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Nine Days in Mexico City, Report Back

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got back a few weeks ago from a very interesting and rich nine days in Mexico City. after much thinking about the experience and what to write here, it is clear that we all respond to very different things when we define what we like about food. so a little context. we live in sf where there is a lot of mexican food. i speak pasable tourist spanish and understand more. my partner, S speaks a little and understands a little. in past years we have been to merida and the yucatan; oaxaca city and puerto escondido. in DF we stayed in a guest house, Casa Gonzalez, in a colonia north of the zona rosa, Chauhtemoc. it was easily accessible to public trans on the reforma and the insurgentes subway station, which we used both day and nite. S and i walk a lot and we enjoyed getting around the different colonias (neighborhoods) of the city. when it comes to food, it is the experience of the place as much as the food itself that often makes it special for us.

We used a great guide book"Mexico City, An Opinonated Guide for the Curious Traveler" by Jim Johnston (2006). it was filled with specific restaurant, food, secret gardens, museums, travel info, etc. not completely comprehensive, just what jim loves about his city. we used moon handbooks, Mexico City, 2005 to fill out the above with more specific info about travel, restaurants etc. we also used chow hound recs. the dearth of guide books focused on mexico city is an indicator of how much this is not a touristed city. (you will need to know the colonia in order to locate anything on the maps commonly available).

Breakfast- our guest house provided breakfast (as well as lunch and dinner) for 7, 10 and 13d. we had breakfast there once. lovely easy varied menu but we chose to explore other venues and areas.

La Habana- morelos 62 (right off the reforma east of the zona rosa) great 1950s style cuban restaurant coffee shop. we had huevos con machaca and a kind of huevos ranchero (with tortillas and coffee/tea). around 5d each. wonderful photos of pre castro cuba and great coffee and food. (had been in their sister restaurant in merida 5 years earlier, same food and vibe).

Flor de Lis- on calle huichapan aka calle de torreon near plaza popocatepetl, col. condesa.
probably the best breakfast we had during our stay. amazing soft tamales with cheese and zuchini, omelot with huitlacoche (corn fungus). fruit plate- very fresh and ripe papaya. again about 7d each.

Sanborns- on amberes in the zona rosa (not once but twice!). ok its a little like woolworths but in fact the wide booths and the waitresses dressed up in mexican doll costumes circa 1950 plus the space, quiet mexican music and decent affordable mexican breakfast and the ubiquitous pancakes choices (suprise?) were a great way to start the day on the way from our guest house to the metro. we tried a fancier sanborns on london in zona rosa, same price but cold and inattentive spaced out waitress. 7-10d each

Buen Cafe- on Amberes, zona rosa, small very congenial, local workers cafe. about 4.5d each. good, wide variety of mexican breakfast plus pancakes choices.

Oaxacan breakfast place (la bella luna?) on rio lerma corner of rio sena. the tamales were a huge disappointment after oaxaca and the flor de lis. the hot chocolate was great.

wings - breakfast at the airport on our way to puerto vallarta (see report back on PV). just fine. very overpriced.

lunch - we always ate so much for breakfast and so late that we fell into eating dinner and snacks - no lunch.

Dinner- we ate at casa gonzalez for dinner twice, once on arrival in a huge and unexpected rain storm (in december) and another coming back from the museo de anthropologia in the rain (again). adequate, simple, lovely environment, actually a good deal for 13d. fish/ chicken, vegies, rice, soup, wine, dessert (flan and a nut pie)- all home made.

Salon la Corona, Bolivar 24, Col. Centro. 70 yr old cantina in the centro. very lively. excellent tacos. we got there at 2:45 and got right in (ok this is lunch but it was our first day and it served as dinner for us as well). at 3 there was a line out the door. tacos are really cheap about 80-100p each. we had several different kinds and shared. i loved the al pastor and nopales (cactus). ditto for s but he liked the chile verde as well.

centro castellano- uruguay 16, centro. this spanish rest. was recommended by johnston and a woman we met at the museo franz mayer. we must have ordered the wrong dishes because we were seriously unimpressed. it was also quite high for very medicore food, 46d for two.

pozoleria tizka, zacatecas 59, bet merida &cordoba, col. roma. on johnstons recommend. wonderful green pozole (made from pumpkin seeds), with a very heavy man singing very romantic songs leaning against the wall in this very local place in the wonderful roma neighborhood. about 4d each plus beer. green pozole is quite different than the usual red. try it. they serve both.

Cafe la Blanca, cinco de mayo 40, col centro. this place was right out of the 40s. nothing seemed changed changed except the orange plastic chairs. decent cheap comida corrida (complete meals) all day. seemed like a place for the area workers. 7d each total.

El Dragon-hamburgo 97, zona rosa. by this point we really needed some vegetables so we went to a chinese restaurant that was just fine. lots of broccoli. good hot and sour soup. not cheap about 15d each. fair.

Meson Antiqua next to las lupitas on francisco sosa on the plaza santa catarina. col coyoacan. we tried to eat at los danzantes on the main plaza in coyoacan. very brusque service and way too much cigarette smoke. our so called non smoking table was just that in a sea of smoke. we moved on deciding to try something on the lovely plaza we had strolled thru earlier in the day. meson antiqua had what i would call fusion upscale mexican food that was quite good. we shared a salad (guaranteed filter water cleaned) and a beef filet dish composed of 3 filets with 3 different sauces. i'm not much of a beef eater but this was tender and the sauces and vegies all quite good. maybe 15-20d each. including dessert. also a non smoking floor (small multi level rest. with roof garden). at first all the cigarette smoking in d.f. didn't really bother me but eventually it did, so a non smoking section was really welcome.

Lynis- on the reforma near the japanese embassy and the statue of the angel about 4 blocks west of calle rio tiber and yes another mexican chain restaurant. someone at our guest house recommended the pollo loco soup and at 4d it was fine. good stock, chicken vegies, avo, rice, tortillas. we had an early flight to make the next morning. it was perfect.

Snacks etc.
Cafe at the museo franz mayor. an oasis across from the alameda and belles artes. beautiful interior garden cafe, great capuchino and peaceful classical music.

Cafe at the museo Ruffino Tamayo. museum not to be missed. lovely outdoor cafe in chapultepec park. great cap.

Dulceria Celaya (across from cafe la blanca on cinco de mayo 39, col centro) another johnston recommend, specifically the coconut stuffed lime (yes a parboiled lime stuffed with mildly sweet real coconut shavings) which i still think about. absolutely fabulous homemade candies store. the place itself is a gem, like a beautifully decorated cake. i think there's a sister store in the roma.

Nut candies in the mercados. all the market places have these flat round nut candies shaped like a 3-4 inch cookie. mixed nuts, peanuts or my favorite pumpkin and sesame seeds mixed with honey. 5-10pesos.

Nieves - Ice Cream- Helados Roxy, Mazatlan and Montes de Oca, Col. Condesa. an ice cream parlor since the 40s making great ice cream and nieves ( i think i have the spelling right). the nieves here are nothing like the snow cones or stuff they sell at the michmocan
chain ice cream store. we pigged out with 5 scoops (between us) on a hot afternoon. guayabana was sublime. fresa excellent. i would try any of the flavors. the ice cream was good as well. i don't know exactly how they are different except that there is much less cream if any at all in nieves. there is some milk in it or milk product. much different feel to the tongue and really great fruit taste comes through. close to a sorbet but richer.

Deep Fried Quesadillas. in coyoacan at the mercado de antijitos stall #14. around the corner from the plaza on calle Hiquera another great recommend from johnston. we had them filled with huitlacoche (corn fungus).

Mexico City is a great if difficult travel. It is noisy and lively, and to happen on the street including eating. We didn't do any street vendor eating but the markets and restaurants provide so much choice it didn't really seem worth getting sick on our short trip. A choice we made. It is a wonderful art filled city with lots going on all at once. I found being in Merida and Oaxaca much more pleasurable in the sense that they are easier and smaller and more gentle to the senses. but would say that I feel i understand Mexico much better after visiting DF and would recommend a stay here to anyone who likes traveling and exploring big cities with diverse neighborhoods, great art and very very good food.

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  1. Interesting report from the DF. I'm a little confused about the prices you mention, however. Some you write as "7d or 15d", others you write as "5-10 pesos". Pesos I understand, of course, but is "d" a European or South American currency? There's nothing in Mexico that's quoted as "d"--at least nothing that I'm aware of.

    Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

    4 Replies
    1. re: cristina

      oops, sorry, d=american dollars. hope that clarifies.

      1. re: janeabby

        What happened to the good old-fashioned $ sign??!
        Frankly I have not really been tremendously impressed with the food in Mexico City - my most memorable meals have been at the San Angel Inn (simply beautiful and a must-see), Los Girasoles, La Sirena, Rincon Argentino . Cafe Tacuba is very popular and I hate the food there, also the Opera Bar food can be pretty terrible but the place is so much fun I always end up there several times, no matter what!

        1. re: bronwen

          FYI... if you give the city another shot... know that Los Girasoles, San Angel Inn & Cafe Tacuba have seen their prime years ago now... they are mostly location & tradition.... there are many much better restaurants in town...

      2. re: cristina

        about my use of d or dollars. where i remembered the cost translated into dollars, i used that. i really should have stated everything in pesos both for consistency and for appropriateness (in that this is an international web site). again, sorry for the oversight.

      3. "centro castellano- uruguay 16, centro. this spanish rest. was recommended by johnston and a woman we met at the museo franz mayer. we must have ordered the wrong dishes because we were seriously unimpressed. it was also quite high for very medicore food, 46d for two."

        Possibly Centro Castellano has suffered a drop in quality due to a drop in clientele, as the street was in heavy and disruptive construction since before July, 2007.
        But, also, although we enjoyed most of our three meals at the CC over the years (90s), there were some dishes that just didn't make the grade. Specifically, Arroz con Calamares en su Tinta was basically tasteless and oily.
        My wife once ordered the Menú Turístico for a late dinner, and while it wasn't bad, it was mediocre.

        On the good side, I've never been disappointed in the Huauchinago a Las Brasas. The Medio Platón Castellano of appetizers is mostly a treat, especially the Setas Al Ajillo.
        But then again, we haven't eaten there in about 8 or 10 years.

        1. what a wonderful posting on the various cuisine of my favorite place to travel: Mexico City! Flor de Lis in the Condessa is also one of my favorites. I just had a tamalada (tamale making/eating party with friends and family) here in Los Angeles and I tried to duplicate a few of the tamales like the chipotle pork tamales which is probably the best tamal I have ever had in my life. The next time you are in DF you should try La Tecla in Roma.