Eat Like You’re Rich in Mexico City

Azul Condesa

Though most tourists drool over Mexico City’s reputation for stellar street food, the dining scene covers way more than tacos and tamales. From curbside eats to 11-course tasting menus for about $75, the one thing that remains consistent about eating at every level in Mexico City is that it’s easy to get your money’s worth. The bustling metropolis—one of the world’s biggest—provides creative chefs with any ingredients they might dream up and the chefs themselves often train under the world’s best in Spain—the current hotbed of culinary innovations. Combined with a long culinary history dating back to pre-Hispanic days, these chefs bring unique, incredible, and eminently affordable feasts to the table. Here’s where to go to dine in style while still saving enough money for a little mezcal afterward. Naomi Tomky

Quintonil Varias

Quintonil

Ranked 12 on the World’s Best Restaurant list, Quintonil, a Polanco charmer mixes local ingredients with high-minded ideas to offer an 11-course tasting menu that comes to only about $75 and includes dishes infused with local ingredients like squash blossom stuffed with sweet shrimp, cactus-paddle sorbet, and even avocado tartar with ant eggs. The green theme to the décor keeps the restaurant feeling as bright, modern, and un-stuffy as the food.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Fonda Mayora

Fonda Mayora

In its Mexico City mega-package, Eater declared Nicos the single best place in Mexico City to eat, but for those wishing for a slightly fancier, more well-appointed version—and to save themselves the trek to Claveria—this newer sibling, Fonda Mayora,

hits the spot. The tableside guacamole, mezcal cart, and warm service all show up in the new space, along with a menu of spruced up versions of what you’d find at local blue-collar lunch spots (fondas): bone marrow sopes, chilaquiles stew, and meatballs with pork rinds stuffed with egg. The best part? The most expensive dish on the menu won’t set you back more than $12.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Yuban

Yuban

This dark, fashionable Roma Norte hot spot looks to be on the cutting edge of cuisine, but uses inspiration from Zapotec culture—the native people of Oaxaca. From the petit amuse bouche through to the stellar moles, the kitchen at Yuban takes traditional techniques and dishes and dresses the flavors up to be stunning and fashionable. Look for unusual combinations—cheese balls in olive oil and hoja santa, venison salad with guacamole and burnt greens, and even a beet confit for dessert—and trust that everything is worth trying, done with expertise and an eye toward edginess.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Dulce Patria

Dulce Patria

Chef Marta Ortiz Chapa turns regional Mexican cooking into work of art at Dulce Patria. Color plays a big part in the setting—pink and red dominates—and the dishes, such as the rainbow of tortillas. Even the tequila comes with a trio of sangritas (tomato-based chasers) in various colors to sip with it. The desserts are unmissable and are alternately set on fire or served on children’s toys.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Mexico Tourism Board

Contramar

If you want to see and be seen with Mexico’s upper class, stroll into a late lunch at bustling Roma seafood house Contramar. Everyone who is anyone comes in for the tuna tostadas, the gleaming, jewel-toned creation of chef Gabriela Cámara, the fish al pastor tacos, and legendary grilled octopus. The crisp, white, indoor-outdoor feel and shiny metal bar cement the nautical theme by combining elegance and a beach feel, even if everyone here is dressed for dinner. Though you’re unlikely to break $50 a person, this is still big deal-dining.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Azul Condesa

Azul Condesa

The chef behind the Azul restaurants is a food historian, and his menus reflect that, bringing Mexican regional and traditional cooking to a modern space and menu. The simple, elegant nature of the food is best eaten in the Azul Condesa location, particularly the white-walled patio, where an afternoon could be easily whiled away with a tamarind margarita and order of duck mole bunuelos (doughnuts).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Limosneros

Limosneros

One of the few places in the Centro Histórico doing anything innovative is Limosneros. Ironically, what they’re doing that’s so noteworthy, though, is looking backward: incorporating pre-Hispanic ingredients and techniques adapted for the modern menu. Duck wing tacos, hoja santa-wrapped and steamed lobster tail, and mezcal-cooked pork ribs with agave syrup. The dark, rustic-but-elegant interior is dimly light and romantic, focused on the excellent bar in the back, and a six-course taco tasting menu will only cost about $20.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Maximo Bistrot

Maximo Bistrot was called the “Chez Panisse of Mexico” by the New York Times for its aspirational, ingredient-driven style of cuisine. European techniques—hand-made pasta and confit—mix with local ingredients, like cauliflower grown on the floating gardens of Xochimilco, requeson (a local style of cheese), and squash blossoms. Once the hottest table in the city, the rush has calmed down but the quality remains the same, which makes the outdoor seats now the perfect place to watch the city go by over a leisurely lunch.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Mexico Tourism Board

Pujol

For many years, this Polanco spot was widely considered the standard-bearer for great Mexican fine-dining. As places like Quintonil have caught up, Pujol had fallen in the rankings (from 16th to 25th in the World’s 50 Best listing last year). But chef Enrique Olvera, unfazed, shut down the restaurant, overhauled the menu and style of the restaurant (less stuffy, more Mexican and modern), and is back to being a top contender with fundamentally Mexican dishes like suckling lamb tacos and his famous aged and new mole. The six-course tasting menu costs $96 and includes an array of “street snacks” to start.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

Bertha Herrera

El Cardenal

Breakfast at El Cardenal, starting with fresh-baked pastries and including their famous hot chocolate, is a Mexico City tradition. Though there are additional outlets, the original three-story mansion remains a stunner, complete with live piano music. As you dig into your chilaquiles, escamoles, or veal breast, consider when was the last time your breakfast involved white table clothes and suited waiters.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Guide to Mexico City

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