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9+ days in Mexico City: Where should we EAT?!

We just booked our flight to Mexico City for a 9+ day trip that gets us arriving around 8:30pm on a Friday and leaving on Monday morning, over a week later. Our original dream trip would have been longer and included three destinations but the more we read about Mexico City the more we decided to focus there with possible day trips. We want to try as many varieties of regional Mexican cuisine as we can during that time. And we want to run up and down the scale of casualness and fanciness. We love everything from street food to chef's tasting menus. (I've posted VERY long recaps of our trips to New Orleans and Prague/Krakow/Vienna). I was in Mexico City once as a child but have only vague memories of it and my wife has never been.

So what are some indispensable places to try? We're probably going to stay in Centro Historico but will be running all over town. We would like a place that stays open late right in the neighborhood for our first night, since we probably won't go too far afield then, but that can wait until we work out exactly where we're staying. And also what are some recommended day trips that could include fabulous food destinations? We're Very excited!

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  1. Poke around on this board, there are a lot of posts about Mexico City restaurants. Here are some recommendations, though:

    High-ish on the $$$ scale--and be sure to make reservations!

    Azul Condesa, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's terrific restaurant in Col. La Condesa. Open late.
    Azul y Oro, same menu different location--far south, at the UNAM campus. Early closing. There is a recent thread about getting there on public transportation. EITHER Azul is out of this world, but there is alcohol available only at the Condesa location.
    Azul Histórico, the newest addition to the family (in the Centro Histórico). It opened on Wednesday so there may still be some kinks to work out with the new staff. We're going on Saturday and will post back.

    El Cardenal. http://www.restauranteelcardenal.com/ My personal favorite is the one inside the Hilton Hotel on Av. Juárez across from Parque Alameda. The food is out of this world.

    JASO, Newton #88, Col. Polanco. http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...

    El Bajío in Col. Azcapotzalco. http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico... This is a do-not-miss for traditional food, attentive service, and lovely folkloric decor.

    Restaurante Nico's, also in Azcapotzalco. Wonderful.

    Dulce Patria, in Col. Polanco. http://dulcepatriamexico.com/ Simply stunning in every respect.

    Izote de Patricia Quintana, also in Polanco. http://www.izote.com.mx/

    Much lower down the $$$ scale:

    La Casa de Toño. The one in Zona Rosa is closest to the Centro Histórico. Fabulous pozole! http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...

    Café El Popular, 5 de mayo #52, Centro Histórico. I think this is just the spot for the night of your arrival. It's open 24 hours, it's a Mexico City institution, it offers a full menu even late in the evening, and it's right in the middle of the Centro HIstórico.

    Market fondas (food stalls)--email me for more info. patalarga@baddog.com

    And by all means read more on Mexico Cooks!:

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

    4 Replies
    1. re: cristina

      Thanks for all that great info! We have definitely been reading Mexico Cooks but it always helps to get the CH perspective. I'll be pouring over past threads, for sure. And Cafe El Popular looks to be practically around the corner from where we'll likely be staying, so you may have hit the nail on the head.

      As for food stalls, I like the off-forum communication technique... Very secretive... We take our travel-eating very seriously, as you can see on my wife's food blog Tasty Trix.

      1. re: kukubura

        Your email just vanished into the ethers. Please send it again! Thanks...

        Oops, never mind. The ethers spit it back. I have it.

      2. re: cristina

        <El Cardenal. http://www.restauranteelcardenal.com/> Important to know that you should go there for breakfast (at 10 am)! It's a very important meal in Mexico city, and El Cardenal is famous for breakfast.

        IMHO Pujol is a CAN'T (not don't) miss. It's expensive, but not compared to high priced US restaurants, and the food is out of this world fabulous. Ditto for the ambiance and service.

      3. El Tajín in the Centro Cultural Veracruzana in Coyoacan is well worth a visit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kcward

          You are so right! I forgot about it--mea culpa. Owner/executive chef Alicia Gironella de'Angeli is the grande dama of Mexican cuisine and one of the big forces behind the UNESCO award to Mexico and Michoacán of Intangible World Heritage status.

          http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...

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

        2. I second the recommendation of El Cardenal and Dulce Patria. At El Bajío, make sure you get the empanadas de plátano and the mole de Xico -- they're both fabulous. If you're looking for regional Mexican food, I love Con Sabor a Tixtla in the Roma. The family is from Guerrero and they make an amazing, herbal mole verde and sweet-and-savory stuffed jalapeños. Actually everything on the menu is good there, so you really can't go wrong.

          For your first night in the Centro, I really like Al Andar, which is on Calle Regina. It's a tiny place with murals on the walls and good tacos and salads. Plus they've got a great mezcal selection and Mexican microbrews. (What better way to ring in your first night in town?) I think they close around midnight or 1 a.m.

          On food destinations, I'd recommend Puebla, although it's not really a day trip. Xochimilco -- about 45 minutes southeast of Mexico City's center -- is also a fabulous place to eat, especially if it's at the market.

          You sound fairly adventurous on your own, but if you're up for a guided street food or market tour, I organize them through my company, Eat Mexico. My email address is lesley@eatmexico.com if you want more details. Have a great time on your trip!

          1. All this info is awesome. Thanks!

            I know this isn't necessarily a food question but is it common with late arrivals for hotels to not have your room available anymore and to shuttle you off to some other hotel? As you know, we're getting in late and the hotel that we were otherwise excited about booking has a lot of negative comments regarding people arriving in the evening only to be told that the room is gone. We definitely want to avoid that. And their reservation email person has been tough to communicate with. Is this a common issue?

            6 Replies
            1. re: kukubura

              Lack of response to an email is common here. Email isn't yet the accepted way of doing business in Mexico, even in Mexico City. A phone call is always best. If you need someone to make a call for you locally, let me know via email and I'll take care of it for you. I've talked to hotels and restaurants for other CH-ers.

              And another restaurant to add to your list: Azul Histórico on Saturday was FANTASTIC. There were a couple of very minor service glitches, but considering it was only the third day it was open--omg. The place was jammed, too.

              Oops, and yet another restaurant: for high end seafood, there is nowhere as good (IMHO) as Contramar, Durango #200, Roma Norte. Open for comida, pricy and they don't take reservations, but you'll be glad you went.

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

              1. re: cristina

                Thanks. Do you have a hotel that you recommend that reliably holds your room if you're arriving late? Our flight won't arrive until 8:15 and a lot of places seem to give your room away if you arrive in the evening. Frustrating!

                1. re: kukubura

                  Disregard my hotel questions. After reading too many crazy things about people checking in when we will be and being bumped we went with a major hotel brand. Not our usual style but we don't want to live that dangerously!

                  Back to the food!!

                  1. re: kukubura

                    If you have the opportunity, stay at The Red Tree House, it is really, truly the best B&B for anyone, anywhere; they reply to emails and they would not give away your room! And to keep on the correct side of the board, the breakfast which is included is really great, with the world's best churros along with other pastries, fresh fruit, strong coffee and a daily Mexican specialty like huevos motulanos, etc. The fabulously friendly hosts will take care of you and recommend more restaurants for you, plus the location is great for Condesa restaurants.

                    1. re: foodeye

                      Here's the link to the Red Tree House - http://theredtreehouse.com/ . I tried to make a reservation there for my trip last July but they were already booked. I've only heard really great things about them, so I was disappointed not to be able to stay there.

                      Instead, I stayed at the Villa Condesa - http://www.villacondesa.com.mx/villac... - which I can also recommend. When I sent them my reservation request I had a reply in less than 12 hours. I highly doubt they'd give your room away if you arrived late. The owners are on the property almost all the time and they have a fantastic staff, including a night person on the door and front desk who takes care to ensure that guests are safe. Since they knew I was in town to attend a wedding they asked if I wanted them to arrange for someone to come in and do my hair and makeup!

                      Breakfast is included in the room price and it was quite good when I was there. The kitchen staff was very attentive and the chef even came out and let me practice Spanish with him.

                      Neither of these 2 places are large or corporate. I think both of them are more like being a guest in someone's home. If you feel like you want a more intimate experience, especially since you're going to be in one of the worlds largest cities for 9 days, staying at one of these places, if only for a few days, might really provide a much different experience. While I am looking forward to being able to try the Red Tree House on my next trip to D.F., I'd stay at the Villa Condesa again in a heartbeat.

              2. Since you'll be there for a while, do hit Bar Opera as well, not for the food, but perhaps after dinner drinks. Don't believe folks who think the dent in the ceiling right inside the door is Villa's gunshot, that's more towards the back where the bathrooms are.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: kukubura

                    That's it. Hadn't seen the website, thanks for that. The food is meh, but it's still worth a visit.