When you stay a month somewhere, you have time to assemble a list of your favorite food spots. This trio of restaurants has virtually nothing in common with one another, aside from the fact that we liked them, repeatedly in two of the cases.
Although we arrived rain-soaked, the craft cocktails at Pinche & Chef helped us recover quickly. The thinly-sliced roasted beet salad is layered with mandarin oranges, fresh lemon balm and Boursin IPODERAC cheese, created from goat’s milk by a Swiss-born cheesemaker who relocated to Atlixco, Mexico, more than two decades ago. A perfect avocado was filled with shrimp cocktail for a refreshing appetizer.
The queso Bourdin made a return visit accompanying salmon with a light chile poblano salsa. The Mexican take on risotto is a rich and creamy combination of chile poblano, corn, huitlachoche, mushrooms and an artisanal cheese from yet another Mexico-based cheesemaker. We finished the meal with a wonderful house-made blackberry gelato.
The only reason we did not make a return trip to Pinche & Chef was that we prefer to walk places, and it is located in a strip center out beyond the centro historico of Puebla. Once inside, the strip center location is well-disguised. The interior is casually elegant, and the chef-driven cuisine is fresh, contemporary and well-worth the inexpensive cabfare. Go for it.
Moyuelo, on the other hand, was only about three blocks from our apartment. Cocktails are crafted slowly, so sit back and order them prior to food. The kitchen always supplies you with a tasty, amuse-bouche, but absolutely do not fail to order the chalupas de camaron confitado. This combination of plump shrimp, gremolata and a salsa that leaves no tastebud in your mouth unstimulated served atop blue corn tortillas on a slate plate currently is my absolutely favorite dish anywhere. The aguachile preparation of dried shrimp and guacamole is a great starter as well.
During the season in August and September, Moyuelo turns out a perfectly executed version of chiles en nogada. The restaurant’s walnut-sauced chiles studded with pomegranate seeds were among the most handsome we saw, but the recipe is so highly regulated by Puebla’s chiles en nogada council that restaurants dare not deviate from the classic preparation of the city’s hallmark dish.
Soups at Moyuelo are far from ordinary. The mushroom soup is poured ceremoniously into a bowl dusted with dried mushrooms and epazote at the table. The cream of chile poblano, squash and corn soup is nestled in a bowl carved out of a sesame-topped fresh cemita roll.
Moyuelo has elevated the famous cemita sandwiches found everywhere on the streets of Puebla to lofty new heights. The Mister was hooked on the traditional milanesa, tender pork loin coated in a garlic and cheese crust and crowned with pesto, artisanal cheese and avocado. Sure you can consume a milanesa cemita standing on a street corner, but why would you when the chefs of Moyuelo are turning out a far superior one for less than $5? And the addictive accompanying little chile-spiked roasted potatoes should be available in larger quantities as a side order.
And then there is Lola. Located close to the Main Plaza on a shady pedestrian street, laid-back and friendly Restaurante Lola was our major hangout for lunch in Puebla. Lola offers one cocktail, a freshly-muddled mojito. We customized ours by requesting mezcal instead of rum. Order it before your main courses, or they overlap and you won’t be have time to progress to a glass of the inexpensive house red.
Everything at Lola is a bargain, but that is not what kept us coming back. Guacamole is made-upon-ordering and arrives with crisp totopos. The salads are always fresh and equal to those served in high-end establishments. The bright red tomatoes layered with an ample supply of fresh mozzarella made the caprese one of our go-to dishes. Sandwiches are made on artisanal bread, and the grilled vegetable one is outstanding.
Comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans, Lola is the perfect place for enjoying lighter fare and people-watching in downtown Puebla. And we did on numerous occasions.