Local Flavor: where to eat and drink in Mexico City

It is no secret that Mexico City’s culinary fare is among the best in the world.

From curb-side taco joints to high-end restaurants and bars, Chilangolandia (as we locals call CDMX) is a pandora box filled with delicious bites on every corner. It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed with choices, so my top recommendation for first-timers in Mexico City is to walk around each neighborhood to get a sense of the pace and flavor of each district.

My second recommendation is to plan ahead if you want to secure a sought-after reservation. It’s not unusual to see a two- or three-month waiting list for some in-demand places. And if you’re staying for just a long weekend, I would make room in your itinerary for at least one nice sit-down dinner and leave the rest to casual restaurants and eateries.

Left: A traditional Mexican breakfast bowl of ant larva. Right: Plates of dishes from a market bbq meal
L: Escamoles (and larva) at El Cardenal. R: Breakfast barbacoa at Los Tres Reyes © Natalia de la Rosa


Devote one day to exploring Centro Histórico and have a delicious breakfast at El Cardenal, a Mexico City all-time classic in Palma St. The restaurant specializes in traditional Mexican cooking. Order the huevos a la cazuela — scrambled eggs covered with red sauce and served in a clay pot — and hot chocolate with conchas, a popular Mexican pastry sprinkled with sugar. If you are feeling adventurous and wish to try one of Mexico’s staple dishes, El Cardenal is the best place to order escamoles (ant larvae). Trust me, they taste so good when they are perfectly seasoned with butter and epazote (an intensely flavorful local herb) and arrive at the table with freshly made tortillas.

If you are in Mexico City on a Saturday or Sunday, you must try barbacoa (lamb cooked in a pit oven), a weekend-only late breakfast option. Take a 15-minute Uber drive to Los Tres Reyes, in the Mixcoac neighborhood. Still family-owned, this casual eatery cooks the best barbacoa in the city.

The entrance to a trendy coffee shop with people sitting on the front terrace drinking coffee and chatting
Quentin Miscelanea is a popular coffee and sweet treat spot in Juarez © Quentin Miscelanea


Mexico City has a strong coffee culture. Unlike the US’s grab-and-go coffee culture, Mexicans make social occasions around sitting down with friends and family for coffee and pastries, so take your time as the locals do.

My favorite coffee is Quentin Miscelanea, in Juarez. It sits on a quiet corner of a walking alley. The people behind this project are local coffee roasters, so the espresso and drip coffee quality is excellent. Also, the baristas at this coffee shop are hip and super friendly. Quentin Miscelanea offers a short but sweet breakfast menu with freshly baked bagels, a breakfast sandwich, and pastries. 

I recently discovered Post Café, located in Roma Sur. Its approach to coffee-making mirrors its pared-back aesthetic. It is a tiny space with minimalistic decor (it seats, at most, 8 people) and serves light roasted, aromatic, and elegantly brewed americanos, espresso and cortado. 

Left: A mole food stall in Juarez Market, Mexico City. Right: Close-up of a bowl of mole
Mole at Natalia’s favorite lunch spot: Cocina Margarita © Natalia de la Rosa


Fondas are mom-and-pop run dinners that serve daily and freshly prepared menus — soup, pasta or rice, and a veggie or protein-based stew — for a price range of M$60–100 pesos. You can find fondas everywhere in the city, especially inside local markets. Every chilango (Mexico City inhabitant) has a to-go fonda either close to home or work. Mine is Cocina Margarita, in the Juárez market, because mole de olla – a spicy beef and veggie soup — is constantly on the rotation of dishes. 

For a weekend-only casual lunch with highly personalized attention and a well-executed dining experience, go to Esquina Común. Chef Ana González is well known for her creative, rainbow-bright dishes and attention to ingredients and presentation. She offers a six-course lunch menu influenced by Mexican and South American flavors, with dishes rotating every season. The restaurant operates as a speakeasy with a “secret” location in Condesa, and seating is only by strict reservation (you can send a direct message on Instagram).

If you are staying in Polanco and wish to enjoy delicious, corn-based Mexican cooking by Mexico’s most famous chef — Enrique Olvera (owner of the haute cuisine Pujol) — head straight to La Ventana de Ticuchi, one of his casual eateries in Mexico City. La Ventana serves Oaxacan-inspired corn-based antojitos — best translated as street food bites — through a window overlooking a comal-centric kitchen. Enrique’s snack window is a good option for by-the-sidewalk lunch snacks (it opens at 1pm) with a small but well-curated menu with corn specialities like tamales, tetelas, and tlayudas (large tortillas folded over ingredients). My recommendation: don’t miss the esquites tamal.

Glasses of wine and negronis are placed alongside dishes of tinned fish on front terrace tables of a Mexico City wine bar
Oropoel is where people from Mexico City’s hospitality industry like to unwind with wine and snacks on their downtime © Oropel


Oropel specializes in aperitif hour with a short menu based on a selection of vermouth and natural wine. The actual bar is rather small, and most of the seating is outside on the buzzy sidewalk. The atmosphere is always lively, filled with people from Mexico City’s hospitality industry. Towards the weekend, Oropel gets super busy, and service, while incredibly friendly, can slow down, something to be expected from an aperitif bar.

For trendy people-watching over cocktails, go to Cicatriz, one of the early projects that put Colonia Juarez on the cool map of Mexico City. For the last seven years, this restaurant bar by chef Scarlett Linderman has become a much-loved spot by locals. It also serves excellent small plates with fresh ingredients, including comfort dishes like soft-boiled eggs with toast, butter and tomato-fennel salt. The cocktail that made Cicatriz famous is the Yoko, its version of an Aperol Spritz with mezcal.

Left: A plate of veal milanesa. Right: A bowl of tortellini soup.
Loup Bar is Natalia’s go-to spot for a laid-back evening meal © Loup Bar


I often get asked, “Which is your favorite restaurant?” My response varies depending on the occasion.

Mexico City has some of the best restaurants in North America. For celebrations or a treat, I consistently choose Maximo Bistrot. Under the guidance of Chef Lalo García, this top spot shines as one of the city’s culinary jewels, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients prepared to perfection. Maximo offers a tasting menu, but I recommend ordering à la carte. Don’t miss the stone crab with bearnaise sauce, the sweet onion cooked in whey, and the octopus ceviche “a la Mexicana,” some of Maximo’s staple dishes. Plan in advance since this is one of the hardest reservations in town.

For a more laid-back evening, Loup Bar is my go-to. This wine bar and bistro is the place to visit if you want an introduction to Mexico City’s natural wine scene. The people behind this project — chef Joaquin Cardoso and wine importer Gaëtan Rousset — have been at the forefront of the movement since 2017. My favorite dishes at Loup are the fish ceviche, the beef tartar and veil milanesa.

L: A cocktail from Bar 686. R: Tacos are prepared behind the counter of El Vilsito
L: Cocktails are served at Bar 686 © Bar 686 R: Tacos from El Vilsito © El Vilsito

Bar (and late-night snacks)

Mexico City has a vibrant nightlife and drinking culture. Bosforo is the right call if you want to drink local spirits. This tiny mezcal bar is legendary for its ambiance and music selection and, above all, serves the best agave spirits sourced from different mezcal-producing regions of Mexico. Try your best to order your drink in Spanish, and you’ll be good to go for a night out in Centro Histórico.

Bar 686 offers a drinking experience worth the visit: dedicated service, tasty cocktails, and great ambiance for a date or a get-together with friends. The salon is dark and dimly lit, the music loud enough to carry a conversation, and the bar invites you to sit and enjoy the classic libations of the menu. Bar 686 is a place to start the night with a martini. 

Finally, finishing the night with tacos is a religion in Mexico City. El Vilsito, in Narvarte neighborhood, is a late-night taquería (taco stall) famous for the quality of its pastor tacos and spicy salsas.

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