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Input sought for good "traditional" dinner spot within walking distance to DF Zocalo

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Saludos a todos!

Our first night in D.F. we will get in late after a long day travelling. Therefore, we will save planned dining destinations in Condesa and Polanco for subsequent nights. I am looking for dinner suggestions for somewhere fairly traditional in the historical district that we can walk to and take in the atmosphere on the way. I know El Cardenal does not serve dinner. A touristy spot is ok, providing the food is great (although those two concepts so rarely go hand-in-hand).

Ideally, I would love somewhere super-traditional that has not given up on quality due to the constant influx of tourists that negates the need for repeat business. Does such a place exist? I appreciate that many people will want to point me towards previous discussions but felt a separate post was warranted due to the narrow nature of my request. Any help is truly appreciated. Thanks!!

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  1. Are you certain El Cardenal does not serve dinner in the evening?

    I would suggest Café de Tacuba as an alternate. It's very colorful, very traditional dishes, (eg, las enchiladas), and Mexicans as well as tourists go there. Just so you know, there is live music by estudiantinas. It's less expensive than El Cardenal.

    The last place we ate supper in DF was at El Huequito, on Calle Bolívar, between Rep. de Uruguay and El Slavador. Its specialties are tacos and meat cuts, and they are excellent, IMO. Moderately priced.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Anonimo

      Thanks for the input. I am not 100% sure about El Cardenal but pretty sure that when I went there last year they closed at 6 and did not re-open for dinner. I have heard mixed reports about Tacuba but based on your recommendation may have to check it out. Thanks!

      1. re: Anonimo

        According to the link on Chilango magazine, it looks like El Cardenal closes at 8 pm. It might be worth calling to double check.

        Chilango: http://www.chilango.com/restaurantes/...

        El Cardenal: http://www.restauranteelcardenal.com/

        1. re: Mari

          El Cardenal is famous for their breakfast. So I would go elsewhere your first evening, and return around 10 the next morning. It was one of the best breakfasts of my life! Plus then you'll be stoked for a day of sightseeing. ;)

          1. re: ChefJune

            I must have missed the boat on Salon Corona. I wrote on my blog: "Salon Corona is noted for its cold draft beer and its tortas. So I had the famous Torta de Bacalao (prepared salt cod and potatoes) and Doña Cuevas the Torta Gringa (carne pastor and melted cheese). The bacalao was pretty good, but I don't see why it's famous. It's a good snack. The beer was fine, the waiter congenial (and English speaking), and the Salon Corona is worth a stop if you are nearby, but it's not destination dining."

            Tacuba is not alta cocina Mexicana, but in my experience (it's been a number of years) there was nothing wrong with it.

            Keep in mind that the custom is to have your main, most substantial meal in the afternoon, typically between 2 and 4. So a lot of traditional nightime suppers tend to be comprised of lighter fare.

            About a year ago, we'd bussed in from Oaxaca; tired, and suffering from colds. So we took "the low route", and walked a block from our hotel, the Canadá, and ate supper at Café La Blanca. It's unfancy, very affordable, with a varied and extensive menu, and it definitely satisfied. It's located at Av. 5 de Mayo # 40 Centro Histórico.
            I had Fabada Asturiana and my wife had hígado encebollado. Of course, there are the standard Mexican specialties.
            The website: http://www.cafelablanca.com/

            1. re: Anonimo

              I had a bacalao, ternera, and romeritos tacos with a couple of Victorias recently. Excellent tacos, and a classic spot, nothing wrong with that at all.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Maybe my expectations had been ramped up too high. As I said also, there was nothing wrong with it. It just wasn't great as I'd read.

                1. re: Anonimo

                  I love cantinas, and the place just feels so right. These types of places in Latin America, the botecos in Brazil, Cigarerias in Colombia, and all types of cantinas in Mexico. I also love Mexican bacalao preparations.

                  I could really use a pub here in LA with some killer tacos.

        2. re: Anonimo

          I also think Cafe de Tacuba is an excellent choice in this instance. The restaurant has a very special ambiance, the food is good, it's a great people-watching place because its so very popular with local upper and middle-class residents and I've always enjoyed the strolling musicians - with their estudiantina-like (Spanish musician) period costumes. It's Mexico City "old school" and I've enjoyed many meals there. I'm particularly fond it the restaurant's version of chicken breast smothered with in-house prepared Mole Poblano. This restaurant has been in business since 1911, or thereabouts.

          1. re: gomexico

            Another big YES to Café Tacuba. Have your supper where Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and all the 1930s-40s bohemian crowd hung out. You'll love the atmosphere and the food.

            Last time I was at Café Tacuba (about a year ago) I had the chicken breast in pipián. It was not only sublimely delicious, it was also enormous.

            There's another place in that vicinity that I like a lot, but more for the old-world atmosphere and the service than for the food, although the food is quite passable. It's Restaurante Lincoln, Revillagigedo No. 24 just south of the Bellas Artes. The waiters are strictly old-school, long-apron, serious types. You're likely to have a gaggle of politicos and one blowzy dyed blonde at the table next to you, sharing a bottle of Buchanan's and a plate of botanas while the waiter hovers about.

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

        3. Salon Corona on Bolivar has good ceviche, taquitos and beer, very traditional, informal. Do not go to their other locations, they're not as good. El Danubio on Uruguay street has spanish/mexican style seafood, old fashioned and very traditional. On 5 de Mayo street is Jugos Canada, it has great tortas and juices, inexpensive and perfect for this hot weather.

          1. Look for the "Hosteria de Santo Domingo". I don;t know whether they serve dinner but it is as traditional ( and tasty) asthey come.

            1. One of my favs is Puro Corazon...perfect view of the zocalo, great mezcal margaritas (and tequila too!) and cochinita pibil that is out of this world. The staff is very friendly and everything I've tried there has been excellent.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lizzers

                Hi Everyone! It's been almost a year since we were in D.F. and we still think all the time of coming back. El Cardenal in the Hilton DOES close at 6 pm (I just checked the Hilton website, which gives hours for all their food operations). We loved El Cardenal and stayed in an apt. on Revillagigedo just so we could eat there more than once. Also loved El Huequito and a bunch of casual places around the Alameda park. Eventually we also ate at fancier places in Polanco.

                Puro Corazon is an interesting suggestion. We went there early one morning for breakfast. It is on the top floor of a building facing the Zocalo and if you can sit outside, the view across the plaza is something you will always remember. I'm not sure what the food is like for dinner, though.

                If I were arriving late and staying around the Alameda, I wouldn't bother going to the Zocalo. I would eat at Cafe Tacuba or El Huequito.