Mexico City is a sprawling, diverse, chaotic, thrilling mess. It’s the type of city where you can explore just one tiny pocket and fall so deeply in love with the local market, corner taqueria and neighbourhood watering hole that you don’t leave, whilst at the same time lamenting your lack of exploration of what you know is undoubtedly exciting territory on your doorstep. It’s a maddening place- in the best possible way.
And if you love to eat, well, you might want to consider extending your trip- the opportunities for great food are endless. It’s a city where you can sample all the regional specialities of Mexico from the chocolate of Oaxaca to cochinita pibil, the slow roasted pork dish of the Yucatán. But don’t forget to spend some time tasting the capital’s most popular dishes as well; here are our favourites to get you started:
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1. Tacos al Pastor at Tortas Al Fuego
If there’s one taco that chilangos (Mexico City residents) consume more than any other it’s al Pastor. Spy a giant vertical spit stacked with chilli stained pork, crowned with a roasting pineapple and you know you’re on the right track. It was the Lebanese migrants of the 1800s who brought this style of cooking to Mexico and very quickly swapped out the traditional protein of lamb for the more popular and prevalent pork.
Tacos al Pastor is characterised by adobo marinated pork sliced thinly off the spit, chopped onions, coriander and a slice of pineapple piled onto a tortilla and then topped with salsas of your choosing. Our favourite place to eat them is Tortas Al Fuego, a 24 hour joint which creates the perfect balance between savoury, spicy, sweet flavours into their addictive tacos.
Eat at: Tortas Al Fuego, Av Sonora 205, Colonia Condesa, 06170 Ciudad de México, CDMX. Open 7 days, 24 hours.
2. Tostadas at Tostadas Coyoacán
One of Mexico City’s most enchanting markets is Mercado de Coyoacán, which has been in existence since 1921. Set in the historical neighbourhood of Coyoacán, the playground of Frida Kahlo, the market provides a sensory snapshot of the city’s food culture and most importantly contains some of the city’s best tostadas- fried tortillas piled with toppings.
Pull up a chair at Tostadas Coyoacán and crunch your way through a couple- we recommend the ceviche and the tinga de pollo (shredded chicken cooked in a tomato based sauce) which the guys will pile onto a tostada and top with shredded lettuce and crema (a thin Mexican sour cream). Help yourself to the array of salsas on the table and order a tangy fruit water to wash it all down.
Eat at: Tostadas Coyoacan, Mercado de Coyoacán, Ignacio Allende No.49, Del Carmen, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX. Open daily 11:00am to 6:00pm.
3. Roast pork leg and cheese torta at Tortas Jardín México
Tacos might be the most beloved street food in Mexico City but tortas come a very close second. These local rolls are sandwiches on steroids. For a simply spectacular torta do yourself a favour and head to Tortas Jardín México and order the pierna con queso- roast pork leg and cheese.
The roll is first halved, with one side dipped in the roasting juices of the pork leg which is roasted fresh each day, Oaxacan string cheese is slapped onto the grill until it becomes gooey and slightly crisp and whisked onto the roll with slices of roast pork, a few pats of avocado, tomato and pickled jalapenos. The tortas coming out of this nondescript, local favourite are so good they’re worth the trip to Mexico City alone.
Eat at: Tortas Jardín México, 06100, Av México 123, Hipódromo, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX. Open 7 days, Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5:00pm and Sunday 10:30am to 5:00pm.
4. Dorilocos in Chapultepec Park
The name of this popular Mexico City snack is incredibly apt- it is indeed ‘loco’ (crazy in Spanish). Take a bag of Doritos, mix through a handful of pickled pork skin, some carrot and match-sticked jicama (Mexican turnip), add some peanuts- the kind with the soy casing, chilli powder, a squirt of lime, hot sauce and a splodge of chamoy, pickled fruit sauce for a touch of tanginess. Mix and eat. It’s a surprisingly moreish jumble of ingredients which vie for your attention with each mouthful- sour, salty, spicy, crunchy and gelatinous. It’s the ideal snack as you meander your way through the city’s gigantic Chapultepec Park.
Eat at: any stall in Chapultepec Park, Ciudad de México, CDMX. Stalls start opening in the early afternoon.
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