Where to Eat in Mexico City

Going beyond culinary stereotypes in Mexico’s capital

By Nanae Watabe, Travel Writer

Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with her friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge of today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video, they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off the beaten path.


Hola Felicity!

I am so excited to see the growing number of people hanging out in the city I call home: Mexico City (a.k.a. CDMX—our new name and overpriced logo). When I shop at local markets or walk the streets and see visitors absorbing all things Mexican, it makes me the proudest person here. You are going to love it!

Cityscape of Mexico City with cathedral
Photo: Shutterstock

At the same time, however, I wonder if these visitors are making the right food choices. Eating is THE most important thing while traveling, after all—at least it is for me. With this matter in mind, I have a few recommendations for restaurants that showcase the variety of incredible dishes here. These span the wildly diverse cuisine that is traditionally Mexican, to international fare you wouldn’t have expected to find. After all, don’t we need a little bit of everything in our new-age flexitarian diet? Here are my picks for everything from Mexico City’s best tacos to boundary-pushing contemporary cuisine:


For Breakfast:


CAFE NIN
This is my go-to after a hard workout class with my ladies. Imagine a bunch of ñoras (the shortened word for señoras, or ladies) in very sweaty activewear needing caffeine, carbs, and good food in our systems. This beautiful French-style mansion is my favorite combination of all that wonderful chef Elena Reygadas does: gorgeous pastries, a beautiful yet subtle Italian-Mexican touch to all the dishes, elegant decor, and super nice staff.

Server holding 4 plates of pastries
Photo: Ana Lorenzana

FONDA MARGARITA
The most traditional of Mexican diners. This is an iconic place with insanely short working hours: just 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. At the door there’s a duo band with a duo job: playing music and welcoming guests (like bouncers, but cooler). Over charcoal, huge clay cauldrons bubble with different guisados (stews), and you always get a basket of tortillas with your meal—think of them as an essential piece of cutlery. Do you trust me to pick your food? If so, order the frijoles refritos con huevo, an omelette-shaped refried bean dish with specks of scrambled egg. Loads of dishes in Mexico, including refried beans and tamales, have pork lard in them, which is why they taste so incredibly good. Remember: fat is flavor.


For Lunch:


CONTRAMAR
Generally speaking, this is Mexico City’s most established restaurant; they’ve earned this distinction for their impeccable service, delicious food, the most instagrammable fish in town, and the best margaritas! It’s the perfect place for Mexicans’ favorite activity after lunch—sobremesa—which is talking endlessly about who-knows-what while continuing a liquid diet of Albariño wine and sueros, our country’s cure for dehydration. Always go with a minimum of four friends so you can nibble on a variety of dishes.

LOS PANCHOS
My mom introduced this place to us a very long time ago; now that she’s gone, I’ve realized all the important things she taught me, starting with food! The menu is quite extensive and so are the size of the tacos, so choose wisely. One of those very important lessons from my mother was to order Los Panchos’ addictive petrolera dish, which combines the best of everything. Basically, it’s a large sope, which is a round and thick tortilla with pinched edges that’s smeared with refried beans and finished with a mountain of carnitas. My mother always added mole and raw onions, but you can also add quesillo—a beautiful string cheese you’ll want to put on everything. And don’t forget what I call the TACO 101 ingredients: raw onions, cilantro, lime, and salsa.


For Dinner:


MAXIMO BISTROT
This is my favorite restaurant in the city and one that can’t be missed. My dear friend Mark took me here for the first time, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t been. Neither could I after that first bite of fresh hamachi with thinly sliced serrano, dollops of creamy avocado, and spoonfuls of umami sauces. When it’s mushroom season, Chef Lalo makes sure we have them in every dish that comes to the table. Did you know that Mexico has some of the best and most famous mushrooms in the world? You’ll find porcini, morels, chanterelles, matsutake, ovoli/caesars, and rovellon in dishes during the season.

Overhead shot of dessert on table

MEROMA
This is my new restaurant love, which I call a combination of Mexican and Mediterranean. The architecture, modern decor, and atmosphere all match the subtle and carefully fused combination of flavors. Meroma is beyond lovely, and definitely has one of those menus where you should order everything on it (because YOLO).

For Drinks:


PARAMO
More than a bar, this new-age cantina draws the young and hip of the La Roma neighborhood. Owned by a laid-back family that loves pampering its customers, you’ll definitely need taco sustenance after a couple of their drinks. There are options for vegetarians, but I’ve found the best choice for omnivores is the suadero taco—it’s brisket fried in pork lard, effective at absorbing the high alcohol content of mezcal.

MAISON ARTEMISIA
You’ll find a cosy night scene at this popular Mexican-French maison with only candlelight to create the mood. It’s the perfect place to go for a nice cocktail and rest on a velvet sofa, and it’ll make you crave absinthe as if you were a bohemian creative in 1920’s Paris.

Interior of chic French-style bar


For Really Late-Night Tacos:


TAQUERIA ORINOCO
Originally from Monterrey State in northern Mexico, this counter service joint is a relatively new one in the city. The menu is fairly simple, so I would try the three tacos sueltos to taste what they are all about. My favorites are the trompo (pastor pork); res (thinly sliced beef with beans, confetti-sized tortilla chips, avocado slices and grated cheese); and the especial campechana with cheese and big flour tortillas. Also order a cheve (beer) and, if you have room, a guava paleta. Though I seriously doubt you can out-eat me, and I never have room for dessert.

LOS COCUYOS
One of CDMX’s most famous hole-in-the-wall taquerias, this shop is located in historic downtown and serves beef and pork that have been simmered in lard until tender. If you order tripa or tongue, make sure to specify that you want it bien doradito (extra crispy), and if you’re feeling very adventurous, order eye or head.

Customers at small taco shop in Mexico City

There, you're set! Trust me, there are few better places to eat in the world than my hometown:)

Besos,
Nanae


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Nanae Watabe—who considers herself a professional eater—is known to her friends as ‘Japexican’ because of her mixed Mexican and Japanese heritage. Born and raised in Mexico City, she’s spent time in Japan; Canada, where she studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of British Columbia; and Italy, where she completed her Masters degree at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. She’s since been involved in various food related projects, and especially loves educating people about wild mushrooms and the amazing funghi kingdom in general.

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