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.