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Mar 6, 2007 03:48 PM

Guide to Mexico Cuisine - or, advice please?

Hi guys,

I'm planning a 10-day trip to Mexico and one of my priorities is going to be eating great food. I'm on a pretty tight budget but I'd like to eat the indigenous food as the locals do anyways, so I'll be eating comida tipica and the like, including market food, street food, and of course mid-range restaurants. However, I'm looking for advice as to the best regions/towns for Mexican cuisine...I know some are better than others. I know little about traditional Mexican right now, as I've jut started my research...I know to be sure not to miss Oaxaca's mole's, and that's about it. So, what are the "best" regions for food in Mexico? Obviously Mexico City is kind of a central location that probably has some of everything, but what are the towns/cities that are know for certain specialties? Right now I'm considering going to Uruapan, Pátzcuaro,
Morelia, Guanajuato, San Miguel, Queretaro...I'm open to suggestions, although I'd prefer to stay (generally) close to central Mexico.

Thanks for any advice or for pointing to a good resource!

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  1. PS - What about the best place for fresh and unique fruits and veggies?

    3 Replies
    1. re: luke77

      Hi Luke,
      In Michoacan, your best bet for truly wonderful street food, both indigenous and traditional Mexican, is Patzcuaro.

      The first thing to do is put Patzcuaro in the search field at the top of the Chowhound screen. There are 22 hits, some with good information for you.

      When you've read those, come back and ask some specific questions about what you've learned. Several of us here either live in or near Patzcuaro and can answer most anything you'd like to know.

      Happy investigating! Your palate will love you for it.

      1. re: luke77

        Here are a few pics taken in the Pátzcuaro mercado.

        I don't have very many pictures, as we usually are carrying 2-4 large shopping bags, loaded with produce, and the place is often very busy, especially after 10 a.m., and on Fridays and Sundays.The activity winds down about 2 p.m, and by 3:30 it's all but over. Then the evening street food stalls open.

      2. Hola Luke,
        It sounds as if you have the right idea, you will get some great street and market foods in the places that you mentioned. Do not be afraid to get to know the locals as well. Some of my most memorable meals have been in private homes in Mexico. Comida casera is the true cooking of Mexico. Also, try to find some of the fiestas that are always taking place around the country; especially the smaller towns and villages. In the indigenous areas, fiestas provide an excuse to cook up the best. Puebla and Veracruz are also excellent food places that are within reach of Mexico City. Buen Provecho!

        1. Hey Luke.... here are some additional recs...

          > One of my favorite places in the whole country is the Centro Ceremonial Otomi in Temoaya, Mexico State. Its a huge complex up in the mountains dedicated to the preservation of the Otomi cultural & the area's natural resources. The Otomies are a very interesting & mystical group that have a presence in the area for an estimated 22,000 years. The surrounding area has cave paintings carbon dated to 10,000 B.C.... and as their civilization developed they built some wonderful cities & monuments including Tula in the state of Hidalgo. The center hosts daily rituals of which visitors are welcome to join. And a couple of years ago it hosted a huge conference of First Peoples with the stated goal of rescuing traditional practices to heal the planet's wounds.

          Adjacent to the Center you will find a private campground that operates a restaurant dedicated to mushrooms... with about 90% of their dishes specializing in some variety of mushrooms (the area also has one of the world's greatest diversity of mushrooms... edible & non... including magical ones).

          > I also highly recommend a trip to Texcoco in Mexico State for one of the very best BBQ experiences you will ever have.

          > Puebla City is without a doubt... a can't miss.

          > A big nod to Xalapa & Coatepec in Veracruz, as well as Tlaxcala and Oaxaca city

          1. Puebla (city) and Veracruz (state) are very doable in 10 days. I just came back from doing a loop via Xalapa (and Xico/Coatepec) on the way from Puebla to the Puerto and Cordoba (extraordinary chow city: I really need to write this up!!!) and Orizaba on the way back. Top chow cities all of them!!! You can even skip Mexico City entirely on such a trip since there are direct buses to Puebla at all hours leaving straight out of Mex City airport. If doing Guanajuato/Michoacan, you might want to investigate fares form your home city to Leon airport. From Chicago, we get the cheapest rates to Leon (cheaper than to Mexico City), and Leon is very central and accessible to many points on that itinerary. If going to Guanajuato, consider going to Dolores Hidalgo which has wonderful food. If you're fluent in Spanish and have no problems going to places where you will not see a single tourist, you can add Celaya to the list. And maybe Zitacuaro (big town close to Diane Kennedy's ranch), which has 2 faboulous markets with plenty of hidden surprises!!! If you need recs for budget places to stay at, you can email me directly later when your itin is set.

            4 Replies
            1. re: RST

              So basically what you are saying (and I pretty much agree) is that just about every small & medium sized city in Central & Southern Mexico is a top chow destination.... how to decide.

              Luke... I think some of the decisions you need to make are what you really want to see of Mexico. A lot of the towns described have very good food but with varying influences... some are going to be more indigenous, others will have a Basque or Andalucian foundation, yet others will have firm Central African foodie influences etc.,

              1. re: RST

                Continental flies directly into Morelia from Houston every day, arriving about 8 PM. Cabs are plentiful at that time (buy the taxi ticket at the kiosk just outside Immigration/Customs) and it's only about a 20 minute cab ride into Morelia Centro. I will be making my 7th trip in the last 2 1/2 years to Michoacan at the end of the month. I love Patzcuaro, but I'm finding the more time I spend in Morelia, the more I am becoming enamored of it.

                Have drinks and botanas at Los Juanitos on the terrace overlooking the cathedreal and watch the catherderal lighting which happens nightly about 8:30-8:45. Even if Mexican church architecture and art aren't your thing, do pay a visit to the catherderal, it is one of the more beautiful ones. It has the largest pipe organ in Mexico (in a loft no less) and there is an organ festival annually. This is a very walkable city using the cathederal as the starting point. The insides of the San Diego church at the end of the pedestrian alcazada is specatular inside, you'll also be able to see the viaduct, one of the only curved viaducts in the world and still an engineering marvel/mystery as well as assorted museums and statues. There is a Museo de Dulces and a Mercado de Dulces to investigate as well, both are a short walk from the cathederal.

                Morelia is better for the mid to high end options and Patzcuaro is better for the street food. Both have been well documented on this board. If Sr. Anonimo sees this thread perhaps he will share some of his downscale dining finds in Morelia, I don't believe they've been as well explored here as has Patzcuaro. You can easily bus between Morelia, Patzcuaro and other cities/towns in Michoacan. These 2 cities and the surrounding towns could probably keep you busy for the entire 10 days. If not, it's a short bus ride from Morelia to Guanajuato.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  (Deleted due to redundancy.-Anonimo)

                2. re: RST

                  Love mole de Xico - it's my favorite.

                3. —If Sr. Anonimo sees this thread perhaps he will share some of his downscale dining finds in Morelia,—
                  I fear that one of our favorite mariscos stands in Morelia, Los Delfines, has closed. (I will check again.
                  )Morelia is famed for its "gaspachos" fruit cocktails; chopped tropical fruits, layered with chile, and crumbled aged cheese, sprinkled with lime juice, salt and ground chile.

                  We haven't eaten that much street food in Morelia. We tend to do our more relatively "upscale" dining there, and in Pátzcuaro, ear street food more but not frequently. Atole de grano is always a welcome and comforting food in the evenings.

                  DiningDiva and Cristina are the experts on Páztcuaro street eats.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Anonimo

                    I have to give credit where it's due. I am only an "expert" on street food in Patzcuaro because of Cristina. She is a gifted guide and teacher. I just have a curiosity and willingness to put just about anything in my mouth at least once ;-)

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Thank you for the accolades...the credit is much appreciated. It's always a joy to introduce willing eaters to the culinary thrills of Pátzcuaro.

                      Luke, when you come back here I'll be happy to answer any questions.