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Where to Eat and Drink in Mexico, according to a Chef

Chef Robert Berry traveled to Mexico City, Jalisco, and Oaxaca and realized he'd been tasting tequila wrong all these years

This past September, Charleston chef Robert Berry and his team traveled to Central Mexico, making stops in Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Jalisco. They brought back a wealth of knowledge about the country's food culture and plan to incorporate what they learned into their forthcoming Charleston restaurant, Pancito & Lefty, which is set to open later this fall. Here, Berry shares highlights from his Mexico travels.

La Botica, Mexico City

“We stumbled upon this hole-in-the-wall bar in between meals in Mexico City and immediately loved the vibe. It has a pre-World War II, Parisian aesthetic and is filled with a cast of characters. This is where we were first introduced to pulque, a traditional drink in central Mexico. Pulque is a viscous, low-proof beverage made with the fermented sap of the agave plant. It's perfect for washing down mezcal.”

Casa Noble, Jalisco

“We took a tour of Casa Noble that blew our minds—it turns out we've been tasting tequila wrong all these years. The property's brand ambassador, David Yan, showed us the grounds where they cook and distill the Weber blue agave plant and gave us an epic tequila tasting in the barrel-aging room, where we were schooled in the five-step tequila tasting process. We did not emerge from this experience entirely sober.”

Limantour, Mexico City

“I lived in New York for years, and this place really reminded me of the West Village. Limantour is an upscale, cosmopolitan cocktail bar in Mexico City's Roma neighborhood, with a lengthy list of mezcal and tequila cocktails. Bartender Óscar Valle welcomed us and eagerly helped plan the rest of our trip. I highly recommend taking a seat at his bar and letting the him work his magic.”

La Merced Market, Mexico City

“I love touring a city's food market. It's an intimate way to get to know the local food culture and see what's truly authentic. Grab some tripe tacos and a cold beer and meander through the market. This is the biggest market I've ever seen and it's swelling with every food and textile available in Mexico.”

Mercado de la Merced

Zandunga, Oaxaca

“This place resonated deeply with me. It's what we're trying to do at Pancito & Lefty. It's a casual spot with a simple, clean design and a modern menu that we very much enjoyed. Our favorite dish was the tlayudas, a traditional Oaxacan dish with over-sized fried tortillas, refried beans, avocado, cheese, and salsa. While it might be out of your comfort zone, you should definitely try chapulines (grasshoppers) when you're in Mexico. They are delicious, especially with guacamole.”

Mezcaloteca, Oaxaca

“One of the goals of our trip was to learn as much as we could about mezcal, a spirit that is often misunderstood in the United States. We loved touring this non-profit organization/bar/gathering place, which is helping to preserve the tradition of mezcal distillers by supporting small-batch producers in the surrounding states. The group is devoted to gusto historico, or traditional taste. Our bar tabs went towards an admirable cause.”

>>Next: You Can Make Your Own Tequila in Mexico (and Other Things We Learned on the Riviera Maya)