Travel: Where To Eat in Mexico City

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With our quickly looming trip to Portland, Oregon this coming weekend, I figure it was about time that I post some of the delicious food we ate on our previous trip to Mexico City. I had separated the topic of where to eat in Mexico City from the Coffee Shops in Mexico City just because there were way too many pictures to bombard you guys with. Going forward, I think the city travel posts will be more similar to our tour guide made for A Day in San Francisco. With that, enjoy the following photos, and possible give them a visit if you’re ever en la Ciudad de Mexico!

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Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

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Great. Worth a visit.

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Exceptional. A must-do experience.

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Frugal friendly

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Reasonable

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Pricey


Pehua

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Pehua was the first restaurant we ate at once we landed in CDMX. We barely had time to Uber our way to our AirBNB, before we had to make our way to Pehua, located in Condesa, CDMX, for our reservation. I remember it well. The city had beautiful skies, we had hungry stomachs, and a thirst to get out there and start exploring. Sometime between when we were seated and after we had devoured all the food that you see below, it started to rain. We didn’t even realize that it was pouring outside until our waitress kindly asked us if we wanted them to call a cab for us. The cozy couch seating and delicious food had distracted us from the world outside, and gave us a wonderful introduction of the food yet to come. I would say definitely visit this place if you have extra time. Off course, the city is teeming with top restaurants in the world, which take their place in line somewhere ahead of this one. But still, you won’t be disappointed eating here.

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Floral and Fruit Appetizer
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House Bread
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Esquites de criollo Corn, Chili Mayonnaise, Watercress, Cotija Cheese, Chile Atole
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Tamal with Chicken, Mole, Cheese, and Cream
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Pork Cheek, Pineapple, Habanero Pepper, Red Onion, Cilantro

Maximo Bistrot

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Maximo Bistrot ranks #39 in Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurants and is located in Roma, CDMX. Chef Eduardo García and his wife Gabriela set up Maximo Bistrot to showcase fresh produce from in and around Mexico City. Up to two thirds of the ingredients come from local farms, including the famed floating gardens of Xochimilco in the city. Such is their commitment to local production that everything from the furniture to the serviettes is also fair trade, sustainable and local. Aside from all these admirable qualities, the food is excellent, and was second only to Pujol (see below). We decided to go with the Degustacion menu (tasting menu), wherein the chef decides what to bring out for you on that day. I loved leaving the decisions entirely to the chef, since choosing what to eat is always such a struggle for me. Plus, I continually had a surprise to look forward to! Because everything was determined by the chef, I cannot tell you what is in the food, nor can  I promise that you will be able to try it when you visit yourself. Just know that everything is AMAZING here and you cannot go wrong with the tasting menu.

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Sustainable and Local Goods
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My date
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House Bread
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This was the most amazing ceviche I have ever had.
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A simple fish served with jalapenos and cauliflower. I was scraping the mustardy emulsion to the right with my fork.
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Delicious pork, but interestingly enough, even more delicious are the caramelized carrots!
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Mango Sorbet for a palate cleanser.
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If I can guarantee that I will get this same dessert, I would go back every day. This is the best dessert I have ever had. It’s a chocolate cake with scoops of different types of ice cream and with berries and edible flowers. Delectable, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that I can’t describe.

Los Danzantes

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The neighborhood of Coyoacan surprised it. It was by far my most favorite neighborhood to visit. If I had a do-over, I would opt to stay at an AirBNB in this area, despite how distant it is from the City Centre. Walking around the streets of Coyoacan was so relaxing, and there were tons of beautiful things to see! When noon hit, we were ready for some food. Los Danzantes had good yelp reviews and was recommended by our host, so we decided to eat there. The food was fairly priced and they had a huge selection of things to eat. The ambiance was great; outdoor seating on a patio in the middle of a beautiful park as musicians stroll by and stop in front of the restaurant to play for the diners. When the sun got too hot, a shade was rolled out over the patio, hence the dark photos provided here. I only gave it this rating because, while the food selection was great, it was pretty ordinary. Plus, the food was quite heavy, which I have tried to avoid in most recent years. That doesn’t take away from the taste, and I still think people should try this if they are in the area!

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Bread, Chips, and Salsa
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Ceviche! My favorite part of the meal.
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Pork tacos. Sooo heavy! It doesn’t look like a lot, but it was difficult to finish.
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This restaurant is known for their mole! They have many types of moles originating from different parts of Mexico. These are enchiladas that Mike ordered that was bathed in two types of mole.

Pujol

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$$$

Pujol by Enrique Olvera is listed as the world top 20 restaurant in the world. The truth is that after we saw Pujol on Chef’s Table, we just knew we had to go to Mexico City. With the help of the Drift magazine that was released earlier this year highlighting the coffee scene in CDMX, the decision was pretty much a done deal. Pujol remains our top dining experience thus far. I placed three dollar signs because it is pricey, but for U.S. standards, it is not impossible to save money to eat here. The price per person sits below $100, and is very affordable for a top 50 restaurant. The food and the experience is worth every penny.

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The tasting menu
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There are six courses, with four options for most courses. Since there were two of us, we got to try an array of amazing food!
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I broke my alcohol purge (temporarily) in order to drink mezcal with Mike. When in Mexico City…
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Baby Corn with Chicatana Ant Dusting: This dish was featured on Chef’s Table. In the episode, Enrique Olvera describes how he defines rare ingredients. The sauce on this corn was made with chicatana ants, a species that flies after the first rain of every year in Oaxaca. The fact that it is time-specific, location-specific, and is only present 1-2 days a year makes this a true delicacy. It was served as part of the street snacks.
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Paired with the baby corn was this playful bite of a gordita topped with a tomato based meat and vegetable pancake.
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Baby Corn with Chicatana Ant Dusting. The Chicatana Ants taste ridiculously delicious. I would be willing to dust everything I eat from now on with the stuff.
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Octopus, Habanero Ink, Ayocote, Veracruzana Sauce: First time trying octopus! Was not disappointed.
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Chayote Squash Slices, Pico de Gallo, Edible Flowers: This was extremely amazing and between this and the octopus, this beats the competition by a mile!
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Charred Eggplant Tamale, Chard. There is an unabashedly smokey flavor with this one!
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Cauliflower, Almond Salsa Macha, Chile de Arbol: I almost want to say that this was the best part of the meal (or at least, it ties with the mole). I think Mikey would agree with me on this one. To be honest, I think he regrets getting the chard tamale 😉
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Grilled Fish, Pine Nuts, Fennel: Extremely filling. I actually did not finish the entire thing in anticipation of the mole.
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Lamb, Mint Mole, Lime, Baby Potato: This was Mike’s main dish, which I did not try but I remember him eating the entire thing pretty quickly.
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Mole Madre: 1536 days old, Mole Nuevo
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Tortillas with an hoja santa leaf.
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I was scraping the mole clean off the plate. This was as good as the hype!
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A really awful shot of Cafe de Olla and a palate cleanser that tasted like bell peppers! We knew we had to try Cafe de Olla after reading about this common cinnamon coffee in the Drift magazine.
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A better shot of the pepper-y sorbet.
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12 hour Roasted Pineapple, Molasses, Cilantro ice cream
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Anise Inflatida, Chocolate, Praline. Mike claims this was better than the dessert at Maximo Bistrot. Since I did not get to try, Maximo’s cake was still the best I ever had!
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Candy, to go.

Sadly, I did not get to photograph the perfectly coiled churro that they served after our dessert, because Mike gobbled it up while I was busy chatting away with a solo traveler I met at the garden and before I knew it, it was gone!

I kind of wish we had made a second reservation to try the rest of the menu, but I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t order the chicharron cauliflower a second time and that Mike could resist ordering the same exact dessert. Maybe this requires eating there three times…

Undoubtedly, our top 3 eats ever are as follows.

  1. Pujol (CDMX, MX)
  2. Maximo Bistrot (CDMX, MX)
  3. La Tierra (Valle de Guadalupe, MX)

Mexico is looking pretty good!

On this trip, we also grabbed churros at El Moro THREE TIMES! That’s right, three separate days, eating churros and ice cream and shake. We also ate at Restaurante Nico, which is ranked #37 on Latin America’s top 50 restaurants, for which I do not have photos.

 

Hidden Perks of an AirBNB

There is something to be said of waking up in the morning in a city other than your own. I find the experience to be a bit transcendental, if only for the duration of our stay; The same person waking up in someone else’s shoes. The location which we choose to live greatly affects the experience.

When we were planning our trip to Mexico City, we teeter-tottered between a standard hotel in the heart of Roma, where we would have a view of the Angel de Independencia and be surrounded by other extranjeros eager to walk to streets, equally unfamiliar with the rules, and an AirBNB apartment located in the Guerrero, slightly away from the main road. I am extremely happy we went with the latter.

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The perks of AirBNB are known to many, and the world over too. It was significantly cheaper to rent this apartment for $40 per night, than it was to rent a single hotel room for upwards of $150 a night. This apartment is huge, big enough for Mike and I to permanently move into and be happy living in, and just as tempting an idea. It’s got a bit of history, being the home of a passed away father whose son wanted to dedicate the space to the man he loved. It is a mix between a modern renovation with recessed lighting and white walls, and a vintage memory, housing original kitchen tiles and a retro oven. An original brick wall acts as a beautiful backdrop in the small dining room, its corner intersecting with a contrasting black granite countertop and new wooden shelving. The shower is tall and modern, exhibiting good temperature and strong pressure as water falls onto a cobblestone floor on the opposite side of a thick pane of glass. The furnishings of the place is functional, and minimal, just our cup of tea.

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But what I love most about choosing AirBNB is the way in which it helps us feel a bit more dissociated with our identity as foreigners. Admission into the apartment required meeting up with Chacha, a friendly man with afro hair and a big smile, who happens to own the tienda downstairs and slightly next door. After guiding us into the gated alleyway, painted yellow, a perfect signature of the surrounding buildings, he dropped us off in front of a bright blue door atop red marbled stairs. After a quick explanation of how to access the keys, and with an invitation to pop by his shop for any of our daily needs, off he went to leave us feeling completely displaced, but interestingly, happy to be so.

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Light floods into the heavily windowed apartment, but even more so do the sounds, floating in through a broken window sill in the living room. Sounds of automobiles honking in the traffic of surronding busy streets, as expected in a city as populous as this. Sounds of a neighboring gal saying Buenas Tardes to Chacha as she bicycles her way into the gated alley across the street. The sound of mothers urging their ninos to walk just a bit faster as they hurry off to school. The sound of kids playing in the streets as the sun sets, and as the smells of neighboring kitchens slowly waft into our own.

Our location is close enough to the main street, La Reforma, that we can walk to it and be a straight shot away from the rest of the more affluent, tall, buildings and restuarant-laden streets (albeit a few miles down the way), where we and all the other visitors of Mexico may spend on the things we take for granted. But the location is remote enough from downtown that one turn in the opposite direction, and we see the people who live through their day to day on the streets, selling whatever they can, wearing clothes with holes and worn down shoes, sitting under plastic tents made of sticks to shield from both rain and sun.

From my window, I stare at graffiti walls on a chipping blue paint,  and trash on the streets. Discarded crates left on their sides to rot. Cars dented, chipped, fading. It smells of city streets when it gets warm in the afternoons. It’s enough to keep one grounded. A beautiful reminder that although there is a small part of this city dedicated to entertaining people with some of the Top 50 restaurants in the world and historic sites and museums that contain so much beauty, there is a larger part that is just trying to get by one day at at time.

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This is part of the feeling of being displaced. Taking part in the glamor and the glitz of what geoarbitrage can afford any American visiting Mexico, and also taking part in the reality of the people who live in it. Just as I feel in limbo with which language to speak, responding in whichever language they choose to speak with me, and not realizing when I make the switch, regardless of which person I am talking to. And for this I am grateful. I don’t think I would have ever experienced Mexico City in this way if, like many visitors, we decided to stay in the heart of it all, where every site was walkable, the streets are kept clean, and people speak English. And to hear Mike say, “I love this city”, after we just walked through an alleyway of streets filled with rubble and reeking of piss and filled with mostly men outdoors breaking down their home-made tiendas in the middle of the narrow street, it really makes me think that we could live here a few months to learn more about the culture and the people. I could get used to saying Buenos Dias to Chacha every morning, just as I could get used to the broken window sill, and the sounds of traffic, eating great food, and being surrounded by a friendly population of cuidadanos.

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With that, I would highly recommend AirBNB in an attempt to integrate with the foreigners less and the locals more. I know it may throw some out of their comfort zone, but for what reasons do we really travel and can we really understand the lifestyles of fellow humans in other countries if we purposefully blind ourselves to it? Mike and I mostly travel to understand, to get some grasp of the larger world view, and to slowly put the pieces of a grand and complicated puzzle together. We will likely spend our lives doing it and never get close, except for little decisions such as these that help us get just a little bit closer.

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