As Mexico’s largest city, with an impressive population of nearly 22 million, La Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City) is one of the country’s most sought after destinations. Home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the world-famous Aztec ruins of Tenochtitlan, the largest number of museums in the world, and historic neighborhoods flooded with nouveau and art deco, this city’s vibrant culture is sure to impress all of those willing to explore its every nook and cranny. Tucked away in its constantly busy streets and bustling avenidas (avenues), visitors will find one of Mexico City’s greatest treasures – its local cuisine. I mean, who doesn’t love Mexican food?
Few places can rival the accessibility and affordability of Mexico City’s food scene. Just around every corner visitors will stumble upon a plethora of eating options, ranging from elevated Mexican cuisine to traditional greasy street tacos. Not a fan of traditional Mexican dishes? Not to worry – Mexico City boasts an international food scene comprised of diverse culinary experiences from around the world. So, pack a pair of stretchy pants and get ready to dive into one of the world’s greatest culinary cities.
Just as foodies are anxious to experience the local cuisine in all of its forms, Mexico City’s residents, chefs, and servers are equally excited to share the breadth and depth of their dishes with visitors. With limitless options available, deciding where to go and what to try may seem like an impossible task. While each individual has their own unique pallet, there are a handful of food and beverage items that all guests must experience. Below, you find what makes this city one of the world’s most creative culinary spots and what allows both locals and visitors the opportunity to relax, eat, drink, and be merry!
Similar Ingredients, Different Dish
One comment frequently made by visitors who have little to no experience with Mexican cuisine is that at first glance, it appears that all the dishes are the same – corn, meat, cheese, and salsa. However, this simply isn’t so. Due to the variety of ways in which corn is utilized and spices are used, each dish offers its own unique sazon (flavor). Some of the most well-known dishes of this type are Mexico’s famous gorditas, tortas, pambazos, tamales, and of course – tacos! And yes, we’re talking street food!
During your stay, it is highly recommended that you try them all. Begin with a visit to El Famoso (The Famous) gordita stand, located in the Mercando San Juan de los Arcos de Belen, a local food market. Stuffed with ingredients such as chicharron (fried pork skins), refried beans, cheese, shredded meat, mushrooms, nopales (cactus), potatoes, or combinations of any of the above, these tasty antojitos (snacks) are sure to fill you up.
For those with a more ambitious appetite, try the city’s famous pambazos and tortas de tamal. Arguably the most Mexico City dish of all time, the pambazo is a sandwich-like meal in which the bread is marinated in guajillo chili sauce before being browned on the griddle and filled with diced potato, chorizo (Mexican sausage), lettuce, cheese, and crema (Mexican cream). Now, that sounds delicious! Find these savory “sandwiches” at any one of the weekend pop-up markets, especially the market located on North Sullivan Avenue.
Still hungry? Try one of the most satiating dishes of all time – the torta de tamal. Perhaps the most unique local dish, the torta de tamal is a steamed parcel of corn dough filled with a variety of ingredients and stuffed inside its own bread bed. That’s right – it’s basically a tamale sandwich. Talk about carb intake! While it’s highly recommended, be sure to attempt this heavy beast when you are most hungry. Found on most city corners, this typical breakfast dish is best enjoyed at the vendors that line the streets of La Condesa – an up and coming hipster-style neighborhood located nearby the city center.
And finally – tacos! Unless you have dietary restrictions or flat out don’t like them, it is impossible to visit Mexico without indulging yourself in the country’s most simple, yet delicious food item. Soft tortillas piled high with sliced, marinated pork (traditionally cooked on a peeled pineapple-topped spit), Mexico City’s tacos de pastor are unparalleled. El Turix, a small, hole in the wall taqueria that specializes in Yucatan-style cuisine offers not only some of the city’s best tacos de pastor, but also tacos de cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pulled pork). Topped with sweat and citrus marinades and salsas, these Mexican gems are sure to leave your mouth watering even after you’ve had your fair share. Keep in mind, every single person will have an opinion on where to get the best tacos – try as many as you can, as they all offer their own, unique touch.
Mexican Cuisine at its Finest
It’s understood that not everyone is a fan of local street food (even though it often beats out even the most upscale restaurants), which is why Mexico City is home to some of the best wine and dine experiences in the country.
For those who wish to experience impressive cuisine at a reasonable price, try La Condesa’s Fonda Mayora Bistro. With tableside guacamole, a hot pink, deeply refreshing drink of hibiscus, chia and cinnamon, and fresh, spicy salsas made from shredded carrots, chipotle pepper, onion, garlic and tomato, this popular food joint offers the pallet a nice punch of flavor. If you are looking for a more exotic spread, try Los Danzantes located in the dazzling neighborhood of Coyoacan. This spot offers guests a truly one-of-a-kind experience, providing dishes such as tacos and quesadillas filled with buttery, crunchy, corn-like ant eggs – a delicacy often enjoyed in Mexico’s southern states and the Yucatan Peninsula. Be sure to accompany your meal with one of the restaurants incredible array of mezcals – many of which come from its own distillery.
For those willing to spend a bit more, a trip to celebrity chef Enrique Olvera’s stunning, romantic restaurant Pujol is a must. Named to San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, this remarkable spot offers guests an upscale take on some of Mexico’s most famous street foods while also providing unique dishes such as the hyper-conceptual, pre-dessert dish of two moles. Either way you go, exploring the best restaurants in Mexico City will leave you impressed and feeling that your money was well spent.
Don’t forget to leave room for Mexican churros at Churreria La Parroquia, pan dulce (sweet bread) at Panaderia Rosetta, or helado (ice cream) at Neveria Roxy. If there is one thing Mexican’s like more than tacos and tequila – it’s desert! You can’t go wrong with any one of the above options. Shoot, try them all! After all, you’ll have earned your fair share of desert after a full day of exploring.
Eat Like a Local, Cook Like One Too!
The best part about experiencing Mexico City’s diverse food scene is that you don’t only have the opportunity to try food, but you can learn to cook it as well! It’s no surprise that this world-renowned food mecca is home to some of the world’s best Mexican cooking classes. Littered with tours that include cooking lessons – even personalized experiences in family homes – Mexico City is the prime spot for learning how to master local cuisine. Whether you learn from world-famous chefs, culinary professors, or local friends, perfecting the art of Mexican cuisine is an opportunity you can’t miss when visiting this remarkable city. Upon completion of your course, celebrate in true Mexican style with an artisanal mezcal at Polanco’s Los Amantes or a craft beer at Cerveza Cosaco. One phrase you are sure to learn during your stay – salud (cheers)!
While the list of fun things to do in Mexico City is limitless, remember this – the heart of Mexican culture can be found in its cuisine. Stay away from large chains and fast food joints and dive into the culinary diversity of Mexico’s unique and savory cuisine. Whether it be through organized Mexico City tours or on your own time, getting to know local dishes and beverages is key to truly enjoying the Mexican experience. Loosen your waist belt and get ready to eat like there is no tomorrow. ¡Provecho!