Hello MEX chowhounds! I just had an outstanding trip to Mexico City, and wanted to pass along my trip report, hope this will be helpful to anyone else traveling to this fine city! Apologies for the long post, I was in town for a full week and wanted to just cram this into a single note. For the sake of convenience, I have just arranged it chronologically.
A couple of notes-
(1) We mostly just had breakfast at our apartment instead of restaurants, so no breakfast listings; however, I will recommend Fleur de Lis tamales in Condesa/Roma Norte (just north of Parque de Mexico), from which we bought a pile of tamales to reheat every day for breakfast. Yum!
(2) Since we stayed in Condesa/Roma Norte area, our listings are somewhat centered on just that area – not meant to be a statement on great places elsewhere in town!
We arrived very late Sunday night so just stayed at the airport hotel. We also arrived very hungry – fortunately, MEX has this weird food court outside of security on the way to the airport hotel and airport bus station. It looks a little sketchy at midnight, but I think that’s mostly just all the people sleeping in the halls before their early morning flights and bus rides. We had pastor tacos from El Fogoncito, and while they weren’t earth-shattering, they were pretty good for an airport food court. We went back the next morning for breakfast and had pretty good chilaquiles from the place next door (and coffee from the Starbucks around the corner).
After we checked in we walked to Tacos Hola in Condesa. This is an awesome place, if kind of chaotic. They have rows of bowls with various taco toppings, you wave to get the attention of one of the many people crammed behind the counter, point to what you want, and he stuffs it into a tortilla and hands it to you. There is nowhere to sit and hardly anywhere to stand, but everyone is happy and friendly (why wouldn’t they be? They’re eating tacos!) and will make room for you to squeeze in. At the end you tell the guy by the door what you got and he charges you – it’s very good and <$20 per taco. The chorizo was awesome, the rillena (Mexican haggis) was a bit challenging.
Dinner was at Azul Condesa on Nuevo Leon. Fairly upscale but not outrageously expensive. Very sleek place, and was full by 9pm. Serve a mix of standards and regional Mexican. We had very good Arrecha steak and Pulpo Soup and an outstanding Tamale Ranchero appetizer and really outstanding egg nog tres leches cake for desert. I’d go back just for the amazing deserts. Not cheap, but very good.
For lunch Tuesday we took the Mexico City Culinary Walk tour from Culinary Backstreets. I am generally very skeptical about such tours, but this one came well reviewed so we decided to try it out. I’m glad we did, this was an awesome tour! It was just my wife and I and our guide, and the tour lasted 4 hours. We went all over the Centro Historico, into lots of places I would never have tried on my own. I don’t want to say where all we went and spoil the tour, but it was like 10+ different places, including hole in the wall restaurants, carts, and market stands. The food was consistently great, and needless to stay, I was stuffed beyond functionality by the end. I would definitely recommend.
For dinner, we somehow summoned an appetite and walked to the El Tizoncito in Condesa. It was recommended for pastor (my favorite), which it definitely had. However, the “DF Special” I ordered was not was I was expecting, it was served in a strange manner, somewhere between an oversized tostada and a taco salad. It was good but it was unclear to me exactly how to eat it. Do I pick it up? Do I risk looking like an idiot and using a knife and fork? Anyway, on a slow night a pleasant place to sit outside and eat pastor and drink beers.
After walking around Roma Norte had lunch at Taqueria Alvarado on Obregon. Good tacos on a pleasant patio, also very cheap. They have two locations on Obregon serving more or less the same menu. After, headed to the Centro and followed up with yummy churros at the Churreria Morro, right outside the San Juan de Letran Metro. This place is like 100 years old and feels it. The waitresses may have also been there about 100 years, the service was, let’s say, brusque. You pick the sweet liquid in which you want to dunk your churros, and go at it. Who doesn’t like churros? It was great. Then headed across to Coffee la Habana to head off our sugar crash with coffee. Cool historic place serving possibly the worst coffee I have ever had. Go for the atmosphere, beware the coffee. Finished our day with drinks at one of the touristy places overlooking the zocalo. Nice view, fun to watch the holiday lights come on when the sun went down.
Dinner was at La Capital in Condesa. It was described as a modern take on the traditional cantina. Hmmm, maybe in the sense that they had (very upscale) bar food and alcohol, but the atmosphere was sleek international hipster, and very trendy. Would not have been out of place at home in Vancouver. We got the last table at 8:30 on a Wednesday and it was still packed when we left a couple of hours later. Good and creative cocktails, and delicious small plate foods. Expensive.
Lunch today was at Casa de Tono in the Zona Rosa. These restaurants are all over town, I can only speak for this one. There was a huge crowd waiting to get in, but they have a great waiting system where you can just take a number and lurk around waiting for a table. At 2pm on a weekday, our wait was maybe 20 minutes. They are famous for their soups, we had a couple of different pozoles, and both were delicious. Also good tostadas and quesadillas. I wish we’d made time to come back, this was a satisfying meal! Followed up with alcoholic ice cream at Helado Oscura in Roma. Cool place and I like the concept, but the actual treats were just kind of OK. They keep weird hours and sometimes close early, so beware.
After a big lunch and ice cream (plus some more ice cream at Neveria Roxy – also very good) we weren’t so hungry for dinner so stumbled to Sobrinhos looking for small plates. Classy place on Obregon, menu is kind of fancified cantina food and some Spanish tapas thrown in. May have had the best mojito I have ever tasted. Everything we had – queso fundido, chicharon tacos, a torta – was good but maybe not worth the money. Followed it up with Mexican microbrews at Trappist at the confusing intersection of Obregon, Yucatan and Nuevo Leon. Hard to spot. Has a seriously extensive beer selection.
Friday was our special fancy meal for the trip, we had reserved for lunch at Pujol. If you’ve been on this board, I probably don’t have to explain what Pujol is. We did the 10-course luncheon which featured a variety of inventively modified Mexican classics with some strange fusion dishes. Ranged from good to very awesome. One of the most expensive meals I have ever had (I don’t remember the tab, but well over US$100 per person) but also one of the best. If you’re going to splurge, this is the place to do it. Almost killed us it was so much rich food – the courses look tiny individually, but they add up.
We were completely full from our huge lunch, so dinner was a couple of tacos at Taqueria Alvarado again, still good.
Headed to San Angel for the market. Ended up for lunch at Barbacoa de Santiago, which is right on the main plaza. Despite its tourist friendly location, the food was great and very reasonably priced. My note taking had deteriorated greatly by this point in my trip so I don’t remember what I had, but it was very good! Followed with drinks at the bar atop the Torre Latinoamerica. I would definitely recommend this on a nice day – don’t be fooled by the long line to go up to the observation deck, if you are going to the bar you can walk straight to the elevator and you don’t have to pay! The view is amazing, and while the drinks are expensive, they aren’t outrageous – and much better than having to pay admission one floor below.
Dinner was at Maximo, in Roma. Upscale chef driven cuisine, mix of international and Mexican dishes and preparations. This place came highly recommended and delivered. I would say reservations are pretty much mandatory, it was full by 9pm. We sat outside and it was very pleasant on a quiet street. The food was consistently good, we had a risotto with blood sausages, cerdo, a grilled artichoke, and when the kitchen was running a little slow, they sent us a free pulpo ceviche. Not cheap, but reasonable for the quality of the food.
For tourists on a Sunday, all roads lead to Coyoacan. The crafts market didn’t do all that much for me, but I was very impressed with Tostadas Coyoacan in the produce market. You can’t miss this place, it has expanded to take over multiple market counters. Beware the imposters surrounding it. They have like a hundred different tostadas, the four we had were all great. Crowded and crazy, but the army of staff make it work. Followed with pretty good coffee across the street at El Jarocho Café – be prepared to stand in line, but the coffee is good. Followed that up with awesome tacos at Super Tacos Chupacabra. It’s hard to find, but if you walk from the central square back towards the Coyoacan metro station, it’s under the overpass right before you get to the station (next to the also very good bakery). It had a pretty good looking bar across the courtyard, if I lived in Coyoacan, I might spend all my time there.
Dinner was our only disappointment of the trip. We wandered out late Sunday night to find everything closed in the neighborhood. Ended up at Bizarro on Yucatan because it was close to our place and we had been walking by it over and over again. Despite its menu, really just a bar, the food was indifferently prepared and just kind of OK. Too noisy to sit inside, and sitting outside put us with the smokers, blech. Might try it again just for drinks some time, it looked like they had a pretty good beer selection. Had better luck for beer down the street at the Depository on Obregon – a combination bar and beer store with a nice selection of local micros on tap.
We left early to make the trip to Teotihuacan, then hurried back for a late lunch at El Cardenal on Palma. Very classy place, packed with local families and workers having pre-holiday lunches. Totally full at 4pm. Food was outstanding across the board – escamoles (and larva), sausage tacos, a couple of moles. A little bit pricy, but not unreasonable given the quality and huge portions. Pretty much wiped us out for dinner, but we did find time to stop twice for palatas at La Michoacanas on the way home.
Mexico City is a GREAT place for food! I could happily go there and eat nothing but tacos, but I was also impressed by the quality and variety of more upscale food available. Also, despite Mexico’s reputation in the U.S., we never went anywhere that wasn’t completely clean and neither of us had any digestive problems from the food. Finally, we had zero problems getting around, either on foot or on the Metro/MetroBus -- we had been warned to avoid hailing taxis on the street, but we never needed a taxi of any kind other than going to the airport.