Mexico City Restaurants
Mexico City is the reigning queen of street food in North America. Exploring this capital city’s streets is an education in local cuisine: the air is thick with the smell of hand-patted tortillas, markets are overflowing with colorful produce, and street vendors hawk a mind boggling array of Mexican delicacies.
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the 16th century, Mesoamerican cooking fused with European techniques creating the Mexican cuisine we know today. Food in Mexico varies from region to region, and is closely tied to culture, society, and traditions. Food is so important in Mexican culture that it was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Food in Mexico City is influenced by a mix of regional cultures and immigrants. The capital city of Mexico may be best known for its street food. Quesadillas, tamales, al pastor, barbacoa, and carnitas. Mexico City is a taco tour de force, with stands selling the popular treat on nearly every corner of the city.
As you set off in search for the best Mexico City restaurants, bear in mind that lunch is the main meal for Mexicans. This lengthy meal is served between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., with most Mexico City restaurants closing at 7:00 p.m. Dinner is often a light meal and isn’t eaten until 10:00 p.m.
Best Cantina: Mexico City Restaurants
Traditionally, men gathered in cantinas to drink beer, eat appetizers, and play dominos. There are spots in rural Mexico where women are still barred from entering cantinas, but in the capital city, cantinas have had a renaissance. Swing by La Capital for a modern take on the traditional cantina. There’s an open kitchen and chill courtyard seating that is perfect for nibbling finger foods, like tostadas and flautas.
Cantina El Sella
Everything is delicious at this cantina, but the chamorro alone is worth a visit. Chamorro is very similar to French confit— bone-in pork shank is slowly braised in its own fat. This tender meat truly melts in your mouth, and is irresistible when paired with tangy salsa and steaming hot tortillas. If you’re looking for a dish with a little more flair, try the ate con queso which is soaked in Amaretto and set aflame table-side.
Best Market Meal: Mexico City Restaurants
Mercado San Juan
This sprawling indoor market lures gourmands with its gourmet selections: rare meats, excellent seafood, and fresh produce. Explore all three levels and then wander to the ground floor for a bite (or two or three) to eat. The food stalls here are operated mostly by women who dish out traditional home cooking. Sample some of Mexico’s favorite treats, including pork sandwiches drizzled with chile sauce or tortilla-wrapped carnitas.
This market is packed with vibrant locals produce: chilies, corn, and unique bites like fried grasshoppers. Once a favorite haunt of artist Frida Kahlo, this market is an excellent place to eat. You’ll find food stalls slinging Mexican favorites, like carnitas and agua de frutas, but there’s a tostadas stand here that is to-die-for. Tostadas de Coyoacán takes tostadas— deep-fried corn tortillas with mouthwatering toppings— to the next level. Try your tostada topped with tomato and chilli paired shrimp or sample a deep-fried tortilla topped with pork in mole.
Best Taqueria: Mexico City Restaurants
Tacos are a traditional Mexican dish and an outrageously popular street food in Mexico City. You don’t need to scour city streets to find a crunchy feast, there are dozens of amazing taquerias that serve up tasty tacos, including El Huequito. El Huequito means the little hole-in-the-wall and has been slinging tacos since 1959. The specialty here is taco al pastor, a dish influences by Mexico City’s Lebanese immigrants.
La Reina de la Roma
La Reina de la Roma is a small eatery in the old Colonia Roma neighborhood. A short walk from the local market, La Reina serves carnitas— tender shredded pork— with warm corn tortillas. This tender pork, roasted in its own fat, is heaped on a plate alongside red and green salsas, onion, and lime.
You can find Mexico City’s finest barbacoa at this hidden gem. El Hidalgense is only open Friday through Sunday, so plan your time accordingly. Beef is wrapped in fragrant leaves and steam-roasted over a wood fire. This tender meat is served with tortillas, limes, radishes, herbs, avocado, and salsa— all the makings for tasty tacos. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the insect dishes paired with house mezcal.
Best Fine Dining: Mexico City Restaurants
Some may argue that modern Mexican cuisine was born at this capital city restaurant. Frequently found on lists naming the best restaurants in the world, Pujol is a must-taste for traveling foodies. The small dining room allows for expert service, and the menu evolves with the seasons. Pujol boasts an affordable tasting menu, and a beer and wine list that cannot be missed.
Fresh, local ingredients is one of the cornerstones of Quintonil. Chef Jorge Vallejo evokes traditional Mexican flavors in contemporary dishes, like mushrooms sautéed in mezcal and agave syrup, and cactus paddle and lime sorbet. This high-end eatery frequently lands on best restaurants lists across the globe.
Best Local Cuisine: Mexico City Restaurants
Escape tourist-packed restaurants, and eat where locals dine with family. Nicos strikes a balance between street food and fine dining with a comfortable atmosphere and friendly staff. Traditional Mexican dishes rotate with the seasons on this menu — look for mole in December and chiles en nogada at peak walnut season. Best of all, Nicos boasts a fully stocked mezcal bar!
Best Street Food: Mexico City Restaurants
Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish made with (usually) corn-based dough and steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. Before wrapped and steamed, tamales are stuffed with any number of delicious fillings: meats, vegetables, cheese, and even fruit. Tamales have become a traditional Mexican breakfast snack, but are delicious anytime of day. For delicious examples of tamales, check out Avenida Hidalgo, between Lecaroz and El Globo bakeries, in Colonia Coyoacán.
Pescado a la talla
Pescado a la talla is whole fish that is grilled, slathered with creamy mayonnaise and spicy pico de gallo, served in corn tortillas, and topped with crunchy slaw. Within the bustling Centro Histórico’s market district, you’ll find Tacos El Patán. This restaurant is worth battling the crowds for crispy and flavorful pescado a la talla.
Puesto de Flautas
Flautas are rolled corn tortillas filled with potatoes, chicken, cheese, or barbacoa and deep-fried until golden, crispy, and delicious. These tasty “flutes” (flauta means flute in Spanish) are topped with sour cream, salsa verde, and sprinkled with queso fresco and shredded lettuce. In the fashionable art-deco Condesa neighborhood, Puesto de Flautas delivers outstanding flautas.
Enjoy your Mexico City tour!
Mexico City Tour Benefits
- Curated Sites
- Audio Tours
- Offline Map