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New to DF, 1 month to Chow -- where?

I've just arrived in the DF for the first time and will be here for the rest of March with 2 chow-friendly adventurous colleagues from Boston & Canada. We are staying in the South of the city, close to Tlalpan, and do not have our own car. I have read about great recs in other parts of the city, and also have been reading this board, but have some specific questions.

In particular we are looking for chow-worthy recs in and around Tlalpan.
What is El Arroyo like?
What other options should we seek out in this area?

Also, can anyone fill me in on El Estribo and whether it is worth seeking out. Finally, what's the buzz on Plaza Garibaldi or would there be better places to take in some mariachi?

I should add that we checked out Los Danzantes in Coyoacan the other night and thought it was great, but by no means are we looking for that standard on a nightly basis, just tasty food.

Thanks for the input!

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  1. Hey Chili....

    > Tlalpan... you have the Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan dishing out 19th century versions of Franco-Mexican cuisine in a 300 year old hacienda... but I believe its more pricey than Los Danzantes

    > For less expensive fare...head back down to Coyoacan on a Saturday to check out the Artists open air market & soak in some street food. There is also a couple of good Farmer's Markets to check out but I don't remember the days of the week.

    > El Arroyo is kitchy but a must because that is where actual Mexican middle class families go to celebrate the weekend. It is the country's largest restaurant with seating for > 2,000 people. If you like BBQ and you like lamb... you will love this place. Its by no means as good as the stuff they dish out in Texcoco and Hidalgo.... but it will be one of your best BBQ experiences ever... and how often have you been to restaurant that has its own bull ring & rodeos?

    > El Estribo is part of Hacienda de Los Morales... which is a similar concept to Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan. I would only do one or the other. Los Morales is relatively close the U.S. Embassy and the financial district so most high brow Americans end up there at one time or another hence its reputation. The better traditional bars imho are La Opera & El Nivel both in the Centro Historico

    > Back to your area... there are a lot of hip new restaurants aimed at the UNAM crowd. Barraca Orraca is a European bistro that I thought was pretty decent... also I believe there is an Angus in your area... if you begin to miss a Baked Potato & Steak... go there, every restaurant has a unique Native American inspired decor... and you can choose from U.S. and Mexican beef... as well as preparations.

    > Also in the south part of the city is the mind boggling Mercado de Abastos complex where most of the City's produce comes through... check out the street & mercado food vendors around you will have no shortage of choices.

    > And definitely go to the Xochimilco district. I am sure you will get stuck doing the little boat tour of the channels... but there are some other interesting things to see. The area is home to flower cultivation AND food cultivation with a couple of relatively nice restaurants that specialize in the ingredients grown within Xochimilco... as well as the the culinary influences of these Pre-Aztec peoples. I can't think of the name of the restaurants right now... but look up the Eco Friendly tour (there is only one)... and a very knowledgeable & passionate Archeology professor will take you around to all the farms, some unpromoted ruins etc., and the restaurant.

    > Also if you go hit the Luis Barragan designed Tlalpan Chapel... there are a number of decent Fondas in the vicinity. Fondas are the neighborhood kitchens that serve up affordable home cooking for those that work too far to make it home for the comida. A typical 4 course meal will set you back a whopping $3 USD

    1. I had the opportunity to eat at Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan 3, maybe 4, years ago. The setting is spectacular at night when they've got all the trees lit up with tiny white lights. The food was pretty good too. I recall a pretty fabulous sopa de crema de cilantro. The service was top notch and professional. Pricey, but when I was there worth every penny.

      6 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        So do you like it better than Los Morales? To me... they are very similar, unless you live there and have exhausted every other high end restaurant in the city... they are pretty much mutually exclusive.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Ya know, in all the times I've been to D.F. I've never managed to eat at Los Morales, so I can't compare them.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              No doubt. Often times I am in D.F. with groups of less adventurous eaters and my suggestions often get over-ruled. Sometimes it's easier to just go with the flow rather than make a scene.

              I will be in D.F. again in July and probably August. I'm only passing through in July, but should have more time in August, plus I will have more control over the eating itinerary. Is Los Morales really worth it?

              1. re: DiningDiva

                Los Morales is okay.... like I said very comparable to Tlalpan & San Angel Inn. However, because of its geographic location, and large conference / event presence, its one of those places "everybody has been to". Based on the places you have been to in D.F. I wouldn't really recommend it.

                Its more of a soft landing for Americans who have never really had Mexican cuisine before. Of course, it can depend on who is cooking. I am personally not so impressed by Huitlachoche Crepes anymore... so its not my thing. I prefer the culinary offering at places like Los Girasoles and Los Danzantes.

      2. Thanks for the suggestions and keep them coming! Any word on 1900 - I believe that's the Argentinian place right on the Zocalo? I'll have to look up the Tlalpan Chapel.

        Last night we went down to Tlalpan centro and grabbed a quick bite at Cafe La Selva. It was packed full of people, and a very nice cafe right on the zocalo, which itself is picturesque. On the walk back we strolled in to the courtyard at Antigua Hacienda -- it is stunning! We will definitely be going back, but it's good to know that it and Los Morales are so similar, sounds like there's no need to hit both.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chilibaby

          It would be a schlep from where you're staying, but if you get desparate for a good steak, don't mind spending some $$ for a taxi ride or find yourself in Polanco, here's a write up of a pretty good Argentinian steak house in D.F., should be the first entry

          http://thediningdiva.typepad.com/

        2. Some follow-ups:

          We´ve made it to several places in the South of the City, one of the highlights being Cafe Azul y Oro at UNAM (see my other post).

          Last week went to Enrique´s on Insurgentes Sur in Tlalpan (http://www.enrique.com.mx/menu.html) for lunch. Although there were many options, we kept it simple and stuck with the carnitas, which are the specialty, and were quite pleased.

          Have also stopped by El Arroyo, also on Insurgentes Sur, which last Friday evening was a little emptier than we were hoping for. It certainly was kitsch, and the enormity of the restaurant is quite notable. There was plenty of music and a number of groups of diners, families, etc, but I had hoped to find it even more of a scene. Maybe a Saturday or Sunday afternoon would have been better for that. The place was dominated by one particularly large party that was slowly taking over the dining room, thus giving us the feel we had crashed someone else´s birthday party. The food was tasty, but no more so than other places, so for the price, I would suggest trying to target your timing to maximize the atmosphere if you do check it out.

          Another spot in the neighborhood deserving mention is Cantina Jaliscience right on the zocalo in Tlalpan. It is a tiny cantina, but a very friendly place, that has been around for over 130 years. We struck up a conversation with one of the bartenders, I think he may be in the family of the owners. He clearly had a lot of pride in the establishment and we talked for quite a while about the better tequilas and rums he had on offer, despite it being a busy night. Very enjoyable and I hope to stop back sometime when I´m hungrier to try some of the eats that were offered with the drinks.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chilibaby

            Arroyo... yeah you should try Sunday... remember working class Mexicans work Monday through Saturday.... Sunday is the day to be there.

            Regarding Cantina Jaliciense... so they offer good rums? Nice its still an oddity anywhere.

          2. Arroyo, yeah, we hadn{t been here long enough to figure out that our ´´prime time´for dining was not in line with the local pattern; I am sure Sun afternoon would be a different story.

            Jalisciense had a fair few rum options, many in the 5-year range, although I couldn{t compare the selection to elsewhere in Mexico, having mostly US bars for comparison. I was interested in Cuban, but instead tried some of the others, whose names I promptly forgot. If I recall properly there was one made in the early 1980´s. I hope to be back soon and pay closer attention to the names!

            1 Reply
            1. re: chilibaby

              Be sure to try the Nicaraguan rum Flor de Caña. The twelve-year-old is fantastic--well, all their rums are fantastic, I just prefer the older ones. Best rum I've ever tried.