All righty, back and moderately recovered after nearly 8 days in Mexico City. First off, what a tremendous city. The food was as advertised, but everything else was equally stunning: the architecture, the art, the archaeology, the foliage, the pups. This was our first time visiting, but very early, it became abundantly clear that we would be back, and back often, so we didn’t feel a huge need to get to far-flung neighborhoods. I reckon our next trip will at least partially focus on Coyoacán and surrounds, so don’t tell me I missed out, I know.
A few quick notes: as others more or less hinted at, I found the taco game to be ahead of Los Angeles, but maybe not so much that it was worth trekking across the city for particular tacos. Likewise, as somebody else mentioned, find a stand that’s packed and the food will inevitably be pretty good. The ideal move (which I didn’t do) is to eat the tacos that are close to the places you want to visit. For trip two, I plan on setting up a pretty elaborate GoogleMap to pin all the spots I’m half-interested in. I wish I had biked (that was another recommendation but some of the streets felt scary) so we walked a ton. Averaged like 7 miles with a Dios De Los Muertos high of 12. I found Uber to be really frustrating. Wait time was always ten minutes and traffic is bad, though it is super cheap. The dream would be to speak competent enough Spanish to confidently convey to a taxi driver where I’m headed.
Thank you to all who provided recs. I did my best to get to those spots and I think I did a solid job, but seriously if you recommended somewhere, know that said spot is on my list for next time.
Okay, gonna list all the spots I ate at, and some of the spots I drank at. Most won’t get a full report, though I will eventually pull something together for Em and Quintonil. Here’s how to interpret. I’m rating places from 1-10, but also assigning dollar signs from $-$$$$$, so a 9 at a taco shop ain’t necessarily better than an 8.2 at Quintonil but it might be better for its category.
1-10 rating is self-explanatory.
$= way cheaper than LA street food-more or less LA taco prices
$$= kinda akin to LA taco or taco stand prices
$$$= this is the glorious like 15-35 pp category that Mexico dominated
$$$$= 35-80 pp
$$$$$= 80+ per person.
$$$$$$= Quintonil, 200 pp tasting menu
Woof, let’s do it. Also, I plan on retro-actively adding some photos. Hope there’s no word count.
Saturday, Day 1
Tacos Orinoco ($$: Rating: 6.4, Roma Norte) : This is a small chain from the north that I think started in Monterrey. We arrived late and exhausted and this really hit the spot, but the meat was at the level of a solid LA taco perhaps, though the tortillas were much better than the LA baseline. Pastor was better than the gaona de res which sadly was more or less lukewarm. Best thing by far was the nortena, which was basically wonderful chicharron thrown into a perfect flour tortilla smothered in cheese and doused in an avocado salsa. (Come here and eat the nortenas and the other variations of flour tortilla taco/quesadilla hybrids. Also, look at this sick collab they are doing with Adidas. Please lmk if you have a hookup even though it was a 6.4 I need these shoes. Taquería Orinoco x adidas Forum Low Release Date | HYPEBEAST)
Imbiss (8.0) : Not doing $$$ on bars, though cocktails were like $10. Wonderful, mellow retreat from the chaos of Zona Rosa. We did cocktails because it was day one and we had no faith in our Spanish to order wine by the glass. Cocktails were very classic, but delightfully executed.
Sunday, Day 2
Esquina Comun ($$$$ 8.7, Condesa) : Thank you @burritoking for this rec. Nestled on a Condesa rooftop steps away from what I think is the OG Nevería Roxy, Esquina Comun was one of the best value meals of our trip. Report will eventually be somewhere below, but of the 7 dishes or so we tried, 5 were at least very, very good. A sexy fish terrine (think it was red snapper) then a perfectly cooked filet of that same fish bathed in a verdant, herbal sauce were highlights, along with masa skulls hiding perfect chicharróns. Also, EC was the first of many restos serving a very non-Mexican clientele.
Em ($$$$$ 8.5, Roma Norte) : Lolz, we went after it on day one. Did a 7 or so course tasting menu that was like 105 USD per person. Full report will eventually be below, but this was pretty cool. Think an international feeling tasting menu very much (even surprisingly) rooted in Mexican cuisine. Also, maybe the best margaritas of the trip, and at like $7 a pop, I could have gone to a very bright and then dark place. Held it together just. I’ll give this spot an enthusiastic recommend–there aren’t many places in LA doing this level cooking for this price.
Monday, Day 3
Panadería Rosetta (no dollar signs for bakeries 9.0, Roma Norte) : Woke up late (this is a trend for us) and decided to get after it and try some pastries. This must be the most crowded place in the city; we didn’t dare try to sit down, but the line to get baked goods moved quite quickly. That famous guava and cheese pastry is advertised: More or less a flaky croissant-like thing with cheese (as in a cheesecake) and guava jam in the center. The sleeper hit though, and what M (the sig other) begged to return for was a decidedly un-flashy cinnamon roll. Just a thin layer of glaze coating a perfect, nearly sour-dough cinnamon roll. PS, did anybody else go to that weird art/food event in HLP last year with the Rosetta chef that was the worst QPR meal of my life? This was a nice way to kinda get past that trauma.
Jenni’s Quesadillas ($, 7.0, Roma Norte) : tldr: quesadilla woman likely named Jenni makes great blue-corn quesadillas on a Roma Norte street corner. Huge line of locals probably meant something. We did one huitlacoche (love its availability in Mexico) and one squash blossom. Douse in both red and green salsas and you got a winner. Better than the quesadilla woman in Echo Park but it’s not like we’re comparing Maine highschool ball to the Dodgers. @ShadrackToussaint , merci for le rec.
Contramar ($$$$, 9.2, Roma Norte) : Umm, what a remarkable spot. I have no idea what I expected (maybe a hipster spot like every other hipster spot) but it certainly wasn’t this old school, perfectly rectangular cantina with white table cloths and a ton of well-dressed regulars that Gabriela Cámara was gabbing with. Pro-tip, go to Pulquria Los Insurgentes to wait if you don’t have a resy. The tuna tostadas were somehow as good as advertised, the fried soft-shell crab taco specials were a bite of the trip, the tetela was herbaceous and bracing and delicious. (Side note, I love how Mexican cuisine uses masa as a vehicle for greens and the like. The masa is to accentuate the greens and the herbs, nobody cares that the masa might theoretically make the greens less healthy.) whisper it but i found the famous red/green fish to be a tad underwhelming, though I had to try it so no regrets. The fig tart may well have been the dessert of the trip. Oh em gee. Would do bad things to be able to replicate that.
Casa de Tono ($$ 6.5, Juarez/Zona Rosa) : shout out to @RedDevil for this one. I said this on the other thread, but this is perhaps the perfect 24/7 spot, so don’t let the relatively low rating fool you. The flautas, the pozole, the enchiladas, were they necessarily better than what you could find in LA, no. But was it cheap and sanitary and delicious and open at 11 pm, was it filled with partiers and the Day of the Dead costumed children, and were the waiters flying around at breakneck pace? Ya, it was all of that. Make this an international chain asap. (Side note, Monday was a wild eating day lol.)
Tuesday Day 4
Tamales Madre ($$$ 9.2, Juarez) : Perfection. I’m gonna copy over the report from the other thread below, but what a spectacular dedication to masa and tamales. They used ten plus types of corn!!! The spot was charming, the little car-parklet thing was festooned with flowers, and these people worship at the temple of masa. What a joy to eat the food of a team that cares so much about heritage and ingredients. Highly recommend, provided you go in with the expectation that these are tamales, after all. Shout out to eater for this rec. Honestly, they did me well this trip.
Side note: Really liked Museo de Arte Popular, plus their shop is fun. This was a remarkable afternoon. It was the eve of Day of the Dead, and we gathered in the Zócalo along with literal thousands to admire the offrendas that each Mexican state put together and watch the enormous Mexican flag get taken down. M is Mexican-American, so it was really cool to find the ofrendas from her ancestral regions (Nayarit and Sinaloa.)
FAILURE: Stood in line with a bunch of foreigners at Los Cocuyos and the line didn’t move at all for ten minutes, and then an annoying Austrian got behind us, so I admit, I bailed. It’s on the list for next time. Also didn’t make it to that one pozole spot by the mariachi square because we were gassed.
Pasteleria Ideal (4.5, Centro) : Though the vibes were perfect and the tray they give you to place said pastries on is comically large. Decent pastries, we had four. Pop-in if you’re heading by, otherwise skip.
Resto next to Bosforo ($$$-$$$$ 7.9, Centro) Oft referred to as Restaurante Sin Nombre, this is a dark, narrow, small spot directly nextdoor to Bosforo. It earns bonus points for having one of the more affordable wine selections in Mexico City. Who knew Txakolina would pair so well with grasshoppers? Pro-tip, Sin Nombre opens an hour before Bosforo, meaning that you can pregame with gorgeous tetelas and gorditas and quesadillas with grasshoppers and a perfectly balanced nopales and onion salad. We also had a fascinating sweet pepper and ceviche tostada, as well as some very tasty carnitas. A spot like this has very few analogs in LA. The food is rustic-ish, but the attention to sourcing and detail at this price is rather surreal. A decent comp would maybe, maybe be something like Hail Mary, where ingredients are prioritized over just about anything else.
Bosforo (9.8, Centro) : Lol, I’m so bummed that I’m so basic. All these CDMX institutions were so damn cool. We sat at the bar and tasted 6 or so mezcals. Next time I’m gonna do a tad more research pre-trip into the agaves and methods I like so I don’t feel like such a noob, though the bartender did a great job of guiding us through a rather diverse and stupidly affordable tasting. The owner was DJing beneath the bar, and, hilariously, most of the Mexican clientele were drinking beer.
Bar La Choperia (0.1, Zona Rosa): The night was young bc we started drinking at Bosforo at 7. We were stumbling through the city, invincible, having just unwittingly strolled through Doctores, which probably wasn’t our best idea, but, alas. M heard salsa music, she dragged me into a bar, we danced for two songs alongside locals. Ordered two shots of tequila, tried to pay on the spot, pulled out 200 pesos, was told, no, each shot is nineteen dollars hahahahah. This is the type of spot that has a bouncer at the EXIT of the spot so they can further con you. All things considered, we got off easy. Some dude on the interwebs paid $90 for two frozen margaritas. Somebody else saw somebody get beaten unconscious. So probably a skip.
Wednesday, Day 5
FAILURE: Tacos Hola El Guero was closed because of Day of the Dead. This saddened us. We ended up eating huevos and nopales at some hipster coffee shop in Condesa.
FAILURE 2: Tried to get into Molino el Pujol but the line was long and the menu didn’t appeal that much
Carnitas stand at corner of Insurgentes Sur and Aguascalientes ($ 7.0, Roma Sur) Really, really solid carnitas at this stand that was quite popular with locals. Salsa verdes were pretty next level, which was a bit of a theme at taco spots. The tacos themselves might not have been that much better than what you’d find in LA but the salsas were perfecto.
Los Parados ($$ 9.0, Roma Sur): M’s taco of the trip (TotT). So these guys throw arrachera on a spit, so it’s this gorgeous, sorta steak al pastor thing. Combine that with a hot as hell salsa rojo and your humble boy was in heaven. Strong recommend if you’re in Roma Sur.
Maximo Bistrot ($$$$$, 4.1, Roma Norte) : I cannot in good faith recommend this spot. It was very expensive, the space was gorgeous but in one of those Hollywood build-out kinda ways, and the scene was really effing annoying and the tables were tight. Beef tongue in mole sounded interesting but was overcooked. Cauliflower that I ordered at the waiter’s recommendation was something I could have whipped up in ten minutes. One of the worst resto dishes of the year. Octopus tostada was fine, as was a stone crab soup thing. Was this terrible, no? But in a city this good it’d be a shame if you ate here.
Thursday, Day 6: Moved into the Intercontinental in Polanco to burn hotel points. Polanco was a bit away from the action, and that whole scene is bizarre (like a nicer Beverly Hills perhaps) but if you try hard, the food is damn good!
El Turix ($$, 9.0, Polanco:) Another spot first suggested by @burritoking : Lolz, what a spot. The panuchos really are a different breed. So light and airy that you wonder if they can even stand up on their own, then the pibil man absolutely piles pibil onto the panuchos, such that the jus is dripping everywhere, coating everything, yet somehow that panucho holds up. This is a fun scene, you get construction workers, and men in bespoke suits and everybody in between. I mean, order a taco for experimentation sake, but we ended up doing 2 tacos and checks notes 7 panuchos.
Nicos ($$$$ 5.5, Claveria (I think): So this is the slow-food OG, the institution of all institutions, etc. It’s about a twenty minute drive from the more touristy parts of the city, so expect that. I quite enjoyed the aesthetics, white table cloths in a relatively low-slung space on a random street corner, with some epic jaguar decorations. I wanted to love this place. I really did. I found it fine. Service was helpful but mediocre (which is a bummer at a place like this.) The mezcal cart had like 10 bottles at most. Tableside guacamole was delicious but made so far from the table that I’m not even certain what went into it. Meanwhile, a tableside caesar was just objectively bad. It was the most over-dressed salad of my life, to the point I couldn’t eat anymore of it, due to revulsion. Might as well have been drinking caesar. The duck in mole was fine. The highlight of the night was fish (I didn’t catch the kind, struggled a bit with translation here) in a gorgeous pozole verde. To Nico’s credit, if there was a single dish from this trip that I could have weekly, it might be this one. The broth was herbal and just spicy enough, the hominy was gargantuan and clearly heirloom, the fish was cooked really well. Still, I find it hard to say, hey, why don’t you hop into a too-hot cab and trek 20 minutes here.
Friday, Day 7:
Theoretically we consumed an unremarkable tlayuda from a stand outside the remarkable Museo Nacional de Antropología.
La Ventana del Ticuchi ($$$, 8.8, Polanco) So the long story short is that the type of restaurant that blew my mind most definitively is the super masa-obsessed casual spot. (Tamales Madre, Sin Nombre, and now Ticuchi.) This is the day-time spot of Ticuchi, which is this supposedly super dark, sexy spot, which maybe housed the old Pujol. (I think it did, who knows?) Anyways, La Ventana del Ticuchi is in the Enrique Olvera empire, an empire which I’ve often scorned based on the mediocrity of his NYC spots, which I optimistically went to too many times in grad school when I was desperate for Mexican. But this place should be celebrated, my god. Great, great margaritas and a wonderful tepache. Gah, what I’d do for either of those at 2:27 am, as I craft this monstrosity of a trip report. They are known for their esquites tamale, which is exactly what it sounds like, and frustratingly rich and tasty. But everything with masa is extraordinary. Tetelas were hefty and cheesy and, smattered with a salsa macha, smoky and delicious. The quesadilla on a blue-corn tortilla was so simple but perfect. Strong recommend, with the caveat that I’m masa obsessed. Also, reports of Pujol’s demise are widespread and damning, but if it’s anything like this, uhh, sign me up.
Quintonil ($$$$$$, 8.0, Polanco) Note: I know I’ve already explained my rating system, but I should qualify that, though it was only given an 8.0, this is on a scale of probably 2-Michelin star and up experiences. It was a top 10 meal of our lives, I reckon, though it was not at the level of an Etxebarri or a Troisgros. What an adventure. We walked into the restaurant Thursday night, gave them our phone number, and basically begged them for any opening Friday or Saturday. Do this, it’s how my friend got in the week before us, and I think they prefer it over just firing times back into the Tock waitlist. Anyway, we got the green light at like 7:55 for an 8:45 table, and we were effing stoked. We had by far the worst table in the house, right next to the entrance, such that I literally cannot tell you what the dining room looks like. No matter. Quintonil eschews all the fancy Michelin three star stuff: the kitchen tour, chef visit, ingredients brought to your table then disappeared to make into your dish, etc. It’s a place to eat great food. That’s more or less it. The tldr though is that the highs were extraordinary (such that after 5 courses M said this was on pace to be the best meal of her life. Maybe she jinxed it.) The latter half was a tad heavier, and maybe a tad less-rooted in place, making it simply a wonderful meal, rather than a true contender for one of the best spots on earth. Dish-by-dish breakdown eventually forthcoming.
Saturday, Day 8
El Hidalguense ($$$, 6.9, Roma Sur): EH is a Friday through Sunday barbacoa spot serving very tasty barbacoa in a fun little two story resto bustling with locals. Supposedly, the agave they roast the barbacoa is why it’s so good, and I will say the barbacoa has a nice herbaceous smoke to it. The lamb is moist and not-gamey at all and they refresh your tortillas every ten-minutes or so to ensure that your taco is nice and toasty. Maybe not a destination spot while in CDMX, but I dunno if there’s a barbacoa spot here that I’d venture is better.
Bellopuerto ($$$-$$$$, 7.0, Polanco): This was the surprise of the trip. It was an Infatuation rec like two minutes from our hotel and we were simply out of gas. Think we took a nap to digest all the lamb from El Hidalguense, and the thought of the twenty minute cab to Roma Norte or Condesa was too much to bear, so we ended up at this clubby seafood restaurant that served oddly good (and sorta hard to find) tacos. A riff on the Contramar tuna tostada was kinda meh, but the quesabirria manta ray concoction was legit delicious, and a cheesy marlin taco was similarly bomb. An in-house DJ was blaring music to an empty restaurant, the red and blue strobe light of a cop car was spinning us into delirium, but somehow these tacos re-centered us. Also, lol, if this place was in LA and serving great ray and marlin tacos on blue corn tortillas we would be FLOCKING. Anyway, maybe a decent option if you’re in Polanco and lazy.
Sunday, Day 9
Siembra Taqueria ($$$ 6.3, Polanco): The last spot. Think the Bee Taqueria of CDMX, but everything is a good deal better. M ordered this stand-out cheesy steak and avocado taco/quesadilla. If I remember, I’ll come back and edit in the name. Anyways, a good spot if you’re in Polanco and don’t want to think too hard.
Don’t eat at the CDMX airport, especially in the budget terminal. Awful options. If you make it this far, you’re a real one. Thank you all for the help. It was our first big trip since Covid and coincidentally corresponded with the 16 year anniversary of us being together. All the pre-trip intel from this board gave me lots and lots of confidence and ideas!