Just spent 2 days in Mexico City (before continuing on to Oaxaca), and we managed to eat lots of great food. Here's the report, in roughly chronological order:
We arrived on Saturday evening, and my traveling companion (hereafter known as 'M') and I checked into our hotel in Roma Norte. After getting settled, we headed out for dinner—the destination we had in mind was tacos al pastor at El Huequito. We took the metro to Salto del Agua, and walked from there.
At El Huequito, we started with 4 tacos al pastor—these were good, but small, as expected. We noticed other tables were ordering the "Pastor Especial," so after our initial tacos, we ordered one of these to share, too. It's essentially a tower of meat, covered in sauce, served with tortillas (you form your own tacos). Very good, and a great start to our trip.
From here we walked to the Zocalo, then got a paleta and a chocobanana as we continued walking toward Plaza Garibaldi. Lots of people out and about, and on some of the side streets closer to Garibaldi, we saw lots of food stands setting up, getting ready for late-night eaters who would be out later. We drank a beer in Plaza Garibaldi (it was around 8:30 PM at this point), then walked down the main street to scope out the various street food options. We eventually settled on a stall making tlacoyos – we ordered one (sort of like a fat tortilla) topped with nopales, cheese, and salsa. It was great, and Plaza Garibaldi makes a great destination for street food.
Later that night, we went back to Roma Norte, and ended up at a bar that a friend had recommended called Pulqueria Los Insurgentes. I thought it was great—lots of pulque flavors to try (different bars on different floors each had rotating flavors), and there was a great rooftop terrace. We bought some small crispy fried chickpeas to go with our pulque—we tried both tuna (cactus pear) and mango flavors.
On Sunday we started the day by taking a run to Chapultepec Park, and on our way back, we stopped at a crowded food stand for a small breakfast. The stand was making quesadillas, and we tried one w/ huitlacoche. It was awesome, and the different salsas (all spicy) were self-serve. This stand seemed to be a pretty regular fixture, and it's on the corner of Durango and Veracruz in Roma Norte. Worth stopping by if you're already in the neighborhood.
For a second breakfast, we checked out Café de Raiz (recommended on Chowhound) for the rice tamales. These were sort of like maki, with a filling inside a rice roll. I didn't love them, but the fillings were good—we tried both chicken and mushroom/cheese. The salsa that came with these was great though, and it was a cute little café. M also had a coffee here, which was good.
In the early afternoon we walked around Mercado Merced for a bit. It was quite chaotic. We bought some very good rambutan.
For lunch (it was almost 3 by this point), we went to Contramar. We had made a reservation the day before for 2 PM , but since we were so late, we still had to wait—but maybe not as long as we would have. But this place was PACKED, so I would recommend to others making a reservation.
Service at Contramar was a bit disorganized and rushed, and since we sat outside, we dealt with the crowds of waiting customers and the noises from the street. Not exactly peaceful outdoor dining. But the food was awesome. The tostada de atun, which was recommended on Chowhound, was one of the best things we ate the entire trip. Really really good, thinly sliced tuna, atop some sort of aioli, topped w/ crispy fried onions. Tacos de pescado al pastor were also really good—it was hard to believe we weren't eating pork. We also decided to splurge on a special of chile en nogada—instead of ground meat, Contramar's version was filled w/ mixed seafood. It was a beautiful presentation, and it was fantastic. For dessert, we chose the banana tart w/ dulce de leche crema from the dessert tray. This was also amazing—rivaling desserts I have eaten at places like Tartine in SF. Crust was crispy, and the filling had just the right amount of sweetness from the dulce de leche. We also had lemonade, pineapple agua fresca, and a jasmine tea (all fine, but nothing special). I definitely recommend this place though — reasonable prices, lively, interesting menu.
On Sunday evening, we went to Coyoacan. We somehow went there without any sort of map, so we were a bit confused when we got off the Metro and found ourselves at a mall—not what we expected. Eventually we figured out that we had to walk about 15 minutes south to get to the heart of Coyoacan, which we did. First stop was Churreria Coyoacan, for churros and hot chocolate. These were excellent, and worth a trip. Next was equisita from Coyoacan plaza, which M liked but I didn't love, since I'm not a huge fan of the lime/chile/cheese combo. Next we tried some nieves from a place on the west side of the plaza—this was the best nieve we tried the whole trip. Both the guayaba and maracuya were very good. Better than anything we would try later in Oaxaca.
After our snacks, we ended up eating dinner on the street in Coyoacan, at one of the stands on Cuauhtemoc between Ignacio Allende and Aguayo (and across from Café el Jarocho). We had pozolo rojo, which was spicy and really good, and also had a gordita de chicharron. We also got to try some chapulines, as the stand we were at had these. They also were making tlayudas, but since we were heading to Oaxaca later in the week, we passed on these.
The next day we met up with a fellow hound for breakfast, though I don't remember the name of the place (perhaps she'll chime in with the name). We had chilaquiles w/ salsa verde and huevos rancheros, which all came w/ a choice of OJ or fresh fruit, coffee or tea, and buttery grilled bread. It was a nice local neighborhood spot in Condesa—nothing I'd go out of my way for, but still a very nice breakfast.
Next we headed to the bus station, en route to Oaxaca. I got a torta to bring on the bus, made at a stand outside the TAPO bus station: ham, avocado, tomato, beans, on grilled bread. Really good, and traveled quite well. M ended up ordering some tacos—al pastor and suadero—from a different stand, and ate these before getting on the bus. We ended up feeling pretty hungry on the bus though….luckily we had a traffic jam which allowed a vendor to sell us some cookies. Then we made a single stop in Nochixtlan where we bought piping hot empanadas, filled w/ a spicy red sauce that burned my mouth (but were delicious). Finally we arrived in Oaxaca, but I will save that story for a separate post. Coming soon!
Thanks everyone for all the Mexico City suggestions. It's such a big city, and I was amazed by how much food was everywhere. It seemed like there was a taco or some interesting snack on every single corner, stretching in every direction for miles. Overwhelming, but great fun to explore! Hopefully this post will be helpful to other visitors—we were really glad we made the trek to Coyoacan, which we almost didn't do….but it was worth it for the different foods there. Plaza Garibaldi area was also a lot of fun.
Photos: Pastor especial at El Huequito, tlacoyos near Plaza Garibaldi, churros in Coyoacan, quesadillas in Roma Norte, chile en nogada at Contramar, banana tart at Contramar, pozole in Coyoacan