Brad A. Johnson, the erstwhile restaurant critic of the sinking ship known as the Orange County Register, has published a guide to street food in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Let that sink in. The man who once panned a torta shop in Santa Ana for having sub-par French fries and who declared that Buena Vista Market in Dana Point was Guerrero-style food is now an expert on Mexican antojitos. Listening to him pontificate about where to find the best street food is like taking advice from Martha Stewart about how to win at street ball.
If you haven't delved into his reviews, which now appear approximately monthly, you should know that he prefers fancy restaurants and really well-made French fries. Street food is beneath him, usually; even when he published his list of best tacos in Orange County, he deliberately left off every lonchera in the county.
He and I went to Mexico at the same time last year; while I wandered and explored markets and villages, his social media was full of shots of every 1,000-peso-a-plate temple of alta cocina he could find in the well-heeled Mexico City colonias of Condesa, Polanco and Roma, despite the fact that Mexico City is the best city in North America for street food, bar none.
It's fitting, then, that for his article on street food, he chose one of the poles of U.S. immigration to Mexico: San Miguel de Allende. It's up there with Ajijic, Jalisco; Loreto, Baja California Sur; Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco; and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora for most English-speaking expats. Or, as our own Bill Esparza puts it, “San Miguel de Allende looks like Trump's America.”
It's the only place Register readers can imagine in Mexico without thinking of cartel violence, yet the only things it's given us are José Alfredo Jiménez (sing along below!) and Casa Dragones, a ridiculous $250 tequila distilled in Jalisco but named after a building in San Miguel.
Even his choice of words confirms that he is writing for the coffin-dodgers who dream of owning a little piece of Villa Park in Mexico:
This is one of the safest places in Mexico to enjoy clean, delicious street food: tacos, corn, tortas, birria, hand-churned ice cream and churros.
“Safest” here probably doesn't have anything to do with food hygiene, though it's worth pointing out that in a thousand or more street-side meals in Mexico, I have gotten indigestion exactly zero times–just go where there are crowds and ask the people in line what to order.
No, “safest” here is code for “whitest”. No weird animal parts; no gristly bits with bones left in that you have to navigate; no Bandamax blaring from a tinny boom box circa 1987; no drunk and overly friendly men hoping to score a taco or some salchipulpos on your dime. It also gives rise to the question of just how many cities in Mexico Johnson has eaten street food in, and what has happened to him when he tried.
In his paean to San Miguel's street food scene, Johnson somehow managed to miss all of the comida típica guanajuatense, too, the food that captures the essence of the state of Guanajuato, which fall off the radar in his pursuit of tacos al pastor (Mexico City), nieve de garrafa ice cream (Michoacán), and cemitas poblanas (Puebla).
Some homework, then, for Brad Johnson: find the best tumbagones (fried cookies with powdered sugar), the best enchiladas mineras (enchiladas topped with cooked potato, carrot and chile), and the best pico de gallo de xoconostle, a fruit-and-jicama raw salsa that is usually served with fish or chicken but is absolutely killer even just scooped up with broken-up tostadas.
And then, maybe start paying attention to the street food we have up here, too. For verisimilitude, of course.
Meanwhile, follow Esparza's Street Gourmet or our own Tijuana Sí! for the nearest places to try real Mexican street food.
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