For years, foreign residents and frequent visitors to Guanajuato contented themselves with hardly any variety on the restaurant menus. But now, restaurant-goers on a budget have a wider pick. With restaurant offerings ranging from French cabbage salad to kiwi-topped cheesecake. Here are five of my current favorite Guanajuato restaurants as of the beginning of 2007.
EL MIDI in the Plaza San Fernando is owned and managed by Veronique who was born in southern France but has lived in Mexico for many years. She hasn’t forgotten the healthy vegetarian dishes from her home region. You can always count on fresh ingredients, whether ia bean salad, a French slaw or the are raw vegetables (disinfected) for making your own combinations. I like the agua fresca (fruit ade) the way it comes at El Midi, sweetened but not too sweet. After choosing what you want, you take your plate to the front desk where Veronique or an employee weighs it, excluding the bread and drink. Price 9,5 pesos/100 grams. I usually find myself spending about 35 pesos, including a large glass of the cucumber-lemon drink. There is seating inside or out. Open from noon to six weekdays. I almost forgot to mention Veroniques French style tortes, tempting all but the most calorie-conscious patron.
EL BURLADERO offers two choices for each course, from soup through salad or other small plate and on to the main main dish, all accompanied by a pitcher of the agua fruta of the day and followed by a small dessert, sometimes sliced fresh fruit, sometimes a pastry made by Juan Jose, the owner and kitchen master. The generous salads are almost designed and I consider them the outstanding course. The main dish, whether you choose carnivore or vegetarian (sometimes homemade pasta), is usually small. Served with a choice of bread or tacos. Don’t be put off by the casual sign out front or the few diners inside, the restaurant has its local followers. Almost at the turn in front on Manuel Doblado near the Cervantes Theatre. Open noon to five. By the way, burladero refers to the protected part of a bull ring where the toreros stand before entering the ring.
YAMUNA, a Mexican-Hindu fusion restaurant now has two branches, one on Positos between the main university building and the Alhondiga (on the university side) and the other on the Calle del Sol a block up the street from the downtown postoffice. You don’t choose have a choice but here’s what you’ll get on your tray: a dense soup nearly filled to the brim with lentils and vegetables, a large salad, a bowl of basmati rice, a small Hindu main dish (vegetarian but usually fried) and a flavored yoghurt or other dessert. As usual, an agua fruta. The friendly owner worked for a while in New Jersey.
LA FONDA ANTIGUA is just below Embajadoras Park on the street the buses take downtown. The little restaurant has a cream-colored door and gets my vote for the coziest restaurant in Guanajuato. It is nearly round with just a few tables and picture books from Europe and Cuba on the ledge around the walls. The food is Guanajuato style. I especially look forward to the soup served in an individual tureen. Then there’s a side dish which generally isn’t salad, the main plate (two choices) with accompanying beans and rice, a small dessert and, yes, an agua fresca, often the red jamaica. Some Guanajuatenses eat here every day and I can see why. For that reason, arrive before three so you won’t have to wait.
All the restaurants above cost forty pesos or under and change their menu daily.
EL ABUE, off to the left above the Baratillo, is pricy in the evening but offers a set lunch for 49 pesos. Chef Graham Gori from Portland, Oregon has a Mexican wife and this restaurant with quiet music, light wood tables and impeccable service is their project. You’re likely to get a glimpse of baby Priscilla sometime during your meal. When I ate there recently, I had an American style vegetable soup, a fresh salad similar to others I’ve mentioned and boned chicken breast in a subtly flavored mustard sauce. Jamaica is the usual drink included. Graham says his apple pie with ice cream, costing almost as much as the lunch, is very popular.
Most of the restaurants are open Monday-Friday afternoons only except, possibly El Abue.