Writing about Chef Guillermo Peters--the city's best Mexican chef--is more like covering a special culinary event than reviewing a restaurant. Long before the pop-up restaurant phenomenon began, the hard part of getting Guillermo's food was figuring out where the hell he was. Even during the years when had his own major restaurant Taqueros (on St. Charles Avenue, where the Irish House is now), he opened, changed concepts, and closed more times than one could keep track of.
For the past six months or so, he has been managing the Canal Street Bistro. It was a neighborhood breakfast-and-lunch cafe when he came in--dressed sharply in chef's whites, as always. He added dinner four nights a week, using a menu that not only included many of his gourmet-level Mexican specialties (this is not Tex-Mex), but also some German, Italian, and Creole dishes. It has been great. Get there soon.
Anyone who's visited Mexico City knows that the cooking there goes far beyond the peasant fare that most Americans associate with that ancient, rich, unique culinary heritage. Mexico City-born, classically-trained Chef Guillermo Peters is one of very few local chefs who cooks that way for all its worth, with great fresh ingredients and advanced techniques. That food dominates dinner. The rest of the time, the Canal Street Bistro competes with neighbors like Katie's, Mandina's, and the Ruby Slipper in the traditionally strong Mid-City neighborhood-cafe market.
It opened as the Eco Cafe, a vaguely New Age place with a juice bar, biodegradable take-out containers, organically-grown etc., etc. The owner--busy with a bed-and-breakfast--brought in Mexico City-born, classically-trained Chef Guillermo Peters to manage the substantial breakfast, brunch and lunch crowds. Almost immediately he began running specials and one-shot dinners featuring his classy Mexican dishes. Migas and huevos rancheros turned up at breakfast, chile con carne and quesadillas at lunch, and there we are.
The two-story townhouse is about a century old, and was renovated in a sensitive way into its present configuration by the law office that had been here before the hurricane. The modest but spacious dining rooms string back from the front door past a big old bar to the kitchen. Ceilings are tall, windows are large, the oaks spread over the neutral ground where the red streetcars pass. And Schoen Funeral Home is still across the street. Young, hip servers take care of you.
The Mexican food is a no-brainer choice at any hour. However, the breakfast and lunch menus are neither as extensive nor as well executed as the dinners are. The small plates at dinner are too large for appetizers; split 'em.