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Patzcuaro & Morelia dining adventures

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I am visiting Mexico City,Patzcuaro,Morelia & Guanajuato on my first trip to Colonial Mexico.

For Patzcuaro the ideas I have come up with are:
- Restaurant Cha Cha Cha
- Ice cream stands (neverias) near Hotel Los Escudos (I read something about the city displacing some of the stands).
- Don Rafa – tarcasa soup
- Restaurant Priscillas at Mansion de los Suenos
- El Primer Piso
- La Puerta Roja, spanish tapas restaurant

For Morelia: I have done a little less organized searches. The notes I have included:
Restaurant Casa de la Calzada
Restaurant San Miguelito
Candy Market.

I would like to dine mostly at places with Mexican or Spanish food or international with local flair. Anything to add or delete.??

I would like some tips on regional dishes also.
whitefish -(seems to get mixed reports on whether okay with water quality)
uchepos/corunds
Sopa Tarasca
Caharales
Others?

Any suggestions. What about bakeries or light breakfasts?

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  1. Majmaj4, now you're in my part of the world. I'm sure Anonimo will add bunches of other ideas to mine.

    In Patzcuaro, I've eaten at every place you list except for La Puerta Rojo.

    ChaChaCha is owned by American ex-pats from NorCal and is consistently good. You'll find an interesting mix of traditional and contemporary Mexican food.

    The nieve carts are under the portales on the Plaza Grande and I don't think they're the carts that are being displaced. The Plaza Chica is currently undergoing some renovations and I believe that is where the food carts are being displaced. You'll find that the Plaza Chica is a little grittier and less gentrified than the Plaza Grande. The neive carts are such an institution I think city government would have a very hard time moving them. The neives are wonderful and come in so many different sizes from muy chiquita to muy grande. The vendors will combine flavors if you ask. I had blackberry and coconut the last time I was in Patz, it was an inspired combination that day.

    Don Rafa is a personal friend of Cristina who sometimes posts on this board. He claims to have invented Sopa Tarasca. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know his version is really good, one of the better ones in town. The rest of his food is kind of hit or miss, some of it's really good, some of it's not.

    El Primero Piso is actually on the 2nd floor ;-) of a colonial building on the Plaza Grande. It is upscale casual in the same way that ChaChaCha is and prices are about the same, which is to say higher than most other restaurants in Patzcuaro, but not nearly as high as the same meal would be in the U.S. BTW, Primero Piso makes great margaritas and the staff is very friendly and efficient. You probably won't be disappointed at either ChaChaCha or El Primero Piso.

    Mansion de los Sueños is a very upscale, very pricey B&B owned by an ex-pat from California. Visually, the interior of the building is stunning as is the restaurant with all the folk art. It's a beautiful place, but I, personally, find it a bit pretentious in comparison to the rest of Patzcuaro. The food in the restaurant is quite good. It's not quite Mexican Alta Cocina, but it's not real downscale either. I think the best way to describe it is as extremely competently prepared, gussied up Mexican food from traditional roots.

    Mistongo is not on your list and should be. Here's the link
    http://mx.geocities.com/mistongomx/pr... You'll need a little Spanish to look at the site; if you can read menu Spanish that's probably enough. The space is relaxed and pleasant, the menu extensive and the food really good. There is often interesting and unusual muscial entertainment. Prices are moderate by Patzcuaro standards and the owner (an Argentinian) engaging. It is located around the corner from El Primero Piso on Calle Dr. Coss; it is across the street from the B&B La Casa Encantada, which is owned by Canadian ex-pats.

    The sidewalk cafe in front of the Gran Hotel on the Plaza Chica is a great place for breakfast, plus they make a good cup of coffee.

    Hopefully, Anonimo will post about his finds with regard to the smaller restaurants, particularly his favorite mariscos place in Patzcuaro. In the meantime, here's the skinny on some of the street food, which is incredibly good in Patzcuaro and reasonably safe.

    The best street tacos in the world are from the taco stand just down the street from the Gran Hotel on the corner by the farmacia. The guy only shows up at night and the stand is usually packed. The tacos de bistec and tacos de chorizo are excellent. He also has a few offal varieties, but they don't hold much allure for me so I haven't tried them.

    Also at night, two little ladies selling atole de grano will appear a couple of doors down from the Gran Hotel. They will set up their braizers and get the soup going. it's delicious with a deep corn flavor and subtle hints of anise that comes from fennel, which is not an especially typical ingredient in Mexican cooking. There are a couple of stools in front of each make-shift stand, so you can eat it there, or they have styro containers so that you can take it with you. If you're taking it to go, I would suggest that you not get it with the pieces of corn cob, it's too hard to eat that way. If your eating in, then by all means have it with the corn cob.

    The corunda vendors are usually up by the basilica (just a block away from ChaChaCha). They also make a good stop for breakfast and, trust me on this, corundas will stick with you for a good part of the day. As you are facing the front of the basilica, the cornunda vendors will be to the left. The one at the far left of the basilica has dynamite corundas stuffed with doble crema and rajas (rich, thick cream and chile strips). It's about the size of your fist and they will serve it in a cereal bowl. You'll be asked if you want salsa; you do. It's kind of a funky yellowish-grass greenish salsa made from chile perón (aka chile manzano) which is very hot and spicy. Crema will be liberally doused over the whole thing too. The masa from the corunda and the crema will definitely tame down a lot of the heat in the salsa. Most of the corunda vendors also sell atole in various flavors. The corunda vendor I recommended usually has chocolate and cinnamon atole. A mug of atole and a corunda "con todo" will definitely get your day off to a good start.

    Across the street from the basilica and down towards the Regional Museum you'll find a couple of street vendors selling chicharrones. If you time it right you can get it just coming out of the frying vat and it is exquisite. They also sell the chicharrones with meat still clinging to it which is superb. Right around the chicharron vendors are a couple of small tienditas that sometimes sell locally grown coffee. Going down past the chicharrones vendors, still towards the Regional Museum is a small tienda selling chocolate de matate which is locally grown and produced. You'll just have to look in the doors to find out which shop, but it's usually fairly prominently displayed on the front counter. I belive the wrapper says "Josefina" on it.

    I deliberately left the granddaddy of all Michoacan street foods until last, and that would be the Enchiladas Placeras. These are the vendors that are probably being displaced. They set up in the portales around the Plaza Chica at night. To watch Enchiladas Placeras being made you will never want eat them, not becuase of sanitation, but because of the carbs and fat. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, lo-cal, healthy food. But for a once in a lifetime, or once every 3 or 4 month treat, it can't be beat.

    The vendor at which I've eaten is Don Emilio. His stand is large and is located right at the entrance to the daily mercado or street tianguis and across the street from a hotel (that used to be the Hotel Parroquía, but whose new name I can not come up with).

    One order of Enchiladas Placeras is enough for two people and you can have it with or without chicken, light meat or dark. I like having it with chicken because the protein helps to cut some of the fat and carbs. The platter includes at least 12 enchiladas that have been dipped in a chile sauce, fried and filled with a scant amount of onion, potato and cheese. They are folded and shingled out over the platter, then covered with coarsely diced carrots, onions and potatoes that have also been fried. Shredded cabbage and salsa de chile perón go on along with more cheese and some jalapeños. If you order it with chicken you'll get a chicken quarter that has been fried as well. It's really not as greasy as it all sounds and when they are well made, they are truly sublime. I've also had Enchiladas Placeras at the restaurant in Mansion de los Sueños where it was a very sedate and well mannered entree. It tasted good, but it lacked the joy and soul of the street vendor version. Part of what makes this dish so good, aside from the food, may be eating it at an oilcloth covered table along with Mexican families, couples on dates, the telenovelas on one nearby TV and an everpresent soccer game on another. Add in the dogs that wander in out around your feet, little indian ladies selling nuts and tortillas and the orchestrated chaos that makes any Mexican plaza riveting entertainment.

    In Morelia try the Villa Moñtana. It's on a hill overlooking the city. The view is spectacular, especially at night and so is the food. Prices to match but food and service were great the day I was there.

    Marisoles is probably the best restaurant in town. It is located in an old convereted mansion and is within walking distance of the main plaza and cathederal. They serve Mexican specialties, but they also focus on Purepecha food of the region including charales, the white fish out of the lake and Chirúpe (not sure I spelled that right) the Purepechas soup/stew. The setting is gorgeous as is the food. They also probably have the best wine list in Morelia complete with an extensive selection of Mexican wines, primarily from the Baja growing regions.

    A pleasant place for afernoon drinks is the rooftop bar of the Hotel Juanitos which is on one side of the Cathederal plaza. It's an old hospital that's been converted to an intimate small boutique hotel. The terrace bar/dining room has a tremendous view of the cathederal and it's spires. The cathederal at Morelia is famous for the soft pink color is casts and nowhere is this more apparent than at sunset when the setting rays hit the spires just right and they hold a beautiful mellow pink hue. With a drink and a couple of antijitos it's the best happy hour in town ;-).

    And speaking of the cathedral, if you are in Morelia on a Saturday night, there is a special cathedral lighting that takes place around 9 PM each night on the plaza. The spires are lit accompanied by music and fireworks. It's a little kitschy, but it's fun and everyone turns out for it.

    I think that's it for now. I've got to get back to work ;-D

    1. Just returned from our 6th annual trip to colonial Mexico. This year it was Guanajuato, the recommended restaurants are posted under the Guanajuato/SanMiguel header. Last year we were in Patzcuaro during "Dia de Los Muertos" and had great food at CHA CHA CHA. They make a great guacamole salad. We had it at every meal. In addition as another post said go to Mistongo. Try the tortilla soup all over Mexico. Enjoy your trip.

      1. Thank you both for the suggestions. DiningDiva - thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response.

        1. Don Rafa was not my favorite meal by a long shot. Even the Tarasacan soup was better elsewhere but it's a pleasant place.
          Don't miss the corundas and personally I loved the atole with tamarind. The best food was the street food.

          1. Hola, I just saw this post, and I think others have answered well, esp. the highly enthusiastic DiningDiva. ;-)
            I'm not a big fan of Sopa Tarasca the way it's now made-beanless. But that's another subject. I, too, love the atole de granos and the señoras who serve it.
            When I'm more awake, I'll describe our favorite seafood place, Mariscos La Güera, and a couple of other spots.

            I don't want to forget to mention the old standby, Restaurant El Camino Real, behind the Pemex station on the old Pátzcuaro-Morelia highway. It's home style Mexican cooking but with special touches, for example, Conejo Al Ajillo can be very good.

            I posted, on another site, Michoacan_Net, a series of reviews of breakfasts I've enjoyed with the Men's Breakfast group, which meets every Tuesday at 9 AM. The breakfasts at Cha Cha Cha are consistently among the best, followed probably by the cafe at the Gran Hotel and El Camino Real.

            Then there's carnitas...oink! And birria.

            Buen provecho,
            Anonimo

            1. I should add (modestly) that I wrote an article for Longleafstyle.com on maíz-based foods in Michoacán, a sort of beginner's introduction. It's located here: "A Michoacán Culinary Journey"
              http://www.longleafstyle.com/2006/sep...

              1. "I would like some tips on regional dishes also.
                whitefish -(seems to get mixed reports on whether okay with water quality)
                uchepos/corunds
                Sopa Tarasca
                Caharales
                Others?"

                We have had the white fissh—pescado blanco— a couple of times over the years, and it never rocks my boat. It's just too subtle a taste for my palate, and the egg batter never seems browned enough for me. As to the health issues, I definitely would NOT eat any fish that originated in Lake Pátzcuaro. It is said that the more pristine Lake Zirahúen
                http://www.pbase.com/panos/lago_zirahuen is clean and the fish are safe to eat.
                Charales are very small fish, usually fried to death and resembling crisp brown twigs, OR, cooked in a caldo, which isn't too bad. You can try some of these at places like the dock restaurants at Zirahuen town.

                Uchepos are "blind" sweet tamales, that is, they have no filling. We were given some homemade ones by our neighbor, and were told that they were made of sweet corn kernels. You can eat them as a dessert or a snack. They are pleasantly sweet.
                I think DiningDiva has covered the corundas topic quite well.

                Sopa Tarasca is basically a light, tomato-based soup, garnished with a strip of fried chile pasilla, some crisp ribbons of fried corn tortilla, and lashings of crema, Mexican creme fraiche. I prefer a bean-thickened version.

                Other restaurants: we eat at Birrería Don Prisci quite a lot, especially the one located at the front of the mercado. The one down near the road junction below town, not far from the unused train station, has a tacos and guisados menu as well, and more comfortable seating. While it's not the best birria we've ever had, it is good. You can get it as bowls of soup both small (chico) or large (grande) or as tacos. They make some of the best tortillas, large and freshly hot from the comal, to accompany your birria. By the way, it's available made of borrego (sheep) or res (beef).

                The other favorite eating place is Mariscos La Güera, sort of on the near outskirts of town, at the junction of Ave Federico Tena and Libramiento Ignacio Zaragoza. There are actuallly two, across from each other, but the one one the right, as you head out of town, serves only cold seafoods. The left hand one has some nice full dinners as well as cocteles and tostadas.
                A few photos of the attractive restaurant and some of its dishes, here: http://www.pbase.com/panos/mariscos_l...

                Starting with the seafood cocteles, which are good, but for me the catsup in the melange is too sweet, so I usually ask for them sin catsup. You can get shrimp, octopus, oysters, etc, although I don't eat raw oysters in Mexico. For smaller tastes of pretty much the same stuff, order a mix of tostadas. There are also some interesting seafood empanadas.
                Camarones aguachile is light and refreshing, with the uncooked shrimp undisguised by sauce.

                Simple dinners are best: filete de pescado empanizado, for example; or breaded fred shrimp. Shrimp in garlic sauce is good, but not the best I have ever had. The Sopa de Mariscos o de Camarones is very good. Even a small bowl is difficult to finish due to the generous serving. Avoid anything a la Vercruzana; they don't make it very well, at least the day I ordered it.
                Finally, the somewhat elaborate Camarones Rellenos (cheese inside, bacon wrapped, the cooked, is actually pretty good.

                I'll touch briefly on bakeries in another post.

                Buen provecho,
                Anonimo

                1. Don Rafa, of the eponymous restaurant, is an old friend of mine. Although I love the man dearly, I do agree that his restaurant's meals are usually well-prepared but simple food, nothing to write home about. There are other, better places to eat in Pátzcuaro, most of them well-covered by The Dining Diva (thanks for the mention) and Anónimo in their posts.

                  A word about Sopa Tarasca: Don Rafa invented this so-called Tarascan Soup (Tarasco is the Purhépecha-language word for 'brother'--it's what the Spaniards called the indigenous people of Michoacán) back in the 1960s, when he was the chef at the Gran Hotel. About two years ago he gave me his handwritten original recipe. The recipe as he invented it contains neither tomatoes nor beans. The soup is roux-based. Many other Pátzcuaro restaurants (and even Diana Kennedy in *Regional Cuisines of Mexico*) have their own versions of Sopa Tarasca, but Don Rafa's is the original. It's not even necessarily the best, but it is the original.

                  It takes a long time to understand the various cuisines of Mexico; the cuisines of Michoacán are several and well worth exploring. They are as varied and interesting as the cuisines of Oaxaca.

                  Have a wonderful trip, majmaj, and I'm sorry I'll miss you in Pátzcuaro.

                  1. Aye, Cristina and Anonimo, all of us have forgotten to mention that old institution Las Mercedes in Morelia. It rates right up there with the Villa Montaña and Mirasoles in terms of grace, elegance, style and good food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Yep, La Fonda las Mercedes in Morelia is about as good as it gets for ambience, excellent food, and gracious service--it's a do-not-miss. No matter where you're seated, be sure to visit the rest of the rooms in the restaurant--and the bathroooms, too!

                    2. We don't dine "high" in Morelia. The fanciest, (if that is the correct term) place we have been is Langostiko's for seafood. http://www.pbase.com/panos/langostikos or Amazonia, for Brazilian style, sword-cooked meats.

                      1. Here's a photo from Amazonia, on Camelinas in Morelia:
                        http://www.pbase.com/panos/image/4983...

                        1. Even though I spent the majority of my working years as a baker, I still don't have a very good idea of the best or most interesting bakeries in Morelia and Pátzcuaro. But I can offer some observations from the slightly more than a year that we have lived here.

                          There are no GREAT bakeries, just some pretty good ones.

                          In Morelia, there is the locally famed Horno Ortiz, whose mother branch is on Av. Vicente Santamaría, south of Centro, toward Camelinas. (A bit south of where Santamaría crosses Av. Lázaro Cárdenas.)
                          They are well-known for huge versions of breakfast rolls, donuts, pastry "mice", boxed in cute "Swiss Cheese wedge" boxes, but especial for the Apple Dumplings, which are available from about 4 PM, until they run out.

                          A more standard bakery, but of good quality, is that of Trico, a local gourmet emporium chain, with locations in Centro (has a nice restaurant upstairs that's a good choice for well-made breakfasts), the big store on Ave. Ventura Puente, south of Centro, kind of close to the Planetario (it has the largest selection of hard-to-get "gourmet" items in the city, IMO), and a small branch up in the hills near Santa María.

                          There's a bakery east of Centro, on Calle Alzate, I think, but unfortunately, I do not recall its name. One of its specialties is Cheese Rolls, a sort of finger of dough, filled with a lean cream cheese. (These were also served at Mariscos Langostiko's when we were there.)

                          In Pátzcuaro, Rivepan, on Av. Codallos close to the mercado is a standby and makes standard, but decent products.

                          On the other side of Pátzcuaro's Centro is Panadería El Lucero, a tiny place below the basilica, presided over by an old Señora. The specialties are intricately fashioned sweet crisp items. This place is almost a small museum of unusual, lacy shapes of sweet dough. You have to sidle by carefully around the small show tables of goods to avoid bumping into them.

                          Another place, which I personally enjoy for its quirkiness, is the Panadería Sin Nombre, at Romero # 16, just a couple of blocks south of the Plaza Grande. (In the other direction, around the corner, is the CELEP Language School.) You can hardly buy anything there until 3 or 4 PM. The sales area is in the production area, with the oven just behind some baker's racks, loaded with hot trays. (A bakery could never get away with this in the US!)
                          The packaging at times leaves something to be desired, as there are no dainty-fingered salesgirls there, just the owner and the baker, dropping all your purchases into a paper bag.

                          There is a obscure and hard to find, lesser known bakery, in a house in a non-touristed neighborhood of Pátzcuaro, called "La Espiga", if it has a name at all. I don't have the address, and have only visited there twice. (You'll never find it without a guide.) It's one of the few bakeries left with a wood-fired oven. The baking room, where you buy your bread, is a sort of dark, cave-like space.The thing to buy are the bolillos, which are made with a masa madre starter, hand formed, nested and proved in cloth couches, and thrust into the oven on a narrow peel. It's very inexpensive. The pan dulce, however interesting looking, is heavy and I don't recommend it. Fortunately, these same bolillos are served at the Restaurante El Camino Real, on the Pátzcuaro-Morelia highway east of town, behind the Pemex station and the OXXO store. (At least they were served when we breakfasted there a couple of months ago.)
                          Some Bakery photos: http://www.pbase.com/panos/pan_mexica...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Anonimo

                            "There are no GREAT bakeries, just some pretty good ones."

                            Unless something has changed in the last couple of years, bakeries are still largely for poor people... with the exception of some boutique bakeries particularly in Mexico City.

                            It wasn't that long ago that breads were price regulated... as such most of the styles evolved to be very bready & low on more expensive ingredients. IMO, for a long time the only place to get decent baked goods was at a bakers home... where they reverted back to pre-1960s recipes for their own consumption.

                            I suspect that is probably still true... you might want to befriend a baker.

                          2. Loved Fonda Las Mercedes in Morelia - few blks west of the Hotel Virrey
                            Navegante -seafood on Garcia de Leaon #1051
                            Los Comensales- Zaragoza #148

                            Los Juaninos

                            all in Morelia

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Lori SF

                              An expat friend raved about El Navegante, so last year we had a late lunch there. It was ok, but imo, undistinguished. It's an old fashioned sort of place, and enjoyable for that. I did like the complimentary caldo de camarón they brought before the meal.

                              Another seafood place, for which I have mixed opinions, is LagosTiko's, on Ave, V. Santamaría. It's more "tropical palapa" in style, and not fusty like El Navegante. Maybe part of it is that that the first time we went to LangosTiko's, it was a busy Sunday afternoon, and the joint was jumpin'.
                              Some of the dishes are fairly creative, while what we saw at El Navegante were tried and true seafood favorites. (I had the Huauchinango a la Vercruzana at El Navegante, which was pretty good.)

                              At LangosTiko's, the Sopa de Ostiones, prepared tableside (something I don't usually look forward to) was exquisite. There are specialty seafood cocktail combinations that I have never seem elsewhere.
                              Photos of LangosTiko's: http://www.pbase.com/panos/langostikos

                              1. re: Anonimo

                                "There are specialty seafood cocktail combinations that I have never seem elsewhere."

                                Are you referring to the ketchup-less cocktail with star fruit? If so... one thing that is happening is a renewed interest in indigenous raw seafood traditions.

                                Eating sashimi like raw seafood with fruits, salsas & other garnishes was a common pre-hispanic tradition that largely dissappeared during the colonial era... but recent documentaries on remote fishing villages in the Costa Brava & Costa Chica have brought it back to life largely supported with the growing interest for Sushi in Mexico. The cooking documentary... La Ruta del Sabor (Once Mexico)... did some shows on this tradition & I have seen some cookbooks in Mexican bookstores with recipes... so I suspect they will turn up in restaurants quite a bit more.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  The ketchup-less cocktail in the photo had pienapple and cucumber in it; a slice of starfruit on top.
                                  By the way, the Morelia LangosTiko's is the second of two restaurants of that name. The original is in Zinapecuaro.

                            2. Majmaj, I'm bumping this up to the top so that you can see that many of us are still very interested in where and what you ate while you were in Pátzcuaro and Morelia. Can you post something for all of us? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks so much...

                              cristina

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: cristina

                                I have now posted Morelia and Patzcuaro reports. Sorry I never had a chance to meet some of the people who helped me plan my trip. Thank you!

                                1. re: majmaj4

                                  Yes; I read your very good reports on the Thorn Tree, Mexico Branch.

                              2. Sopa Tarasca.

                                IMO, one of the most over-rated soups in the Mexican culinary repertoire.
                                Today, my wife and I ate at El Camino Real, outside of Pátzcuaro. On the advice of a friend, I ordered the Sopa Tarasca while my wife chose Caldo Tlalpeño. My soup was not unpleasant, just dull, not especially flavorsome, even for having what seemed to be a light bean puree in it. I nibbled on some of the complimentary Chiles Manzanos en Vinaigre to boost the flavor. These are fresh, crunchy and variably picante. Her Caldo Tlalpeño was lively with flavor, attractive and enriched with chayote slices as well as the requisite slice of aguacate. Instead of having the customary garbanzos, it had thin spaghettis or fideos in the bottom of the bowl.

                                The rest of the meal proceeded well, although overweighted with carbohydrates: bolillos, arroz Poblano, carne de puerco en salsa verde (***) y corunda (heavy), and tortillas. My wife had the Enchiladas Rojas de Pollo, a good if standard preparation. We skipped dessert—arroz con leche (¡más carbos!) or ate de tamarindo(?). The bill was $130 MXP plus tip.