A cab from the bus station brings travelers to the bright blue door, the well-landscaped indoor patio laden with bougainvillea, and the warm welcome at Iron House Hostel, this easy-going, ultra laid-back hostel. Our group of three got an incredible deal -- a gigantic room with two sets of bunk beds and a large living area complete with table, chairs, lounge chair, and bookcase stocked with books (mostly in English) and a little boom-box. Our "suite" included a private, two-room bath and a kitchen, although the stove had no gas and the fridge wasn't plugged in. (Probably if a kitchen had been requested, the appliances could have been made workable -- putting us in a self-contained apartment was a last-minute decision.)
Ricardo, who apparently runs this place alone, is as friendly as promised. He has a life, so there isn't always someone on duty -- in fact we only saw him twice in the two days we were there. Therefore it took careful coordination for the three of us to deal with one key, but we found a certain charm in that. The place feels absolutely safe and secure. The floors and surfaces are a bit gritty, but San Miguel de Allende is a dusty place, and what the hostel lacks in spotlessness, it gains in atmosphere.
The sheets are freshly laundered and smell like sunshine, there are plenty of blankets for the cool nights, and the thick, adobe walls make the room a haven of coolness in the heat of the day. There's no breakfast, although there are mouth-watering bakeries and tortillerias between the hostel and the town center. Upstairs from the suite is the common room with large-screen TV, a computer that sometimes has connectivity, the dorm, and a kitchen that has working gas and fridge (though the downstairs guests are locked out in the morning).
The neighborhood is a bit off the beaten path, but it feels safe and friendly, and the center of town is an easy ten-minute walk if you don't get lost. San Miguel de Allende is an "upscale" Mexican town, a little like Santa Fe, New Mexico, in that it is almost too artfully done in harmonious shades of terracotta, cappuccino, rose, salmon, and deep red. The town is prosperous to a fault, in part thanks to its long-standing expatriate population (mostly retirees from the U.S., but also from Europe and Asia, and young artists catering to the large market for home decoration). Don't be surprised that it's easier to find a "hamburguesa" or a crab-stuffed avocado than an enchilada. It's good to escape the trendiness and high prices and just sit back and enjoy the backpacker's funk of the hostel.