Meatless in Mexico City?
We're foodies about to head to el D.F. for a week. We don't eat meat (but do eat fish, dairy, eggs, etc.). Obviously, this rules out most classics of authentic Mexican cuisine. Most, but not all - we should be able to do well with tlacoyos and the like (lard will have to be a don't-ask-don't-tell policy). Does anybody have any recommendations for particular street vendors or restaurants in Mexico City or other closeby places (Puebla, Taxco)? As much detail as possible concering address/location would be appreciated (we've never been). Thanks!
While I've been in some places in Mexico where the comida típica seems to be very vegetarian friendly (like Morelia), where I live (Guadalajara), so much of the cuisine seems to be either  a slab of meat prepared in one way or another, sliced or chopped up, then put on a plate and served with tortillas, or  the main ingredient has been simmered, stewed or seasoned with things with animal-based products. Like cochinita pibil or something adobada - you can't just ask them to substitute mushrooms for the pork in something like that. "Onions al pastor?" That's not happening. While I'm not saying many Mexican dishes can't be made vegetarian, this is usually accomplished by planning to make it that way from the start. Many traditional dishes (I'd risk saying most, but I do not wish to imply that I'm that experienced) can't be made vegetarian by a simple substitution.
I have had mixed success with asking for the replacement of meat with something like cheese or spinach in restaurants in Mexico. Very simple things like quesadillas, enchiladas or enfrijoladas - sure, you can get them to make those without meat. Even then though, there's no guarantee that there isn't chicken stock or pork fat hiding in there somewhere.
The vegetarian concept seems to baffle a lot of people in Mexico, or at least, their understanding of the term is different than what a lot of us mean by it. As some posts on here have pointed out, "sin carne" can mean that chicken is acceptable to some, because "carne" often (but not always exclusively!) means beef. I've had waiters whom I've asked for advice on what I can eat from their establishments' menus suggest getting a certain dish because it didn't have *much* meat in it, and they were not making a Monty Python reference.
But sure, there's no harm in asking if they'll substitute something meatless for you in whatever you might want. Just be forewarned that it might take a lot of explanation and what arrives may not be vegetarian, even though you don't see chunks of meat in it.
I want to add in my two cents and mention my favorite: VegeTaco in Coyoacán. Okay, it's not strictly in Mexico City, but it has all vegetarian versions of things like pavo con mole poblano and tacos pibil or al pastor. It's nothing fancy, but having the chance to try their vegetarian versions of many traditional Mexican dishes that would otherwise be off-limits makes it worth the trip. It's at Calle Carrillo Puerto #65 (at Alberto Zamora) in Coyoacán. It's open from 10 am to 8 pm daily. The attached photo is of VegeTaco.
The Restaurante Dietético y Vegetariano places suffer from the problem I find endemic to Mexican vegetarian restaurants: a culinary sensibility stuck in the 70s where "vegetarian" food is limited to things like granola and alfalfa sprouts. Two places that I've been to in Mexico City that are not like that are Saks [http://www.saks.com.mx/] and La Buena Tierra [http://labuenatierra.com/]. They both have more traditional offerings, but without the meat.
Insurgentes Sur 1641
Col. San José Insurgentes
5615-1500 & 5611-4803
José Ma. Velasco 100
esquina con Damas
Col. San José Insurgentes
Insurgentes Sur 4342
Plaza San Jacinto No. 9
Col. San Ángel
Campos Eliseos No.133
5545-6560 & 5545-6506
La Buena Tierra locations:
5211-4242 & 5211-4229
Anatole France 120
5281-2324 & 5281-2363
Insurgentes Sur 2036
5575-1549 & 5575-1593
Periférico Sur 4606
5528-3436 & 5606-2720
Col. Santa Fe
2167-4037 & 2140-4038
G. González Camarena 111
Col. Santa Fé Corporativos
5393-7174 & 5292 -8182
<Quote> The Restaurante Dietético y Vegetariano places suffer from the problem I find endemic to Mexican vegetarian restaurants: a culinary sensibility stuck in the 70s where "vegetarian" food is limited to things like granola and alfalfa sprouts. <End Quote>
I agree, and that's one of the aspects that we enjoy about it. It's very "crunchy granola and sprouts", in a nice, old fashioned way. Even the dining room, with the lady piano player, dressed in a small hat, is old fashioned. I think it reminds me of my grandparent's apartment in Brooklyn, NY, in the '40s. (Even though they were far from being vegetarians.)
Heh! Well, I'm glad that it can accomplish such nostalgia for you. Any place that can take you back to your grandparents' home is special.
But one place, or even one chain like that should be enough. I loved my grandparents too, but I'm a full-time vegetarian. Would you really want to *live* at your granparents' house all the time? :)
But seriously, I just wish that it wasn't the case that nearly all the vegetarian restaurants in Mexico had that 70s health food store sensibility. Vegetarian cuisine has come a long way from lentil loaf and musli, but it seems that news has yet to reach Mexico.
One thing to remember is that in Mexico/Spanish "carne" means beef. So, if you ask for dishes "sin carne" they are well within their understanding to offer you pork or chicken. Better to say, "sin productos de cerdo, pollo, o res."
Street food is everywhere - if it's busy, it's probably delicious. If you are in Coyoacán, try the quesadilla market. You can ask for quesadillas de comal (from the grill instead of deep fried) and try queso and flor de calabaza (zucchini flower) or queso and huitlacoche (a corn fungus with a mushroomy flavor). Remember, in Mexico City you must ask for cheese in your quesadillas, it's not a given.
Try Contramar for a nice seafood lunch - it's Sinaloan style and delicious. They're only open 1:30 to 6:00, even on weekends. Any other of the fancy restaurants will have myriad options for fish-eaters and are more than happy to accommodate your needs.
Mmmmm, nopales, huitlacoche, rajas, and flor . . . there's four vegetarian taco fillings for you that are marvelous and vegetal. Smart of you to look the other way on the lard issue -- plenty of places use oil 'cause lard is expensive, but I find it untoward to have that discussion in a country where poverty is so intense.
There are thousands of excellent taco stands and other purveyors of street food ALL OVER THE PLACE. Your average lady selling quesadillas or tlacoyos on the sidewalk in the afternoon near any school is awesome.
I love a taco stand (stand up bar only) in the Condesa neighborhood == pretty sure it's on Avenida Amsterdam near Michoacan. Lovely neighborhood with some good restaurants and a trendy artisanal mezcal place called La Botica, and La Bodega that has snacks and tequilas and live music in an old hacienda - super charming (it's on Popocatepetl (corner of Amsterdam)
I had dinner in an upscale place there that had excellent fish and crab but I can't recall the name. It's within two blocks of that taco place....
Xochimilco is another favorite of mine -- you get on a gondola (by the hour) and are ferried around the canals. Sunday is the big family day and it's super fun. Lunch floats by in other boats -- more of those ladies cooking lots of snacks. fab.u.lous.
Restaurante Dietético y Vegetariano, on Avenida Madero, I think # 56, north side of street, across from gold and jewelry stores; about 2 blocks west of the Zócalo. Upstairs. Go for the comida corrida, between 1 and 4 PM. Very pleasant. The salad is excellent. Moderate price. (Really, low priced.)
http://www.pbase.com/panos/image/2669... (Three fotos following that one)