Guadalajara was my first foray into a different side of Mexico. And by that I mean forgoing the beachside resorts next to a Senior Frogs and diving into more of Mexico’s true culture.
Mexico City feels more like Europe. Except it’s closer. With no jetlag. And tacos. All the tacos. And tortillas that you just can’t understand why they taste so much better than anywhere else. It’s similar to Rome where you can walk along a beautiful neighborhood and come face to face with a stunning sculpture centered in a gorgeous square. But it’s green. So green that you forget you’re in the middle of a major cosmopolitan city. And before you ask, yes. Yes, I felt safe. Just take Uber, not cabs.
And did I mention the tacos?
Four Seasons – the gorgeous courtyard is enough reason to book. Combine that with an unexpectedly low price for the Four Seasons brand and an amazing stay- two- nights- get- the- third- night- free- promotion, it was hard to say no. The premier king rooms have a juliette balcony overlooking the courtyard – and ours had a sneak peak into the hotel’s little secret. Because who doesn’t love an excuse for an impromptu Instagram photo shoot?
Lardo – casual Italian restaurant with a lot of character. Don’t skip the mezcal tonic.
Pujol – The sleek décor is cool enough for the Polanco neighborhood where the restaurant residesWorld- renowned chef Enrique Olvera got his spot on the list for World’s Best Restaurants and rightly so. We opted for the taco omakase and had a fun experience sitting at the bar. Shoutout to bartender Nancy from Le Paz for making our night. Get your stomach (and liver) ready with a 9- course tasting and drink pairing experience. I would fly back tomorrow for the sea bass taco. And yes, his mole sauce is all that and a bag of tortilla chips.
Panderia Rosetta – The cutest little coffee/pastry shop that’s worth the wait in line. The breakfast pastry that’s really a dessert, the rollo de guayaba, is a real treat. For something less sweet, stick with a croissant. Add ham and cheese for a savory option. For something unique, try the chocolate and rose pastry. For an added bonus, pick up flowers from the stand next door.
San Angel Inn – One of my favorite restaurant experiences from start to finish. The outdoor space is breathtakingly gorgeous with a full garden amidst the fountain centerpiece. Don’t miss the opportunity to sit outside, it’s a must and worth any wait. The strawberry margaritas are probably the best I’ve ever had. Fresh, not too sweet, STRONG AF, and served in proper stemware – a mini martini glass accompanied by a mini ice bucket. It’s what dreams are made of. I would have recommended this place for the atmosphere alone, but the food was right in line. My favorites were the sea bass, beef tongue, and coconut shrimp. And when the beautiful dessert cart casually strolls by your table, don’t be rude. You don’t turn that down. We had a cake swirled with almonds and berries. Worth it.
Maximo Bistro – Dare I say this, but I actually might like this even more than Pujol. The décor is pretty basic, but the food is anything but. And the chef? Eduardo Garcia’s background is far from basic. He welcomed us into the kitchen as if we we’d been friends for years. As a true farm to table restaurant, the menu changes often but for what it’s worth, we loved everything. The octopus ceviche, the kampachi, the carrots, the lobster agnolotti, the veal sweetbreads, and the ants. Yes, the ants. Or, as the locals call it, “Mexican caviar.” And French Toast for dessert was everything. If you’re lucky, Eduardo Garcia will invite you to the kitchen to spill his secret. You’d be surprised to know the French Toast is actually pretty basic. Although somehow I’d never succeed at making it that good at home.
Contramar – The whole fish! I’ve heard about. I’ve seen it on Instagram. It lived up to its hype. Also, the tuna tostada, al pastor tacos, octopus and potatoes, and the fig tart. Incredible lunch.
Churreria El Moro – For an Iinstragram worthy churro spot. The blue and white décor is the perfect backdrop for a cinnamon- dusted, chocolate- dipped churro.
Urani – The cutest paletta shop in Condesa
ALL. THE. STREET. TACOS – duh. You can’t go wrong with a taco bite at every corner, but we did a street taco food tour to check out the best of the best. Like the beef taco at El Califa de Leon and the tongue taco at Taqueria Los Cocuyos. Pair your tacos with all. The. Street. Corn. A couple days later, pop some Immodium. Worth it.
You truly need weeks in Mexico City to get to taste the incredible cuisine. Here are a few more spots from trusted sources:
Ojo De Agua
Jules Basement – Just a quick walk through a not so nice looking restaurant and a refrigerator door will bring you to this cool lounge.
Taste all the Mezcal – La Clandestina, La Mil Amores, Mano Santo, La Nacional, Bosforo
Blanco Colima – Gorgeous mansion-esque building with a happening scene
Rufino – In the Roma neighborhood, Rufino is a rustic, yet chic bar space and the drinks come with a cricket appetizer. When in Roma…
Condesda DF – For rooftop cocktails
City Center – I recommend hiring a tour guide to explore the city center with stories and explanations on the architecture, the squares, and the sites. Especially when on a quick trip, our guide made it easy to see everything with a quick history lesson. A few highlights –
Zocalo Square – the largest in the world
Palacio de Bella Artes
Templo Mayor (Aztec Ruins)
Xochimilco – Known as the Venice of Mexico with a meaning, “place of flowers,” I was shocked to find that this is a true local experience and not some touristy gimmick. Hop on a bright colored gondola- like boat, grab a local Mexican beer, and take a leisurely cruise while food vendors, artists, and mariachi bands float by and hop on your boat to sell you their goods. It’s a festive weekend celebration you don’t want to miss. If you go on a Sunday, prepare for major water traffic jams. Saturday was a little less crowded and got you through with enough time to explore other areas.
San Angel Market – Stop by the market before or after lunch at San Angel Inn. It’s a Saturday bazaar of local artists with vendors inside and outside.
Parks – They’re all beautiful with shades of green you’d never expect to find in a major city. Parque Chapultepec is the Central Park of Mexico City. Walk up to the castle for a great view. Smaller, but just as charming are Parque Mexico and Parque Espana, both in the Condesa neighborhood.
Reforma – On Sunday’s the street closes down so you can walk or rent bikes all the way to the Historic Center or Parque Chapultepec!
Neighborhoods – While there are plenty of sights to see, leave time to explore (and SHOP) the neighborhoods of Mexico City especially Condesa, Polanco, and Roma.
I’m already planning my trip back because there’s so much more to see! On my list for next time –
Teotihuacan – to see the pyramids via a walking tour or hot air balloon
Mercado De Coyoacan – big Mexican bazaar with lots of food vendors. I was told La Cocina de Mi Mama is one of the best
Frida Kahlo Museum and Leon Trotsky Houses – also in Coyoacan
Museo Tamayo – Contemporary art
Museo de Juguetes – Mexican toys
Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela – Mexican handcrafts near the historic center
Mercado de San Juan – Market where all the chef’s shop for ingredients. Also near the historic center.
Lucha Libre – We skipped this as we did it in Guadalajara, but an awesome local experience that I would recommend in either city!
Luis Barragan House Tour – Creative home of this Mexican architect. Buy tickets in advance.
Street Art Tour – Jay was recommended to me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mint & Lime
Saloon Los Angeles – this was a stop on our street taco tour that we would never have come across otherwise. It’s an incredibly old school experience that I only wish we could have seen back in the day. Today, the massive space is filled with inspiring black and white photos of famous singers and dancers that used to fill up the entire space. Now, only a few (mostly older) locals are left to reminisce about the good old days and dance the night away but it’s worth watching them show off their dance moves. They still got it.
Dinsmoor – when you want to go clubbing with the locals
“You are the one that should move, not the tostada”