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A Guadalajara Expat Foodie Visits Mexico City

Updated: Apr 3

Mexico's capital -- or CDMX as it's known locally -- is a playground of cultural riches, superb dining, and vibrant nightlife. We absolutely love visiting here, despite the insane traffic, air pollution, and earthquake risk.


I mean, where else can you eat delicious tacos, sing karaoke with drag queens, or catch a Reggaeton/Dancehall DJ set at 2 am on a Sunday? If your taste leans a bit more bourgeois, then the Reforma, Condesa, or Roma neighborhoods are the ideal base from which to explore this cosmopolitan, international city that’s really having a moment.


We spent a long weekend in CDMX earlier this month -- and we’re stunned to be bumping into Americans of all ages seemingly at every turn. The word is definitely OUT among savvy urban expats about how well you can live (and eat!) when you trade $5,000 USD a month rent for the still (mostly) affordable Mexico City.


But this isn't a post about globe-trotting Americans in Mexico City...


For us, three days is the perfect amount of time here, with one of the top draws being its cuisine. From made-to-order street tacos to avante-garde cuisine and Michelin star-fine dining, Mexico City has it all.


On past visits, we've focused on snagging tables at internationally known hotspots like Pujol and Contramar. Our most recent trip was more about eating and drinking like locals -- albeit like local fresas who love to eat.


Highlights included creative, seasonal Mexican cooking, fish tacos, Euro-Asian influenced small plates, natural wines, artisanal cheese from Puebla, Japanese ramen, craft cocktails, French pastries, more tacos, and the silkiest espresso made with beans from Veracruz.


What follows is a handful of our best new dining and drinking discoveries in this one-of-a-kind foodie town (as mostly pescatarian/vegetarian eaters).


El Pescadito Hungry from our travels, we dropped our gear at our hotel in Juarez and headed out to one of our favorite super casual haunts for fish tacos and beer -- El Pescadito.


We initially discovered this local gem in the Condesa, but there are now a handful of branches around the city. That said, each El Pescadito we've tried looks and feels unique.


Unlike the past, this place is now really dialed in to handle the crowds. Upon arrival, two ladies take your drink order and assign you a table.


Next, you head to the back counter to order your food and pick up a ticket. The cooks are directly in front of you preparing tacos to order while you watch.


After receiving your food it's on to the complimentary salsa bar to accessorize. When you finally arrive at your assigned table, ice-cold beers are waiting for you.


When finished you take your tab up to the cashier and pay. My Germanic side loves the simplicity and efficiency of this place. My palate adores the tacos.


Tacos de Camarones are batter-fried and incredibly delicious. Piled high with pico de gallo and whatever other salsas you can handle, they deliver a fiery mouthful that will have you ordering extra cervezas.


This taqueria is hugely popular with students, office workers, and the occasional tourist. Even if you encounter a line, it moves quickly and is worth the wait.


Baltra Bar


Following tacos we headed back to our hotel for a quick change of clothes. Our next stop was one of Mexico City's most famous watering holes, Baltra Bar, which was recognized this year as one of North America's best bars, and has developed quite a following.


Named after an island in the Galapagos, Baltra has a vaguely nautical theme mixed with etymology (there are butterflies and bugs displayed as well). With dim candlelight and low-slung sofas, it feels like stepping into some wealthy eccentric's cozy living room.


But don't come for the ambience, stop by for some of the best cocktails you'll find in CDMX (or anyplace else).


For something on the lighter side try the Santa Elena -- a concoction of rum, red wine, clove and tamarind, lime juice, and cherry syrup. Those up for something stiffer (but elegant) must try the frothy Old George Sour with Tequila Altos Blanco, absinthe, cucumber and cardamom. Both were amazing and unlike anything else I've tasted.


It would have been easy to linger for the evening here, but we had dinner reservations a 20-minutes down the road so we departed after one round.


Hugo


We ended our first evening with dinner at a newish wine bar of some acclaim in Condesa called Hugo, which we discovered on a previous trip and were eager to revisit.


Hugo is a tiny place that attracts a bougie-bohemian clientele that's equal parts fresas and expats, depending on the time of night. (fresas come later)


The staff is knowledgeable and able to guide you through the esoteric list of 100% natural wines, including a handful from Mexico. I confess to not loving natural wines in general, but always find something delightful when we dine here.


Hugos' cuisine is influenced by Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and French cooking, with the limited menu changing frequently. We highly recommend the kampachi crudo (above), grilled pulpo, and radicchio salad.


If available, DO NOT MISS the Basque-style cheesecake for dessert. It's the best cake you will find outside of San Sebastian, and worth the trip from Guadalajara (or wherever) all by itself.


Panaderia Rosetta


For breakfast, we usually keep it simple -- with quality coffee and a sweet or savory French pastry hitting the spot. Because we were staying in Juarez just south of Reforma, we had a wealth of options to choose from within a 10-minute walk.


We chose Panaderia Rosetta (the tiny one) in Roma Norte. Owned by the renowned restauranteur Elena Reygada -- recognized last year as the world's best female chef -- and were not disappointed.


It's a serious bakery, turning out exceptional French pastries like spinach and ricotta croissants, dulce de leche-filled flaky pastries (to die for), palmiers, filled donuts, and muffins with berries. Assorted savory dishes are also available from Bella Aurora next door.


Thankfully there's also a solid espresso bar turning out strong coffees for the endless stream of visitors. The Calle Puebla location is only slightly bigger than a shoebox, with most seating on a platform "patio" in the street. There's another location at Colima 179, a bit further south.


Aburiya

Japanese is one of my favorite cuisines, but we fall a bit short on authentic options here in Guadalajara. Fortunately, this is not the case in CDMX.


Aburiya is an izikaya-style joint in Juarez with a playlist of 1980s remixes from Michael Jackson, Queen, and Seal. We feasted on colorful and generous bowls of ramen, miso soup, and yakimeshi with pollo (fried rice and chicken with various seasonings) at shaded outdoor tables on a warm afternoon. It really hit the spot after a vigorous climb to the Castillo de Chapultepec.


Though delicious and affordable, I'd skip the imported Japanese beers in favor of domestics if you don't want sticker shock when the bill arrives.


Restaurante Sonia


This is a comfortable spot for creative but homey fare in an artsy, cozy, and discreet setting. Request a table on the small but gorgeous covered back patio. Dishes here draw heavily on fresh and seasonal local ingredients, with influences from Spanish, Chinese, and (of course) Mexican cooking.


Highly recommended plates include croquetas of bacalao and potatoes, cream of corn (elote) soup, and the fresh fish of the day, which was served with smoked wild herbs, green pumpkin seeds, and bok choi.


Sonia also offers an extensive wine list with bottles from Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, and a handful of other new world producers. Glass pours are also well-chosen and food-friendly.


Service at Sonia is attentive and prices are moderate, with good value for the quality of ingredients and skilled preparation.


Provocateur Wine Bar


For a nightcap with great vibes, drop into Provocateur Wine Bar in Roma Norte before you hit the hay.


Owner Miguel is a gracious host with deep wine knowledge and a well-curated bottle list drawing heavily from Mexico, Spain, and France (with a few sparkling wines, vermouths, and ports for good measure). This little bar with bottles adorning the walls (it's a shop by day) was one of our dining highlights because of a cow's milk truffle cheese from a dairy in the highlands of Puebla called Rancho Cuatro Encinos (four oaks).


We could have been fooled into thinking the decadent queso de trufa was imported from Piemonte, Italy.


Paired with a 2017 Arrebato, an inky red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cab Franc/Malbec/Shiraz from Coahuila and old-school indie rock on the sound system, we could not have been more content.


The cheese plate was so generous that we stashed away a few pieces and enjoyed it until the following day.



Mi Compa Chava


Catch an Uber to Coyoacan for lunch at this hopping spot for Sinaloa-style mariscos (shellfish), just two blocks south of Jardin Hidalgo. The decor is urban industrial meets New England crab shack, with a welcoming neighborhood vibe.


Given its affordable prices for the quality, the place is perpetually packed. With no reservations on weekends, lines are common -- so if there's a long wait, try to grab seats at the bar.


From the raw bar you you can watch the staff shuck oysters and plate ceviche -- which you cannot leave without trying!


Despite not being anywhere near the coast, the mariscos here are super fresh and exploding with flavor. Quesadillas of any kind are also a must-try.


Just be careful with the aguachiles (Mexico's version of ceviche) because the heat factor can be 10+. The fare pairs perfectly with their very own ice-cold Palomillo house lager. It's the next best thing to visiting the coast.


Limosneros


Limosneros means "beggar" in Spanish, but you won't want for much when you dine here. This is hands down our favorite restaurant near the Zocalo -- and perhaps the best restaurant in Centro for the money.


From its unassuming yellow exterior, walk through the front shop to the sexy and softly lit dining room in back. You'll feel as if you've entered a rarefied place. Locals in the know seem to visit in droves to celebrate special occasions.


Chef Atzin Santos, who once worked under Chef Ferrán Adria at the ground-breaking El Bulli in Spain, combines ultra-fresh ingredients and rigorous technique to produce his innovative dishes.


Vegetarians are well cared for here with dishes like huitlacoche with aged cotija and tamales with eggplant and goat cheese. Honestly, whatever your diet, you can't go wrong in such expert hands.


Limosneros also carries 30+ types of artisinal mezcal, so if you're intent on doing a serious tasting -- it's a fine place to have at it.


We keep returning to Limosmeros for its sophisticated ambiance, delicious food, and professional service, minus the fuss. Just be sure to make reservations at least a week ahead.


 

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Restaurant details:


El Pescadito. Various locations -- we reviewed Estocolmo 29, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc.

Baltra Bar. Iztaccihuatl 36D, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc.

Hugo. Av. Veracruz 38, Roma Norte, Cuauhtémoc.

Panaderia Rosetta. Puebla 242, Roma Norte, Cuauhtémoc.

Aburiya by Shige Takane. Hamburgo 253-C, Zona rosa, Cuauhtémoc.

Restaurante Sonia. Oxford 23, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc.

Provocateur Wine Bar & Tienda. Guadalajara 21, Roma Norte. Cuauhtémoc.

Mi Compa Chava Marisqueria. Calle Presidente Venustiano Carranza at Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Coyoacán.

Limosmeros. Ignacio Allende 3, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México, Cuauhtémoc.




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