Mexico City Restaurants
Maximo Bistrot Local
Calle Tonala 133, Colonia Roma
When the team at Maximo Bistrot says "daily-changing menu," they mean it. Early every morning, the cooks at this Parisian-inspired corner restaurant head to the local markets to buy the day's freshest ingredients, and then chef Eduardo Garcia comes up with the dishes: Luscious risottos, perfectly moist roast chicken, an amazing burnt eggplant dip, even a simple beet dish is a revelation. It's no surprise that celebrities, tourists, local office workers, and residents all happily share this teensy, charming eatery.
Republica de Uruguay 3, Colonia Centro
In the same location since 1936, this Basque seafood restaurant is an old-school classic with the requisite white tablecloths and dressed up waitstaff. Located in the Centro, it's where businessmen and politicians entertain, eating traditional paella, Lobster Thermidor, fresh langoustines, and big seafood platters. With 110 dishes on the menu, it's hard to believe that everything is fresh but there's a reason this place is legendary—all the fish and shellfish are flown in each day, and every single dish on the menu is made to order.
Quesadillas Maria Isabel
Emilio Castelar 14, Polanco
Pretty much every single dish at this old-school luncheonette is fried, and so incredibly worth it. The main highlight are their quesadillas (pockets of fried masa filled with cheese and a choice of potato, chorizo, spicy rajas, etc.) which are served sizzling on plastic plates. After one or two of these babies and their famous flan after, an Alka-Seltzer comes in handy, as does a long walk—a treat in this beautiful old neighborhood dotted with boutiques, bars, and cafes.
Blvd. de la Luz 777, El Pedregal
Though it's home to some of the most scenic hidden enclaves and charming colonial streets, the city's South was never known for its food until Sud 777 came along and changed that. The contemporary space is a destination in and of itself, with a terrace, patio, mini Kokeshi sushi joint, and lounge to complete the leafy, open dining room—meaning a meal here can last hours and move seamlessly from one space to the next. And the food doesn't get boring either: While the lounge offers a small but thoughtful menu of tapas and sushi, in the dining room there's a real mix of heavy-duty meat dishes, like their famous ribs, and perfectly light raw tuna tostadas, ceviches, and salads.
Isabel la Cátolica 30, Colonia Centro
Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, the chef behind this small chain of restaurants, has developed and re-discovered certain moles and salsas that were otherwise almost totally unknown in Mexico City, even among serious foodies. The Mole Negro, heavily condimented Chipotle salsa, and Oaxacan tortilla soup are just a few of the highlights that also happen to be among the most affordable when it comes to serious gourmet eats in town. Of his four restaurants, his latest opening on the patio of a 17th-century palace, is definitely the most glamorous, and a heavenly break from the Centro's busy streets.
Yucatan 84, Colonia Roma
The family behind this small, unassuming open-air cafeteria have mastered the art of the snack, collecting recipes from around the country for years and finally serving their discoveries in an endless stream of small plates (and small plates alone). Tostadas, shrimp tacos, tlacoyitos (fried balls of masa served with refried beans, cream, and avocado), freshly made tortillas, their famous killer habanero salsa: Everything here is delicious and made fresh daily. Head over on the weekend and you're in for barbecued treats—meat or seafood, depending on what's fresh on the day.
Monterrey 116, Colonia Roma
After opening their wonderful café, Delirio, on a busy corner in the Roma, prominent chef Monica Patiño and her daughter Micaela Miguel managed to charm the building's owner, an elderly woman named Virginia, into renting them the entire building—a 1920's French Beaux Arts-style home with high ceilings, tall windows, and old-fashioned tiled floors. They then created Casa Virginia, a homey and refined space. The menu changes often, including ratatouilles—the restaurant's now-famous red snapper covered in tapenade—and a great assortment of veg-centric, seasonal dishes are all served family-style in the airy, white-washed dining room. Meanwhile, up on the rooftop, they've installed a small but fully-functioning garden where many of the kitchen's ingredients are sourced.
Rio Sena 87, Colonia Cuahtemoc
The lonchería is an old-school concept, a casual diner where office workers got their lunchtime fix, but in the hands of the guys behind Bravo, it's also a haven for serious foodies. They've taken the torta—a meaty sandwich served on a house-made bolillo roll—and made it gourmet, with a daily-changing menu of options packed with pickled veggies, hot sauces, regional condiments, and moles. Here hipsters and office workers pack into the long bar that loops through the industrial-chic space, complementing their meal with craft beers and mezcal.
Amsterdam 204, Colonia Condesa
This spot from the owners of Contramar is yet another successful foray into importing quality seafood to Mexico City. With their support, Chef Jair Tellez, who first made a name for himself with Laja, a restaurant located in the Valle de Guadalupe wine region in the Baja Peninsula, brings his brand of Spanish-influenced, northern coastal cuisine to this street-side deck dining room in the Condesa. In the spirit of surf and turf for which the restaurant is named, there are delicate ceviches, seasonal salads, whole roasted fish, and serious hunks of lamb and pork on offer. Along with the food, the wine list boasts many of Mexico's best producers from the Ensenada region in the north, and there are Mexican craft beers available, too.
Calle de la Palma 23, Colonia Centro
Don't let its location in the Centro's Hilton fool you into thinking this is a tourist trap: El Cardenal has been around in several incarnations since the 80's and is one of the more formal restaurants for Mexican food, where high-fliers take their business clients and families do Sunday lunch. The menu is extensive and for newcomers, a perfect introduction to regional cuisine, from their traditional Chiles en Nogada to Enchiladas, to whole roasted fish and tacos de Arrachera (steak)—the best in town. Beyond lunch, though, breakfast is where it's at with a selection of freshly baked pastries, authentic hot chocolate, freshly squeezed juices, and traditional egg dishes—the ultimate mix of sweet and savory.
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