Chilling Out in San Miguel de Allende

How to Live It Up at 6,500 Feet

Oct 13, 2016

One thing I very rarely hear from friends: "Relax, Jonathan." For a long time I've been building my life around convenience, stimulating conversation and relaxation. But living in Mexico has taken it to an even more leisurely level.

Among the reasons I love my town: not only do you get all the "quaint," but it comes along with just as much "culinary." Because it's an expat town, and rumor has it that population may be more than 10% of the actual population, there are hundreds of restaurants and bars competing for our attention—many of them just delightful.

Here's my idea of a great Friday night. I knock off voice over work early, (maybe 4 pm,) grab a shower, throw on some clothes, pocket a flask of Guiño Guiño artesanal mezcal, my own brand, and hop in a cab.

Guiño Guiño Mezcal

"Buenas tardes, señor. Necesito ir al jardin," I say. (Good afternoon, sir. I need to go to the jardin.)

That's smack in the middle of Centro, and only about 2 miles from my house. We just got Uber in San Miguel, so maybe I'll start using that more, but the taxi situation is pretty sweet and responsive as it is. I have him drop me off at Solutions San Miguel where I pay for a postal box. They're a private company that gives me an address in Laredo and transfers my US mail daily, but I only pick it up once or twice a week.

Then I walk over to my bank to snatch out six or seven thousand pesos for the week, and amble up to Don Tomas for a nice, strong coffee while I watch all the goings on. Families meeting up, little kids chasing pigeons, street musicians, street vendors, maybe actors are spontaneously putting on a little historical Mexican drama for a tour, teenage boys breakdancing on sheets of cardboard. And just to show you how different my Friday nights are than yours, let me tell you about Señor Shock.

I don't know what his real name is, but every weekend you'll see this older Mexican hombre walking around, clicking two metal cylinders together to get attention. They're actually handles, and are attached to wires that lead to a battery pack. You can pay him for the privilege of proving how macho you are while you grip the cylinders and he turns up the juice. If you can cope with the full charge you're a real man. Can't take it? It may mean you're a pinche cabrón. Seriously. The man makes his money from this.

Anyway, from there I scoot over to Los Milagros, our favorite restaurant. We always sit in the bar where Leo runs things, and on Fridays he makes sure a little Reservado sign is placed on our table—the one near the window. It's dos-por-unos (two-for-ones), so Cecilia orders a tequila and I get a mezcal in something the size of a juice glass; I'm guessing about 2.5 shots. Sometimes I haven't seen Cecilia in a few days, so this is my chance to get some good squeezes in, and talk about our week. After a great dinner; maybe steak with salad and potato, or a molcajete, which is a huge stone bowl full of a variety of meats and seafood in a bubbling pool of spicy salsa verde, we make our way over to Bond 007, also known as Kenny's for the good natured Canadian who owns it. He has a nice terraza on the 3rd floor with a beautiful view of the city, and a nice selection of beer and liquor—including mezcal. Since it's open I can smoke a cigar up there, but if there are a lot of people who don't look receptive to my puffing, we head over to La Casa del Habano.

Cecilia, Mi Mujer

This place is located inside a hotel about a ten minute walk from Bond. Inside there are dark, leather couches and chairs, an okay bar—and a very nice humidor filled with real Cubanos. Cecilia doesn't do cigars, but she seems to enjoy the low-key atmosphere. If her kids haven't joined us at any of the previous stops, sometimes they pop over here for a drink and a little base touching. I enjoy this joint; I don't even let all the photos of Communist dictators bother me. Not a bit.

Next up on the ultimate Jonathan Friday is Santos Crudoteca, our favorite hangout for a little mezcal, a little cerveza and what might just be the best band in San Miguel. Polo and Pauk own Santos, and Polo is also the bass player for the 3-piece house band. Miguel is on the cajon, a box-shaped drum that sounds so cool—and saves on space, Kike is the lead guitar and vocalist, and they kick out a great playlist of US rock and blues. Unfortunately, because of their location, they have to stop playing at midnight, but that's okay. After starting our party some 7 hours previous, we're good. But not without zipping by our favorite taco and burrito stand for a bit of folded ambrosia, and grabbing a cab home.

Along this path we sip mezcal from my flask, and run into friends. There's David, a local musician and fellow conversationalist, a little peeved about a bad experience at his venue that night. There's Steven, a British author getting ready to go on a six-week jaunt with his travel writer wife. There's Arnie, a 75-year-old former Big Time Wrestler from the 70s, on the prowl for a prospective Mexicana and buying roses for every woman in sight. There's Jorge, a local funk based DJ on his way to spinning at Limerick, a local pub and night club for mostly the younger set. There's Fred, Barb, Victor and Evelyn, usually found belting out tunes for karaoke night at The Beer Company, owned by Harold, an American Playwright from San Francisco. Sometimes we even stop by if it's early enough.

And so you have a glimpse what it means for me to chill out. From voice overs in my studio, to a night in my cool, Mexican town. Mouthwatering food, craft-brewed beer, artesanal mezcal, a delicious Cuban cigar, live music and a cast of characters so diverse, interesting and hilarious you might think I was dreaming them up. But I'm not. Come meet them yourself if you like.