Where to eat in Mexico City
Staying in Polanco, but don't mind traveling to other neighborhoods. Looking for recommendaitons on fish, and traditional mexican. Would love a combination of upscale, casual, and neighborhood (really casual)
I have to recommend El Bajio for traditional Mexican. Then there's El Ocho in Condesa and La Buena Tierra, also in Condesa.
Of course, there's lots of great eating in the markets and on the streets of Mexico City. Just be adventurous, look for lines and go for it.
I know that many people and guide books recommend El Bajio in Polanco, but I was underwhelmed on our visit for a Sat. lunch in late January. The food was mediocre to decent. The carnitas taco was relatively bland, and our main dishes (husband got their signature egg dish and I got the nopales stuffed w/ cheese) were just ok. I found the service to lack the warmth we experienced in other eateries. On top of this, they charged the "cubierto" or cover charge and also charged us for the items we ate from their bread basket. Being naive tourists, we thought the basket was complimentary and didn't see any indication of a charge on the menu nor did the waitress attempt to inform us (I can understand basic Spanish). Overall, this left a bad taste in our mouths...
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Maria Bonita in the Hotel Camino Real. They have a number of seafood selections on the menu, and we especially liked the smoked marlin tostadas and the veracruzan-style huachinango (snapper). The atmosphere is modern and hip, but we dressed casually and didn't need a reservation. It's a little pricey but worthwhile if you are in the area.
To be honest, we had pretty unremarkable meals at most sit-down restaurants in Mexico City. My favorite bites were things like roast chicken and potatoes from a fonda on Cinco de Mayo, fresh fruit smoothies from La Canada near the Holiday Inn, churros and chocolate from Churreria El Moro. Gosh, I hope I'm not butchering the names of these places since this was in January. We stayed a few nights in the zocalo area at Hotel Catedral, and their breakfasts (included in the room rate) were a great way to start the day. It looked like a lot of local business types came for their power breakfasts. I still remember how sweet and perfectly ripe their papaya was.
I would definitely stay away from Los Girasoles which felt like a terrible tourist trap and waste of time, money, and precious stomach space. The food was an insult to the vibrancy of what Mexican food can be. Sanborns, Cafe El Popular, Cafe de Tacuba were also meh, but were convenient at the time. We didn't make it to El Cardenal near the zocalo since they closed so early (around 6:30pm). I wasn't really interested in the alta cocina places for this trip, but maybe next time.
I mainly regret not being more adventurous with street food since there was some tasty looking eats in the commercial section south of Bellas Artes and around the Ciudadela market. Next time!!
Have a great time and I look forward to your report back...
re: Carb Lover
sorry you had a bad experience at el Bajio - I would say normally the food is quite yummy. Just a few comments on the two charges.... It's pretty common here for restaurants to charge a cover, and it's always listed on the menu so that you know what you are getting into. (Of course, you didn't know to look for it so it was an unpleasant surprise, ick.) Restaurants do this especially when they are popular for looooong afternoon lunches (as Bajio is) where families sit for hours without getting pressured to buy or drink more. Mexican restaurants do not move as many tables as their American counterparts, so they have other charges to help make the profit they need.
And, it's well known here that the basket of sweet bread at breakfast costs per piece - usually about 5-10 pesos each. It's just one of those customs in another country that's different - they didn't explain it to you because your waiter probably had no idea that this isn't customary in the US. They definitely weren't trying to nickel and dime you... it's absolutely standard practice in Mexico.
Hey, I am from Mexico City but live in Chicago at the time. Here are some recommendations, hope they come in handy.
Give in to Mexican eating times, I know this is hard for some, but a restaurant experience is not quite as good when you're eating by yourself. Try to hit lunch after 2 (a bit later if you can on weekends) and dinner around 9 (an 8:30 reservation is still good, since you'll probably won't start eating until 9). Also, Mexican's drink their cocktails after lunch or dinner, and there's also the sobremesa tradition (long after-meal table conversations), so when you pass by a restaurant at 6PM on a Saturday and it's packed, those people aren't there for dinner, they're there from lunch. You have not experienced a true Mexican weekend meal until you have lunch and dinner at the same place. But that's only on a cultural note, since you'd probably want to be visiting the city instead of drinking in-between meals. Again, at night, some restaurants will remain packed until 1 AM for the same reason.
Some of the places I mention are somewhat touristy, most are local, and great.
Most of the good restaurants of Mexico City are concentrated in a few areas of town which are.
A few of them in Centro (the historic Center of the city).
Condesa/Roma & Polanco are relatively close to each other and close to the center. It’s where most stuff happens in Mexico City in terms of nightlife, tourism, hotels, museums, etc.
Lomas starts west of Polanco and goes all the way up to Bosques and then Santa Fe. Lomas and Bosques are the most upscale residential parts of town, and for the same reason, a lot of great restaurants and posh local nightlife.
Santa Fe is the most modern part of the city and it’s mainly offices, cool buildings and apartments. Death on weekends. Most of the restaurants located in there are outposts of other good restaurants in Mexico City to serve the business crowd.
San Angel and Pedregal are located in the southern side of the City.
Upscale & Upscale casual.
For traditional Mexican San Angel Inn is a classic. The place itself is worth the experience, it’s an old Hacienda. In the San Angel district.
Izote and Aguila y Sol are great for contemporary Mexican. Unfortunately, Aguila y Sol is temporarily closed due to trouble with the local government regarding their parking lot space (politics), but do call since it’s supposed to be re-opening anyday. Both are in Polanco.
La Taberna del León is my favorite restaurant in the city and is based around traditional Mexican, seafood and signature dishes by Mónica Patiño. It’s in Pedregal/San Angel.
Naos is Monica Patiño’s restaurant in Palmas, in the Lomas district. It’s basically a modern version of La Taberna del Leon, sharing most of the menu with slight differences. To me, even when Naos might be swankier, La Taberna, classier and more elegant, is still the best.
Pujol is Enrique Olvera's signature cuisine. An excellent choice.
I won't include French, Italians, etc, since you probably have lots of good ones (I don't know where you're from, but there's plenty of great French in the US). What I will include is a couple of Spanish places since Mexico is probably where you find the best Spanish food outside Spain.
Guria is arguably the best Spanish restaurant in the city. There are two locations, the original one in La Roma and the younger one in Santa Fe. Both are great, the Santa Fe location, is obviously newer, modern and happening.
Bakea is another great option and considered one of the best in the city. It's also a hidden gem, in a residential area, away from anything related to tourism and full of powerful-but-discreet locals. Although a bit more serious and elegant, it's still worth the french-basque fare. Located in Lomas.
Biko has been gaining a lot of attention lately, siganture meets Spanish. Polanco.
And finally, D.O. another great option for Spanish in Polanco.
El Cardenal (2 locations, one in the historic center near the Zocalo another one in Palmas in the Lomas district) is also good for Traditional Mexican, and it closes at 6:30 because it's only open for lunch.
A good piece of advice here, try the traditional Mexican restaurants like San Angel Inn, El Cardenal, etc, as lunch spots. Most people do so because traditional Mexican can be heavy for dinner. Guria is also a better lunch spot than a dinner one. The rest of them (Izote, Pujol, Aguila y Sol, Biko) are great dinner spots. La Taberna del Leon is perfect for dinner any day of the week or a Sunday lunch.
With al due respect for the other people posting in this thread, I would ignore the derogative comments towards El Bajio and recommendations of La Buena Tierra (which by the way closed its Condesa location).
Fonda El Refugio, also mentioned above is a classic. Both this one and El Bajio are fondas, totally casual places of traditional Mexican, botanas and antojitos. And most of the times, cheap. Consider fondas like trattorias or brasseries to Italian and French. I do have to say that I haven’t been to Fonda el Refugio in a long time, it’s been around forever, but I have no reason to believe that it has changed.
Seafood. This is pretty simple. La Mar, Contramar and Puntarena. All of them for lunch, actually Contramar is only open for lunch. In this case, violate the rule of eating after 2 PM in Mexico and try to be there around 1:30, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. There are no reservations and it’s hugely popular. It’s in the Condesa district, and has a brother called Entremar in Polanco which will most times be full but nothing compared to Contramar (and do check if they take reservations). The latter of course, is livelier and full of cool people. In both, the best way to do it is to share a lot of appetizers, and then (if you’re still hungry) you can order an entrée.
Puntarena has two locations as well, the 1st one in Palmas and the second one in San Angel. Don’t miss the langostinos and the Pescado a talla (with 3 chiles).
La Mar is in Santa Fe and specialized in cebiches. It’s Peruvian.
A few others.
If you do wander into French, et al.
Champs Elysses may be one of the most traditional elegant restaurants in town and famous amongst politicians. I guess it used to be more popular ten years ago, but it’s still great.
For Japanese look no further and go to Suntory (there are two, the Reforma location in Lomas is better) or it’s younger, hipper, swankier brother in Santa Fe, Shu.
L’Osteria del Becco in Polanco is a great Italian.
La Gloutonnerie, signature/French. En vogue.
Jaso. Haven’t been but it’s been talked about everywhere. Signature cuisine.
La Viña Gourmet is a very local off the beaten path neighborhood restaurant, and one of my favorites, probably because I used to go there a lot. It’s in my old neighborhood, Pedregal, a mainly upscale residential area in the southern side of the city. It started out as a wine and deli store, and then it became a great restaurant with a great and vast selection of wines.
Ivoire is a fine French in Polanco with a nice rooftop bar.
Alaia is a great Spanish in Pedregal.
MP Bistro is Monica Patiño’s take on Asian. Pretty well done. Polanco.
For good Chinese Hu-Nan, one in Lomas one in San Angel.
Bistro Mosaico has three locations, the original Condesa one, another in San Angel (south) and another in Santa Fe. The food is great in all of them, the San Angel setting is really nice.
Los Canarios is a great lunch spot, a mix of Mexican traditional and homemade dishes with Spanish. It has two locations, one in Polanco, in Masaryk, and another very nice one in Santa Fe.
There are many Argentinian restaurants in Mexico City, and most of them have great meat. El Rincon Argentino in Msaryk (Polanco) is a classic. I personally like Barrio Sur, again a neighborhood spot, but very casual and nice. And by the way, it’s Uruguayan (don’t tell an Argentine, but it’s pretty much the same). And La Alcantarilla, even more of a local neighborhood place, up in Desierto de los Leones, but it has one of the nicest and most relaxed settings in the city. It’s also über casual.
Café-O is a international cuisine neighborhood place in Lomas that I go to a lot. Nice ambience, very local and casual but nothing special, mostly if you’re from out-of-town and have only a few nights.
Breakfast. Three great spots, La Lorena in Lomas, Bondy in Polanco and Maque in Condesa.
… this is just a shortlist (though a long one). There’s obviously much more places to go to, and we could do an entire book on DF’s taquerias and cantinas. But when it comes to restaurants I believe this is as good as it gets. I look forward to hearing from your experiences and do enjoy this great city.
Resurrecting an old thread because your report was so excellent, topawers. I note that you never mentioned Izote, and I have not seen a recent review. I am planning a trip to México City for August, and eating well is very important! Old reviews of Izote have made my mouth water, but it is expensive and I would like to know that it still is worth it. I have noted La Taberna del Leon, El Cardenal at the Alameda Sheraton, El Bajío. I also want to try the Russian place, Kolobak if we have time, and a Lebanese place (from other posts). I live in Mazatlán, where we have great seafood and simple food like carne asada and tacos, but much else is missing! In other words, good food can get boring without a bit of variety.
re: LES Snob
Las Sirenas has a lovely view of the back of the cathedral and I like the food (and the bar!). If you're in the Zocolo you really should go to the Majestic, the Holiday Inn or the Gran as they've marvelous views of the square. If you like pasta I like the Hotel Gillow restaurant, their four cheese pasta is super. Also you must go to the Opera Bar on 5 de Mayo - the best bar in town, I think. Across from Alameda Park there's a super Spanish restaurant, Meson del Cid, which transports me back to Spain, it is beautiful.
I guess it´s open for lunch as well, but the best, as you say, are the conchas. They make their own and you can have a great breakfast and finish it off with a concha.
I forgot to mention another of my favorite lunch spots, La flor de Lis in Condesa. Traditional hommade style food. Some of the best tamales.
Those are the restaurants i go in mexico city..i wonder if you also like the ones i go in chicago: braxton; japan 77, mesón de sabika, café ibérico, berghoff, lawry´s, lunch at the little travelers (after a little shopping) and breakfast at the egg factory. *Tourists don´t always like what we like in México. I British friend hated la alcantarilla and loved Mariscos La Curva ...we have gotten there only because we had no other choice, we were stocked in Ave Toluca´s traffic. Maybe it has to do with ¨the Mexico¨ they want see.
Hi, I am an obsesive foodie, raised in Mexico City, currently living in NY.
All of topawers recommendations are dead on.
As for where to eat near el Zocalo, I would second the recomendation for Casa de las Sirenas. It is right behind Catedral and it has a fantastic terrace overlooking the Zocalo. It is never crowded, prices are just a little above average (maybe 45 bucks per person), service is top notch, and the food is at the same time very traditional, creative and very well prepared. Try the gallinita en mole de mango.
El Cardenal (either downtown or in Palmas) is amazing but I would recommend that place more for brunch (their Anise Roll with Natas, and their Huevos Veracruzanos are quite memorable)
And to complete the Bondy tip: they make a fantastic Chile Poblano sauce... try it in enchiladas, chilaquiles or over fried eggs (Huevos Bondy). And of course their conchas alone are worth the trip. After breakfast walk a bit around the park and get a load of the fantastic houses around there. You can also have lunch there, but their best dishes are breakfast dishes.
Topawers, very good recommendations, thank you!!! Can I trouble you for some Mexican recommendations in Chicago? I'm in Mexico City right now, and my christmas present for my wife is to take her for a trip to Chicago in the spring or summer, driving from Toronto for a few days. I know it's not relevant to this thread, maybe there's already a post on the Chicago board you could point me to... But honestly I'd trust your suggestions more anyways. :)
Thanks in advance,