After a year of living at 6,500 feet in central Mexico, every day walking past centuries-old buildings on pedestrian-only streets, it’s┬áback to strip-mall Florida. For now. I’m buying a house here though, so I’ll be back.

Guanajuato is not really known as a great food city and since it has about 1/100th of the gringos you find down the road in San Miguel de Allende, there are few restaurants going all-out to lure the big bucks from foreigners. Should you find yourself in this city though, here are some places definitely worth checking out.

Dish from the Guanajuato Mole Festival

Las Mercedes – This is the closest you’ll get to showy gourmet dining in the city itself. (The fanciest spot around, Ik Etznab, is in Santa Rosa.) It’s in a lovely house with a view on one of the city’s many hillsides. With wood beams and chandeliers overhead and family recipes taken up a few notches on the presentation scale, this is a great spot for a romantic dinner.

Real de la Esperanza – At more than 7,000 feet in altitude, this hilltop restaurant is above the fantastic Valenciana church and has panoramic views of the city and mountains. It’s a great place for outdoor dining on a nice afternoon, or you can eat inside the building, which was rebuilt to resemble the adobe chapel that once stood on the site. Herbs are grown on the grounds and there are a lot of dishes here that don’t show up on many other menus. There’s also a great playground to keep the kids occupied, with a zipline even!

El Abue – My wife and I probably went to this restaurant just off Barratillo Plaza a half dozen times and the food was always excellent. It serves salads, wheat bread, a range of wine by the glass, and apple pie, so it attracts a mainly gringo crowd that’s tired of beer and enchiladas. (Despite that, the website is in Spanish only, but you can see their menu there.)

Casa Valadez – This is the most expensive restaurant by the main Jardin Union triangular plaza in the center, but it’s almost always full, mostly with Mexicans. That’s a testament to its consistently good food no matter what you order, including the best steaks in town. Everything is presented with flair and the gracious waiters are polished and experienced. It also has the nicest bathrooms in town, which the ladies appreciate…

If you’re up for Italian food, check out El Gallo Pitagorico or La Capallina, both right in the center.

There is also a fine restaurant in the top hotel in town, Villa Maria Cristina. It’s on the second floor though, and they don’t advertise locally, so the only people who eat there are hotel guests.

There’s plenty of great street and market food if your tastes aren’t so upscale. (It’s hard to beat a fantastic tamale that was less than a dollar.) Did you have an especially memorable meal somewhere else in Guanajuato? Leave it in the comments!