. It is open for breakfast and lunch plus dinner on weekends. It is a colorful spot as you are surrounded by plants and flowers plus walls of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. I went for brunch and loved the omelet with smoked salmon, goat cheese, tomatoes and a small green salad plus a tasty croissant and a latte. Everything was so fresh! I just went back for the second time and had an excellent pork sandwich and salad.
The casual Tex-Mex restaurant, Don Lupe Grill, recently moved to Salida de Celaya #6. It is known for its fajitas, burritos, tacos and quesadillas. I went with local friends and really loved the shrimp tacos with their homemade guacamole plus rice and beans.
A little further south is another new spot for me, Mario’s Mariscos at Salida de Celaya #81. This casual seafood restaurant has been opened almost six years in San Miguel, with four at the current location. The owner Mario Cabrales spent a lot of his life in Mazatlan before moving to San Miguel. He is delightful and adds to the experience as does his mother Josefina who hangs out at the restaurant and can be seen watching Mexican telenovelas! The menu consists of many items including seafood tacos, oysters, ceviche, octopus, lobster tails, shrimp and scallops. I really enjoyed my grilled scallop entree which came with a salad, coconut rice and scallops in a white wine sauce. I can’t wait to go back as I really enjoyed the colorful atmosphere and the food!
Dila’s Restaurant has recently re-opened in a great new spot at Salida Real a Querétaro 187. This is his fourth spot in town since 2006 and this by far is the more upscale of his locations. It features Sri Lankan specialties. He has a number of curry entrees with his curry tuna being one of my favorite dishes. On my first dinner in the new location, I enjoyed the curried octopus and the spring roll to start. They also have music on Friday and Saturday evenings. I went back for the second time and had a perfect shrimp curry!
Recently, I was introduced to Francesco’s Restaurante Italiano y Pizza. This is casual Italian restaurant at Zacateros #85. I went with local friends on a busy Saturday evening in town. I loved the warm atmosphere and thought the food was very good. I enjoyed the pasta with seafood or linguini al frutti di mare with clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari in a tasty marinara sauce. They have an extensive menu of salads, starters, pastas, pizza, soups along with seafood and chicken entrees.
A new spot in town is Sabroso Taqueria at Zacateros #41. This is a fun, casual and colorful spot that features a large number of tacos made with different preparations. I enjoyed the chicken tacos with cheese. It came with a number of salsas you can add. They also feature a number of sides as well. On nice days, I recommend eating upstairs in the Raffaele rooftop terrace and bar. Next door they also have Chicago’s Stuffed Pizza for those craving this Chicago specialty.
Other favorites include:
Lavanda Cafe: Located at Hernandez Macias 87 at the corner of Umaran, this is great spot for breakfast and lunch with a large number of egg dishes from omelets, eggs benedict and huevos rancheros. I also love the lavender latte! There is a lovely small patio in the rear and upstairs seating on the roof. Thanks to a local friend at Recreo for the introduction. I have to go every time I am back in town. I now recommend going during the week as the waits to get in on weekends can be very long.
Tacos Don Felix, Juan de San Miguel #15, Col. San Rafael, 152 5719: This local’s favorite started as a food cart on Ave. Independencia. Today it is a very attractive restaurant with outdoor spaces and great food. They still have tacos but have wonderful beef and fish entrees as well.
A fun, casual spot is El Manantial at Barranca 78. El Manantial was founded in 1920 as a men’s bar or cantina. The restaurant has great ceviches, tostados and fish tacos. This is now high on my list of small casual spaces in town. The decor is traditional with a contemporary flair. There are amazing new black and white murals that were completed in the last two years. I would call or stop by for a reservation.
El Manatial had been called La Sirena Gorda. After a management split, La Sirena Gorda relocated to Hernandez Macias 85 just down from the Jardin. It is substantially larger and has a similar menu of ceviches, tostados and fish tacos. It has a lovely outdoor terrace plus several colorful indoor dining rooms. I enjoyed dinner with a longtime friend while listening to great music. Reservations are accepted. 152 5019.
Juan’s Cafe Etc: Located at Relox #37, this is a very eclectic cafe and restaurant. It is a great spot for breakfast or lunch on the small patio in the back.
Rincon de Don Thomas Portal de Guadalupe No 2: A good place to grab a quick lunch with friends. It is always a good place for traditional Mexican specialties.
In the Colonia San Antonio neighborhood, my newest find is El Buen Cafe. I was glad to have tried their new location in Col. San Antonio. At San Jorge 26, this is a great spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Attending a ceramics class a block away, I enjoyed eating there four times for lunch. Kris Rudolph is a very good chef and offers cooking classes next door. She also does food tours in Europe.
El Rinconcito: This is a fun restaurant in a home in Colonia San Antonio at Refugio Norte 7. There is both indoor and outdoor seating and a great traditional Mexican menu with reasonable prices. Not far is El Cafe Tal at Orizaba 36. This is a fun spot for coffee or for breakfast or lunch. So glad that a local friend suggested it!
Ten Ten Pie al Carbon: This is a second location of the well-known Centro restaurant, featuring grilled items, fish, chicken, beef, hamburgers and salads etc. We love the casualness and the outdoor/open air seating. For lighter fare, we like the fresh spinach salad with pears, goat cheese and freshly grilled chicken. It is located at Sterling Dickinson #5, Col. San Antonio
La Frontera, formerly at 28 Sterling Dickinson is now at Calle Refugio Sur #28. This is a casual spot frequented by gringos. They have a good choice of salads, sandwiches and entrees. They have both interior and outdoor dining.
The former Ba-Bite, at Salida a Celaya #51, has been transformed into Mikka, for sushi bowls, rolls plus a teriyaki and a ramen bar. I enjoyed visiting with Joseph, the owner who also has Mikka restaurants in Mexico City and in Guadalajara. He has a passion for this food and features bowls made with tuna, salmon, teriyaki, tofu and shrimp. You can order them spicy or not. His ramen bar will be open shortly. It is a fun, casual spot with outdoor seating, that is a great option when on a weekend or holiday that the restaurants in Centro are jammed with tourists. I enjoyed the tuna bowl made with zucchini noodles and the chicken teriyaki bowl with rice.
Back in Centro is La Alborada for pazole, which is behind La Ventana, the coffee shop and window at Sollano 11. Opening at 1pm, it is perfect for lunch on the small patio with colorful oilcloth tablecloths or in the small dining room on colder days. The pozole is consistent and so, so good.
La 21 Unica Cantina: At Jesus 23, this is an updated, chic version of an old Mexican Cantina. It has a great atmosphere. You can order tapas from their menu or order from their Pescau restaurant menu which is next door. You then have the best of both worlds.
La Cocina: Located at the corner of Pila Seca and Hernandez Macias, this café and coffee shop offers good food at reasonable prices. They have indoor and outdoor seating. I was just back for lunch and enjoyed it again!
Via Organica: This was a popular store featuring organic food items not often found in San Miguel. They also had a cafe for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch items. They recently closed this location at Calle Margarito Ledesma #2 in Colonia Guadalupe and have moved the operation to its organic farm outside of town. Here they have an organic, farm-to-table restaurant and store plus they offer tours, classes, bike tours and horseback riding. I am excited to go out on my next trip. It is 20 minutes outside of town. Transportation is provided for some events.
I also like Los Milagros. It is a fun, casual restaurant serving Mexican specialties including tacos and fajitas. I prefer it for lunch as the music on some nights can be somewhat loud. Relox 17. They opened a second location on the Jardin and a third location near the Mirador at Salida Real a Querétaro #91.
The Hotel Posada Carmina has a lovely patio for breakfast or lunch at Cuna de Allende #7.
Pork Belly: Make sure to visit Pork Belly which has a very creative menu by Chef Erik Medina using fresh ingredients. They have a good selection of salads, sandwiches and entrees. I enjoyed the salmon entree for lunch. I went back for dinner and enjoyed the lamb shank with polenta and an arugula salad with tomatoes. I loved the sleek, contemporary decor with its great murals. They recently moved from Cinco de Mayo #10 to Sterling Dickinson #10. I am excited try the new location.
Fat Boy at Cinco de Mayo 19 is a casual bar and restaurant with a biker bar theme. The night I stopped in, the music and dancing was great fun.
In Col. Guadalupe, I found Neopolitan Brick Oven Pizza at Julian Carillo #4b. This is their second location in town which locals highly recommend. Located on the second floor, they have an indoor dining room and rooftop terrace.
Right off the Jardin at Sollano and Correo is Cevicheria La Muy Muy. This is a sleek, casual spot featuring seafood ceviches, tacos and tostadas. I enjoyed lunch with a friend as well the two shrimp tacos. Upstairs is Restaurante Cielo, which is a casual bar and restaurant with great views of the Jardin. I would stop in for a drink prior to dinner in town.
Olé Olé was always one of my favorite casual spots for many years. Having closed following a car accident involving the owners, it has now reopened. It is a fun spot with a bullfight theme. It is know for its meat and large selection of fajitas. Loreto 66A
I recently went on my second food tour through the Taste of San Miguel. The Taco & Tequila is a food tasting and cultural walking tour held in the evenings two days a week. Private tours can be arranged on other nights. Highlights of the tour for me was finding some new casual spots that I had not been to before. These included Don Taco y Tequila at Hernandez Macias #83. This is fun spot with a contemporary design. I really enjoyed trying my first sotol, a cousin of tequila and mezcal. Baja Fish Taquito, at Mesones #11B, is a casual spot for fish tacos with a newly added rooftop. I also loved trying the agave beer by Cerveceria Allende. I enjoyed going to Salon Oaxaca at Insurgentes #44, which is a casual spot with a great rooftop seating area. I had been wanting to try it since I saw it over a year ago.
I normally don’t eat street food, but if you want to try it, Andy’s Tacos near the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo is considered one of the best in town. The owners went to culinary school and the are very clean in their preparation. The tacos al pastor were very good! Our last stop was the Cantina el Cucu, Insurgentes #39, which has been a popular San Miguel casual bar since 1953. The tequila we tried there was very good. Vail, our guide was excellent. I highly recommend that you request her and try one of their tours.
Opened in mid-October, 2019 is a colorful, casual spot, Restaurante Encanto at Recreo #84. They have a lovely garden in back along with an indoor dining room. They feature a menu of starters, salads, pizza, pastas and other entrees. They also have good wines and excellent margaritas. It is a good place to head when Centro is crowded on weekends. I also thought that the staff was very friendly and helpful.
On my last trip I went back to the casual El Correo for Mexican specialities at Correo 21-23. I had not been in several years, but enjoyed my meal with a local friend.
Berlin Bar & Bistro at Umaran #19 is a small bar and restaurant that is popular with the gringos in town. They often feature art exhibitions by local artists. You can go early and enjoy drink specials. I went on my last trip and enjoyed eating some great fish tacos at the bar with a group of local friends.
I recently went to a small cafe by Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, one of my favorite restaurants in town. It is tucked away in a small courtyard of the Mercado Collective that was the former Cafe Gourmand. They still have coffee drinks but a more extensive menu of Mexican specialties. Jesus #27.
While on a recent art walk at Fabrica La Aurora, I went to El Gandpa & Son Burgers just near the front entrance. It is a fun, casual spot with great burgers, sliders and salads along with cocktails and wine. My artist friend loved the hamburger while I had a yummy shrimp burger and great salad. Calz. de La Aurora 8. I will definitely go back.
After a great meal at Kab’an in San Miguel at Ignacio Hernandez Macias 43B, I went upstairs to check out Crow Cantina Contemporánea. This is a new attractive, casual bar and restaurant where you can eat Mexican specialties along having with a beer, tequila or mezcal. I am anxious to go back and try it.