I recently, unexpectedly found myself living in Mexico City for ten spring days. I found it has a hot art scene, independent bilingual bookstores, lovely leafy neighborhoods with old colonial architecture, and world-class food. As soon as you sit down at most restaurants, the chef sends out homemade hot sauces and tortillas. Then you sit back and enjoy the ride. Some of the best meals I scarfed down were at:
Pasillo de Humo– On the second floor of a food hall in colonial Condesa, this modern, airy restaurant specializes in Oaxacan food, including fiery, earthy moles. I went there on my first day, a Monday, and was impressed by the family that had a full mezcal bar wheeled out to their table. At lunch.
Rosetta– My niece Zoe, an anthropologist and activist who lives in Mexico City, took us to this stately, elegant building in Roma Norte. It’s headed by a woman chef, Elena Reygadas. The dessert was a fluffy floating cloud covered in a sweet, tart local fruit that, oh man, still haunts me.
Pujol– Yes, we also got a table at Michelin-starred Pujol, with impeccable service and minimalist décor reminiscent of a W hotel lobby. The tasting menu was, yes, tasty, though not quite worth the cost of two weeks in a Roma Norte Airbnb. Anyway we had fun with the roasted corn, which you yank out of a smoking pot.
Taqueria Orinoco– There are a million expert varieties of the taco, and every resident has a favorite. I dug Orinoco’s retro Coke tables and mirrors, spicy chicharron, and blazing hot sauce.
Mercado Jamaica– Every neighborhood has a food market, but Jamaica is one of the biggest, and has a hall festooned with cut flowers. Cristina Potters has lived in Mexico for decades, and she does in-depth walking tours, with tasting along the way, culminating in beautiful tacos.
La Nacional– A mezcal dive in Roma Norte. Lovely to sit outside and sample mezcal under the stars.
Pehüa– This restaurant specializes in researching and reviving historic indigenous foodways for modern fusion dishes. The stories behind the dishes were a little more exciting than the very subtle flavors, but the experience was cool.
Churreria el Moro– A century-old institution. You line up to get the churros handed to you in a paper bag stamped with their logo. The churros are hot, fresh, and magical. Everyone you pass on the street stares hungrily at your paper bag, so best to eat them fast.
Avenida Amsterdam– You need somewhere to jog in the mornings if you eat like this. This tree-lined path circles the Colonia Condesa neighborhood, a circuit out of time and place and into dreamland.
Really just the tip of the iceberg — and here’s a ton more tacos that sound very worth a try. Thank you to friends and relations, including Zoe Van Gelder, Andrew Roth, Melania Trejo Mendez, Marco Gomes, Angelina Saenz and Sam Davis for their suggestions.