Eat Your Way Through a Day in Mexico City

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Street food, established classics and plenty of opportunities to stay hydrated. Welcome to MojoTravels, and in this video, we're going to lead you through a perfect day of eating in Mexico City, focusing on the iconic dishes, as well as food and drink experiences that you just can't miss.
Eat Your Way Through a Day in Mexico City

Street food, established classics and plenty of opportunities to stay hydrated.

Welcome to MojoTravels, and in this video, we’re going to lead you through a perfect day of eating in Mexico City, focusing on the iconic dishes, as well as food and drink experiences that you just can’t miss.

Any big day in the city should start with a good breakfast and thankfully, Mexico City has got a breakfast option to fit pretty much every taste. So if you’re staying at an international hotel chain… please skip the continental buffet and head out. Because really… no one should eat stale bread rolls when in the same city as Fonda La Margarita. Serving up a classic homestyle Mexican breakfast, this place serves up succulent guisados (braised or stewed meat), frijoles negro con huevos (a bean and scrambled egg dish) and much more.

Another great place to start your culinary odyssey in Mexico City is El Cardenal. An institution, this restaurant in Los Cipreses is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they do all three meals quite well. But if we had to pick one… it’d be breakfast. The place is on the more upscale side and that means you’re paying a bit more than one has to for breakfast, but these dishes are worth every peso and then some. Though everything on the menu is delicious, the hot chocolate and pan dulce is a must-try, as are the chilaquiles (a fried tortilla dish).

If you’re in the market for a taste of something more regional, namely, Oaxacan, Pasillo de Humo in La Condesa is the place to go. Here, breakfast is elevated to the level of art by Chef Alam Méndez. Order any number of Oaxacan specialties found on the breakfast menu and the plate you’ll receive is sure to delight both the palate and the eyes. In keeping with cuisine, mole tends to find its way into many preparations and it’s likely to be the best mole you’ve ever tasted.

Are you the sort of traveller who’s anxious to get going in the morning and see the sights rather than make your way to a breakfast spot? Don’t worry, we’ve still got you covered, or rather… Mexico City does. The go-to street food around breakfast time is tamales and there are vendors to be found all over the place, each offering their own spin on the classic food. Pair it with a coffee or champurrado (a thick, chocolate and corn-based drink) and you’ve got a delicious breakfast that costs next to nothing.

Tacos are, of course, available around the world at this point, but it would still be criminal to go to Mexico City without getting reacquainted with this iconic dish. Because really… you haven’t had a taco like the ones available here; and with so many to try, you might as well graze on them all day. For a classic, unpretentious take on Cochinita Pibil (slow roasted pork), check El Turix in Polanco. This little taqueria is understated in appearance, but for a classic taste of the Yucatecan in taco or tostada form, it can’t be beat.

Looking for something a little more upscale? Pujol has been open since 2000 and yet it’s still considered a must-visit establishment for foodies - which, in the world of upscale restaurants, is definitely uncommon longevity. But hey, if you cook good food… the people will keep coming. Inspired by omakase-style sushi service, Pujol offers a a tasting menu where the chef sends out one gourmet, experimental taco after another. And wouldn’t you know it… they all come out looking like works of art, with tastes to match.

Though Pujol’s offerings are a great demonstration of how Mexico City’s top chefs are taking traditional dishes and elevating them, when it comes to tacos, many of the best bites are still coming out of modest, no-frill stands and small hole-in-the-wall type joints. Take Tacos Los Cocuyos for example. Located in Centro Histórico (the historic district), this tiny stand serves a variety of tacos, including Campechano (brisket and sausage), suadero (thinly sliced tender meat) and trippa (tripe), and each is more delicious than the last. Open at nearly all hours night and day, you’ll want to remember it when it comes for late night snacks.

Another great place to grab a taco that you’ll be talking about for years to come is Tacos Don Juan. Located in La Condesa, this place can usually be identified by the lineup of people out front, but trust us, it’s worth the wait. The menu changes up from day to day, but the suadero is seemingly always available and is widely considered to be among the best preparations in the city. The carnitas (available Saturday only) is also reputedly to die for.

Need a break from tacos? A popular alternative that isn’t nearly as well-known abroad is torta - a type of Mexican sandwich. La Barraca Valenciana in Coyoacán might just be serving up the very best in the city. Calamari and chimichurri... Serrano ham, chorizo and queso… we suspect you’ll return home in search of the closest torta place near you after eating here.

Here’s the thing with eating your way through Mexico City in one day… apart from breakfast, subdividing your culinary odyssey down into meals isn’t actually the most efficient way to go about it. There are simply too many dishes; you really just want to be grazing and getting small bites all day. One great place to do some afternoon taste testing… is Merced Market in Centro Histórico. Amidst all the butchers, produce stands and seafood counters, there are also an assortment of food vendors selling the sort of authentic dishes that you owe it to your taste buds to try.

In between all those eats, it’s important to keep your energy up. And nothing gives the body a second wind like a coffee. Mexico City knows how to serve up a truly delicious cup of joe, and there are countless great places that deliver a quality caffeine fix; but if you’re in Coyoacán, Café Avellaneda is widely regarded as one of the best cups of coffee around, and the ambience certainly doesn’t hurt.

Another great little pick me up to fit into your day is the candy at Dulcería de Celaya. This beautiful little candy store has been around since 1874 and is absolutely stunning inside. A dream come true for travelers with a sweet tooth, Dulcería de Celaya offers up a colorful assortment of high quality confections. These traditional mexican sweets don’t come cheap, but you’ll savor every little morsel.

If you’re more about baked good than sweets, perhaps Pastelería Ideal is more in line with the sort of treat you’re looking for. The bakery is honestly overwhelming, both in terms of size and selection. Walk amongst mounds of cookies,donuts, assorted pastries and cakes that literally tower over you. With so many options, we can’t tell you what to order, you’ll just have to follow your nose, eyes and heart. Considering the rave reviews this place gets… we suspect that you can’t really go wrong.

Any of the abovementioned pick-me-ups are sure to help you beat that mid-morning or afternoon slump, but there’s one snack that every visitor to Mexico City simply must try, regardless of whether they’re in town for one day or two weeks: the churros at Churrería El Moro. Open since 1935, this world-famous institution has served more churros than anyone can count, but here… quality and quantity go hand in hand. There’s usually a lineup, but it’s worth it for a taste of sweet sweet food history. And did we mention they’re open 24 hours?

Mexico City is famous for its nightlife and for its countless bars and cantinas. So considering the numerous aforementioned late night food options, we’re going to devote our evening recommendations to places to get a drink. For the record,we’re not saying skip dinner, we’re just saying… continue to spread the love across numerous establishments. Speaking of establishments, our first watering hole is La Faena, a cantina that’s been open since 1906. It’s a no-frills establishment that doubles as a bullfighting museum. Yes… you heard that right. It’s rundown, it’s awesome and they’ve got great tequila and cheap beer. In old school cantina fashion, botanas (snacks) come with each round of drinks. La Faena is first and foremost, an experience.

On the subject of historic places to drink, no trip to Mexico City is complete without a visit to La Opera Bar (even if its a little touristy). This time-honored establishment first opened its doors in 1876 and proudly wears its history on its sleeve. Like something out of a black and white film, La Opera is classy in a way that you just can’t recreate. So share a booth with the memory of celebrities and historical figures (like Pancho Villa) who sat there before you, order a drink and small plate, and enjoy the trip back in time.

Pulque hasn’t really broken into the mainstream north of the border, but when in Mexico City, it’s something that you absolutely need to try. For the uninitiated, pulque is an alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. The end result is a viscous, beer-like but milky substance. Consumed plain, it can be a bit challenging to foreign palates, but with various flavors added into the mix, it becomes a unique AND tasty beverage. Hole-in-the-wall Pulquería El Templo de Diana, located in southern Mexico City, serves up pulque the old-fashioned way, but in a wide variety of flavors; and theirs is widely considered to be among the best the city has to offer.

Alright, we’ve talked cantinas, institutions and pulquerias, but what about a watering hole for the beer enthusiast? Mexico City has slowly but surely become a hotspot for microbrewing and beer culture. Though we’d highly recommend some brewery tours on a longer trip, for this this single day of eating and drinking, we’re suggesting you head over to la Graciela in Roma Norte, which offers a wide selection of beers from a variety of local and national small-scale breweries, including their very own brew.

With only one day in Mexico City, there are only so many places you can visit, and only so much you can eat, so we know we’ve left off a ton of great places. Don’t fret, we’ll just have to go back!