For a giant, sprawling city of almost 9 million people where the most popular dish is the tacos del pastor, made from thinly sliced slow-roasted pork layered atop a fresh tortilla that can be found at just about every street taco stand, there is also a plethora of healthy options that proudly stand out and are made with fresh ingredients and local flavor. That’s not to say that I didn’t venture off the beaten path to imbibe with the locals, standing on sidewalks in questionable neighborhoods while eating the best tacos I have ever had with juices dripping down my hands while fervently wiping what I could with my single napkin.
Let’s not forget that Mexico City recently suffered a major earthquake less than two months ago on the anniversary of the largest one that rocked the city in 1985. Described in this article, by an expat resident whose home split into two in the neighborhood Roma Norte next to where we stayed, as “a dreaded vertical bucking.” Everywhere we walked, rubble was still being cleared and structures rebuilt. Often times though, you could forget that an earthquake recently ripped through the city, as we were met everywhere we went with resilient smiles and kindness.
While wandering through the city on our second day, we stumbled upon a pop-up open air locals market. Walking through and eyeing all the wares for sale, I also eyed one of the shopkeepers sipping on a green juice. My heart lept. I immediately asked in broken Spanish where it was from. Instead of just pointing in the general direction, he left his stall and walked us not only to the right place but put in my order for me complete with a jovial handshake and smile.
This trip was literally all about smiles and even more about saying YES than saying no. I have included a mix of taco joints, healthy joints, bakeries, coffee spots and street food. I thought it would be easier to divide by the neighborhoods we spent most of our time in and elsewhere.
Despite being one of the largest cities in the world, we found Mexico City both charming and manageable. This was largely due to where we stayed in the bohemian district of La Condesa, a fashionable area with tree-lined streets with center walkways and a smattering of cute restaurants, cafes and boutiques. This is where our Airbnb was and we loved the proximity to the rest of the city. Here were my favorite spots:
El Califa – definitely a locals spot, but always packed and buzzing. There extensive taco menu is amazing but we went straight for the pastor tacos as well as another local specialty, with sides of guacamole and grilled nopales (all about eating fresh cactus on this trip). There are many locations throughout the city, and late night hours for those adjusting to a time change like we were.
The Green Corner – a little hippie haven in the middle of Condesa. This place doubles as a store where you can pick up produce, snack bars, protein powders and really anything you’d find at a tiny health food store here in the Haight. Perfect to pick up snacks for the plane ride home. The restaurant itself is super casual. Most of the patrons sat outside with laptops sipping green juices, eating chia seed pudding bowls or Mexican brunch made with fresh and healthy ingredients. I came here twice for the coconut chia pudding bowl. Made each time with different fruit and crunchy toppings.
Mia Dominecca – a fancy joint with fresh and creative dishes with veggie forward dishes in a city where meat reigns. The mackerel crudo was a definite standout.
Blend Station – a super hipster coffee joint serving up toasts and breakfast sandwiches. Loved the vibe and everything is made in house including the bread and also english muffins. They have salads too but I would recommend the pork belly breakfast sandwich or the vegetarian with refried beans and a perfectly fried egg.
Lardo – my favorite spot. Came here twice as well and only a few blocks from our pad. Serves one of the best matcha lattes I have ever had (David said the regular latte was muy Bueno tambien). They are known for their fresh baked breads and pastries. We got a guava and cream pastry, the vegan strawberry and quinoa muffin, the green chilaquiles with fresh mozzarella and poached egg and the croquet madame which was insane.
This neighborhood sits next to Condesa, a similarly arty enclave, but with more of a hipster vibe. There is Roma Norte and Roma Sur.
La Zumeria - the green juice, green smoothie and smoothie bowl menu here is what dreams are made of… errr, at least for the smoothie obsessed like me. I got the Mexi green juice made without fruit, but with the sweet addition of calabaza squash. I also got a green smoothie, I forget the name but I asked for the one that was the greenest. It was crazy creamy and delicious. Go here!
Cicatriz – This might be my other favorite place, and according to David the best coffee. The service was slow but the space is beautiful and the food was perfect. Avocado toast on thick slices of fresh bread layed with radish, olive oil and sea salt. Coconut yogurt bowl with house made granola and an artful display of bananas. Best part, they are a vegan bakery. I got the carrot, ginger and chia seed break to go. WOWZA.
Hotel Casa Awolly – if anything, points for creativity. This place serves me a green juice cocktail in a glass contraption. Pork ribs served in bone marrow and amazing ceviche with the freshest green marinade complete with avocado and cilantro. Loved sitting here in the afternoon and getting the royal treatment. The space itself is beautiful and totally Instagram worthy.
Panaderia Rosetta and Café Nin next door – Best baked goods in the city. Hands down. Sit at the counter, order a matcha latte and point to whichever sweet treat suites your fancy when they bring the basket of goods around. We had a cinnamon roll and some version of a morning bun that was to die for.
Markets – Mercado San Juan and Mercado Merced
A word of advice, hire a guide if you are going to either of these. Mercado Merced is massive and not in the best area. We tried to go on our own and overwhelming is an understatement. We got really lost along the rows and rows of the chaos and people, only finding the flower market and the shoe market and completely missing the food market. Doh! Should have played tourist and hired a guide.
Mercado Roma – go here. Wander around this little hipster market filled with food counters from some of Mexico City’s most popular restaurants and cafes. The tamale de queso con rajas tacos from Azul Antojo are mind blowing.
Street tacos – look for the ones that have stools, people sitting down eating and where you can see the tortillas being made. If you are wary of the meat, go for the fresh refried beans. They are fantastic. At some places the guacamole is free, including the one I went to in El Centro, the address was 20 Calle Ramon Corona. Stumbled here on accident when trying to make our way to the market. It was the large tub of fresh homemade guacamole that caught my eye. Also the guac was FREE.
Quintonol and Pujol – the highest rated restaurants in Mexico City. Grab a reservation months in advance, put on your fanciest thangs and ENJOY!!
So are you convinced yet to go to Mexico City??! It’s amazing. We could have easily stayed for another 5 days and continued to eat our way through this beautiful and historical city. But alas, planning the next visit and trying to get my taco fix where I can here in San Francisco.