Mexico City means a lot of different things, to a lot of different people. Some people think street food and tortas, some people think museums, and others regrettably think it is a city that is off limits.
Over the years Mexico City has garnered a reputation for itself that often has tourists saying, no thank you. In reality, this sentiment could not be further from the truth. It is the former, and certainly not the latter descriptives, that has a new wave of people flocking to this charming city.
The artfulness of the streets, buildings and parks, the pure and palpable friendliness of the people, the care and creativeness put into the design of every bit of space, and of course the distinctiveness found in its culinary creations, made this one of the most memorable places I have ever been.
From $1 tacos and tostadas found in sprawling, local markets, to more serious spots that have international fame and acclaim, the food here left a major mark.
I could have spent weeks exploring and eating my way around the otherwise named DF (Distrito Federal)… but I only had five days this time around, but as always, I packed it in and safely feel I can say I enjoyed some of the best this city had to offer.
Here are some of the highlights of the best food in Mexico City!
Located in the somewhat chic Polanco district, Pujol is sleek, chic and has a rather minimalist setting. Pujol is one of the higher end spots in Mexico City, offering a set tasting menu by acclaimed Chef Enrique Olvera.
It’s also ranked at an impressive #15 on The World’s 50 Best List, which means expectations start high and you just hope they end up getting met. Crunchy insects (do it!) play a big role here, and you’re likely to see versions of avocado and mole pop up throughout.
Each dish was aesthetically unique as well as gastronomically complex, and all was seemingly handled with ease, precision, and remarkable taste to match.
Maximo Bistrot and Lalo!
Chef Eduardo Garcia of DF’s Pujol and NYC’s equally acclaimed Le Bernardin set out to make his own culinary mark in 2012, and with the opening of Maximo Bistrot he did just that.
Maximo Bistrot is sleek and simple, but also invokes a feeling of cool and sophisticate. Set on a corner in trendy La Roma, a late dinner at Maximo blew us away and made us fall more in love with the city than we already had. This was one of my favorites.
Down the street you’ll also find Lalo!, Garcia’s other venture. It pretty much screams cool. There is one very long, very large table, some loud, colorful cartoon-like graphics on the walls, with black and white tiles beneath your feet. Lalo! is eclectic eggs dishes by day, pizza pies by night; what more could one want?
Rosetta is absolutely beautiful. The decor is warm and inviting and every room is riddled with strong personality. Here, inside of an old mansion house, we enjoyed an Italian influenced meal that while not perfect, was nonetheless quite memorable.
The goat cheese carpaccio with truffles, drizzled honey and rye bread was a particular stand out!
Brought to you by the same chef as previously mentioned Rosetta, Panadaria Rosetta is a heavenly bakery in La Roma. Here you’ll find fresh breads, dozens of pastries, quiches that were among the best I’ve ever had and coffee from the nearby Cafe Cobalto.
Grab a seat at bar, deliberate for a while and then settle in for an awesome experience. Worth a visit, for sure!
Contramar is excellent and was my favorite restaurant in Mexico City. We went early on a Friday afternoon to guarantee ourselves a seat. Contramar is absolutely a desired spot, both for locals and guests alike.
Very quickly, our waiter Jose plus to large group of locals next to us seemed to be one big happy family, and sat for hours and hours full of food, drink and interesting conversation.
The tuna tostadas are out of this world, and the massive grilled fish that comes doused in two different sauces is something you will never forget. If I could dine here weekly, I’d do so without hesitation. Make sure this one happens.
This is a Mexico City institution. There are a few locations, but the one we were advised to go to by locals was the one nearest to downtown. El Cardenal fast moving, sprawling and bustling. You will likely have to wait, so be prepared to wander the nearby square as you do.
Upon sitting, busy waiters will offer natas (clotted cream) and warm fresh bread, which you should definitely take advantage of.
After that choose from a huge array of traditional Mexican dishes; the tacos de cameron with a side of guac and the enchiladas with chili, cheese, shredded lettuce and slices radishes were some of our favorites.
For a good dose of what DF used to be, go here. The huge and rather elegant Covadonga is one of the few cantinas that has successfully turned traditional into trendy.
The décor hasn’t changed that much, retaining the antique bar and square wooden tables from when it originated, but the clientele has transformed from domino-playing regulars to the young on a retro night out.
The menu features nominally Spanish food, with tortilla Espanola and Jamon Serrano. The pulpo is a must order, too!
Tacos Gus is a hole in the wall spot with to die for, you guessed it, tacos. Pick your poison by choosing from a dozen meat or veggie fillers that the friendly man behind the counter will talk you through, and let him know if you want guacamole or potatoes on it, too.
Your creation will be handed to you on a brightly colored plastic plate, with a plastic bag wrapped around it for easy repurposing, which seemed to be a running theme in this city. From there douse your tacos with salsas of your choosing, and grab a seat inside or on the street.
Nothing easier, nothing better.
Cafe Avellaneda is another super cool coffee shop, in the Coyoacan area of DF. This is a very much the definition of a true hole in the wall (it’s a teeny tiny space on one of the winding side streets), but the coffee they crank out is no slack.
If you order espresso it’ll be served to you on a fancy little tray complete with different strength drips, water and a mini cookie.