In addition to Teotihuacan, Xochimilco, and Chapultepec, Mexico City is known for its size, history, versatility, people, nightlife, and of course, for its diverse and delicious gastronomy.
The crunchy tostadas in Coyoacán, the satisfying tortas in La esquina del chilaquil, the innovative square tacos from Los Sifones, the exquisite huevos tirados (scrambled eggs with black beans) from Fonda Margarita, and the delicious gourmet tapas from the San Juan Market are just some of the iconic places and dishes you’ll find inside Mexico City’s gastronomic scope. These and other factors make its culinary offer equal, and even superior, as that of important gastronomic destinations like Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo.
Almost daily, the more than nine million chilangos (people born in or living in Mexico City) that walk through its streets, find and discover new restaurants or street food carts that increase the desire of not eating at home. Although it might sound exaggerated, there are more than 54 thousand restaurants registered inside these 1,485 square meters of land. It is important to note that not all of them serve Mexican food, because inside Mexico City, finding a maize or taco stall is as easy as running into an Argentinian or Arabic restaurant.
The Pre-Hispanic culinary principles, the Spanish, French, North-American, Arabic, Asian, and other Mexican regions’ influences have been key to develop places with unique gastronomic concepts that you surely won’t find outside Mexico City.
Salvador Novo, the most famous chronicler of the city once said that “from their provinces they brought their cuisines, the people from Yucatán, as well as those from Michoacán, Veracruz, Puebla, Jalisco, and Sonora. From all those culinary worlds we find restaurants or fondas inside Mexico City. Also, Jewish people, Arabs, Italians, Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Americans, Austrians, and French can enjoy their own food at ease, and invite in some Mexicans to enjoy it in restaurants with dishes from their country”.
It is then complicated to cut down Mexico City’s food scenario to a list of five or ten dishes, because the chilango gastronomy goes from traditional and humble Mexican antojitos (cravings) to elaborate international dishes or fusion cuisine servings.
Being as diverse as it is, we decided to create five groups that best represent Mexico City’s traditional food. In each of these categories, you’ll find places with chilango food prepared in unique ways that provide great flavor and quality.
Before starting with the said grouping, it is our obligation as saboristas to mention the dishes and antojitos that are famously known as chilangos and represent our city elsewhere. Among these we can of course find the al pastor tacos, the guajolotas or tamal tortas, the chilaquil tortas, the atole champurrado, the prepared chicharrones (pork rind), the pettitoe (pig’s trotter) tostadas, the no-cheese quesadillas, the Swiss enchiladas, and the suadero tacos.
It is time for you to check out the five kinds of places where you’ll find the best food to eat in Mexico City.
These small places are numerous in the city and are a great option for those who want a filling meal, good deals, fast service, and food that tastes like home. The thin soup, rice, black beans, tortillas, and aguas frescas (fresh flavored water) are some of the main characters of the fondas’ comida corrida (daily fast-food), because they’re always present, along with a stew or main dish that changes every day.
Part of the charm fondas have is the surprise of each day’s agua fresca’s flavor and main course. They’re also places with warm and close attention which make you feel cozy and at ease, almost as if it were one’s own home.
The iconic markets can’t be left out of this categorization because Mexico City is home to more than 300 of them. Inside markets, not only do we find the freshest every-day products for locals to buy, but also numerous prepared-food stands where quesadillas, tlacoyos, stew tacos, fresh fruit juice, smoothies, tostadas, broths, flautas, hot breakfasts, and homemade dishes are prepared with talent, served with a smile, sold at great prices, and enjoyed day after day by all kinds of customers.
3. Street food
An entire book about Mexico City’s Street food scene could be made, starting from the classic canasta (basket) tacos to the innovative dorilocos, there is a myriad of dishes and street cravings that can both delight your palate and give you a food coma for a modest price.
Usually, street food carts or stalls are located on the sidewalk corner of two busy streets. Depending on the product they sell, street food in Mexico City can be found inside a steel plate stall, under a tarp, or inside big baskets on top of a bike or a tricycle.
4. Classic restaurants
In this category, we include restaurants that offer Mexican and/or international dishes with a classic approach, without changing the traditional recipes and keeping each country’s most representative elements. Nevertheless, we have to say that the way it happens all around the world, some of the dishes served in international restaurants must be adapted to the recipient people’s palate, in this case, to the Mexican one.
5. Contemporary restaurants
During the last few years, an important number of game-changing restaurants have emerged in the city. The signature and fusion cuisines, the one that mixes local ingredients with modern techniques, and the avant-garde cooking are some examples of the new ways restaurants try to surprise customers through aromas, flavors, and textures combined in an unexpected and original way.
We hope that this grouping has helped you discover where to find the best and most authentic Mexico City flavors. It is now time for you to go out, walk around its streets, and search for the chilango dishes that make your mouth water. Don’t forget that the best way to get to know a city is by tasting its food! If you want to learn more about Mexico City’s gastronomy, we encourage you to book one of our tours.
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Article by: María José Ordóñez Platas