Best restaurants in San Miguel if you're over 60

In his March 30 column, Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist and formerly the paper’s food critic, wrote about how his tastes in restaurants have evolved now that he is over 50.

To write a comparable piece here would be ridiculous; there are more restaurants in some blocks of New York than in all of San Miguel. On the other hand, for the price of one good dinner in New York you could feed five, maybe ten, of your closest expat friends here.

Besides, San Miguel’s demographics are way different. Let’s say more mature. Forget Bruni’s 50-year-old cutoff. Here it’s more realistic to aim for the age bracket between 60ish and Meals of Wheels.

I’m not a current or former dining critic, though that shouldn’t disqualify me from opining about dining. San Miguel is a mecca for personal reinvention, so I can be a dining critic and you a late-blooming impressionist painter even if you didn’t pick up a paintbrush until after your first Social Security check arrived a year ago. No problema. 

All that said, San Miguel is a great restaurant town, and getting better all the time, though prices also seem to be rising often not quite hand-in-hand with the level of quality.

There’s also a certain pissiness, to use a French expression, creeping into the restaurant scene. It’s not just the real tablecloths and napkins, which are a nice touch, but the obligatory quart-size wine glasses, the tablespoon of something-or-other plopped on a plate as big as a hubcap, and other haute-cuisine pretensions, accompanied by an eye-popping check at the end.  “Zumo” fits that bill nicely.

“Chamonix,” on the other hand, serves terrific food, in a great atmosphere, at reasonable prices, and amazingly, the owner or one of the servers will recognize and greet you when you arrive. “Firenze” checks all those boxes too.

Zee plane: Part of the eclectic decor at “Muelle 13”

Stew and I don’t drink alcohol, so our perspective on cost may be skewed, though we’re quite disposed to pay a good price for a good meal, booze or not. In Zihuatanejo, one of our favorites is “Tentaciones,” a restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking the bay, a magical dining experience particularly at sunset. The soup-to-nuts tasting menu will set you back $75 dollars per person and it’s worth it.

Did I mention the one San Miguel restaurant charging $150 a person, plus tips and drinks, for a seat at the chef’s table for some dining lollapalooza? That might work in New York or Dallas but not here, not even if Julia came out of the grave and cooked the meal herself.

For us, $35 or $40 dollars each for dinner is at the high end, and we expect more than the usual green enchiladas; we want something a little inventive that shows there’s a chef in the kitchen, not just someone’s mother-in-law banging the pots and pans.

“El Vergel” out on the way to Dolores Hidalgo is a very good value for lunch, as is “Nirvana,” with one of best views in San Miguel. We’ve also become enamored of “Le Mexicain Bistro,” even if their attempt at a French name may be backward. Their breakfast and lunch offerings are interesting, particularly their take on salmon and cream cheese. “Turk” across the street at first seemed to be an interesting proposition of Mediterranean food, but their very limited menu wore thin very quickly.

“Muelle 13,” a modest seafood place decorated with old surfboards and other maritime junk from someone’s basement, is also a very good value. An added attraction is Lucas, a self-assured mutt that ambles through the four or five restaurants along Stirling Dickison begging soft-hearted gringo diners for handouts. Lucas eats well. 

Not exactly Fisherman’s Wharf, but “Muelle 13” offers
good seafood at reasonable prices. 

I‘ll admit to not being a particularly adventuresome diner; if Stew and I find a place we like, we’ll go back and back again, though we are open to new suggestions. Any ideas, let us know.

“La Frontera” is one of those, particularly on the nights when they offer their meatloaf, chicken or filet mignon specials. The owner Noren will greet you, and if not her, her ever-effervescent partner Johnny, and the waiters know your favorite drink. Not a very hoity-toity dining experience but one that will satisfy both your stomach and your mind, in a conversation-friendly noise level.

The most important ingredient of a good meal though, are simpático dining partners. Please leave your politics at home. No one want food fights over Trump, or a recap of last night’s sermonette by Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow. Practically any other topic will do, even a description of the impressionist landscapes you’ve been working for the past three weeks. 

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