When we asked locals in San Miguel de Allende (that is, the actual locals from Mexico, not the expat ‘locals’) where to eat Mexican food, we were often met with a deafening and sometimes embarrassing silence.
I’m guessing it was the fact we used the words ‘good’, ‘local’ and ‘authentic’ that prompted the awkward pause. Some reluctantly and half-heartedly mentioned a couple of places before changing the subject. Others, including a couple of chefs, refused to put any recommendations in writing when we asked, while others just shook their heads and said that while they go out for drinks in San Miguel, they mainly eat at home.
It was only when we raised the subject of street food in San Miguel de Allende that the locals’ eyes lit up!
Buoyed somewhat by our fabulous Mexico City street food tour, as we wandered around San Miguel we kept an eye out for street food stands that were popular with locals. One that immediately caught our eye was a van that set up every afternoon on the cobblestone street in front of Mesones 8 just around the time the sun was going down.
The first time we spotted the stand, we watched the guys setting up and beginning to prep for the night. They had a lot of food ready to go and were still working hard to get ready as the locals began to line up. We had a dinner appointment that night so we made a note to return the next day.
When we went back around 7pm the following evening, tacos were already flying over the counter. Big 4WDs full of cowboys and local families were pulling up, putting on their hazard lights, and picking up huge pre-orders. Other locals were arriving and ordering big bundles of take-out, and getting stuck into a couple of tacos while they waited. The guys making the tacos were chopping up meat so fast their hands were a blur. We’d found our taco nirvana.
The first night we visited, we tried the tacos al pastor. The meat from the vertical spit was being sliced so often that there was little time for the meat to even sit in the bottom of the tray. Tortillas were being heated in the fat of the meat for the carnitas or ‘little meats’ and locals were slathering these with a salsa verde. We did the same. About 30 seconds later we ordered the same again!
After a few visits, we had tried every type of taco on the menu – well, there was no actual menu – but we worked our way through the different types of tacos on offer. Occasionally a local expat would saunter up to the counter. Some expats knew the place well and knew how to order, but one night, around midnight, a group turned up too late for the tacos al pastor. The vertical spit stood forlornly without a shred of meat on it.
Confused by the rest of the mouthwatering treats on offer the group walked off, much to the bemusement of the guys running the van. These boys know they have the best Mexican food in town, whether the gringos are into it or not! We joined them in their laughter, because, after all, it meant more for us. Before a more savvy group turned up, we quickly ordered another round!