Mexico City: Tacos, and Churros, and Mezcal, Oh My!

While there were many reasons I wanted to visit Mexico City, possibly the number one reason was a simple one: the food! I had heard that Mexico City had an amazing culinary scene, and I was so ready to dive into it. Taco coma, here I come.

My first meal was at El Cardenal in the Centro Histórico. I had heard this place served up “classic” dishes, and I figured I might as well start with the basics. To start, I tried the tortillas with avocado and shrimp, which turned out to be my favorite part of the meal.

For my main, I opted for the goat cheese-stuffed chicken topped with mole sauce. Truth time: I am not a mole fan. But when you’re visiting the mole capital of the world, you eat mole! So, even though I did not particularly care for this dish, I don’t regret getting it. When in Rome…

(Sidenote: true or false, mole is the least photogenic food in the world?)

I finished up my meal with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, the theory being that it was effing hot in Mexico City when I visited. I deserved it! Also: this ice cream was super yummy, but had a different – almost grainier – texture than I’m used to. “Grainier” doesn’t sound like a compliment but, trust me, it is!

I am usually a pretty diligent trip planner, but the months leading up to my Mexico City trip were particularly heinous at work. In other words, I didn’t have the chance to pre-plan and, more importantly, pre-book a lot of the things I typically would have. What that meant was that I was unable to score a reservation at either of Mexico’s world renowned restaurants, Pujol or Quintonil. I still wanted to try a fancy tasting menu though, and luckily, Biko provided. While Biko doesn’t have quite the hype of Mexico City’s big guns, it’s still highly regarded (being 65th in the entire WORLD ain’t bad).

Biko’s lunch tasting menu consists of five savory courses and two desserts. My favorite dishes, clockwise from top left, were: shrimp cakes with vermouth tea; foie gras topped with licorice balls and a very tasty sauce (so unique!); a little “nest” (which was quite tasty) atop ice cream with ginger; and avocado ice cream atop a little cake. Everything was presented so beautifully!

As I mentioned at the outset, Mexico City was, for me, the land of the taco coma. I had so many amazing tacos, often from hole-in-the-wall places that looked utterly unremarkable. It’s some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, at some of the lowest prices. You cannot beat that!

At El Paisa, I tried two pork tacos, one a standard cut of pork, the other a pork cheek. El Paisa is tiny, and there isn’t really seating: you basically scarf down your tacos while standing in the street. That’s the way to live, man.

Perhaps my favorite tacos of all were at El Rincón Tapatío (in fact, I dubbed these tacos one of the best things I ate last year). El Rincón Tapatío was yet another hole-in-the-wall type place that turned out to be incredible. Here, I tried two tacos: an arachera (beef with cheese, absolutely scrumptious) and an el pastor. The accompaniments here – the different salsas, guac, cucumbers, and grilled onions – were all fantastic and really made each taco a divine flavor bomb. Big fan.

At Los Especiales, I tried tacos de canasta (what exactly are they? Check out this). When you walk into Los Especiales, you say the quantity you want, pay, and are given a chip. Then, hand the chip to a man, say which types you want, and – voila! – tacos are yours. I tried one with just frijoles, and one with chicharrón (crispy pork skin). Ugh, I love you forever tacos.

(Also: for the record, 6 pesos is like 30 cents. Tacos in Mexico: delicious and economical AF.)

In addition to mole and tacos, you really cannot come to Mexico without trying mezcal. Cantina Tío Pepe has been open since the 1870s, making it one of the city’s oldest, most traditional watering holes. The bartender poured us some smooth mezcal but, being the wimp I am, I could not quite finish my drink – it was strong!

Another can’t miss spot is Churrería El Moro. As the name suggests, this is the spot for churros, and – oh man – are they incredible. We went there for breakfast one morning, and it was just about the most fabulously indulgent way you could imagine to start the day. There are many different styles of hot chocolate to choose from here, but I went with Spanish-style: also known as the thickest and richest. Hashtag zero regrets.

One of the prettiest restaurants we ate at was Azul Historico, which is basically in the center of a courtyard with beautiful mood lighting. Beyond the ambiance, however, this place also just had really good food. To start, I had the tortilla soup, which came in the awesome “pot” below – how fun! For my main, I opted for the steak with mango salsa, which was incredible. Two big thumbs up for Azul Historico.

I had seen the avocado pizza at J&G Grill (a restaurant located inside the St. Regis) on Instagram, and immediately, I knew I had to try it. And, yep, a pizza covered in avocados is pretty glorious.

One of my absolute favorite parts of Mexico City was Mercado San Juan. This bustling food market is pure sensory overload: jam packed stalls, narrow aisles (I literally brushed up against fish heads multiple times), and huge heaps of produce. We stopped at a seafood stand for lunch, where we were rewarded with a veritable feast: tostadas, tuna ceviche, shrimp, and swordfish. Everything was great, but the swordfish was simply out of this world. It was buttery, rich, melt in your mouth goodness. I felt like I could have happily eaten the entire platter.

^^ The swordish of dreams and destiny.

^^ Fruit with a side of … flip phone?

If it’s not abundantly clear already: I was a big fan of Mexico City’s food scene, and felt it more than lived up to the hype. From mole to mezcal, from churros to tacos, I tried to try it all – and I loved almost everything. If you like to eat well, get thee to Mexico City, and get a taco. Or three. Or twenty. Your choice!

 

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