One of the things we love most about traveling is enjoying the cuisines of different places we visit. Although we cook most of our meals “at home” when we’re on the road, no matter where we go we make a point of having enough in our monthly budget to eat out at least once a week.
Our typical monthly allowance for dining out is $150 – $175/month for the two of us. In some places we’ve visited that’s been more than enough to enjoy incredible meals in upscale restaurants, like steak in Argentina or charcroute in France. However, we typically enjoy the adventure of finding lower cost restaurants, and we love dining on street food or specialties from small stands, which help us balance spending more one week with less in other weeks without damaging our budget. For example, in Japan we may go to a restaurant for big bowls of noodles or a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) set one week, then balance that expense the following week or two with stops for karaage (fried chicken) or takoyaki (octopus dumplings) from neighborhood stands that we can bring home and eat. It’s a system that has worked well for us.
Treats are affordable as well: Two cups of hot Mexican cocoa and six freshly made churros for the two of us or four huge scoops of gelato that tasted like we were back in Italy were only $6 USD each.
Our time so far in San Miguel de Allende has turned all that on its head though, and the low cost of eating out here frankly shocked us at first. We quickly discovered we had a choice to make: stay with our once a week eating out and save, or eat out more often and enjoy the variety of dining choices and low prices. The latter choice has won out, and has meant that we’ve sometimes eaten out three times in a week, all without going over our monthly budget. Meals for the two of us, tip included, are rarely over $20, and all the meals we’ve eaten out so far when averaged out come to less than $15. And, for that amount we’ve eaten some pretty terrific food.
Our Father’s Day outing was our most expensive meal yet: $30 USD including tip. However, the food was absolutely delicious and the servings were HUGE. My order came with seven jumbo coconut shrimp (each took four bites to eat) and Brett got enough freshly cooked and shelled crab to feed a family.
We’re constantly surprised by the amount of food we get for our money here and have yet to leave a restaurant not feeling completely full, sometimes to the point where we have no desire to eat the rest of the day. Portions have consistently been large or even huge (for us) and a great value for what we’re spending (unlike back in the U.S. where I usually leave a restaurant feeling like I could have made it myself for less). For the most part we’ve enjoyed the ambience of the restaurants we’ve eaten at and there are a few we hope to visit again before we leave. We’ve had a lot of fun reading reviews and choosing new restaurants we want to try, especially for brunch every Friday. We’ve stayed away from dining out at night not just because of the cost but because I don’t want to be walking on cobblestones in the dark. However, there doesn’t seem to be a price differential between lunch and dinner. We also have yet to try a taco stand or buy tamales from a street vendor, but that’s coming up soon.
We could spend more here if we wanted because there are restaurants that charge a LOT more than what we’re willing to pay. We know though that we don’t have to do that in order to enjoy some very delicious and beautifully presented food. We also know all this culinary goodness will end when we’re back in the U.S. where we’ll once again rarely eat out or even pick up take out. But as long as we’re here in San Miguel de Allende we plan to enjoy ourselves and continue to let others do the cooking a couple of times each week.