I just got back from an 8 day adventure trip to Mexico City and wanted to share with you my culinary experiences. Although I did want to try some of the highly recommended places on the Chowhound board, I never got to it. My husband and I had a personal driver (who I've known for about 10 years now), and because of him, we were able to eat deliciously like locals. We ate in a variety of environments -- from the street vendors to chain restaurants to more expensive places. Here's my rundown:
We ate at Sanborn's one night in the Zona Rosa (on our own), and what a letdown. The food and service were absolutely horrible! I was told by the locals that the quality of food at Sanborn's depends on which one you go to. The one located in the Casa de Azulejos in el Centro Historico is worth it, if only for the beauty of the building.
In Polanco, my cousin took us to a chain restaurant called Papa Bill's, reminiscent of Chili's, but better. What impressed us was their "paquetazos" which was a large order of meat (my husband remarked "the best beef (arrachera)" he had probably ever had, and a bucket of 24 bottles of beer! Although I really didn't want to go to a chain restaurant, this one was pretty good!
Also in Polanco, another cousin took us to Mexico Lindo y Que Rico (near the Periferico). What a beautiful restaurant -- excellent service, and delicious Mexican food.
In Santa Fe, we went to another chain, called the Beer Factory. My husband and I are beer afficionados, and wanted to check it out. Not worth it. The food was overpriced, not that great, and the beer was good, but not worth going.
In the Centro Historico, we ate at Cafe de Tacuba and Bar La Opera. Classics! We loved them both, not only for the food and service, but for the beautiful interiors. La Opera is a gorgeous place, with impeccable service. When we went, there were tunas (Spanish medieval singers) singing, which was great.
For the offbeat/local slant that our driver, Fernando, gave us, we ate at Kolobok, a Russian restaurant that sells among other things, Russian empanadas. I ate a chicken tinga empanada and a blackberry w/cream cheese empanada -- phenomenal! Kolobok is located in the Santa Maria la Ribera area. See www.kolobok.com.mx
We also had breakfast at a local market near Buenavista (Miguel de la Torre? don't remember exactly), at a stand called las 3 hermanas. We had cafe de olla (coffee made in a ceramic jug, spiced with cinnamon and sugar), sopes, eggs and chilaquiles. Absolutely out of this world!
Fernando also took us to eat at a place called Harry's, a torta place. Again, excellent.
During a visit to Teotihuacan, he drove us to a nearby place in an area where there are a slew of restaurants, all identified by numbers and people try to get you to going to their location via megaphones, or just by coming up to your car. We ate at local #19, which was great, after a whole day of climbing pyramids. The food was excellent and the micheladas (beer with lime and salt) were perfect.
On our last day, Fernando took us to a taco stand in his neighborhood. Normally I wouldn't eat off the street, because I just wouldn't know which one to go to or know which ones are clean/sanitary. However, everywhere Fernando took us to were places that he frequents, knows the owners, and knows that the places are clean. My husband thought that this street meal was the best one he had in Mexico! We sat in little plastic step stools on the corner, and ate quesadillas with potatoes and rajas (peppers), cheese, potatoes and chorizo, and tlacoyos filled with beans, and topped with salsa, cheese, and avocados. For four people to eat about a combination of 8 tacos al carbon, quesadillas, tlacoyos, sodas, AND we ordered 6 tlacoyos to go, was $10 USD! I would not have wanted my last meal in Mexico City to be any other way!