Venturing through Mexico is definitely doable, though it takes research and resourcefulness, especially as a vegan. Efforts are needed to avoid lard, chicken stock, and other animal ingredients while also dodging stomach issues that may arise from local unbottled water or produce that has not been cooked or disinfected. Speaking Spanish helps with asking wait staff questions, though there are no guarantees.
In enormous Mexico City, I was mainly fueled by beans, avocados, and steamed vegetables. In charming Coyoacan, the area in which Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived, I had a tasty grilled vegetable meal at Anselma Parilla Mexicana, with a broad view of the surrounding plaza and fountain. We soaked up other sights too, walking down Avenida Madero in the historic center and climbing the incredible ancient Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, said to be the third largest pyramid in the world.
We were captivated by the colonial towns San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, which offered some decent vegan options. From Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende was about three hours by bus, and worth the ride for its gorgeous scenery filled with churches, plazas, and a European feel. Via Organica at Calle Margarito Ledezma 2 was our mainstay, a peaceful environment with many expatriate clients, an organic garden, a natural foods store, and a pretty upstairs patio. I enjoyed their tamales, soup, salads, and green juices. La Media Naranja at Hidalgo 83 is a small and bright spot that prepares a yummy “Mexican Eggs without Eggs” breakfast of spinach, beans, potatoes and pico de gallo, and nutritious juices with ingredients like beet, ginger, and celery. They serve falafel for lunch too. Nectar, at Correo #43, which had fish but was otherwise a vegetarian spot, was a refreshing change with a more gourmet touch. In a relaxing outdoor patio, we could choose quinoa, teff, and millet cereals with almond milk, a vegan meatball sandwich, or zucchini soup infused with lemongrass tea, among other unique vegan and gluten-free options.
Guanajuato was about a four hour bus ride from Mexico City. I was completely enticed by the steep alleys filled with colorful buildings and tranquil vibe. There were tours of mines, and creepy museums filled with mummies and torture devices used by the Holy Inquisition. Habibti Falafel at Sostenes Rocha 18 was a small funky restaurant that became a favorite, dishing up delicious falafel, hummus, grape leaves, and salads. Mandala, 32B Calle Sangre de Cristo, served flavorful Indian food in a cheery environment. They also had vegan brownies! Midi Bistro, in South of France style at Calle San Jose #4, had an appealing minestrone soup and couscous along with live music and art.
For more nutritionally-balanced trips, I suggest staying somewhere with a kitchen that enables you to prepare your own meals, and remembering that the joys of travel outweigh the lack of culinary variety.
Photos by Paige Newman, 2014