Out on the Calzada de la Estación—the Train Station Road—there hangs a sign advertising the best roast chicken in San Miguel de Allende.
This is an example of those modest businesses that give Mexico much of its character; the kind of humble place I love. Housed in a sturdy wooden shack, it squats next to a weed filled vacant lot. In a nod to modernity, a quasi-professionally designed banner has been strung across the front. It’s ugly, but these things are cheap—important in a low-volume business.
A boy sits in front of the building, awaiting infrequent customers. The yellow cinderblock structure is a fire pit. Inside, mesquite coals line a trench, giving off intense heat. Ribs and flattened chickens impaled on wooden stakes cook slowly, taking on beautiful color and smokey flavor. The aroma is enticing.
This truly is slow food, expertly prepared. The method is ancient. The first ever cooked food probably was roasted on sticks over an open fire much like this. Ovens, cast-iron pots, and Teflon sauté pans came much later. The place has no name, called only by what it serves: Pollo al Pastor—Shepherd’s Chicken.