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.
Presidente Masaryk 407, Polanco
The team of chefs at this long-standing, Basque-influenced favorite on upscale Masaryk are so serious about the fusion cuisine they've created between their Basque roots and the Mexican ingredients on offer, that they've come up with their own name for it: Cocina Gachupa. It consists of some truly modern, almost sculptural dishes, along with traditional favorites like tortilla and stuffed peppers. Plus, the food here is meant to be savored with a good glass of wine, and the selection here is on point, with everything from the best of Mexican wines from the Baja Peninsula, to a few great French bottles, and of course an excellent list of unusual Spanish finds.
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.
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.
Durango 200, Colonia Roma
There is nothing like lunch at Contramar: And by lunch, we mean comida, an extended main meal which begins roughly around 3pm and continues through the afternoon and into the early evening. On any given day at around that time, the Contramar is a cool cross section of the local scene: business men and women on long lunches, big extended families at their weekly family get-together, local artists, actors and musicians, and a few in-the-know tourists all come together over fantastic tostadas de atun, ceviches, and a great variety of excellent coastal cuisine. The airy dining room is always packed, and a little loud, but that only adds to the buzzy vibe, as do the wonderful wait-staff who stick around year after year. Simply put, this is a classic. The owners, Pablo Bueno and Gabriela Camara are behind a few of the city's best restaurants but this is definitely their masterpiece.
Monterrey 116, Colonia Roma
With prime real estate on one of the main drags in the Roma, this corner deli-turned-restaurant serves the best Mexi-Mediterranean brunch in town. This translates into long lines on weekends for dishes like Greek Eggs, served with olives, tomato relish, and fresh, warm pita bread. Come for lunch and you'll find wonderful tortas, sandwiches and salads to choose from, too. The real highlight here, though, are the ingredients, which are proudly displayed on the deli counters throughout the space, and which owners Monica Patino (one of the big names in Mexican cuisine) and daughter Micaela Miguel, go to great pains to source from local and global suppliers. There's everything from Ensenada olive oil, to French wines, to hard-to-find Middle Eastern ingredients, to small-batch honeys, coffees, teas, and jams produced all over the country.
Anatole France 100, Polanco
From the imposing gold doors, to the bright pink floors, to the Oaxacan embroidered seat cushions, to the fantastical way the dishes are presented, Chef Martha Ortiz's restaurant nestled in the very cool Las Alcobas boutique hotel teeters on gaudiness. Her vision is so complete, though, that it somehow totally works. The food—multicolor quesadillas, violet infused house-made breads, hibiscus water, margaritas garnished with cactus tuna, sweets that are dished out on wooden toys—is a whimsical take on Mexican flavor, and a completely immersive experience.
Alejandro Dumas 7, Polanco
There are a few prominent grand dames of Mexican home-style food and Carmen "Titita" Ramirez Degollado is one of them. She opened her first spot in 1972 in the off-the-beaten track Colonia Cuitlahuac, teaching a team of women the dishes she grew up with in Veracruz, and gaining so much acclaim that she's since opened 4 more restaurants. The kitchens remain all-female, the decór remains colorful and tastefully folksy, and the recipes are still the ones Titita discovered over the years. Any meal here should begin with the Veracruzan platter, which is packed with a selection of mini-tamales and fried masa gorditas.
Altata 22, Colonia Condesa
Choosing your taqueria chain in Mexico City is kind of like choosing your soccer team: It's likely to cause some debate and is a marker of age, social standing, tastes, and politics. The main divide seems to be between El Farolito and El Califa, so much so, that there is one street in the Condesa where the two warring factions are directly across from one another. Both serve great tacos, whether its steak, nopal, chicken, pork belly, or the standard al pastor (spit-fired, marinated pork), but each has its own specialties. Farolito, which is slightly more old-school has its own salsa especial recipe, a mix of all their salsas thrown together on the grill—dangerously spicy and addictive. Meanwhile, the Califa, the hipster's taqueria of choice, offers "the Costra" which was invented in a taco stand outside one of the upscale nightclubs in the 90's and became legendary: it's a tortilla topped with an abundant amount of crisped cheese and then filled with a meat topping. Try both: We try to be non-partisan when it comes to tacos (though we're starting to lean toward El Califa).
Calle de la Palma 23, 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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