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Nov 1, 2006 02:29 PM

Patzcuaro & Morelia dining adventures

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)
Sopa Tarasca

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 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,