Where to Eat in Mexico City
When I first started traveling, Mexico City’s fine dining scene was peppered with Mexican chefs cooking other countries’ food, like Italian or French cuisine. That’s no longer the case. These days the best Mexican food is once again being cooked for Mexicans, by Mexicans. Here are five restaurants you shouldn’t miss.
Enrique Olvera’s restaurant is one of the most important restaurants in the Americas. Open since 2000, Pujol showcases Mexico’s pre-colonial and indigenous foods shot through a fine dining prism. His famous mole madre, mole nuevo, is a beautiful contrast of Mexico’s traditional moles (a hundred ingredient sauce that includes chilies, herbs, spices, fruit and chocolate) and Olvera’s reinvented version. Its sweet smoky perfection makes it the kind of dish people fly across the world to experience. Olvera does more than modernize traditional recipes, he employs indigenous ingredients such as ant eggs, or escamoles. One of the world’s great luxury foods, escamoles are collected by hand from nests housed under maguey cactus and served with pan seared leek and bone marrow emulsion. Another one of the city’s most talked about dishes is Olvera’s homage to elotes: baby corn served in gourds, dipped in a mayonnaise of roasted ant bellies, chilies and lime.
Francisco Petrarca 254, Polanco, 11570, Mexico; +52 55 5545 4111; pujol.com.mx
Love at first sight. Open and airy, with perfect lighting and lots of natural elements (think reclaimed wood tables, stunning stonework and plants throughout), you immediately want to settle in for a full-on tasting experience at Edgar Núñez’s chef’s table. Núñez, who’s cooked at elbulli, Noma and in Paul Bocuse’s Lyon kitchen, marries modern (and sometimes Nordic) aesthetics with Mexican flavors. Try the crispy pork served on a rich black mole or the duck carnitas with candied carrots. For a more casual experience, Núñez operates one of the city’s best food trucks, Barra Vieja serving beach eats, such as ceviche tostadas, octopus tacos and icy cold aguas frescas, The truck frequents the Pedegral neighborhood on weekdays, and parks outside Sud777 on the weekends.
Boulevard de la Luz 777, Jardines del Pedregal, 01900, Mexico; +52 55 5568 4777; sud777.com.mx
Chef Jorge Vallejo’s take on traditional Mexican cuisine is astounding. Regarded as one of the best restaurants in Latin America, the menu showcases traditional cuisine in a beautiful, contemporary style. Vallejo looks to Mexico’s small-scale producers for fresh and interesting ingredients. Try mushrooms sauteed with mezcal and agave, served with barley, ground coffee and herbs; octopus in its own ink with potatoes and sausage; or braised beef tongue with black mole, chayote squash, green beans and roasted, mashed plantain. Spring for the tasting menu. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Newton 55, Polanco, 11560 Federal District, Mexico; +52 55 5280 1660; quintonil.com
Maximo Bistrot Local
For a more casual option, look to Pujol alum Chef Eduardo García. García offers affordable weekday prix fixe menus, highlighting produce found at the market each morning. Expect Mexican comfort food with a French flair (García kicked off his culinary career at New York’s Le Bernardin in 1992).
Tonalá 133, Roma, 06700 Ciudad de México, Mexico; +52 55 5264 4291; maximobistrot.com.mx
Café de Raíz
Every city has that one beloved breakfast place that outshines all the others. In Mexico City, that honor belongs to siblings Pola and Mardonio Carballo’s humble Café de Raíz. They create simple, hearty dishes inspired by their gulf-side hometown of Veracruz. Go for scrambled eggs with chorizo served alongside tamal de frijoles, a black bean and corn masa cake, steamed inside a banana leaf with cilantro and oregano. Sweet rolls come stuffed with black beans and cheese, served with arbol chiles. Yes, this works, just trust that it’s delicious.
Mérida 132 Bis, Roma Norte, 06700, Federal District, Mexico; +52 55 5574 9307; facebook.com/Cafederaiz