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Mother and child chowhounds in D.F.

a
Aleta Mar 30, 2009 09:32 AM

Hi Fellow Chowhounds! I'll be taking my 10 yo son to Mexico City for the first time this summer. We'll have only 9 days in Teotihuacan and D.F. to sightsee and sample the delicious cuisine of the area. After doing much homework (especially here on the Chowhound Mexico board), I have come up with a planned itinerary and I would really appreciate your comments. Please keep in mind that 1) we don't speak Spanish, 2) my son is not very good with hot spicy food and 3) my son is very allergic to NUTS so we usually look for restaurants where there is an English menu or where the servers take the time to consider the gravity of his condition. Thanks a million!

Day 1: arriving mid-day. taxi to EL CARDENAL for 3 pm lunch

Day 2: Teotihuacan. late lunch at LAS GRUTAS

Day 5: sightseeing in Centro (staying at Sheraton), snack at EL CUADRILATERO, CHURRERIA EL MORO or EL CHARCO DE LAS RANAS
Early dinner at EL CARDENAL

Day 6: breakfast at EL BAJIO
Museo de Antropologia
Late lunch at EL CALIFA

Day 7: breakfast at Casa de los Azulejos (Sanborn's)
city tour
Dinner at EL CUADRILATERO or other casual place near Sheraton

Day 8: sightseeing near Zocalo and Templo Mayor
Late lunch at CASA LAS SIRENAS or LA TERRAZA DEL ZOCALO
Dinner at MESON EL CID or DANUBIO

  1. x
    Xacinta Jul 17, 2009 03:46 PM

    Señora Aleta, you are raising a great citizen of the world! This travel experience is going to mean so much more to him than going to DisneyWorld. I am so glad you had a great time. * Frijoles at El Bajío, of course he liked them, it is the first question Titita, the owner, usually asks to new culinary students taking her course "How do you make Mexican refried beans" unfortunatly, many of them usually don´t know the answer. * Tacos al pastor, well that´s the Mexican way to start with solid food. I think that it is absolutely fundamental that kids try all kinds of food from everywhere, they learn to appreciate other countries cusine, and i think it goes far beyond that, i am talking respect, understanding, open mind....

    4 Replies
    1. re: Xacinta
      a
      Aleta Jul 18, 2009 04:00 PM

      kare_raisu, the blog on taxis made me laugh. What a good sport your Rodrigo is - he went to the top of a pyramid (and back down again) for you. I'm curious what his rates were. If I hire him next time, will I have to forego my dinner at Pujol?
      Thanks very much for the words of encouragement, Senora Xacinta! I am hoping to raise exactly that - a citizen of the world - but at this rate, I may only end up raising a wannabe chef. Okay, we did go to Teotihuacan, Coyoacan, Xochimilco (even the non-tourist side to see the organic farms and axolotl breeding area), but we also focused on interesting food and drink daily. My son will laugh and then be puzzled when he reads your comments. First, he's never been to Disney in the U.S. (I keep saying, "Maybe next year...") and second, he'll want to understand better how you start with tacos al pastor and end up with frijoles. Finally, he'll ask why the frijoles everywhere else are so boring compared to the ones at El Bajio. Have you taken a culinary course with Titita?

      1. re: Aleta
        x
        Xacinta Jul 19, 2009 02:15 PM

        1-My kids have been to Orlando twice, I remember thinking that i might be doing a good job when i saw them runing to a fresh fruit stand at MGM Studios, they´d had already too many chicken fingers. 2-Solid food. i meant as babies, instead of Gerber, In Mexico, in many kindergarden birthday parties they have tacos al pastor and kids as early as 2, 3 years old already love them. 3-Titita and her daughters are people i know and quiero mucho. (The beans, when being fryed with very little pork fat, have to become "chinitos", that´s it)

        1. re: Aleta
          kare_raisu Jul 21, 2009 06:42 PM

          His rates are unbelievable - to take us to the pyramids he only charged 50 - which is unheard of. Rndtrip and hanging with us. He even took us to toluca airport for next to nothing.

          doubt you will have to forgo anything he's very flexible.

          1. re: Aleta
            streetgourmetla Jul 22, 2009 01:09 AM

            The rates are embarrassingly low, so much that I didn't post them.

        2. g
          gueraaven Apr 6, 2009 08:33 AM

          Great advice above - agree with everything said above. Another thing to remember is that you are going to be messing with the epic traffic of Mexico City. It´s just not super easy to get around here between the hours of 8-9am and 2-8pm. I would definitely recommend the metro or metrobus at those hours but they will be crowded. Watch your pockets. And, don't go to Teotihuacan on a Friday, you will be stuck in traffic for hours getting back. Finally, you should know that most tours to Teotihuacan you can arrange from centro historico hotels stop at the Basilica de Guadalupe on the way there or back and usually plan to get you home around 5pm with comida (lunch) at the ruins. If you want to make your own schedule, take a bus from Central del Norte or arrange for a private tour or taxi to take you.

          The outlet of El Bajío in Polanco is just as good as the original one and they are definitely much more English friendly there because they are near all the hotels in Polanco. It´s nice for breakfast, but best for lunch. Gets crowded, so you may want to get there just before 2pm to edge out the crowds. On Day 6 i might go to Anthropologia in the morning after a quick bkfast, then rest up with a lovely lunch there after you are done with the museum.

          I would not recommend a big cena at Danubio or Meson del Cid if you are also looking for ambiance - you´ll likely be the only ppl in the restaurant. Most restaurants in the Centro are pretty dead at night. the hotel restaurants might be a little more lively, but probably only after 9pm. Cafe de Tacuba is probably the one exception - they do seem to be fairly full in the evenings.

          Day 5 and day 8 - this is essentially the same location... the zocalo is smack dab in the middle of the centro. that said, you could easily take two days and not see it all. However, if you have a chance on your city tour day, I'd definitely do one or two of Cristina's suggestions.

          A final thing to remember - you'll be visiting during the rainy season, and it is guaranteed to rain at least for a bit most afternoons you are here. Always bring umbrellas and a light layer - it will be gorgeous and sunny all morning and cloud over and get chilly anytime between 3 and 6pm.

          9 Replies
          1. re: gueraaven
            cristina Apr 6, 2009 02:56 PM

            I neglected to recommend Café Tacuba, but it was simply an oversight. My partner (who hadn't been there before) and I had comida there in December and I was quite surprised by the delicious food. Our meal was outstanding.

            Breakfasts are also wonderful at Café Tacuba. I like to go on Sunday late in the morning, when the estudiantina (music group) is singing. The place is fabulous then, so full of lively ambiance. You and your son would jump for joy.

            Link://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

            1. re: cristina
              a
              Aleta Apr 10, 2009 11:58 AM

              Thanks, everyone, for your great advice! I've done some more homework and re-vamped our itinerary. Meson del Cid is out and Casino Espanol is in. We'll go to El Cuadrilatero once for the fantastic lucha libre decor and tortas and on another occasion, try La Texcocana (which is also nearer to the Sheraton). Any ideas what hours a typical torta place is open? We'll definitely make a stop at Pasteleria Ideal (not for my son who must be the only non-cake eating 10 yo in the world, but for me - he'll probably be just as happy to taste their other baked goods and gelatin desserts). One day, we'll visit the Mercado de San Juan and Calle Lopez (I've noted Nick Gilman's recommendations) for some casual food. I'm also looking forward to El Huequito instead of El Charco. It does sound like we are overly-ambitious in terms of our food plans. That's us - we like to live fully and eat well. That's why we're staying 2 nights in Teotihuacan instead of taking a day tour. We want to experience the pyramids before the crowds come. We might ride a hot air balloon and attempt to do some sketches of the pyramids as well.
              Cafe Tacuba sounds interesting but also controversial. I've read such good and bad things about this place. The ambiance is obviously a big reason to go, however the service may be inconsistent. With my son's nut allergies and my lack of Spanish, perhaps this place is not such a good idea for us? I'll bring a card that explains his nut allergy in Spanish but when the service is inconsistent, it's often an indication that the kitchen and the servers don't care too much about their customers.
              Another place I'd like to try is D.O. in Polanco. From its website, it looks quite fancy and we should make sure not to trudge in there with our hiking boots. It's open from 1 pm until after midnight so I suppose it's a trendy place where most people eat dinner after 9 pm. If we eat early (5pm?), perhaps they won't mind serving 2 people who look like they just inspected the organic farms in Xochimilco. Of course, we'll take off our hiking boots! Does anyone have an idea how long a taxi ride would take from the Sheraton Centro Historico to D.O. on a weekday around 5 pm? Should we leave the hotel 30 minutes before or 1 hour? Does anyone know or have the address of El Cuaguamo on Ayuntamiento? Hope I didn't spell it wrong. It's a seafood place.
              Thanks again, Cristina, Anonimo and Gueraaven, for all your help! We're getting very excited about our trip.

              1. re: Aleta
                cristina Apr 10, 2009 12:26 PM

                I must be missing something--what is D.O.?

                Are you thinking of El Cahuama?

                Also: I've eaten any number of times at Café Tacuba--over the course of 10 or so years--and have always experienced excellent, attentive service. Where did you hear that the service is inconsistent?

                AND: if your son is allergic to nuts other than *nueces* (pecans), be sure to specify the varieties in the Spanish-language note you carry with you. Be sure to list ALL the nuts he's allergic to, or restaurant staff might think he's allergic to pecans but not cacahuates (peanuts) or almendras (almonds) or nuez de castilla (walnuts), and so on.

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

                1. re: cristina
                  a
                  Aleta Apr 10, 2009 12:52 PM

                  D.O. stands for Denominacion de Origendo. Their website is http://www.denominaciondeorigendo.com

                  The seafood place is El Caguamo. I read about it in an article by Nick Gilman, http://www.mexicocityfood.net/images/... where he reviews this place and Contramar.

                  Thanks for the advice on the nuts. His worst reactions have been to cashews and peanuts. We usually stay away from all nuts, just to be safe.

                  1. re: Aleta
                    cristina Apr 10, 2009 03:19 PM

                    Hmmm...you know that D.O. is not a Mexican restaurant...

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

                    1. re: cristina
                      a
                      Aleta Jul 14, 2009 11:29 AM

                      We spent 9 wonderful days in the Mexico City - area. Thanks again, Chowhounds, for all your helpful advice. I've travelled quite a bit all over the world but Mexico City is now one of my favourite places for art, history, culture and food. I'd like to share some of our gastronomic experiences ...

                      D.O. : we found this Spanish restaurant in Polanco through Nick Gilman's website. The Iberico bellota ham was delicious and the fish soup wasn't bad either. The meat and fish dishes were overcooked. The paella was not memorable. We probably wouldn't go again. Perhaps next time we'll try Casino Espanol.

                      El Cardenal: we were staying in an apt. near the Sheraton Centro Historico, so we were able to have breakfast there more than once. I had the omelette with huazontles and hot chocolate. Yum! My son had the deep-fried chimichangas(?), omelettes and fresh fruit juices. Too bad the pan de elote was not available. The service was excellent and since we got there before 9 am, we were seated almost immediately.

                      El Huequito: my son was very reluctant to eat, standing on the curbside at Calle Ayuntamiento, so I ordered 3 tacos al pastor and asked him to have just a little bite. He ended up eating the whole taco and asking me to order 3-4 more! They were small, delicious and inexpensive. Would we go again? Yes! This is snack food at its very best. We also found the other El Huequito on Bolivar. (thanks, Anonimo)

                      El Charco de las Ranas: after standing at El Huequito, sitting in the comfortable "Frog Pond" seemed like a treat. The location at Republica/Bolivar is very clean and spacious. We enjoyed the horchata and jamaica drinks. The food was pretty good and at that point of our trip, we would've said that El Charco was the best. Would we go again? Probably, if we were in the neighbourhood.

                      Astrid y Gaston: we read about this Peruvian restaurant on Nick Gilman's website. The ceviche was fantastic. There were 4-5 different preparations. I tried one which had a marinade including passionfruit and tamarind. Instead of ordering a main course (a roasted chicken which was tender and flavourful and served with a fondue-like cheese and huitlacoche dipping sauce), I should've tried some of the other ceviches. The bread selection was fantastic (and free!). Our favourite item was the brioche-style bun with cheese and huitlacoche. The service was excellent. Would we go again? Yes.

                      El Bajio: we went for breakfast, before a day at the Anthropology museum. Among the items we tried (and loved) were the omelettes with carnitas and the tamale with pumpkins seeds and epozote (spelling?). The tamale was so good - it was hard to believe that it contained no meat. It was light and fresh. My son usually says no to frijoles (and all legumes) but he loved the frijoles at El Bajio. The service was friendly and efficient too. My son's only complaint was that our apt. was too far from El Bajio to make a repeat visit. We also enjoyed standing near the glass window and watching the cook wrap tamales.

                      El Califa: the two of us ate so much here that the waitress couldn't help smiling every time she walked by. The tacos with rib-eye and cheese were delicious with the highest quality of meat. The chicken al pastor was also very good. I can't remember how many tacos we ate but, without any alcoholic beverages or dessert, our bill came to more than 500 MX for late lunch. I was really surprised when a waitress presented us with a beautifully arranged sample platter of house desserts (including a gorgeous, thinly sliced fig tart that could rival any French patisserie). I was too full to try any of them but I appreciated the elegant gesture. El Califa is a strange place that I'll be reminiscing about for a long time; on one hand, it's just a taco shop but on the other, its use of fine ingredients and high standards of presentation elevate it to a special place somewhere between taqueria and fine dining.

                      Pujol: both my 10 yo son and I had the tasting menus and we enjoyed all the dishes. When I made the reservation online, I specified that my son would need a nut-free menu. The chef came out to discuss that with us and reassured us that his kitchen could take care of it. As a result, we were able to sample more than the regular tasting menu dishes since some special nut-free courses were prepared for my son. The ceviche was quite good (Astrid y Gaston's had a greater spectrum of flavours), the "foamy tortilla with chorizo" in a mason jar was fun and tasty, the "carnitas" was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the El Bulli -- style microwaved almond angel food cake with frozen pomegranates was delicious. The bread was very good too, although I didn't like the idea of paying 40 MX per person for it. Although I liked Pujol and would go back again, I do have 3 negative comments. First, I thought the lighting was so dim that I couldn't see the beautiful plates of food very clearly and that took away some of the pleasure of eating. Second, although the chef and some of the wait staff spoke perfect English, there was no English menu and my son had to rely on my terrible Spanish for translation (in hindsight, I should have just asked the waiter to translate orally for me). Third, when we finished our meal, I asked the restaurant to call me a taxi. To my surprise, it was a slightly beat-up "taxi libre". It was late at night and my son worried all the way back to our apt. He had read that we should only be taking sitio or hotel taxis, especially at night. Since I plan to return to DF some time soon (and have more wonderful food experiences), I would appreciate Chowhound opinions on Pujol's use of taxis libres. It was the only time dining in DF that we asked for a taxi and ended up with a taxi libre. Was it because the restaurant knew the driver or had written down his license plate? Please illuminate me.

                      Puerto Madero: we decided to try this Argentine steakhouse, since we don't have too many of these in Toronto. The restaurant was beautiful, the steak was tasty, the side dishes were mediocre (Caesar salad = several leaves of romaine lettuce covered in olive oil) and the waiter was young and inexperienced. Before we went, I read on Chowhound that the meat is actually imported from the U.S. so I knew we weren't actually having "the real thing" but I was hoping that the preparation and flavouring would be worth the visit. If we go back, we'll order only the meat, the creamed spinach and the empanadas.

                      El Cuadrilatero: Chowhounds right again! Thanks for pointing out that it's just a torta place and there's no need to visit more than once. The tortas were very good, the luchadore decorations on the wall were a lot of fun and the people were friendly. We enjoyed it since it was only 5 minutes away from our apt.

                      Churreria El Moro: we wandered in on Sat. morning at 9 am and found 1) no tourists except us, 2) freshly fried churros and 3) musicians playing and singing. Although some reviewers have commented that the churros were heavy and leaden, ours were fresh and light. Perhaps it's all about timing.

                      1. re: Aleta
                        d
                        danebaxter Jul 15, 2009 12:39 PM

                        Sounds like you had a fantastic experience! On your taxi comment: I live in Mexico City, and I've found that it's common for restaurants (even nice ones) to call a taxi that doesn't have a meter, or appears to be a plain old sedan. I've never been worried, because I've assumed that the driver is a "taxista de confianza" -- basically someone the restaurant trusts to take their clients home. I've been here five months and never had a bad experience with these taxis. Granted, would I hail one off the street? Never. But if a restaurant is calling one for you, the prevailing notion is that they're as safe as a sitio.

                        1. re: danebaxter
                          a
                          Aleta Jul 17, 2009 11:24 AM

                          Thanks very much for your input. My son wants to clarify that it was Astrid y Gaston who called us a taxi libre, not Pujol. Your comment puts us much more at ease and next time we're in DF, we won't be sweating with anxiety in the back seat of the taxi!

                          1. re: Aleta
                            kare_raisu Jul 17, 2009 12:00 PM

                            Streetgourmetla and I spent the beginning of last month in DF and one of the best parts was becoming acquainted with Rodrigo, our Personal DF taxista from now on. I cant recommend him highly enough, he's a wonderful individual and Tapitio!
                            http://streetgourmetla.blogspot.com/2...

          2. Anonimo Mar 30, 2009 04:15 PM

            I would hesitate to eat so many times at El Cuadrilatero. After all, it's basically a sandwich shop with a wrestling theme.

            Switch your taco target from El Charco de Las Ranas to El Huequito. I've only been to the one at Bolívar # 58, just south of Rep. de Uruguay; but there's another, smaller (the original), at Ayuntamiento #21, at Calle López, according to Nick Gilman's book, "Good Food In Mexico City". My favorite are the "tacos Ingleses". The tacos al pastor are recommended.

            I haven't been to El Danubio in years. The portions are huge, and could feed two easily. Much of the food is very rich.

            El Moro is worth a visit, but more for the chocolates than the churros, which are pretty dull. **Don't miss the chocolate at El Cardenal.**

            A few blocks away is the famed Pastelería La Ideal, which doesn't serve food, but the selection of pastries to go is mind-boggling. http://davidlida.com/?p=365

            I love El Bajío. I prefer the original in Delegacíon Azcapotzalco, for its ambience, but we had a very good breakfast at the Parque Delta location also. www.carnitaselbajio.com.mx

            I hate to say this, but you probably have too many eating places on your list. Some of the meals at the famed spots are big deals, not casual, light eating. Cristina's advice is very good.

            You might want to get intersperse some down to earth, simpler, less expensive places, such as Cafe La Blanca on Cinco de Mayo, or Cafe Popular, a classic "Cafe Chino"; Jugos Canadá for a refreshing juice or a licuado. Leave room for some street food, such as tamales for breakfast. The above are all on the same street within a couple of blocks of each other.

            I think I was advised by another poster here that Meson del Cid was pretty touristy. I'd opt more for the Casino Español (where we visited to look around but haven't as yet dined.

            )

            I've had breakfast a few times at Sanborn's Casa de Los Azulejos, in the coffee shop part. Most of the food we've had there is "o.k." chain restaurant food. One of the best dishes is "Huevos Sanborn's". However, the coffee was pretty weak on our last visit. We haven't eaten in the dining room.

            A less expensive, middle class and generally good chain are the "Bisquets Obregón" restaurants. The breakfasts are very good, and the cafe con leche and made in-house pan dulce are excellent. There's one on Madero, west of the Zócalo. Francisco I. Madero Local 29 y 31, Col. Centro, and another, which I've not visited, on Calle Tacuba No. 85, Loc. 2, Col. Centro

            Another interesting place is the Cafe de Tacuba, on Av. Tacuba, near the Metro Allende station. The food, while not spectacular, is satisfying. The rooms are wonderfully decorated, and in the evenings, there's live music by "estudiantinas". One of the specialties are enchiladas.

            Have a great visit.

            1. cristina Mar 30, 2009 11:46 AM

              Aleta, you've done a LOT of research, congratulations! You're going to have a fantastic time with your son.

              There are a couple of things that concern me about your planned itinerary.

              Day 1: Which El Cardenal? If you're staying at the Sheraton Alameda, El Cardenal is in the hotel.

              Day 5: Don't bother with El Charco de las Ranas. It's very expensive, considering that it's just tacos. And El Cardenal again?

              Day 8: I wouldn't bother with Casa las Sirenas, either. Bigtime tourist destination, very expensive for what's offered.

              Your lunch/dinner schedule might need to be revamped a bit. "Lunch" in Mexico is called *comida*, and it's the main meal of the day, usually taken between 2 and 4 or 5PM. Many restaurants that open for comida don't open till one o'clock. Dinner is *cena* and is usually taken between 8 and 10PM or later. It's rare to combine *comida* and *cena* in one day! I'd advise having breakfast around 9, *comida* around 3, and something light for *cena*.

              You haven't mentioned any street food or market food. Both are really good options for you and your son. It would be unusual to find any street/market foods that contain nuts or nut oils.

              Be sure to ride the Metrobus! It's an inexpensive, safe, fast, and ABOVE GROUND way to get around the DF. You'll be able to see tons of things and get a good feel for the city as you go.

              Places you might like to visit:
              --Bosque Chapultepec, especially on Sunday. Sunday is family day in Mexico, and this huge park would be a lot of fun for your son.
              --Coyoacán, a lovely old part of the southern city with a great food market--plus churros y chocolate!
              --San Angel on Saturday, for the wonderful folk art market at Plaza San Jacinto.
              --the children's museum (http://www.papalote.org.mx/papalotemuseo/comollegar.html
              )--and for a real introduction to the heart of Mexico, the Basílica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Take the Metrobus to Indios Verdes and walk two blocks to the Basílica.

              But before you go, read Mexico Cooks! There are several articles about Mexico City here.

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

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