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Mexico City: Some good eats

 

Mexico City is truly a food-lovers’ paradise. The selection of food and the prices are second to none and we enjoyed many fine (but not fine-dining) meals when we were there over the holidays.

Before we left, as we have done in the past, we watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations’ episode on Mexico City and made a list of places we wanted to visit should time permit (we only had a couple of days there, including New Year’s Day when everything is pretty much closed).  On google-mapping everything at the airport on the way out, I discovered that a couple of the places were just down the road from our hotel. And if Anthony Bourdain recommends it…

First up: Cantina La Mascota.  We had barely arrived in Mexico City when we headed out in search of a cold beer and some snacks.  The outside is unassuming and you nearly miss it unless you are looking…

We were definitely the only tourists there on a late Saturday afternoon in December…

And look:

Free snacks (as long as you keep ordering drinks). Ok then…  We were wildly exhausted and not in our “Spanish speaking zone” at this point so we kind of didn’t understand this concept. They kept on asking us if we wanted more drinks and pointing at the menu.  We were so hungry that we did not protest anything that was placed in front of us.

From top left: tostadas de pollo, carnita, carnitas with fabulous green salsa in corn tortillas and simple peanuts.  A most satisfying mid-afternoon (free) snack. As you can see, Neil didn’t enjoy it at all…

Loved being here and having crappy Latin American game shows projected on the big TV screen, being surrounded by locals (lots of old geysers out for a few beers with their mates) and just lapping up the cantina culture.

If you go, know that the food is free but you do have to keep on ordering drinks in order to keep ordering food.  And if you order more food than your drinks tab warrants, they will come to you and ask for an extra tip. Which is fine. It’s dirt cheap and fabulously tasty.

Salon Familial Cantina La Mascota
‪Mesones 20, ‬
‪Col. Centro, Centro, ‬
‪MX, Mexico‬
‪+52 55 5709 7852‬

The following morning, we headed out in search of some breakfast. Since we had been in the country less than 24 hours, we figured our tummies might like to get acclimatised before we subjected them to some street tacos so we headed (again a stone’s throw from our hotel) to La Casa de los Azulejos – a distinctive building whose façade on three sides is completely covered in the expensive blue and white tiles of the Puebla state.  Owned by the large retail chain Sanborns (founded in Mexico City on June 19, 1903 by California immigrants Walter and Frank Sanborn, who also opened Mexico’s first soda fountain), this is the location of their flagship restaurant.  The building is gorgeous:

And inside, the building is beautiful as well.  Even the servers’ outfits are colourful and lend some authenticity to the place.   I was worried that we were going for a “boring, easy” breakfast, however, it seems we were there on a Sunday morning with the who’s who of Mexico City. The place was packed – it was most definitely the place to be!

(no, we didn’t get to whack the giant piñata…)

And the food?

Upscale Mexican breakfast food.  For us, a basket of exquisite pastries, huevos racheros and huevos revueltos (scrambled).

Not for us? The juice on the bottom right. Only offered to Spanish speakers. Again, we were still not in the “zone” so weren’t aware of its existence, however the next time I would follow the juice lady around until she gave me some!  The food was excellent – flavourful and fresh.  I had been worried that it might be a scaled down version of “real” Mexican, however the taste and the fact that many “real Mexicans” were themselves dining there meant my fears were for naught.  Should you find yourself in Mexico City you should definitely seek this place out – for the food, the setting and the ambiance.  It’s so unexpectedly delightful, you will be glad you did!

Casa de los Azulejos
Sanborn Hermanos, S.A.
Unidad Madero Av. Francisco I. Maderno No. 4,
Francisco I. Madero, Centro, Cuauhtémoc,
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
+52 55 5512 1331

On the tail end of our trip some of us (ahem!) were feeling more adventurous than at the beginning and ventured out (on New Year’s Day, no less!) to satisfy their craving for some street meat.

Tacos de lengua y cabeza (yeah, tongue and brain!) awaited some of us.  Accompanied by a sauce that we saw in its beginning stages, bubbling away on a big old pot next to the taco stand…

Those pastries? Yup, those were the first meal of 2011 for the others in our party (i.e. me!). Vanilla and chocolate brioche. From a bakery that was rare on January 1st in that it was open. Thank goodness.  Because whilst Neil enjoyed his tacos, some things just are not for me… Give me a buttery old pastry any day…

Of course, on the street in Mexico City, there are plenty of other tasty morsels to be devoured. Like, you know, the day-glo coloured snacks at the top of this post (we simply could not bring ourselves to buy a giant bag of those…). And corn on the cob…

With the ubiquitous limes and chili sauce (also kind of day-glo in its own way!):

If you’re really really hankering for something totally familiar yet adapted to its surroundings, you could always head to the golden arches…

Unfortunately, when we were passing by, we were not in the least bit hungry, because one of the things we love to do when we travel is to taste the different McDonald’s foods that are only available in that country. One suspects the McButtito and the McMuffin “à la Mexicana” might not be that exciting, but it would have been fun to try ;-)

There really is something for everyone in Mexico City. From pricey, Mexican haute cuisine (and high class Asian – post to come!) to authentic, cheap street food and snacks, you have your pick, what the French call “l’embarras du choix”. So much choice, so little time and tummy space ;-)

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44 Responses to Mexico City: Some good eats

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food February 3, 2011 at 06:42 #

    Smart move to watch NR before leaving… looks like you had some amazing food!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 4, 2011 at 19:04 #

      We always try to get our hands on some NR episodes if we are heading somewhere he’s been…

  2. Belinda @zomppa February 3, 2011 at 07:12 #

    What a feast for the eyes. Love the colors. I want to go with you!

  3. Barbara Bakes February 3, 2011 at 08:45 #

    So fun to read about your adventures. I love to travel too.

  4. zenobia February 3, 2011 at 09:08 #

    So jealous – while I read about mexico in this months lonely planet magazine, you get to gorge yourself on its colors, smells, and out of this world cuisine! ; -/

  5. Trix February 3, 2011 at 09:22 #

    I am in LOVE with the free snacks place. This would be no problem for me … just keep bringing those drinks! I love the top photo, by the way.

  6. tammigirl February 3, 2011 at 10:15 #

    I knew I should take up drinking and now I know why! Those free snacks look amazing!

  7. KA B L O O E Y February 3, 2011 at 10:20 #

    So smart to watch No Reservations. I do the same thing and also write down any NYC mentions on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (What a great concept for a show.) The photos and descriptions in this post were so wonderful; I felt like I were there with you. I’ve always wanted to see Mexico City but never have. I have, however, had free food at cantinas like that in Mexico. I always leave wobbly!

  8. sara @CaffeIna February 3, 2011 at 11:23 #

    I so so so miss Mexico City! it’s a foodie paradise! When I lived there I was not much into food yet and still many of my fondest memories go around food. Great post Mardi. You made me nostalgic

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 4, 2011 at 19:02 #

      Yes I was quite surprised I have to say at the cariety and quality of the food – it doesn’t have that reputation (yet!)

  9. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction February 3, 2011 at 13:08 #

    I just LOVE the colors in the very first photo! Beautiful!

  10. Nancy/SpicieFoodie February 3, 2011 at 16:24 #

    It looks like you had a great time and very happy bellies on your visit to Mexico. You’ve made me homesick for some many of those delicious snacks and foods. Thanks for sharing:)

  11. Pauline February 3, 2011 at 17:19 #

    Love the pictures and the colours you captured so well. Love the pic of food in hand, beer in hand, I can just see that going food, beer, food, beer!

  12. Tami February 3, 2011 at 18:10 #

    What!! New Years Day and not a McHorse and cart in sight………..

    Surely Neil tried…..even just a little bit……to whack the piñata!!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 4, 2011 at 19:01 #

      No, there was no McHorse and Carriage in sight – we looked! And no, the piñata was totally out of reach!

  13. Tracey@Tangled Noodle February 3, 2011 at 21:12 #

    Gah! Now that we’re so much farther away, I really, really want to visit Mexico! Your meals look delicious and I spotted quite a few things on that first menu that I’d love to have (callos!). And such vibrant, colorful photos… 8-)

  14. penny aka jeroxie February 4, 2011 at 02:14 #

    I really want to have a taste of real Mexican food…. sighhh

  15. deeba February 4, 2011 at 05:00 #

    What a great read Mardi… loved it!

  16. Cathy at Wives with Knives February 4, 2011 at 09:19 #

    Wow, what a great post. This makes me want to hop on a plane and head south. When I travel I always look for small cafes and love to sample street food too. I love the culture and cuisine of Mexico.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 4, 2011 at 19:00 #

      Yes we’re just as happy with a street meal as we are in a 5 star restaurant. It’s all about the experience!

  17. Veronica Gantley February 4, 2011 at 19:17 #

    Oh this brings back memories. I won a trip to Mexico City about 20 years ago. I ate a dish called Yukatan Pork. It was so tender it fell off the bone. So good. I really enjoyed myself.

  18. Conor @ Hold the Beef February 5, 2011 at 02:55 #

    I watched this episode of No Reservations for the first time only fairly recently, so this post is very exciting! And jealousy inducing! Glad to see Neil did some extra eating and drinking on my behalf :D

    • Mr. Neil February 5, 2011 at 09:44 #

      Yup, took one for the team, me.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 8, 2011 at 19:56 #

      But of course! NR and Neil doing some extra eating and drinking are both par for the course when it comes to travel!

  19. Paula February 5, 2011 at 13:18 #

    I can`t stop looking at this! It`s absolutely divine and I want to try this…

    Paula

  20. The Mistress of Spices February 6, 2011 at 16:57 #

    Oh.my.God. Mexico City sounds and looks like heaven on earth, food-wise!

  21. cat February 17, 2011 at 22:45 #

    love how the tongue and brain tacos “awaited some of us.” too funny! i’d have gone for the pastries as well. :) the breakfast restaurant was lovely and the food looked as good as the beautiful surroundings.

  22. Elizabeth June 9, 2013 at 15:04 #

    You should try molletes and sincronizadas at Sanborns. Those are very good. For a non alcoholic beverage try the “squash”; it’s made with fresh pineapple, strawberries, mineral water and syrup. It’s very refreshing. The writer translated tacos de lengua and cabesa as tongue ando brains. Actually it would be tongue and head. Brains are called cesos; there are tacos de cesos.

    • Mardi Michels June 9, 2013 at 16:09 #

      We did eat at Sanborn’s :) Thanks for the correction – my Spanish is a little rusty..

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