Above: Fonda San Miguel’s owner Miguel Ravago told me that the restaurant’s name was inspired by a Mexican fonda or inn and the fact that he and his family used to own a house in San Miguel Allende.
California friends Robin Stark and David Schacter were in town for the weekend for a visit and so it was finally time for me to check out the legendary brunch at Fonda San Miguel in Austin. We went today, joined by Robin’s friend John Balistreri who also lives nearby.
Tracie B and I will often go there for a nice dinner on a weekday night, if we have something to celebrate or just want to do something special. We always eat at the bar and we LOVE the antojitos: the sopes topped with salpicon de pescado and cochinita pibil are our favorites. But I had still never been for brunch. The night before, Robin and David had paid a visit to a celebrity west Texas gourmet Hill Rylander who, when asked about the restaurant, responded by saying, “Fonda San Miguel is not the best Mexican restaurant in Austin… It’s the best Mexican restaurant in the world!” He might just be right.
Above: Corn pudding and chilaquiles, migas, marinated green chiles stuffed with cheese, and beans. Miguel told me that the corn pudding is used to sooth the tastebuds after you’ve eaten something too spicy. I tried it and he was right.
I’ve eaten great Mexican food throughout California and Mexico: from my family’s home in La Jolla (San Diego, CA), it takes only 30 minutes to reach the border and I have traveled extensively through Baja California and lived a summer in Mexico City when I was a teenager. In my experience, the moles (green and brown) at Fonda San Miguel are among the best I’ve ever had.
Above: The salad section of the buffet includes guacamole, ceviche, and Tracie B’s favorite, the spinach salad.
David — one of the most demanding palates and gourmets I’ve ever met — agreed, noting that the guacamole, a deceptively simple dish, was outstanding. Tracie B needed no convincing: she’s known all along! She always says that the cochinita pibil was one of the things she missed most (after her family, of course) when she lived in Ischia.
Above: Miguel told me that George W. Bush proposed to Laura at this table. The European travelers at the table were gracious enough to let me photograph it (I didn’t tell them why!).
The brunch is an all-you-can eat buffet and although not cheap, is a great value for the quality of the food (and all the chefs are very knowledgeable and talkative about the dishes; Miguel spends his time between Spain and Texas and we were lucky to find him there). I highly recommend it but be sure to make reservations because it is always packed and people understandably linger.
From left to right, counter clockwise: John Balistreri, Robin Stark, David Schacter, and Tracie B.