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…
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
Col. Centro, Centro,
+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 😉