Best Restaurants in Mexico City
Churrería El Moro
Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas 42 | Centro Sur | Mexico City
Churros are a staple in Latin America, originally brought to the region by the Spanish during their colonization. Perhaps the better churros in the world can be found at the Mexican institution Churrería El Moro. Run by the same family since its inception in 1935, El Moro specializes in serving freshly fried, perfectly crispy churros along with hot chocolate made with local Mexican chocolate, and of course, indulgent dipping sauces.
On your first visit, I recommend a single order (four churros) and trying each of their three dipping sauces: chocolate, dulce de leche, and tres leches. The tres leches sauce, which is rich and creamy, though not overwhelmingly sweet, is the clear winner in my opinion. Order your churros con azucar (with sugar), con canelo (with cinnamon), con ambos (with sugar and cinnamon), or con nada (plain). On your return visit to El Moro (trust me, you’ll want to go back) try the consuelo, which is homemade ice-cream sandwiched between two fresh churro buns, or the mini-consuelos, which are three mini churro ice cream sandwiches each filled with a different flavor of ice cream.
Centro Sur $$$$
Calle Atlixco 38 | Condesa | Mexico City
While not located on the water, Mexico City is obsessed with fish. After Tokyo, it has the second largest fish market in the world. And along with the high-end restaurants serving oysters, shrimp, and whole grilled fish, you will also find workers at their lunch breaks enjoying pulpo (octopus) ceviche and fresh seafood tostadas from street stands. Your time in Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without enjoying some local fish, and El Pescadito is the perfect place to do it.
Like many of the best places in Mexico City, El Pescadito does only a few things but does them incredibly well. You can order marlin, fried fish, or fried shrimp, and each will be served on a warm corn tortilla. Then, head over to your new happy place: the El Pescadito toppings bar. With 10 different kinds of pickled and raw vegetables, slaws, and approximately 30 types of hot sauce, you will wonder how you ever ate a taco without these fixings. I love the classic, simple fish taco, but if you want a real treat, try the quesotote. It’s a taco with both freshly fried shrimp and a chile relleno, which is a deep fried pepper stuffed with cheese. The quesotote is one of the specialties of the house for a good reason: the fresh, juicy fried shrimp, spicy pepper, and savory cheese make for the ultimate combination.
Campeche 362 – A | Condesa | Mexico City
To feel like a real local in Mexico City, go for some Al pastor tacos. Al pastor, literally meaning ‘in the style of the shepherd,’ is the most popular late night snack in all of Mexico City. However, it’s also consumed during the day and is what pizza slices are to New York City and what currywurst is to Berlin: it powers the city. Al pastor is a result of Lebanese immigration to Mexico City and consists of pork meat cooked like shwarma until its crispy and juicy, and then served on warm corn tortillas with pineapple, cilantro, and hot salsa. It’s savory, sweet, spicy, and well balanced.
El Tizoncito in the Condesa neighborhood (if you’re a foodie, lots of time will be spent here, along with Roma) invented Tacos Al Pastor, and is the perfect place to enjoy them. El Tizoncito is one of only a few taquerias still allowed to roast their pork using charcoal (the city limits new restaurants from doing so due to concerns of air pollution) so the taste here cannot be matched. Watch your taco preparation as the grill master artfully cuts pieces (perfectly crispy yet not overdone) from the giant pork-shwarma and then flicks chunks of pineapple off the grill, catching it in the warm corn tortillas.
Calle Nuevo León 68 | Condesa | Mexico City
Mole is one of the most unique and interesting dishes in Mexican gastronomy. It is a sauce that varies depending on where in the country it’s made, but almost always has over 20 ingredients including chocolate, many types of peppers, sesame seeds, almonds and raisins. It can be served over chicken, with rice or tortillas, or in my favorite style of preparation, as enmoladas. Enmoladas, like their cousin enchiladas, are corn tortillas rolled around a filling of chicken and/or cheese. However, instead of being covered in spicy salsa, enmoladas are topped with mole, fresh cheese, and red onions.
Azul is a hip, upscale restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City serving refined versions of Mexican classics. They are widely known for their take on enmoladas, and for good reason. The mole sauce is rich and complex without being too sweet or heavy. The dish is also served with beautiful, freshly made corn tortillas since you want to waste a drop of that amazing mole sauce.
Corazón de Tamal
Av. Álvaro Obregón 39| Roma Norte | Mexico City
Tamales, or corn dough stuffed with fillings like cheese and pork, steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, and then topped with spicy salsa, are a classic street food of Mexico. They are often consumed by workers as breakfast on the go. However, in the super-hip Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, you can find one of the few places that dedicates an entire menu to serving this classic dish.
At Corazón de Tamal, my favorite dish is the classic frijol con queso (cheese and beans) tamale. However, I also highly recommend the Yucatan-style tamale stuffed with slow roasted pork, or one of their dessert tamales, which come topped with fresh fruit, jam, and cream. If you’re looking for something more unique that would be hard to find outside of Mexico, try your tamale ‘ahogados’. Literally meaning drowned, your tamale will be covered in red or green spicy salsa and layered with melted fresh cheese (if there is anything that would classify as a Mexican lasagna, this is it).
Roma Norte $$$$
Francisco Petrarca 254 | Polanco | Mexico City
Pujol is a widely-acclaimed legend in Mexican gastronomy and is one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. However, to truly appreciate why Pujol is so amazing and innovative, I strongly recommend that you save it for the last meal you have before you leave Mexico City.
In Mexico City not so long ago, many of the high-end restaurants served Spanish or French cuisine. Mexican food was seen as street food, not meant for the trendy, hip locals in wealthy neighborhoods like Polanco. Then, Enrique Olivera changed what it meant to cook Mexican food. Rather than trying to emulate other Michelin-star restaurants in Tokyo, Paris or New York, Enrique elevated the gastronomy of his beloved home of Mexico City while staying true to Mexican traditions. And that is precisely why I recommend Pujol as the last stop on your journey. During your time in Mexico City, you will taste the amazing food that makes Mexico so wonderful and special: barbacoa tacos, tamales, chicharron gorditas, elotes, churros, tostadas and mole. Then, after you think you have started to understand Mexican food, Pujol will knock you off your feet. You’ll have gorditas topped with sea urchin, tamales with swiss chard, elotes covered in mayo, coffee and ground chicatana ants (trust me, it’s unbelievably delicious), and mole that has been aged for 4 years. Pujol is the perfect last stop before you leave Mexico because it will remind you of the truth of Mexican food.
Ben Preston is an expert in travel advice, getting restaurant reservations, and having philosophical conversations about tacos. You can see more at ViaHero.