Mexico City travel tips

I’m a loyal MR reader and follower of your work.  I’m so grateful for your work and your generous spirit.  I’m sure you get inundated with email and other correspondence but I’m adding to the pile by requesting that someday you’ll post advice for a Oaxaca or Mexico City visit.  I assure you that it would be carefully studied and utilized.

Happy Easter!

Here are my tips for Mexico City, taken from an email I sent to a friend a while ago, note I start with food but do not end there:

“1. Your number one task is to find a seller of tlacoyos in the street. This is likely a solo woman with a stand, on a corner. They are all over Mexico City, though whether in Condesa I am not sure. The vegetarian offerings are no worse, also, with beans and blue corn tortilla and cheese.  Get these, and they are in general quite sanitary.  You simply need to ask around, they will not be in highly visible places. I think about them often.

2. Ask for “tacqueria” rather than tacos, the latter might lead you into a restaurant.

2b. Most food in Condesa will be fine but underwhelming, think Clarendon. Try to find street food there.

3. The street food is the best food there and it is safer to eat than the restaurant food (though the latter is usually safe too).

4. Try a sandwich once or twice, just ask around, no need for a fancy place, these usually close by mid-afternoon. My favorite sandwich is the Hawaii, though I believe that is a purely subjective judgment, I do not think it is the best per se. The whole bakery culture there is quite interesting and often neglected by food people but it is important.

5. When you take a taxi out to the pyramids, there is excellent food along the way, in the middle of nowhere, have the driver stop and bring you somewhere. The pyramids are one of the best sights in this hemisphere, by the way, better than those in Egypt I think. There are also smaller pyramid sites on the way to the big pyramid site, worth visiting and also near some superb food.

6. Favorite fancy place there is Astrid and Gaston, not cheap but it won’t bankrupt you either.  Peruvian/Mexican fusion, nice to sit in too.

7. If you need a break from Mexican food, the Polish restaurants there are quite good, that would be my back up choice. Of Asian food the Japanese offerings might be the best. French and German can be quite good there, though not original.  Avoid “American.” Other Latin cuisines will in general be quite good there, including the steakhouses.

8. Go to Coyoacan (a suburb, sort of, but not far) and see the Frida Kahlo museum.  The food stalls (“comedores”) there are not only excellent, but they look the most sanitary and mainstream of just about any in Mexico. Even your aunt could be tempted to eat there. A good stop, try a whole bunch of things for $1.50 a piece, you could spend two hours there eating and not get bored and get to sample a lot of the main dishes.  Also a fun hangout.

9. When we flew into the airport, we immediately asked the taxi driver to bring us somewhere superb for a snack. Of course there was somewhere within five minutes, right nearby. Do this if you can open a line of communications.

9b. Walking is often the wrong way to find great food there, unless you are walking and asking. Walking and looking doesn’t work so well, because you are on the wrong streets if you are walking to just be walking around. Vehicles are the key, or asking and then walking to follow the advice, not to follow your walking instincts.

10. Chiles en Nogada is a seasonal dish, superb, I am not sure if they will still have it but ask around and get it if you can. It is delicious and a real treat, not to be forgotten.

11. Treat breakfast as a chance at some street food, don’t fill up on a traditional breakfast, least of all a touristy Mexican one. It will always be OK, but rarely interesting, even if it sounds somewhat authentic. Get a tlacoyo or something in the street. Any food represented by an Aztec word will be excellent, pretty much as a rule.

The non-food tips I will send separately. But the food is all about improvising, not about finding good restaurants. Most of the mid-tier restaurants are decent but for me ultimately a bit disappointing. Either go fancy or go street. Don’t trust any of the guidebook recommendations for mid-tier places, they will never be bad but mostly disappoint compared to the best stuff there.

Non-food

The Anthropology Museum is a must.

My personal favorite museum is Museo del Arte Popular, the popular art museum downtown, but I consider that an idiosyncratic preference.

Visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the murals there, and across the street House of Blue Tiles, get a juice there and see their murals too. Then walk from there down to the Zocalo on the main street, there is the number one walk in Mexico for a basic introduction to downtown. In fact that is the first thing I would do to get an overview of downtown and the older part of the city, even though that is not where you will end up hanging out.

The mural sites are in general excellent, I believe the best one is called Ildefonso.

I often find male clothes shopping there to be highly profitable, good mix of selection and prices. Polanco is the part of town you would go to for that, right near Pujol and also Astrid and Gaston, in fact.

Hotel Camino Real is a classic site, you can get a drink there at night with the funny colored lights. The movie Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia was shot there in part, a great film. The Mexico City movie is Amores Perros, a knockout. Y Tu Mama Tambien is another, you probably know these already. I also like the old Mexican movies of Luis Bunuel, made while he lived there for a while.

The classic Mexico novel is Roberto Bolano, *The Savage Detectives*, a great read and one of the best novels of the latter part of the 20th century, the English translation is first-rate too, as good as the Spanish in my view.

I don’t like much of the music, but perhaps that is the point.  Control Machete, a Mexican rap group, works pretty good as soundtrack while you are being driven around the city.

The Alan Riding book, while now badly out of date, is still an excellent overview of the older Mexico, great for background, Distant Neighbors it is called.

Have a cabbie drive you around different neighborhoods, to see rich homes, poorer sections, particular buildings. Mexico City is first-rate for contemporary architecture although most of it is quite scattered, no single place for walking around it that I know of.

Art galleries there are good for browsing, often in or near Polanco, the wealthy part of town.

Insurgentes is a good avenue for cruising.

Avoid Zona Rosa altogether at all costs, bad stuff, lots of pickpockets, no redeeming virtues whatsoever, do not be tempted.”

Comments

Zona Rosa does have good Korean food. When it comes to food chains, Casa Toño is pretty good, especially the pozole. In terms of hip neighborhoods, Roma Norte>>>> Condesa. Less residential than Condesa. Carlos Slim’s art museum is pretty good, as well. The city bans cars in Reforma for cycling on Sundays, and it is the best time to visit the Angel of Independence.

Trotsky’s museum is underwhelming for non-Spanish speakers. Most of the information is only in Spanish. Mexico City museums, overall, still struggle in this department, including Chapultepec Castle (none Mexican history buffs will struggle understanding the context of the Castle) . Still worth the visit.

Are we to take it for granted that we will not get murdered, or are you assuming someone else has supplied that advice already?

Mexico City has gotten safer since the 1990’s. You see cops everywhere (and is also far way from drug trade routes). Biggest safety concerns are pickpockets in crowded areas.

Mexico City is not the dangerous part of Mexico

How's the pollution? Not trying to be snarky, I may be mistaken but didn't they used to have a rep as one of the smoggiest cities in the world?

Considering it's a 20+ million people agglomeration with very old cars, air quality is acceptable.

Low sulfur gas reduced the smog levels of the 90s. Ozone may be high some days which causes a sore throat. PM10 kill you painlessly.

But, it's pollution. For bad outcomes you need concentration and exposure. Tourists don't spend more than a week, minimal exposure, no worries.

It's gotten so much better in the last 20 years since they got rid of the VW beetles as the standard taxi cab. Made a huge difference. They also do things like only allowing people to drive on certain days based on if their license plate is odd or even numbered when the air is bad. I'd say it's comparable to LA or Houston these days. But the months leading up to the rainy season can be pretty awful, especially if you get some inversion from chilly weather. Or if there are wildfires it can get bad since everything sort of sits in the valley and you're over a mile high.

If you stay outside of the Centro Historico, such as in Roma, Condesa, Juarez, Coyoacan, etc, the air is better, imo, there, which can make sleeping easier if you're prone to get stuffed up.

Travel as part of a group of 1000 people, for safety.

The most weird, local food item was not the ants eggs or grasshoppers....nope. The weirdest one I found — coming from a Californian with Jalisco parents— was the combination of a Tamale and and two birotes. A tamale torta!!! This dish would not fly in LA. Also, the food in Mexico City is not as spicy as Jalisco cuisine. If you are a fan of seafood, I would recommend tostadas de atún. They are a staple in Mexican seafood place.

The guajolota. Too much starch for me. I don't know if you've seen the new torta trend along these lines, but it's the chilaquiles torta, which again, is just too much starch on starch for me.

https://culinarybackstreets.com/cities-category/mexico-city/2016/la-esquina-del-chilaquil/

A thing on quesadillas, in the rest of
México there must be cheese inside the tortilla for it to be called so, not in Mexico City. So if you order a quesadilla and expect to have cheese in it be explicit ordering with cheese otherwise ("quesadilla con queso, por favor") you might get a taco with some other filling, specially in the tlacoyo places Tyler mentions. However, I do recommend to get the other kind of of quesadillas (the ones without cheese) flor de calabaza and huitlacoche quesadillas are a must, chicharrón ones are also good.

Yes, I know it's confusing but we even have capital vs the rest of Mexico longstanding feuds on the issue, specially since the etymological (which has been contested with fake memes on the internet btw) root of the word quesadilla is queso (cheese). Alas, just something to bear in mind

The same applies with micheladas. Micheladas in CDMX just means a cold glass with lime and salt.

Unmentioned but worth a visit is the Plaza of the Three Cultures, unlike anything else on this planet and arguably the soul of Mexico.

As for food, do have the ants and stuff, and also the city has most of the regional cuisines of Mexico, with the Yucateco a special standout.

Insurgentes is a good avenue for cruising.

??!!??!!

I did a double-take too. I'm guessing he means in a CAR :-)

I actually don't think so.

Street food is great for antojitos such as tlacoyos. Antojitos are great but they're only fast food. I mean no harm using the term fast food, I just use it to emphasize there's slower food too. This is where mid-tier restaurants enter. For example, mixiote and barbacoa de borrego(lamb roasted in cacti leaves) are delicious but usually found on mid-tier restaurants. Street versions of these are only found on joints next to the road far away from the city. Soups made with cow intestines (menudo) are also good on mid-tier restaurants.

Also, beware that Tyler does not cares about appetizing beers while the rest of us do. Due to boring Mexican laws alcohol is not sold in street joints. If you want a beer along your meal you need to go to a restaurant.

There are 3 books that capture very well the awkward mixing-pot which is Mexico City: La región más transparente by Carlos Fuentes (1958) , Casi el paraíso by Luis Spota (1956) and Ángel Guardian by Xavier Velasco (2003).

The background is more or less the same in all books: insecure and naive new rich, ethnic mix and tension, immigrants that after WW2 took the city as new home, casual racism, omnipresent politics.

I'll post my current list of recs I give out whenever someone emails me before I critique Tyler's comments above. My last trip was in January for three weeks and it could use a little updating, but I don't think anything is out of business and they should still be solid recommendations. Neighborhoods are listed. Condesa is nearby Roma, Polanco, and Juarez (Zona Rosa is in Juarez), Cuahtemoc, Napoles, and del Valle. Centro Historico is obviously a destination as is Coyoacan.

I highly recommend putting places into your Google Maps and downloading an off-line map of Mexico City for your phone. Makes things easy to find. Nicholas Gilman's food guide to Mexico City is quite useful and good. He's lived there a long time and has a good palate. (His partner, Jim Johnston, writes the Opinionated Guide, a more general guide.) It can be purchased on Amazon or in CDMX bookstores with English-language books, like Cafe Pendulo. Lydia Carey's guide to Roma is good, too, if you are planning on perusing Mexico City's hipster haven. Eater's guide to Mexico City is surprisingly decent. It's worth looking at and following all its internal links. Much better than what you'll get from traditional guidebooks like Lonely Planet or Fodors, and also light years better than Tripadvisor or online aggregators.

Finally, two of my friends run this small tour company, Quest Tours. Both are good guides. I hire Paco for research trips often and he's quite intelligent, well-read, and his knowledge goes far beyond a script. He's also passionate about Mexican food, art, history, and culture. Definitely a Renaissance man, which is great as a guide. (He was a matador when young, too, and a chess champion.) Their prices are quite reasonable, too.

https://questmexicotours.com/

Anyway, here are my current food recs:

UPSCALE
• Pujol: Maybe you've gone to Cosme in NY. I haven't been to either of Olvera's restaurants, though I've met him at culinary conferences in Mexico City and he's a nice guy and seems really dedicated to quality food. It's very "avant garde" and I've had friends with wildly different reactions to the place. There is some suggestion it has gone downhill since Olvera is spreading himself out with other projects. (Polanco)

• Quitonil: Less avant garde than Pujol, but still blending modernism with Mexican food. I haven't been, but both American and Mexican friends seem to really like it. (Polanco)

• Maximo Bistrot: Several friends consider this the best restaurant in Mexico City. It very much fits in with a modern, urban American aesthetic of simple, seasonal food with local ingredients and French technique. Again, I haven't been. (Roma Norte)

• Contramar: I’ve still never been even though I’m friends with the owner who now lives in SF and has a restaurant there, Cala. Pacific coast seafood joint. I think among my friends it's between here and Maximo for best restaurant in town. (Condesa) • Quitonil: Another I haven't been to, but friends enjoy. My sense is that it's like Maximo in style, but more Mexican in flavor. (Polanco)

• Azul Historico: I have a friend who really likes their food. My experiences for dinner have been mixed, but I think it’s one of the best places for breakfast in the city. Gorgeous location. There are several Azul restaurants in the city, so it's a good backup depending on where you are. (Centro Historico)

MIDSCALE
• Nico’s: Old school restaurant which means it closes by 6pm. Busiest time is 3pm. Lots of business people and upper class families here. They take classic and colonial dishes and put a lot of thought into them. This is the type of place I would be more likely to call the best in Mexico City. (Azcapotzalco)

• Roldan 37: In the Merced area, so just around the corner from a "rough" neighborhood, but a very nice restaurant that specializes in dishes using chiles, especially various chiles rellenos. (Centro Historico)

• El Bajio: Now a chain with maybe 10 or so locations, most of which are open American hours. The original, which is very near Nico’s, is only open until 6pm. They’re very consistent. Not great, but solid, and easy to find if you need a good meal. (Multiple Locations; Original is in Azcapotzalco.)

• Casa Merlos: Off the beaten path and closes at 6pm, but a great place if you like mole. Very old school. I may be the only tourist who's ever been here given the surprise of the staff upon me walking in. ;-) (Observatorio)

DOWNSCALE
• Bravo Loncheria: Hipster tortas, but they’re really good. (Cuauhtemoc)

• Casa de los Tacos: They do a lot of interesting tacos really well and also have bugs and such, if you are so inclined. One of the owners is a friend and author of the Tacopedia. This was the favorite after a week of eating for one my most critical friends. (Coyoacan)

• El Vilsito: Late night taco joint that shares a building with a mechanic shop. Good al pastor and various dishes using al pastor. It's often worth going to just for the scene, but the pastor is really good (Navarte Poniente)

• Tacos Gus: Hipster tacos de guisado, but they do a really nice job with them and are one of the places that makes true vegetarian options. (Condesa)

• Los Parados Monterrey: All about grilled meat and a billion options. If you've spent time in Sonora, it doesn't live up to that, but it's some of the better of this style in Mexico City and better than what you'll find in the US. (Roma Sur)

• El Albanico: I'm a little torn on this crazy-busy and enormous taqueria, but the carnitas are undeniably good. (Transito)

• El Greco: tacos from a trompo with pre-pastor Mediterranean flavors. (Condesa)

• Birria Don Chuy: 24 hour goat soup. Just a tiny little hole in the wall with mostly street seating in a not-yet-gentrified part of town. (Guerrero)

• El Huequito: One of the oldest taquerias in town and one of the creators of al pastor tacos. They’re my favorite. Definitely get the al pastor on handmade tortillas and the “Wonderbra”, aka, chicharron prensado. Also chicharron de queso. (Multiple Locations; One Near Bull Fight Ring is Best; Many have late hours)

• Fonda Mi Lupita: Tiny little place. It’s really just about mole, though most of their menu is good. Closes at 6pm. (Centro Historico)

• La Chinampa: Solid taqueria. Their chicharron de queso and costras are good. (Cuauhtemoc)

• Los Cocuyos: Cabeza specialists especially good if you're looking for something late downtown or want to try various parts of a cow's head (Centro Historico)

• Pollo Rio: I think this is the only rotisserie place I've found that uses an old wood rotisserie. Most use gas or electric. I don't know if the chicken is better than any of the better places, but wood is nice change. (Roma Sur)

• Los Machetes: Enormous quesadillas with various guisados and standard fillings like squash blossoms. (Doctores)

• El Rey de las Ahogadas: Specialists in flautas -- huge taquitos -- served with or without broth. (del Valle)

• Barbacoa Renatos: very good lamb barbacoa on Sundays only; the restaurant is in the same building as the family's three homes. I worked with them and among the several places I've tried for barbacoa in DF, theirs is the best. (Azcapotzalco)

STREET STANDS
• Mercado Jamaica: A manageable market to go wander and also includes the flower market. There are blue corn tlacoyo and quesadilla vendors outside the parking lot entrance, plus really good quesadilla and huarache vendors in the middle of the building, though it may take a little wandering to find them. Mercado Merced is a lot bigger, but all the food vendors at Jamaica are good and safe. (Jamaica)

• El Caguamo: Famous seafood street stand. (Centro Historico)

• Mercado Coyoacan: Most famous for its tostada vendors (Coyoacan)

• Mercado de Antojitos: It’s all about the quesadilla vendors. (Coyoacan)

• Las Cazuelas: Little tacos de guisado street stand at corner of Havre and Londres near the Zona Rosa. Tacos de guisado are only available breakfast and lunch. It’s personally one of my favorite stands for the kind. (Juarez)

SNACKS & TREATS
• El Moro: 24 hour churro joint. Also has hot chocolate. Consuelos are ice cream sandwiches made with churros. I go here EVERY visit and have been going there since my first visit nearly 20 years ago. (There's been visits where I have gone there EVERY day.) They have a couple more locations now, but original is best by a ways. (Centro Historico)

• Tepoznieves: Ice cream shop with interesting combination of flavors. (Multiple locations, but Coyoacan has one)

• Panaderia Ideal: One of the largest and most famous panaderias for various pastries. (Centro Historico)

• Dulceria de Celaya: Sweets shop. (Centro Historico) • Las Duelistas: Cool and good pulqueria if you want to try the pulque. Don’t get the unflavored stuff. (Centro Historico)

• Bendita Paleta: Great upscale version of paletas in Mercado Roma. There are some other decent places in Mercado Roma. Probably the other one that’s best is the cheese shop. (Roma)

• Café Passmar: Cool little European style coffee roaster and shop in the middle of a typical Mexican market. I like to take my coffee-loving friends here on the way south to Coyoacan or Xochimilco. (del Valle)

• Rosetta: Café and coffee shop with great pan dulce and the best laminated dough I've had in Mexico, if you need a croissant fix. (Roma and Juarez)

• Gastronómica San Juan: Cheese shop in the San Juan Market on Calle de Ernesto Pugibet. Few places sell gourmet cheeses from Mexico even though there are some great cheeses being made that compare to great French or Italian cheeses in quality. There are two Mercado San Juans. Both have good stuff. The other one has good rotisserie chicken (even with just necks) and tostadas, but this is the "gourmet" mercado on the plaza near Las Duelistas. Also look for the vendor with various salsas, chapulines, oils, etc. His stuff is great and he'll let you taste everything. There's a good little fonda inside, too.

BOOZE

• Pulqueria Las Duelistas: Cool pulqueria near the San Juan gourmet market. (Centro Historico)

• Alma Mezcalera: The best place to buy mezcal to bring home or a bottle or two to drink while traveling Mexico. Really the best stuff. His shop is out of the way, but worth an Uber. You'll have to arrange a tasting with Erick, though, so connect to him via Facebook or other social media.

My Oaxaca information feels a bit out of date, but I am going down in another week for 3 weeks and will probably update my tip sheet after that visit. I will try to remember to post here.

Rosetta and Contramar are good. Azul Condesa is less busy than Azul Cebtro Classico. Underwhelm by El Moro. It does look nice l, though

Underwhelmed by El Moro? We might as well be a Deplorable and Antifa trying to find common ground at this point. I can't even. ;-)

Really, though, there are few places where I've had better churros and chocolate. The chocolate in some places in Madrid, like Valor, where they have the option of upgrading to gourmet chocolate, are superior. But I would choose the churros at El Moro (at least the original location; I've had worse luck with some of the new "hip" locations) over nearly anywhere I've been in the world for churros. (And an advantage to Mexican churros over Spanish ones is cinnamon.)

Casa Merlos! I lived in Mexico City for 20 years and that is one of my favourite places (by the way their cuisine is from Puebla). Don't miss the chalupas and any of their moles. For tacos and mole de olla (soup not full mole) don't miss Los Panchos, just around the corner of the Camino Real Hotel. El Cardenal makes 'old style' breakfasts which you will only find in home cooking (pan con data, chocolate con agua, revueltos a la cazuela,

In Oaxaca I highly recommend Itanoní for breakfast and the main market (sit wherever you see a crowd).

I agree with Tyler that across Mexico one can eat very well with street vendors and that, in general, restaurants are a bit underwhelming, but in some established restaurants the cuisine is way-way-way superior.

I forgot, if you want another cuisine try the Ramen houses in Colonia Cuauhtemoc (any of the grupo Rokai-Kobayashi) and, for real sushi Kyo.

Yes, I love Itanoni. Probably my favorite place in Oaxaca City. I actually make one of their items off-menu during the summer for friends, the "de ese". Whenever I can get fresh hoja santa, which is difficult here in Oregon, I will keep some fresh leaves so that when friends or regulars from Mexico come in I can send out one of these made of a tortilla pressed out on the hoja santa leaf, cooked and then rolled around melted cheese. Simple but amazing.

In general, the best places to eat are people's homes, as is true in most of the developing world. It's just really hard to get that access as a tourist. The closest analogs tend to be fondas and market stalls, though, rather than street vendors. Most street vendors are serving the equivalent of fast food -- antojitos like various grilled or fried meat tacos, quesadillas, tortas, etc. That's all great, but it's like going to Louisiana and just having a po'boy and never delving into the great Cajun home-cooking or going to France and just eating sandwiches and crepes.

The fondas, however, most of which are small casual hole-in-the-walls or, like I said, the comedores in the markets, are serving something much closer to Mexican home cooking, or often exactly Mexican home cooking. Same is true with the cocina economica places where you can often get a comida corrida with multiple courses and a drink for about $5 or less US. Occasionally you'll find restaurants that are doing the same sort of food, but just with better quality ingredients in a nicer environment with nicer presentation, but often the food is not as good and it's just the superficialities that are better. The only issue with these places is they're not going to show up in most guide books. You'll have to let your senses be your guide: are they busy compared with other places, do they look like they're making tortillas and other masa-based dishes by hand and to order, how do the salsas and condiments look, how fresh do the herbs and other ingredients look, etc. It's much tougher and takes some experience, just like walking around NY and being able to pick a good hot dog, bagel, or pizza joint by looking at the offerings takes experience.

I think people, especially Americans, put too much emphasis on Mexican street food, ie, fast food. All the focus is on tacos and to some extent other antojitos. But the sophistication and greatness of Mexican cuisine, imo, is really in the regional home cooking. Thumb through a book like Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto with an American who has mostly eaten at taquerias and loncheras and you'll blow their minds.

To the book list one might wish to add, for those who have not read it already, Discovery & Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Memoirs of a conquistador who accompanied Cortes through the whole Mexican campaign. An amazing account that would surely enrich any visit.

Agree. If you can read Spanish, the original is quite accessible. Surprising how little Spanish has changed over the centuries.

El Cardenal next to MUNAL is a must if you’d like a more upscale traditional meal. Escamoles are a must. One of the world’s greatest foods. Excellent ramen better than probably 95% of places in USA on Calle Londres near Varsovia in Zona Rosa. Also make sure to go to a Pulqueria.

Southwestern gourmet fare is Mexican by another name. I remember many, many years ago the first time I went to a Mexican gourmet restaurant (in Colorado I believe), and telling friends they had to try gourmet Mexican, which struck my friends as a non-sequitur. Soon enough, Trump will be attacking Mexican fare and those who serve it. Then it will be North by Southwestern fare (i.e., Southwestern but not too far South). In the South we distinguish Yankees and damn Yankees: a Yankee comes South to visit and returns North, while a damn Yankee comes South to visit and stays. I suppose in Mexico a damn Gringo is an American who comes to Mexico to visit and stays. Happy trails!

"Soon enough" is never soon enough.

I always get hungry after reading Tyler C. trip reviews.

So, Tyler's comments deserve a critique:

>>1. Your number one task is to find a seller of tlacoyos in the street.

This is solid advice. Most of the tlacoyos in Mexico City will be made with blue corn on the street, which will make them stand out. They'll often also be making quesadillas. They're generally filled with bean puree and then topped with various things, such as cactus and cheese and salsa. They tend to be found earlier in the day, breakfast/lunch, on various street corners or markets. Jamaica market has a great vendor at the door to the parking lot. There's also a great vendor at Havre and Londres in Juarez.

>>2. Ask for “tacqueria” rather than tacos, the latter might lead you into a restaurant.

First of all, it's "taqueria". Second of all, this is just weird advice. Asking for tacos will send you wherever they think good tacos are and a taqueria is just a taco vendor and can be a restaurant, fonda, street stand, etc. My suggestion, though, is not to ask for advice if you can avoid it. Imagine asking a random New Yorker for advice. They'll send you to some shitty Ray's pizza or overpriced joint with good branding.

>>2b. Most food in Condesa will be fine but underwhelming, think Clarendon. Try to find street food there.

Condesa is a mixed bag, but better than it used to be. There is some top quality street food and fondas (small casual places). But there are also some of the best fine dining restaurants in the city, like Contramar. I don't think Condesa is really any worse than any other neighborhood, it's just that people, especially people who work in hotels and deal with a lot of tourists, will try to send you to tourist-friendly spots rather than places that are just good.

>>3. The street food is the best food there and it is safer to eat than the restaurant food (though the latter is usually safe too).

Hygiene has definitely improved in the last decade. Locals will tell you the street food is less safe. But the street food has improved a lot in the last decade, too. eg, when I first started eating on the street in Mexico City 20 years ago, no one kept hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Now it's typical to see steam tables even at street vendors, at least in the middle income and business neighborhoods. But the restaurants are doing a much better job as well. They have a lot of professionally trained staff now coming out of local culinary schools where hygiene is drilled into them.

4. Try a sandwich once or twice, just ask around, no need for a fancy place, these usually close by mid-afternoon. My favorite sandwich is the Hawaii, though I believe that is a purely subjective judgment, I do not think it is the best per se. The whole bakery culture there is quite interesting and often neglected by food people but it is important.

>>5. When you take a taxi out to the pyramids, there is excellent food along the way, in the middle of nowhere, have the driver stop and bring you somewhere. The pyramids are one of the best sights in this hemisphere, by the way, better than those in Egypt I think. There are also smaller pyramid sites on the way to the big pyramid site, worth visiting and also near some superb food.

I assume Tyler means Teotihuacan. I mean, technically, there are multiple pyramid sites in central Mexico City. And there are a ton within 1 hour. But Teotihuacan is amazing. You can take a bus out a lot cheaper than a taxi. I use Uber mostly in Mexico City these days. Way easier most of the time. No worries about them using the meter or not. This is a good use for a guide, too, who will often drive you out there. My friend Paco usually takes people for lunch and to a great cheese shop and to a place that makes pre-Columbian chocolate drinks. iirc, it's Chocolate Mocando, but it was hard to find on the map. If you go on the weekend, you could swing through Texcoco for barbacoa. Their market and central plaza area has this great blue collar vibrancy. Paco and I discovered this amazing place not far from there as well called El Pica that is one of the best food experiences I've had in Mexico. And almost no one outside of Texcoco knows about it.

>>7. If you need a break from Mexican food, the Polish restaurants there are quite good, that would be my back up choice. Of Asian food the Japanese offerings might be the best. French and German can be quite good there, though not original. Avoid “American.” Other Latin cuisines will in general be quite good there, including the steakhouses.

If you get bored with "Mexican food" just choose another region of Mexico and find its food. Honestly, I can't even entertain this idea of needing a break from Mexican food if you're there for less than a year.

>>8. Go to Coyoacan (a suburb, sort of, but not far) and see the Frida Kahlo museum. The food stalls (“comedores”) there are not only excellent, but they look the most sanitary and mainstream of just about any in Mexico. Even your aunt could be tempted to eat there. A good stop, try a whole bunch of things for $1.50 a piece, you could spend two hours there eating and not get bored and get to sample a lot of the main dishes. Also a fun hangout.

If you go to Coyoacan, which is one of my favorite touristy places in Mexico City, sample as many nieves (sorbets) and helados (ice creams) as possible, too. Tons of little shops. Lots of great tropical and Mexican fruits, like mamey, zapote, passion fruit, etc, to choose from, which are always my go-to.

>>9b. Walking is often the wrong way to find great food there, unless you are walking and asking. Walking and looking doesn’t work so well, because you are on the wrong streets if you are walking to just be walking around. Vehicles are the key, or asking and then walking to follow the advice, not to follow your walking instincts.

I don't follow this at all. Some of my best finds have been walking. I drive or Uber a lot more than I used to, but I still enjoy just picking a destination and wandering there. Mexico City has probably more street food than anywhere I've been but Bangkok. The government is sadly trying to cut it back, but there's still tons. And there are tons of little holes in the wall, too. I always make discoveries while wandering through neighborhoods and usually when I'm driving I see a place that's interesting, but traffic and the roads are so much a tangled mess it's impossible to turn around and go check them out.

>>10. Chiles en Nogada is a seasonal dish, superb, I am not sure if they will still have it but ask around and get it if you can. It is delicious and a real treat, not to be forgotten.

Height of the season for this is September. It's traditional for their independence day. But some places serve it year round. The difference in quality, though, between average ones and great ones is huge, though.

>>11. Treat breakfast as a chance at some street food, don’t fill up on a traditional breakfast, least of all a touristy Mexican one.

Tamales and fresh squeezed orange juice are everywhere. Tacos de guisado (stew tacos) are a late breakfast/early lunch, as are tacos de canasta (moist tacos in baskets). I especially like the pan fried tamales for a breakfast item.

>>The non-food tips I will send separately. But the food is all about improvising, not about finding good restaurants. Most of the mid-tier restaurants are decent but for me ultimately a bit disappointing. Either go fancy or go street. Don’t trust any of the guidebook recommendations for mid-tier places, they will never be bad but mostly disappoint compared to the best stuff there.

I actually prefer the mid-tier places to the fancy. But I like the mid-tier traditional places rather than the places that seem like they'd be more at home in a resort town. That's why I lean towards places like Nico's or Casa Merlos over Pujol or Maximo.

>>Non-food

>>The Anthropology Museum is a must.

Don't go on Sunday. It's free and so a mad house. It's an overwhelming museum. The one thing I would say is don't avoid the small museums. Some of the coolest things I've seen have been in small museums in Mexico. They're often free or super cheap and you'll be the only one there. But there are often some very unique things to see. Just don't go to the Inquisition Museum or you'll have nightmares the rest of your life. Seriously, still bothers me 20 years later. It's like walking into a real life Saw movie, but the real ways people tortured each other are worse than what screenwriters can come up with.

>> Visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the murals there, and across the street House of Blue Tiles, get a juice there and see their murals too. Then walk from there down to the Zocalo on the main street, there is the number one walk in Mexico for a basic introduction to downtown. In fact that is the first thing I would do to get an overview of downtown and the older part of the city, even though that is not where you will end up hanging out.

The Bellas Artes is my favorite building in Mexico City. It's next to a large park, the Alameda. Lots of stuff to see around there. The House of Blue Tiles is the Casa de Azulejos. It's a Sanborns. Sanborns is a Mexican chain of diners with drug stores inside. They are great places to find clean bathrooms. The murals are on the way to the bathroom. The walking street outside of it is called Madero. It's a fun enough walk to the Zocalo, though a bit touristy. If you turn right as you're facing the Casa de Azulejos, though, a 10 minute walk away is another one of my favorite places in Mexico City, El Moro, a great churreria with various types of chocolate drinks. Be warned: I did have a friend recently get pick-pocketed. They splashed water on his neck as a diversion.

>>The mural sites are in general excellent, I believe the best one is called Ildefonso.

My favorite murals in all of Mexico are in the Bellas Artes, the Orozcos. The Riveras in the Palacio Nacional, though, are some of his best, imo. There are a lot of great murals in Mexico, though, and I often even just travel the streets to find street art, which is often fantastic and very political.

>>I don’t like much of the music, but perhaps that is the point. Control Machete, a Mexican rap group, works pretty good as soundtrack while you are being driven around the city.

Control Machete is pretty hardcore. I prefer Molotov. But these days, the cabbies always seem to be playing New Wave stuff from my teen years. Both are pretty old now, though. I love modern Mexican rock, though, groups like Hello Seahorse, artists like Carla Morrison, etc. If you haven't ever listened to seminal Mexican rock like Cafe Tacuba or Mana, you're missing out on groups that are comparable to The Beatles or U2, but in Spanish. It's not all Banda and Reggaton in Mexico.

>>Have a cabbie drive you around different neighborhoods, to see rich homes, poorer sections, particular buildings. Mexico City is first-rate for contemporary architecture although most of it is quite scattered, no single place for walking around it that I know of.

Roma and the Centro Historico are both great neighborhoods for walking around. The former is much better with a guide, though. The last time I had Paco show some friends around Mexico City, one of them was tired of seeing Catholic churches and so asked, jokingly, for a synagogue. After a 5 minute walk, Paco introduced them to a 100 year old Synagogue that had been restored. No one else there and it was beautiful inside. I can't even mention some of the places he has gotten me into because it would get the people who let us in in trouble. ;-) But, imo, walking is always preferred. There is just too much everywhere that if you're driving you'll miss it.

>>Art galleries there are good for browsing, often in or near Polanco, the wealthy part of town.

I wish people would just skip Polanco. Does anywhere really need another Beverly Hills?

>>Insurgentes is a good avenue for cruising.

I imagine Tyler means this innocently, but there is a less innocent meaning that can also apply here. ;-) More so in the past, but still...

>>Avoid Zona Rosa altogether at all costs, bad stuff, lots of pickpockets, no redeeming virtues whatsoever, do not be tempted.

This really isn't true anymore. The Zona Rosa is very different from what it once was. It's still touristy and there are lots of clubs, especially gay clubs. But all the strip clubs and brothels were shut down by feminist/women's groups. And the neighborhood around Zona Rosa, Juarez, is one of the hot up-and-coming neighborhoods, as is Cuahtemoc, right across Reforma. There are a lot of great little places around.

Yeah, Zona Rosa pretty much connects Reforma with Roma Norte. Short walk . Zona Rosa has better Korean Food than anywhere in USA that is not California or the Tri State area.

"Second of all, this is just weird advice. Asking for tacos will send you wherever they think good tacos are and a taqueria is just a taco vendor and can be a restaurant, fonda, street stand, etc. My suggestion, though, is not to ask for advice if you can avoid it. Imagine asking a random New Yorker for advice"

Foursquare claims that the restaurant chains with highest brand loyalty are:

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

2. Old Chicago Pizza

3. Denny's

4. Applebee's

5. IHOP

Excellent advice all around.

But also definitely budget a good amount of time for random wandering throughout the centro histórico. It’s full of history of course, but also old time store fronts specializing in anything you can think of and some classsic cantinas too. If you read Spanish a great book to pick up in one of the bookstores is called Miscellanea (I don’t think it’s on Amazon for some reason). It’s a full colored guide to every shop in the centro histórico. In fact this is one of my favorite souvenirs from Mexico City. I’ll pick it up whenever I miss the place. The pictures and descriptions are fantastic.

I wonder how much longer this will last so check it out soon. I get the feeling old time shopping downtown like this is going out of style even in Mexico. Most middle class Mexicans I know no longer go there, preferring more upscale modern places in the outskirts of town.

Santa Fe, more American than the Santa Fe in America.

Tyler Cowen Visits Mexico City.

1. Use local knowledge. There should be no problem finding trustworthy locals to help you. Immediately out of the airport I was grabbed by an enthusiastic bunch of touts who insisted that I should come with them. They bundled me into a cab and drove me promptly off at speed. It was a bit unnerving at first, but they then put a black bag over my head, which is traditional for tourists, to prevent them from being alarmed by the notorious traffic. Using the proper Spanish dialect, to gain respect and improve the price for their services, I told them that I was visiting for 36 hours and my good humoured hosts laughed and said I wouldn't (?) want to leave.

2. Avoid the chain hotels, stay local. I asked my guides for the best place to stay to sample the authentic atmosphere and was promptly taken to a secret hotel, which seems very authentic, but I imagine you can get offers through Air BnB. My hotel was modelled after a very authentic lean-too shack on the edges of, I think, Neza-Chalco-Izta. The vibrancy of local came to me immediately through the sights (and smells!) in reception were they took my shoes and money for safekeeping (it is local custom not to pay for domestic hospitality).

3. Don't worry too much about crime. My guides were well armed with authentic guns and I never personally felt in any danger throughout my stay. About a week into my visit, I was woken up at midnight by a lot of shouting which was an (authentic) police raid down the street but apparently they didn't find what/who they were looking for. Apart from that I had no trouble.

4. Move about, especially late in evening. My guides arranged for me to change (authentic) hotels nearly every day, and there was much to see and do on these short trips out and about. From my guides I learned it was best to avoid major thoroughfares, as the police are notoriously corrupt and might look to extract money from a "Rico Americano". I stayed in a rich variety of places, from a converted shipping container through to an experimental hotel disguised as a garage lockup. In all these places facilities were limited, but after a week of not bathing you realise the aroma is part of immersing yourself in the (authentic) culture.

5. Internet can be spotty. For some reason my requests for the WiFi password were not understood by my hosts. Nonetheless I was kept in touch by an authentically Spanish newspaper every day which they always photographed me with. Later, they helped me record a message for friends and family which they said would be carried by a traditional runner (markets in everything Mexican internet edition!). It is customary in these messages to say that your hosts are treating you well, though you hope to be home soon if arrangement can be made (as a polite guest does not over-extend their stay).

6. Eat in your room. Most of my meals were served in my room, using authentic Mexican cutlery (no knives!). There was a fantastic array of homemade dishes on offer from Molote to Gordita, but most meals are dominated by rice, apparently served luke warm or cold rather than in the US or Asian manner. (Try the Pastel Azteca with or without beef - mine was without.). My attempts at tipping were refused with a laugh. Alcohol was mixed; I had difficulty separating the harsh acetone notes from the fruity aftertaste but after a while it didn't seem to matter - some kind of Mezcal? (Does Mezcal get used in cars too?) There were no beautiful women in the restaurant and I dined early as there were no lights after dark.

7. Sample local arts and crafts. When the sights and sounds of the barrio outside my tiny 6-inch window became a bit too much, I was able to spend some days sitting in quiet contemplation or playing a round of chinche la agua with the hall porter and his 3 armed friends. It was very authentic. Towards the end, after I had gained their trust, my hosts took me to a small room out back and showed me their traditional workshop, evidently as some kind of butcher judging by the knives. They promised that if I stayed for another week I would get the chance to see them work, but unfortunately I had to leave before this.

Overall I would have liked to get out more, but the only tours on offer were (apparently - accents were hard to follow) "The US consulate or the morgue". So I'd say don't be distressed if your schedule is a bit inflexible; with my guides I soon learned it was better to adjust my pace and expectations to theirs

8. It's more expensive than you might think. I was shocked at the final bill for my hotel stay, but as an experience it was well worth it. Definitely recommend.

At least be original, that's MY story from Brazil's Olympics.

"Avoid Zona Rosa altogether at all costs, bad stuff, lots of pickpockets, no redeeming virtues whatsoever, do not be tempted."

Sad.

Mexico City is an amazing place. If at all possible, visit the canals of Xochimilco in the far southern suburbs, where Mexican families hire brightly painted flat-bottom boats to carry them along the ancient canals that run through the mostly woodsy landscape. It's a festive scene, with bands playing on other passing boats. Bring a picnic and figure it will consume the better part of a day.

If you get a good guide and work it out with them ahead of time, you can take the less touristy trip through the canals and go see an active chinampa, the "floating gardens" (ie, farms) that are quickly disappearing, but used to sustain the Mexica people.

La Capital in Condesa was really spectacular when I was there last January

Modernized Mexican dishes... like really really good

No clue how much it cost though... didn't pay the bill

The Trump Wall exhibit at the border is also worth visiting.

Totally wonderful posts about one of my favorite cities--and cuisines--in the world. Gonna link friends to this. Many thanks!

Roger

While in Polanco give Quintonil a try. Have the Cream de Queso. Also if you get the chance have some grasshoppers with your guacamole, and try out buttered ant eggs (they pretty much just taste like butter, but try it anyway).

thanks for article

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