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Feb 28, 2007 06:21 AM

Just back from Mexico City!

I just got back from an 8 day adventure trip to Mexico City and wanted to share with you my culinary experiences. Although I did want to try some of the highly recommended places on the Chowhound board, I never got to it. My husband and I had a personal driver (who I've known for about 10 years now), and because of him, we were able to eat deliciously like locals. We ate in a variety of environments -- from the street vendors to chain restaurants to more expensive places. Here's my rundown:

We ate at Sanborn's one night in the Zona Rosa (on our own), and what a letdown. The food and service were absolutely horrible! I was told by the locals that the quality of food at Sanborn's depends on which one you go to. The one located in the Casa de Azulejos in el Centro Historico is worth it, if only for the beauty of the building.

In Polanco, my cousin took us to a chain restaurant called Papa Bill's, reminiscent of Chili's, but better. What impressed us was their "paquetazos" which was a large order of meat (my husband remarked "the best beef (arrachera)" he had probably ever had, and a bucket of 24 bottles of beer! Although I really didn't want to go to a chain restaurant, this one was pretty good!

Also in Polanco, another cousin took us to Mexico Lindo y Que Rico (near the Periferico). What a beautiful restaurant -- excellent service, and delicious Mexican food.

In Santa Fe, we went to another chain, called the Beer Factory. My husband and I are beer afficionados, and wanted to check it out. Not worth it. The food was overpriced, not that great, and the beer was good, but not worth going.

In the Centro Historico, we ate at Cafe de Tacuba and Bar La Opera. Classics! We loved them both, not only for the food and service, but for the beautiful interiors. La Opera is a gorgeous place, with impeccable service. When we went, there were tunas (Spanish medieval singers) singing, which was great.

For the offbeat/local slant that our driver, Fernando, gave us, we ate at Kolobok, a Russian restaurant that sells among other things, Russian empanadas. I ate a chicken tinga empanada and a blackberry w/cream cheese empanada -- phenomenal! Kolobok is located in the Santa Maria la Ribera area. See

We also had breakfast at a local market near Buenavista (Miguel de la Torre? don't remember exactly), at a stand called las 3 hermanas. We had cafe de olla (coffee made in a ceramic jug, spiced with cinnamon and sugar), sopes, eggs and chilaquiles. Absolutely out of this world!

Fernando also took us to eat at a place called Harry's, a torta place. Again, excellent.

During a visit to Teotihuacan, he drove us to a nearby place in an area where there are a slew of restaurants, all identified by numbers and people try to get you to going to their location via megaphones, or just by coming up to your car. We ate at local #19, which was great, after a whole day of climbing pyramids. The food was excellent and the micheladas (beer with lime and salt) were perfect.

On our last day, Fernando took us to a taco stand in his neighborhood. Normally I wouldn't eat off the street, because I just wouldn't know which one to go to or know which ones are clean/sanitary. However, everywhere Fernando took us to were places that he frequents, knows the owners, and knows that the places are clean. My husband thought that this street meal was the best one he had in Mexico! We sat in little plastic step stools on the corner, and ate quesadillas with potatoes and rajas (peppers), cheese, potatoes and chorizo, and tlacoyos filled with beans, and topped with salsa, cheese, and avocados. For four people to eat about a combination of 8 tacos al carbon, quesadillas, tlacoyos, sodas, AND we ordered 6 tlacoyos to go, was $10 USD! I would not have wanted my last meal in Mexico City to be any other way!

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  1. Is there any way to track down the last place you mentioned?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Maya

      Hi Maya. I don't know offhand where this stand in particular was, since Fernando took us there. I could definitely put you in touch with him and he can take you to the best local places to eat!

    2. Loved your report, especially the last part...I want to eat there!........I have been to many Mexico cities/places, and had great meals, and very good meals at those off the street places......but I have never been inclined to visit Mexico City, but your report really made me want to go! I have read of many great restaurants in Mexico City, I might have to start planing something...soon!

      5 Replies
      1. re: lvgoodfood

        I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my Mexico City food experiences. Mexico City is really such a wonderful city, my favorite actually! The food is divine, and the culture, history and architecture are exceptional!

        1. re: GloRak

          We ate at Cafe de Tacuba last week and I thought the food was good but not great. The most notable thing about the evening was the fact that for the first time, anywhere in Mexico, let alone the world, I was asked if we "wanted tequila in the margaritas?" The reason became apparent when we got the bill. We were charged for the 'margarita' plus 'the tequila' (and not a special brand.) This almost doubled the menu cost of 'a margarita' On a couple of occasions at other restaurants subsequently, when ordering, just to be sure I asked the waiter if the margarita 'included tequila. On each occasion they looked at us as though we were idiots.

          We found the atmosphere more relaxed and pleasant at La Opera, and the food much superior to Tacuba.

          1. re: bruce in oakton

            It's so strange that they asked you about the tequila in the margarita, specially since you were not ordering for children, and the way they charged you. I live very close to Cafe de Tacuba and never go there, the food is mediocre and chain-like.

            1. re: bruce in oakton

              I love the look of Cafe Tacuba but we had a horrible meal last time we were there, almost inedible. Opera Bar is my favorite place in the Historico, it's wonderful fun with lots going on. Strange to say that the Holiday Inn on the Zocolo has pretty good food - and a wonderful view of the Cathedral!

              1. re: ryegirl

                I am so sorry I missed your request, I haven't been on Chowhound in a long you still need the information? We were in Mexico City twice since that visit, in October 2007 and February 2008. Fernando, once again, took us everywhere, and took us to our favorite places to eat and have great coffee. We also ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Polanco called La Valentina...I highly recommend it! Let me know if you need Fernando's info -- he is reliable, safe and does not overcharge.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. My wife and I were in Mexico City recently and looked forward to eating at Cafe Tacuba based on a friend's recommendation. It is a lovely place and it was decorated for Dia De Muertos but the food was just okay. Service wasn't great. The water in the men's restroom sink didn't work. I would certainly recommend Bar La Opera. Also, if you visit Teotehuacan (the pyramids), consider eating at La Gruta, a restaurant in a lava cave just outside the "park." The food is good and the site is fantastic.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ringo Gato

              I really enjoyed La Gruta, but it had nothing to do with the food which was average at best. The atmosphere is phenomenal. I would have some antojitos and a michelada cubano or some tequila (nice list) and pass on spending a meal here. I would also recommend bringing something warm to wear. The cashier had gloves on. I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts and almost froze my a-- off.

            2. I couldn't agree more with the Bar La Opera.
              The last time I was there for lunch, on top of the amuse of roasted whole jalapenos, cebollas encurtidas, sweet butter and crunchy-crusted bollilos, ensalada de berros, and tripitas a la parilla, a stocky, older Mexican man with a wonderful head of silver hair passed my table and went to the bar to pay the bill. A moment later, a woman about my age was escorting an older woman with blue-silver hair arranged like a kabuki wig, and impeccably tailored black dress and jacket, pearls, and good jewelery, and Queen Mother Elizabeth Minnie-Mouse Shoes, toward the front of the restaurant. The group of guitar, zither, violin, and trumpt broke into a tango - Por Una Cabeza. The elderly man in the double-breasted suit, the husband of the elegant older lady grabbed her and began to tango. It was a transcendent moment, which brought the house down. Everyone stood and began to applaud. It was ... and is .. one of my most precious memories ever. Mine were not the only wet eyes in the house. That, among so many other things, is the magic that is Mexico for me.

              I love Bar la Opera ... I would go there for the food and the ambiance .. from the carved rosewood, to the lace curtains, and the St. Louis whorehouse red flocked wallpaper, to being privileged to witness such an intimate event. Whenever I am in the DF, I go there. And the magic never fails.

              3 Replies
              1. re: theabroma

                Just got back from a great time in Mexico City, I'm from London and lived in New York for a long time and really think MC is right up there for a fantastic city experience. Standout restaurants this time around were:
                Fonda El Refugio (Zona Rosa) which is absolutely first rate - the desserts are marvelous.
                Bellinghausen (Zona Rosa) - good but not great
                Los Fondues - we stumbled upon this restaurant in the Hotel San Marino on Rio Tiber and it was terrific, they do lots of stuff tableside (we had carpaccio) and they do caesar salads and desserts like crepes suzettes and of course lots of fondues.
                Meson Del Cid (Centro) - as close to Spain as you can get, they specialize in suckling pig and paella and I had the latter which was superb.
                Chalet Suisse (Zona Rosa) is great
                I have to say that the Sanborn's situated in the Zona Rosa in the Hotel Geneve is just as beautiful as the Casa Azulejos.
                If you want a burger, Angus is good, they've several around town.

                1. re: bronwen

                  Thanks for the report!

                  I don't like Fonda El Refugio, but prefer, instead, La Fonda del Recuerdo in Colonia Veronica Anzures (some people confuse the two, because of the name). But El Refugio is a popular tour-book entry (and, obviously, lots of people like it).

                  Bellinghausen was a favorite of mine when I lived in the city, and I enjoyed sitting, in good weather, in the outdoor garden/patio area. The restaurant was sold several years back, I think, and I haven't been back. I think it was closed during the change-over. I don't think I ever had a great meal there, just some good ones - with good friends (and being with friends having a good time does help make the experience better, right?).

                  Thanks for the mention of Los Fondues. That's a convenient location for people staying in or near the Zona Rosa - being a block walk from the Independence Monument along Paseo de la Reforma. It's a nice hotel and I didn't know it had the restaurant there, also.

                  I have friends who really like Meson del Cid and though I've walked past it many times I've not been moved to dine there. One day, perhaps.

                  Chalet Suizo is a favorite of mine in the Zona Rosa and I recently recommended it to someone here in a different discussion thread. I'm assuming you're referring to the one on Calle Niza. There's another good Swiss - Swiss-Italian - restaurant on the opposite end of the Zona Rosa, on Calle Florencia, the name of which escapes me at the moment. (Or maybe you're making reference to a different restaurant, all together).

                  That Sanborn's location inside - to the rear- of the Geneve Calinda hotel has been a favorite of mine for a long time - probably because of the interesting and unique decor. Sanborn's fills a niche and some of the food offerings can - depending on the moment - be a good value. I particularly enjoy the "Sopa Especial" at Sanborns. It's a chicken soup with rice.

                  The Angus has been one of the city's better steak houses for many years. The location in the Zona Rosa is on a street - Copenhague - that's seen some recent renovations and when I was outside the restaurant in February earlier this year the outdoor area of the restaurant (which was always very popular) had been removed and not reinstalled.

                  Again, thanks for the report.

                  1. re: gomexico

                    gomexico, you think the same way I do! By the by, re: Angus I should caution those less prudish than I that they do have very scantily-clad girls there and I wasn't too sure what was in store for me when I first got there - my boyfriend had a wonderful time though and gave a very large tip!