Mexico City Restaurants

Mexico City has been a culinary capital ever since the time of Moctezuma. Chronicles tell of the extravagant banquets prepared for the Aztec emperor with more than 300 different dishes served. Today's Mexico City is a gastronomic melting pot, with some 15,000 restaurants. You'll find everything from taco stands on the streets to simple, family-style eateries and elite restaurants. The number and range of international restaurants is growing and diversifying, particularly in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods like Polanco, San Angel, La Condesa, La Roma, Lomas de Chapultepec, and Del Valle. Argentine, Spanish, and Italian are the most dominant international cuisines; however, you'll also find a fair share of Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and French restaurants. Mexico City restaurants generally open 7–11 am for breakfast (el desayuno) and 1–6 for lunch (la comida)—although it's rare for Mexicans to eat lunch before 2, and you're likely to feel lonely if you arrive at a popular restaurant before then. Lunch is an institution in this country, often lasting two or more hours, and until nightfall on Sunday. Consequently, the evening meal (la cena) may often be really light, consisting of sweet bread and coffee, traditional tamales, and atole (a hot beverage made from corn and masa and sometimes chocolate) at home, or tacos and appetizers in a restaurant.

If having dinner, most locals start out at 9 pm; restaurants serving dinner stay open at least until 11 pm during the week, and later on weekends. Many restaurants are only open for lunch, especially on Sunday. At deluxe restaurants dress is generally formal (jacket at least), and reservations are recommended; see reviews for details. If you're short on time, you can always head to American-style coffee shops or recognizable fast-food chains all over the city that serve the tired but reliable fare of burgers, fried chicken, and pizza. If it's local flavor you're after, go with tacos or the Mexico City fast-food staple, the torta (a giant sandwich stacked with the ingredients of your choice for about $3). Eating on the street is part of the daily experience for those on the go, and surprising as it may seem, many people argue that it's some of the best food in the city. Still, stick to crowded stands to avoid a stomach illness.

Also cheap and less of a bacterial hazard are the popular fondas (small restaurants). At lunchtime fondas are always packed, as they serve a reasonably priced four-course meal, known as the comida corrida, which typically includes soup of the day, rice or pasta, an entrée, and dessert. There are few vegetarian restaurants, but you'll have no trouble finding nonmeat dishes wherever you grab a bite. Vegetarians and vegans, however, will have a more difficult time, as many dishes are often prepared using lard.

Colonia Polanco, the upscale neighborhood on the edge of the Bosque de Chapultepec, has some of the best and most expensive dining (and lodging) in the city. Zona Rosa restaurants often fill up with tourists, so don't expect to be sitting with the locals here. The Condesa and Roma neighborhoods buzz with a younger crowd all week.

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  • 1. Al Andalus

    $ | Centro | Middle Eastern

    Lebanese restaurant Al Andalus, in a magnificent 17th-century colonial building downtown, makes some of the best Arabic food in the capital...Read More

  • 2. Bellini

    $$ | Col. Nápoles | Eclectic

    Revolving slowly on the 45th floor of the World Trade Center, Bellini maintains a formal, reserved character. It's definitely known less for...Read More

  • 3. Círculo Vasco Español

    $$ | Centro | Spanish

    Dating from the 1890s, this huge, high-ceiling restaurant basks in the faded glamour of the days when dictator Porfirio Díaz dined here regularly...Read More

  • 4. El Cardenal

    $$ | Centro | Mexican

    In the ground floor of the Hilton Mexico City Reforma across Juárez from the elegant Alameda, this upscale venue concentrates on food over...Read More

  • 5. El Mayor

    $$ | Centro | Mexican

    Above a bookstore, on the top floor of a nondescript building at the northern edge of the Plaza de la Constitución, this modern restaurant is...Read More

  • 6. El Tajín

    $$ | Col. Coyoacán | Mexican

    Named after El Tajín pyramid in Veracruz State, and a longtime proponent of the "slow food" movement, this elegant lunch spot sizzles with pre...Read More

  • 7. Fonda El Refugio

    $$ | Zona Rosa | Mexican

    When Judith van Beuren opened Fonda El Refugio in 1954, it was the first upscale restaurant in the city to celebrate humble Mexican culinary...Read More

  • 8. La Casa de las Sirenas

    $$ | Centro | Mexican

    The place is the calling card here—the 16th-century mansion sits at the foot of the Templo Mayor ruins, stones from which were incorporated...Read More

  • 9. La Tecla

    $$ | Col. Roma | Mexican

    This eatery is a popular veteran of Mexico City's nueva cocina mexicana scene. Its once-vanguard style of merging French and Italian techniques...Read More

  • 10. Los Almendros

    $$ | Col. Polanco | Mexican

    If you can't make it to the Yucatán, try the peninsula's unusual food here. The habanero chilies, red onions, recados (seasoning pastes),...Read More

  • 11. Los Girasoles

    $$ | Centro | Mexican

    Two prominent Mexico City society columnists own this downtown spot. Los Girasoles (which means "sunflowers") overlooks a lovely old square...Read More

  • 12. Mazurka

    $$$ | Col. Nápoles | Polish

    The glowing reputation of this longstanding Polish restaurant shone even brighter after people got word that the establishment had served Pope...Read More

  • 13. Specia

    $$$ | Col. Condesa | Polish

    One taste of Specia's famous duck, and you'll think you've died and gone to heaven—the pato tin is a generous portion of roasted duck with...Read More

  • 14. Thai Gardens

    $$ | Col. Polanco | Thai

    This is the best—indeed, one of the only—places for upscale Thai food. The atmosphere is calming, with Eastern art objects and a lovely indoor...Read More

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