Where To Eat In Mexico City: The Ultimate 2020 Dining Guide
Your taste buds are going to fall in love with Mexico City, and to make sure of it, we’ve curated a list of the best culinary experiences.
If you think there aren’t bad tacos in Mexico City, you’re wrong. You’re also not alone.
After a day of exploring the pyramids in Teotihuacán, we hungrily wandered from our Airbnb in Roma Norte into a close-by taqueria. I won’t say the name of the restaurant, but what I will say is that we aggressively ordered eight tacos, which arrived with rubbery meat covered in a pale melted cheese on a questionable tortilla. Not surprisingly, they didn’t go down easily, and the worst part, they were overpriced.
Fortunately, you won’t make the same mistake. By following this list of the best restaurants in Mexico City, you'll be dining at some of the chicest, most delicious establishments.
After eating the absolute worst tacos, the following day we visited El Califa per our driver’s recommendation, and the redemption was sweet. Less than five minutes after walking into the unassuming, fast-casual restaurant in Roma Norte, your order will be on the table. If you want to try tacos al pastor, which is thinly sliced from a rotisserie of pork that’s displayed for guests to see, this is a less intimidating environment than ordering off the street. The meat is placed atop a perfect corn tortilla with onions and a slice of pineapple (above). If pork isn’t your thing (like me), here you have the option to try other meats marinated in the same al pastor seasonings. Each mind-blowing taco costs $21 pesos (that’s $1 USD), and there are plenty of El Califa locations throughout Mexico City, making eating bad tacos inexcusable.
For that special night out during your trip, make your way over to the upscale neighborhood of Polanco to dine at Pujol (and be sure to make a reservation weeks in advance). This experimental classic Mexican restaurant, awarded 12th among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, takes a simple taco and makes it not only visual art, but also the most dynamic morsel you’ve ever placed in your mouth. Not having to choose is a luxury that’s taken care of at Pujol, where your only decision is between taco omakase or the tasting menu (degustación). We opted for the latter, which is a seven-course meal including inventive dishes with ingredients sourced from Oaxaca, the main course an aged mole with a brand new mole in the center like a bullseye (the one we tasted was on day 2,331!). The ambience mirrors dishes with stylishly low lighting, sophisticated furnishings and attention to details, including hand-sewn napkins and a refreshingly infused water poured from an oversized clay jug. Be prepared to spend about $300 USD on a meal for two here if you’re also ordering cocktails (as you should—try one of the mezcal margaritas!).
Have lunch during a weekday here to feel like a local, as the restaurant gets busy with young professionals around this hour. Located along the Roma Norte roundabout that circles the Fountain of Cybele, a bronze replica of the Plaza de Cibeles fountain in Madrid, this is an ideal spot for outside dining and people watching. Start off with the octopus tostadas ($15 USD) and ceviche Contramar ($11 USD) (above), and make sure to order the Pescado a la talla ($25 USD), which is a large fish fillet with with red chili and parsley (pictured at the top of this article). Pieces flake off of the fillet in order to be placed on tortillas and enjoyed as build-your-own tacos. You’ll want to study the menu a bit before embarking because the wait staff moves fast and turns tables quickly.
If you need a break from Mexican food during your trip, Rosetta offers a sort of Italian-Mexican fusion menu with a variety of pasta dishes and selection of wines by the glass (copa). Helmed by chef Elena Reygadas, the Roma Norte establishment is currently ranked 27th on the list of LATAM’s 50 Best Restaurants. Enter this mansion-turned-restaurant through an archway framed with greenery for dinner reservations or a noteworthy brunch. You’ll start the meal with the comforting familiarity of a basket with warm bread to dip in olive oil. Starters include creative dishes like rye sourdough and chicatana ant butter ($7 USD); and white mole and roasted carrots ($11 USD). Soups and pasta dishes come out looking like a traditional Italian meal, but the flavors become more reminiscent of Mexican cooking, for example the very spicy tagliatelle and Italian sausage ($13.5 USD). We also hear it’s worth sticking around for dessert.
After spending the day wandering through the Bosque de Chapultepec (Mexico City’s version of Central Park) and visiting the Plaza de la Constitución (the Zócalo) in Centro Histórico, treat yourself to a lunch or dinner at Azul Histórico. While seating may first appear to be indoors, look up and you’ll notice the area is entirely covered by the high reaching tree branches holding ambient lanterns. Locally sourced dishes include the pork tacos ($12.7 USD) from Quintana Roo, or the Tikin Xic fish ($20.5 USD) from Yucatán. The restaurant, placed in a courtyard framed by a historical building, is surrounded by upscale shops to browse through once you’ve asked for “la cuenta por favor.”
After exploring the Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of Moon and Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacán, descend into an underground cave to dine at La Gruta. White table clothes are made less formal through the pairing of multicolored, wooden chairs. You might choose here as the place to try chapulines (grasshoppers!) on tostadas, which pack an extra crunch of protein. Other dishes to try include the Mexican Mortar “La Gruta,” a guacamole with chicharrones, or pork rinds; the chicken with pipián (pumpkin seed sauce); or the barbecue mutton (sheep). If you hiked to the top of the Sun or Moon Pyramids, cool off with the tamarind margarita, which comes frozen in a martini glass.
A trip to Mexico City isn’t complete without indulging in churros, and the best place to do so is at El Moro, which has been serving melt-in-your-mouth doughy goodness for 85 years. Although there are a few outfits around town, including the original by the Zócalo, we suggest visiting the Condesa location at night for a post-dinner treat. Four churros per order ($1.5 USD) are perfectly crunchy with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar. This place quickly becomes a hotspot in the evening, so order to-go and get a Mexican hot chocolate (about $3 USD) to sip during a leisurely walk along the horse-trail-turned-jogger-path Avenida Ámsterdam that’s just a block away.
Switch things up with a Peruvian lunch at Yakumanka, where sidewalk seating places you on a bustling Roma Norte street where you’ll enjoy Lima’s classics, like fresh ceviche in a leche de tigre base, causa topped with chicken salad and hard boiled egg, and of course pisco sours to wash it all down. A tip from our waiter: each ceviche dish comes with lettuce and a slice of sweet potato; take a bite of one or the other between spoonfuls of fish, corn and citrus to cleanse your tastebuds.
You could catch us starting most mornings during our trip to Mexico City at La Bohème. This is because it was right around the corner from our Roma Norte Airbnb, and because the café is under the same roof as a bakery, where pain au chocolat and other danishes are easy to grab and go. Plus, during the fall season, you can find pan de muerto (dead bread to celebrate Dia de los Muertos) here. Some loaves are even cut in half in order to place cream inside.
Right next door to La Bohème is Mercado Roma, a trendy food hall where you can enjoy sandwiches to tacos to tapas from various vendors at communal tables. Selecting a food stall at the Roma Norte market can be intimidating because the vendors will spew off their offerings as you’re walking by, trying to entice you to dine with them. To avoid this, go between lunch and dinner times. In addition to food, there are also small gifts and accessories for sale, including things like woven ponchos for dogs. Pro tip: There’s an alleged rooftop beer garden, and while we didn’t find it, we did accidentally walk into a makeshift massage room, so don’t go to the second floor; very awkward.
If you want an ambient breakfast, this is the perfect place to sit out on the sidewalk and watch passersby entering Parque México in Condesa. With a European feel, this little cafe is the type of place where your coffee is delivered with a little shortbread cookie on the saucer. You’ll also see less spicy menu items, such as a goat cheese omelette, in order to start the day off light.
Exploring Coyoacán is a must; think cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, little boutiques and markets offering souvenirs by local artisans. This is also where you’ll find the home where Frida Khalo lived with Diego Rivera, which has since become a museum capturing the artist’s work and life. After exploring all that the town has to offer, grab a bite to eat at Los Danzantes, a park-facing contemporary Mexican restaurant with wicker chairs and ceramic table tops. Choose from a variety of mezcal margaritas and shareable dishes, such as a mole tasting or the seared octopus.