Wander down one of the idyllic cobblestone streets in San Miguel de Allende’s colonial town center, and you may find yourself in a quaint garden patio among diners relaxing with margaritas and sampling some local fare. Keep ambling towards Calle Relox and you’ll come across local artisans selling silver jewelry, painted masks and embroidered linens.
The payoff is a courtyard collective with a central café, coffee shops, and bars surrounded by top retailers—such as clothing designer Carla Fernández, and the sophisticated boutique L’Ôtel on the top floor with city views. The place can charm you at every turn.
Long before the tourists and shops arrived, San Miguel (originally founded by a Franciscan monk in 1542) had a wave of artists arrive in town after World War II. Ex-pats have continued flocking and now number as many as 10,000 (depending on the time of year) due in part to popular institutions such as Instituto Allende and Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. No longer just painters and sculptors, a new kind of artisan is inhabiting this mountain enclave: chefs.
From Mexico City’s Enrique Olvera (setting up tasting menus at Hotel Matilda) to American-born Donnie Masterton—chef-owner of The Restaurant, creating artful Mexican fusion that has drawn visitors and locals alike—San Miguel is fast becoming Mexico’s culinary hub. Most recently, an Australian chef by way of New York and Guadalajara has brought an innovative dining concept to the town, further enhancing the spotlight on one of the most exciting and emerging food destinations on the planet.
The transformation hasn’t been seamless. Harold Stream III—a private investor and contemporary art collector who resides part of the year in Nashville—caused some controversy when he opened Hotel Matildahalf a dozen years ago.