Monday, April 3, 2017

Eating BIG in Mexico City

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Tacos and More in Mexico's Capitol City

I recently had the chance to cross off what was then #2 on my travel Bucketlist. Mexico City was a place that I looked forward to visiting (and eating) for a long time but for whatever reason never made the effort to do so. That all changed when I was given the opportunity to lead a taco tour. It's a tour that was at least a year in the making as I had spent time creating a google maps guide long before I knew I was going to be visiting Mexico's capitol city. Why was CDMX so high on my list? That answer should be obvious. The food. Mexican has long been my favorite cuisine and Mexico City is the holy grail as far as dining in Mexico goes. The reason for this is simple. The food in Mexico is a regional melting pot of flavors and they all meet in Mexico City making it a top eating destination.

Sights from CDMX

It would literally take a lifetime to fully explore this city of 20 million and it's food scene. The street food alone would take up that span. Never have I felt so overwhelmed about which spots to choose but one thing I did know and that was there would be tacos. Lots of them. So many that everything else took a backseat as far as food goes. This being my first trip I had no choice but to attack the taco scene in only a way that someone as obsessed as me could do. By the end of the trip we visited 34 taquerias. Honestly I feel like we could have done more. But we wanted to sample a few other places that weren't taco focused and also had some bad luck as far as spots not being open when we visited.

Food is available anywhere and everywhere in CDMX

For anyone asking "why would you go to Mexico City and spend so much time eating tacos?' the answer is simple. I love tacos and there's not a better place in the world to eat them. There's literally 1000's upon 1000's of contenders for best taco in CDMX and I'm not sure there's any other food/city where it's like that. With food there's usually a few places that always get mentioned when talking about the best this or the top that in (insert city here) but with tacos in Mexico City you could ask 1000 locals what their favorite taqueria is and it's quite possible you'd get 1000 different answers.

Sights from the City's Many Markets

So with that today's post will be presented in two parts. First up is a tour of the taco spots we visited this trip and after that is everything else we ate. The taco tour stops are presented in chronological order so in many instances one featured before or after the other may be near each other as far as location. I definitely had a plan going in and that plan was simple - hit as many of the spots on my google maps guide as I could while leaving a little bit of room for places that pop up that weren't on my radar. One quick tip for people thinking about doing their own taco tour one day while in Mexico City. The neighborhood of Narvarte is a great base for a taco tour. Lots of worthy spots. One other tip for anyone thinking of visiting CDMX sometime soon - never once did I feel unsafe. Away we roll.
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Mexico City Taco Tour
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Taqueria La Negra 

Our first stop would be a simple choice. Plug in our AirBNB address to the map and see which spot was closest. Roma Norte was our home base (we loved it) and Taqueria La Negra was a short walk away. This was one of the fancier spots we visited with the taco options seeming to be somewhat chef driven. While they all sounded good I wasn't going to get stuffed on stop #1 so I went with my usual strategy as far as which taco order and ordered the first one listed which also happened to be places namesake taco. The Taco Negra was chicken in pickled black sauce and Xcatic pepper.

Taco Negra at Taqueria La Negra 

This is a taco like I've never tasted. That black sauce was phenomenal. Kind of like a mole but not quite this is a great example of why you eat as many tacos as you can in Mexico, they don't taste like this back home. We also tried a pork belly paired with chicharonnes offering and it too was a hit.

El Cochino - Pork Belly Confit, Frijoles Puercos, Charred Green Salsa, Creole Avocado

Another big reason the tacos in Mexico taste just a bit better than back home is the salsa selection. I'm not going to post a pic of every places offering but most every spot offers an array of amazing salsas and Taqueria La Negra was no different.

Salsa Selection at Taqueria La Negra
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Las Salseadas

While walking over to the uber hip Roma Mercado we stopped into this place for some flautas. First off, yes, flautas are tacos. Essentially anything stuffed or rolled into a tortilla is.  I acted out on a tip from Nicholas Gilman aka Good Food Mexico for this stop (amongst others). He talked highly of the product at this stand that shares a location with a car wash. Las Salseadas specializes in flautas and flaunts a flauta torta on it's menu. It was tempting. The use of high quality masa in the tortillas used to roll these was mentioned and rightfully so. I ended up chatting with the owner who was really nice.

Chicken Flautas with Salsa Verde at Las Salseadas
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La Baja Tacos

Here we have a stand serving tacos from Baja California. Located in a food hall it's a small stall with just a handful of tacos on it's menu. I wanted my wife to get a taste of the food from my favorite Mexican state and La Baja delivered. The Taco de Ensenada (fish taco) was good for outside of Baja while the Taco de Rosarito was spot on as far as taking me back to Baja with it's flavors. They mixed grilled shrimp with black beans and tons of melted cheese and it tasted exactly like something I would have ate (and thoroughly enjoyed) on my previous taco tour through Mexico.

Taco De Ensenada (L) Taco de Rosarito (R) at La Baja Tacos
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El Huequito 

I had to have at least one taco al pastor on my first night in town and found an El Huequito location nearby. I'm sure most readers know this but tacos al pastor are Mexico City's claim to culinary fame. In a city where the food comes from all over other parts of Mexico this is one of the few things the capitol can call it's own. Brought into the area by Lebanese immigrants who adjusted shawarma (spit roasted meat) to the tastes of their new neighbors it's now virtually impossible to walk down a street in CDMX and not see a trompo (device used to cook the meat) in motion. El Huequito is a longtime (Since 1959) spot with multiple locations. Their tacos al pastor are small (and dirt cheap) but tasty.

Taco al Pastor at El Huequito
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Tacos Hola El Guero 

One of the most popular forms of tacos in Mexico City are tacos de guisado or stewed tacos. One of the more popular spots for tacos de guisado is Tacos Hola El Guero. This place has been a neighborhood staple since it's opening in 1968. The places serving guisado will have all of their offerings on display and you kind of just pick and choose which ones you want. This means you'll get some amazing whiffs when walking by making it almost impossible not to stop. Tacos Hola is popular with vegetarians but not limited to just them. I tried a cauliflower filling which was basically like a chile rellano with a big piece of cauliflower in place of the pepper and also a chorizo. Amazing.

Tacos de Guisado at Tacos Hola 
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La Tonina

My goal was to try as many regional variations on the taco as I could and thus places like La Tonina were at the top my list. The text on it's sign right under it's name reads "La Casa de los Tacos Nortenos" and it lets potential customers know they specialize in the type of tacos ate in Mexico's northern states. One of the most popular taco fillings in the State of Sinaloa is chilorio. This is a pork based filling made by cooking pork until fall apart tender and then shredding it and cooking it again by frying it in a red chile based sauce. I've never seen it in Chicago so I came here to get my fix.                                          
Chilorio Tacos at La Tonina

First things first the flour tortillas used to hold the meat were spectacular. You could almost see through them and I think that was due to the lard. The chilorio was also money. Not sure why this dish hasn't caught on like cochinita pibil has but some secrets were meant to stay that way.

Chilorio Tacos at La Tonina
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El Califa de Leon 

This little spot is the longtime favorite as far as taquerias in the San Rafael neighborhood go. The menu at El Califa De Leon mimics the taqueria as far as size. I think there were something like three options with steak, costilla (rib), and gaonera (thinly sliced steak) being showcased. Tortillas are mopped in fat from the meats and all the gaonera needed was a sprinkling of salt and maybe a squeeze of lime. This taco is all about corn and meat. Something a Midwesterner like myself loves.

Gaonera Taco at El Califa De Leon 
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La Cebolla Morada 

I had a handful of spots specializing in cochinita pibil on my list and this place was in walking reach one day so we made our way over. La Cebolla Morada was on my radar due to the fact they offer one thing and one thing only. Cochinita Pibil is probably the State of Yucatan's most popular eat. It's made it's way onto many US Mexican restaurant menus and can be found at many spots in Mexico City even though the traditional way of cooking it buried in a pit below the ground is not common practice. The main components of CP are pork, citrus, and annatto paste which is what gives it that orange color. La Cebolla Morada has cochinita pibil offered three ways. 1) - Taco 2) - Panucho 3) - Torta. Pictured below is a panucho (L) and a taco. The former of which is kind of like a tostada smeared with black beans and topped with meat. In my mind panuchos are probably the best way to enjoy cochinita pibil though taco form is no slouch either. The pickled red onions here were fire.

Cochinita Pibil Panucho (L) and Taco (R) at La Cebolla Morada
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Lalo & Ceci 

This cute little taco shop is run by a couple who are cooking family recipes from the males side. Those recipes go back to Cuernavaca where he hails from. I found out about this newish spot thru the aforementioned Nicolas Gilman who has since featured it on his site. "Lalo stands for longaniza–less greasy chorizo– and Ceci is cecina–salted dried beef. Together they make for a happy marriage as a campechano taco, or stand alone, accompanied by an array of carefully rendered salsas. Tortillas, yellow and meaty, are pressed to order." I opted for a campechano taco with chicharróns and was served an absolute stunner of a taco. In both looks and taste. I chatted up with the couple that owns the place and they were extremely nice and seemed legitimately happy that I seeked their spot out. I suppose this is as good a time as ever to say the people of Mexico City were absolutely wonderful.

Taco Campechano at Lalo & Ceci
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Tacos El Vilsito 

Tacos El Vilsito in Narvarte is sure to pop onto any visitor to Mexico City's radar. Reason being is it's commonly mentioned as the best place for tacos al pastor. It's a nighttime only operation that functions as a garage during the day. When the sun goes down the auto garage turns into a taqueria that serves food late into the night. The star of the show al pastor tacos were not a letdown. Despite the place being packed the taqueros showed good restraint and waited for their trompo meat to char. The pork cooked fast due to the fact they had an extremely large flame and the taqueros did their part slicing the meat extremely thin which is a skill many US spots skip. Texture is important in al pastor.

Tacos al Pastor at Tacos El Vilsito
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Tacos Manolo 

Another popular nighttime spot located down the block is Tacos Manolo. This place was on my must stop list due to the fact they have a unique taco and it was calling my name. "A Taco Manolo begins life as a pile of diced onions unceremoniously dumped onto a hot griddle and immediately coated in a layer of vegetable oil. Soon thereafter, the cook stirs in a stack of bacon bits. Salt and pepper follow. What happens next surprises the observant eye and nose: the cook pulls out a well-worn bottle of Worcestershire sauce and liberally squirts. Then a premeasured packet of soy sauce emerges to douse the grill. The final ingredient lands atop the watery mess in a solid sphere of red flesh just smaller than a soccer ball. It’s ground beef, and lots of it. Once the cook mixes this in, the resulting blend more closely resembles coagulated motor oil than anything you’d want to put in a tortilla and eat." - Culinary Backstreets. Spot on description as far as looks. As far as taste they were great.

Tacos Manolo at Tacos Manolo
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Taqueria Los Pericos 

Taqueria Los Pericos was another place in the Narvarte neighborhood that I wanted to try. We walked over post Manolo and ordered some of their specialty tacos which are al pastor and cheese. But not in the way you'd get one if ordering that in the States. Here they cook the cheese on a flattop until crisp with al pastor meat being mixed in. The end result is almost like an omelette in texture but the flavors are unlike any omelette and instead more like an amazing grilled cheese sandwich. Addictive.

Tacos al Pastor with Cheese at Taqueria Los Pericos
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Tianguis Condesa Tuesday Market 

I had many markets on my radar and this was a Tuesday only operation that happened to be quick stones throw from our place of rental. Seeing as how we were going to be in town on a Tuesday and what not it seemed like a no brainer to walk over and check out Ricos Tacos Mixiotes.

Ricos Tacos Mixiotes

From what I read this is the only market this family from Hidalgo does so if in town on a Tuesday do not miss your chance at one of the best tacos in DF. They make mixiote which is meat, in this case lamb, that's been steamed in maguey leaves and it's one of the best tacos I've ever come across. There's strong hints of cumin and red chile and the tortillas and salsa bar are just perfect. I've been thinking about this taco alot and the prospect of never getting to eat one again is frightening. So good.

Ricos Taco de Mixiote at the Tianguis Condesa Market
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El Parnita 

This hipster hangout is popular with everyone. We arrived around the time of opening and the place was packed by the time we sat down. It kind of came off as DF's version of Big Star (in Chicago) and that's not meant to be a diss. I certainly liked the food. A starter of Tlacoyos was enjoyed though I was surprised to see it come out made of yellow corn rather than blue. Still they were full of flavor. These are something I'd eat often if I lived in DF. Will try them at some other spots next trip in.

Tlacoyos at El Parnita

I tried a trio of tacos from here as this was our first lunch of the day and I was on empty as far as food. The shrimp and fish tacos get lots of mentions online and while both were really good I wouldn't feel the need to run back for them. The shrimp tacos are called Tacos Carmelita on the menu and they were the best of the bunch. The fish taco on special was one big square piece and kind of hard to eat but the toppings were creative and somewhat different. The Chapulines taco I tried was also tasty but I'm not big on bugs. Chapulines for those not in the know are grasshoppers and El Parnita soaked theirs in Mezcal and serves them alongside a dollop of guacamole. Not bad actually.

Tacos Carmelita at El Parnita

Fish Taco at El Parnita

Chapulines Taco  
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El Rey Del Taco 

I'd heard about this place in the beautiful Coyoacán which is home to the Frida Kahlo museum. We checked out the neighborhood and the museum and it was well worth the visit. The car ride was about 30 minutes (public transportation not much faster in this instance) but Uber rides wont ever cost you more than a few dollars. El Rey Del Taco was on my must hit list after reading about it in Lucky Peach. In the publications article Chef Alex Stupak sings sweet notes to the stands cheeseburger taco. "I really didn’t want to like this thing. But I did. We all did." So much so he crafted a cheeseburger taco for his menu at Empellon in NYC which is a hip place known it's al pastor. As far as me I knew I'd love these. This isn't a taco meant for American tourists or anything like that. Locals eat these. Consider it Mexico's gift back to us for giving them the burger. Authenticity be damned.

Cheeseburger Tacos at El Rey Del Taco
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Super Tacos Chupacabras

If cheeseburger tacos are too low for you to go check out Super Tacos Chupacabras before wiping the snob off of your shirt. Also located in the Coyoacán 'hood this place takes it's name from the legendary creature of Mexican folklore. Super Tacos Chupacabras is one of DF's most popular taco stands. The lines can get long and that's understandable because this place lives off some tales of it's own. The signature taco here is the Taco Campechano which is made with steak, pork, and chorizo and is said to be mixed with what they say is 127 spices. On top of that they have what has to be one of the best condiment bars anywhere. Tacos can be topped with everything from mashed potatoes to garlicky grilled onions or frijoles and so on. The options endless and it's all free with purchase.

Tacos Campechanos at Super Tacos Chupacabras
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Tacos Marvichi

This streetside stand opens around 10pm and it was just outside of the hip bar we were drinking at in the Polanco neighborhood. This is an affluent area but even the wealthy love them some streetside tacos and this place is proof. I got a campechano that was greasy in a good mezcal haze way and it came topped with fries which is somewhat common in DF. I didn't have a bad taco on this trip.

Taco Campechano at Tacos Marvichi
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El Rey Del Suadero

Also in the Polanco neighborhood is this longtime local place specializing in suadero. Tacos de Suadero are made from the brisket part of the cow and recipes and ways of prep can vary. El Rey Del Taco Suadero was pretty popping on my Midnight visit but the great things about all of these stops is every single one was quick. The meat is fried in a comal and ready to go upon your order being placed. How many different ways can I say the tacos I ate were great? No need to count and find out.

Tacos de Suadero at El Rey Del Suadero
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El Tizoncito

There's no way of knowing the single man responsible for introducing tacos al pastor to Mexico City but El Tizoncito claim to be the ones. This meant I wanted to check them out and I did though with multiple locations I wasn't sure which one was considered the original. That said I know it probably wasn't this one. Seemed pretty new to me. Nonetheless it was popular post Midnight with what seemed like lots of neighbors. These were delicious though I'm not sure there's a way of naming the best. There's def some that are better than others but all the al pastor spots I tried were great.

Taco al Pastor at El Tizoncito
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Tacos de Canasta Los Especiales

This popular stop in the Centro Histórico district serves tacos de canasta. The name translates to basket tacos and they're called that due to the fact they're steamed in a basket. These little treats are one of the cheapest ways to fill up in Mexico so you can imagine how popular they are in DF.  Los Especiales almost always has a line but it moves quick as you tell the first guy what you want and then receive some plastic coins upon ordering. You give those coins to the guy at the basket and he in turn gives you your tacos as requested. I think there were maybe five or six fillings on offer.

Serving the tacos from the basket

Tacos de Canasta are also called sweaty tacos but don't let that name deter you. These in particular were a candidate for most crave worthy since the trip has ended. I tried all on offer and they were all great. That green salsa which can be seen in the pic was some of the best of the trip. It seemed to be a mix of avocado and tomatillo. These come out to a ridiculous price of $.15 (US) /each. 

Tacos de Canasta at Los Especialas
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Tacos El Patan 

I'd read about some legendary sounding fish tacos from a place in the heart of the downtown area. Tacos El Patan ended up being located right in the middle of the lighting district. This is where you go if you need to buy something wholesale. I'm talking pretty much anything from giant stuffed animals to cleaning products. The area is a sight to behold stretching block and blocks with shop after shop. Off to the side of the main strip is this little stand called Tacos El Patan. Visit on a Wed. Fri. or Sat. and you can their signature tacos de pescado a la talla. It's a recipe from the owners hometown of Playa Azul Michoacan. They take a butterflied whole barracuda and grill it with all sorts of secrets until the meat starts to fall off the bone. It's then picked and stuffed into a tortilla. If you seek this stand out you'll be in for a real special treat not to mention you'll meet some wonderful people.

Tacos de Pescado at Tacos El Patan
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Ricos Tacos Toluca 

This place is one of the stops I most looked forward to. I knew I was stopping here the day I learned about it through America's foremost taco expert. Bill Esparza is one of the country's best food writers / educators and his forte is tacos. Based out of LA he basically laid the blueprint down for our Baja California Taco Trip. When the time comes to taco hop through Los Angeles I'll be using his wisdom there as well. So while here in DF I made sure to seek out one of his favorite taco stops and it rocked.

Chorizo (Green and Red) 

Typically Mexican Chorizo is red and Ricos Tacos Toluca makes a really nice red version but I was there to try the verde (green). It's made from an old family recipe from back home in Toluca where the owners hail from. This green chorizo is made with serrano chiles, spinach, pine nuts, and almonds. With ingredients like that you wonder if these too has some sort of Arab influence. These tacos rocked which was pretty much to be expected. As stated Bill knows tacos better than anyone. The use of fries with chorizo tacos works real well with potatoes being a common pairing.

Chorizo (Green and Red) Tacos at Ricos Tacos Toluca
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Los Cocuyos 

For many of these streetside stands you need to do nothing other than follow the smells. Los Cocuyos is another one of DF's most popular stalls. The crowd around the window was proof of this on our visit. Los Cocuyos is the quintessential Mexico City taqueria as far as the fillings go. Everything is cooked on a big comal and it sits ready to be eaten. The options here are all great. I have no doubt about that. The suadero is said to be some of the best and it was absolutely fantastic but the one that took me to another level was the taco de surtido which means a "little bit of everything." I could have stood there for four or five hours and eaten these tiny little tacos with an out of this world flavor.

Taco de Surtido at Los Cocuyos 
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Taqueria El Greco 

With the city of Puebla being a three hour bus ride from CDMX it's no surprise to find lots of tacos arabes on offer in the Big City. Tacos Arabes or "Arab Tacos" are one of the great fusion foods of our time. Marinated Pork is cooked on a vertical spit just like shawarma and tacos al pastor. The biggest difference in tacos arabe and tacos al pastor is the spicing used. Also unique to the taco arabe is the pita like flatbread they come served on. Another name for these is Tacos Orientales and while I'm not positive on this that may be a nod to Taqueria La Oriental in Puebla which has been serving Tacos Arbaes since 1933. El Greco makes a great taco with tons of crispy bits just like a doner sandwich in Berlin or somewhere like that. They layer the pork with a green pepper of some sort and all in all this was a taco I would without a doubt return for next time I'm in town. I almost went back on this trip.

Taco Arabe at Taqueria El Greco
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   La Bonita inside Perian Condesa Market           

I visited many of Mexico City's food halls and found them to be pretty cool. It's mostly new age stuff and they all felt kind of hipster but I'd like to further explore them next trip in. The Parian Condesa is a gourmand marketplace with about ten stalls selling stuff like acai bowls and sushi etc. One of the stands named La Bonita was sending off some wonderful smells and that was coming from the birria tatemada that was cooking. I couldn't resist and decided to have a Mexican craft brew and a birria taco before going off to dinner. Another winner (yes they all were). Nice and beefy just how I like.

Birria Taco at La Bonita inside Parian Condesa Market
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Taqueria Los Parados 

As you can see in the sign this place has been around since 1965. They do grilled tacos but I was there for something else. Taqueria Los Parados also has their signature Tacos de Trompo de Arrachera. Or in English spit roasted skirt steak. I got there later in the evening just in time.

Steak Trompo in Motion

It's pretty rare to find a place doing spit roasted steak in the States but in Mexico City you can find almost any style of taco ever created. These were worth the walk I took that night and then some. If you told me today I can have them but would need to walk five miles to eat them I'd start running right away. They were crispy, they were juicy and again the salsa were wonderful. At this point I sound like a broken record but what else can you do when everything is amazing.

Tacos de Trompo de Arrachera at Taqueria Los Parados
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Tacos McTeo

While walking through the truly overwhelming Mercado Merced I came across this stand with a familiar face on it's sign. How do I not stop? I opted for a carne enchilada taco which is a thinly sliced piece of steak marinated in a red chile sauce. It turns out that McTeo's takes their name due to the fact the tacos here come loaded with papas fritas (french fries) on top. The fries themselves were nice and crisp while the beef was greasy in a good way. I'm kind of surprised we don't see more fries on tacos in the States. As far as the sign goes well I guess when you're hidden within one of the largest markets in the world, you can stay under the radar of Ronald and Company.

Carne Enchilada Taco at Tacos McTeo
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Taqueria San Pablo 

While walking down the extremely bust street of San Pablo I came across a group of about 15 policeman moaning and groaning. Commotion? Nope. Tacos de Cabeza. Taqueria San Pablo sits at the corner of San Pablo and Jose Maria and it's the definition of a hole in the wall. Two guys slang tacos out of the comal and the menu said lengua and also cabeza but all they had was cabeza. I think they switch days when its served. I may have lucked out as this was another DF comal style taco that was bursting with flavor. The boys in blue have always known how to eat well. 

Taco de Cabeza at Taqueria San Pablo
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El Maquech Purpura 

Here we have a spot specializing in the food of the Yucatan. It's menu caught my eye and I wanted to make sure to stop by and try a couple tacos showcasing the states love for the turkey. The two tacos I wanted to try were the Pavo de Pibil and Relleno Negro. Both are made with turkey and both of these were wonderful. The pibil is made just like cochinita except with turkey instead pork while the relleno negro is a guisado like recipe made with burnt chile de arbol peppers. Another Narvarte gem.

Pavo de Pibil (L) Relleno Negro (R) at El Maquech Purpura
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La Costilla 

This place was right around the corner from the previous stop and the name drew me in. I hadn't had any grilled tacos yet and the smell of the grilled meats from here were mesmerizing. Or maybe that was the mezcal making me feel like that. Lots of options but with costilla in the name I opted for the the taco de costilla made with pork rib meat. One taco is actually two and it's as good as it looks.

Taco de Costilla at La Costilla
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Tacos El Hayito

Speaking of Narvarte gems Tacos El Hayito would be another one of them. It's another place where I wanted to check out the Tacos Arabes and they too did not disappoint. The best part about these was the fact they were kissed with a charcoal aroma that had the entire area smelling fantastic.

Taco Arabe at Tacos El Hayito

I don't know how locals choose their favorites but this place had couples, singles, families, and groups of friends dining alongside the sidewalk. The overall atmosphere around there was really jolly. The biggest reason for that was probably the tacos we were all there for. Another wonderful offering with quite a few salsa selections but the smoked chipotle is the one you want to use.

Taco Arabe at Tacos El Hayito
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Tacos Beto 

Staying in the Narvarte neighborhood this next stop is famous for it's killer tacos. Literally. A handful of regulars to Tacos Beto have suffered heart attacks at the fate of the famous Taco Beto aka The Taco Cochinada aka The Garbage Taco. These are made with scraps of meat usually thrown away.

Preparing the Filth 

The "filth" taco is a truly unique concoction. Pork scrapings are fried twice with other random pieces of beef and done so in week old oil. The end result is all those little crispy mystery bits mixed with crunchy chicharrones. This is essentially a taco campechano of mythical proportions. So they say six regular customers have suffered a heart attack at the hands of this taco. Deadly? Maybe. Delicious? Oh you know it. Just make sure to text your loved ones you love them before diving in.

Filth Taco at Tacos Beto
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Taqueria El Califa

As one can imagine DF has spawned many taco empires. Places that started off small but over time expanded to multiple locations and with that have many generations of fans. If you grew up well in Mexico City you may have frequented Taqueria El Califa. It seemed to be pretty popular with the locals in the well off neighborhood of Condesa. El Califa is known for their costra (crust) tacos. These are made by grilling cheese until crisp. You choose your filling which in this case was gaonera and the grilled cheese is wrapped around it. Upon first bite I immediately understood why it was packed around 11p on a weekday. This was an addictive taco. One I'd eat often if I lived near there.

Costra Taco at Taqueria El Califa
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Taqueria La Palmera

While walking home on what was my final night in town (was leaving early next morning) I passed by this neighborhood taqueria and decided to stop. The trompo was well manicured here and that's a telling sign as more times than not it means the al pastor will be perfect. Believe or not I witnessed lots of spots pre slicing the meat and saving it for later use and I saw spied some cones that just weren't as pretty as others. My hunch was right as this meat was very well spiced and cut just right. It really should eat like European style shawarma which means thin and crispy.

Tacos al Pastor at Taqueria Palmera
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Everything Else
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El Hidalguense

This weekend only restaurant is one of DF's most popular. The place was popping on my visit one Sunday afternoon. That said they have two floors and tons of space so I was able to get a table with ease and I was ordering shortly thereafter. Everyone is there for Chef Vargas' lamb barbacoa.

The Lamb Station

The Chef/Owner lives in Tulancingo, Hidalgo on a small ranch where he raises lambs and slow-roasts them in pits overnight. The next morning they're packed into wooden crates and driven into the city. Locals flock to the place on Fri., Sat., and Sun. One taste of the consomé served from the start and you will be hooked. This lamb was one of the best things I've ever ate in my life.

Barbacoa Spread at El Hidalguense

Just look at that spread in the picture up above. It was just me here and I ordered a 1/2 kilo of meat and it was just enough though truth be told I could've ate myself to death and left this world a happy, happy man. Served with fresh blue corn tortillas this was one of those foods you never forget. The type of place you return to on day one of future visits. Make an effort to get here at least once in life.

Lamb Barbacoa Taco at El Hidalguense
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Contramar

This place located in the trendy Condesa 'hood gets lots of love in DF roundups. I've seen it all over the place from Eater to Instagram. Well that social media buzz got me in as I wanted to try the tuna tostadas and also the colorful fish everyone was posting pictures of. They close early (6p) and we got there right before last call but ended up waiting a good 20 minutes for someone to come take our order. When we finally did order the food it came out unusually fast. To be expected with the tuna.

Tuna Tostadas at Contramar

These tuna tostadas came topped with fried onion and garlic scrapes and while good they werent great. The aroma of the garlic and onion overpowered the fresh fish. Don't get me wrong these were tasty but nothing like those found in Baja and elsewhere. Same goes for the popular fish which comes with two different sauces. It was good but it didn't take me back to Popotla like I was hoping. Heck it didn't even take me back to Randolph Street here in Chicago where Rick Bayless and team are doing Baja inspired whole fish at Lena Brava. We left underwhelmed. It didnt help the fish was room temp.

Pescado Contramar (con chile rojo y pereji) at Contramar
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El Moro

El Moro is a popular Churreria which is a place where they make churros. The popular Mexican snack is basically a long donut and these were good but I'm not sure anything will ever beat the ones served at Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid. But for loose change these are a nice treat.

Churros at El Moro
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Yuban

We used this trip to get acquainted with mezcal. We're now really good friends who see each other a few times a week. Haha. Yuban is a hip bar with Yucatan qualities and also a really nice mezcal selection. We sipped on some choices while enjoying a snack. I remember this amuse bouche below as being good but I cant quite recall what was inside of it. I think it was a potato pinxto sort of thing.

Amuse Bouche 

Also good was an order of shrimp empanadas. Perhaps the best quality of these were the dough used to make them. Like the best tortillas these left your hands smelling strong of corn. Something I dont mind as it means you just ate something really hearty. Yuban makes for a nice place to chill out.

Shrimp Empanadas at Yuban
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 Licorera Limantour

We did manage to hit up most of the popular cocktail bars and found Licorera Limantour to be the best. Both locations were great and the bartenders were really helpful. I liked the cocktails and also the mezcal on offer. I used the opportunity to try a bunch of them and figure out which ones I like and would bring home. Also good at here was an order of tuna tostadas. Better than the previous batch.

Tuna Tostadas at Licorera Limantour
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La Riviera Del Sur 

This Yucatan bar with late hours was said to be a locals favorite. La Riviera Del Sur is an old time Mexican cantina that's been redone to feel more up to date. The food is also somewhat up to date with a nice selection of Yucatean comfort food. I loved the chillness of this place with a few patrons watching soccer at the bar and others drinking and playing dominoes at their tables. The food was also really heart warming. I just wish it was hotter in actual temp. A starter of sopa de lima or chicken and lime soup was delicious but could've been hotter. A Poc Chuc taco which is marinated pork loin was also lukewarm however it was also really good. The best dish was not only warmed properly but also full of flavor as a bowl of puerco and black black beans was perfect for a cool night.

Sopa de Lima at La Riviera Del Sur

Puerco and Black Beans at La Riviera Del Sur

Poc Chuc Taco at La Riviera Del Sur
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Arroces Del Babyface

Last but not least is my favorite non-taco stop of this trip. When I read about about a former pro wrestler who spent time in japan and brought his taste for donburi (rice bowl) back with him I had to go. Y'all know how much I love the fusion foods and Babyface has a winner with this one. He mixes Japanese style white rice with Mexican ingredients and the end result are some addictive rice bowls.

Babyface (R) and a line of customers

This stand is extremely popular so you can pretty much count on a wait with the possibility of all 7/8 chairs to eat at being taken. Take it go like I did if you need to because you dont want to miss out on the deliciousness. Toppings range from chicken to hot dogs and on Thursdays and Fridays there's seafood concoctions like the one I ordered with fish, shrimp, scallops, eggs and more. The ladies working the flattop are pros and I fully mean it when I say this is one of the best rice dishes I've ever had. I couldnt stop eating it and that ended up costing me a couple taco spots but it was worth it in the end as this was delicious and Babyface was a riot. That's it for this trip folks. See ya next time.

Mexican Donburi at Arroces Del Babyface
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Note: Most all of these spots featured are listed on my Google Maps Guide of food stops in Mexico City. You're free to use this guide for yourself and can do so by clicking HERE. Thanks for reading.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't usually comment, but this is one of the best posts you've ever done. Loved every second of it. Can tell you want to get busy with tacos, and often.

NachoGirl said...

Excelente! We just came back in November from a 7 day food feast in CDMX (to see the Raider game). What I love about your post is that you had some planned stops but also stopped at whatever location was nearby -- something that we did not take advantage of. Not everything worth seeing, especially in areas like Mexico city, has a Yelp or Trip Advisor rating. Great post....would you mind sharing your Google map;)

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