Mexico’s First Michelin Guide Debuts With 18 Starred Restaurants—Including a Taco Stand

Over a century after its launch, the Michelin Guide has finally made it to Mexico, the third Latin American country to get a dedicated guide, following Brazil and Argentina.

An overhead shot of several small bowls and dishes filled with various foods atop a marble surface at Quintonil, with four small wood spoons

Quintonil in Mexico City, is one of two restaurants in Mexico that received two Michelin stars.

Courtesy of Quintonil

The recently released inaugural Michelin Mexico Guide includes 16 one-star selections and a pair of two-star awards for restaurants across six states—Oaxaca, CDMX, Quintana Roo, Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Nuevo León. For those following Mexico’s growing prominence within the culinary world, acknowledgment from the prestigious restaurant guide likely feels rather overdue.

This sentiment is no doubt felt by Mexico City’s long-standing modern Mexican cuisine pioneer, Pujol, which now is one of only two restaurants in the country to receive two Michelin stars. Opened in 2000, Pujol has become known for its complex Madre Molé, which has been aged a record-long 3,433 days (and counting) as of June 7, 2024, and is commended by Michelin for its seasonal tasting menu. The venue is a consistent staple on lists like World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Best Restaurants in North America. In 2016, chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s featured episode on season two of Netflix’s Chef’s Table introduced Pujol to a worldwide audience.

The second Mexican restaurant to earn two Michelin stars is Quintonil, also located in Mexico City’s affluent Polanco neighborhood. Michelin calls out the contemporary cuisine helmed by husband-and-wife team chef Jorge Vallejo and Alejandra Flores for its elegance, refined creativity, and incorporation of local and untraditional ingredients, noting the crab in pipián verde, a traditional Mexican sauce made with pureed greens and seeds, was a favorite dish among inspectors during their research.

While Michelin’s star awards for Pujol and Quintinol may not have been surprising, others were more unexpected, namely Taqueria El Califa de León, a 100-square-foot taco stall in Mexico City’s under-the-radar San Rafael neighborhood. Taqueria El Califa de León is now the first taco stand to ever receive a Michelin star, but there has been some debate on whether this modest stall with only four items on the menu should have been given the honor.

At Taqueria El Califa de León, there are no tables or stools, and the made-to-order tacos are unceremoniously dished out to patrons patiently waiting, holding colorful plastic plates in the air. The small 56-year-old shop has a crew of two: chef Arturo Riviera Martinez on the grill and an assistant pumping out fresh corn tortillas. A limited menu zeroes in on four types of beef or pork tacos (bistec, chuleta, constilla, and gaonera), served simply with only lime and the option to spoon homemade red or green salsa over top.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Riviera Martinez said the secret to his tacos was in their simplicity and the “quality of the meat.” Michelin investigators agreed, noting that the taqueria stood out over several visits from individual investigators for its high-quality ingredients and simple but masterful approach. “It’s about the meat and the tortilla without any fuss or garnish to dress it up or hide behind,” Michelin explains. “Their technical ability shines, and since they only have four options it allows them to maintain their standards throughout.” At approximately $5 per taco, prices are high for a CDMX taco stand where tacos typically run about $3 each, but it’s a bargain for a meal with a Michelin star, especially when you add on the affordable cost of Riviera Martinez’s recommended pairing beverage, a Coke.

In addition to Taqueria El Califa de León, other first-year one-Michelin-star selections include Em, Esquina Común, Rosetta, and Sud 77 in CDMX; Animalón, Damiana, and Conchas de Piedra in Baja California; Cocina de Autor Los Cabos in Los Cabos; Levadura de Olla Restaurante and Los Danzantes Oaxaca in Oaxaca; KOLI Cocina de Origen, and Pangea in Nuevo León; and Le Chique, HA’, and Cocina de Autor Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo.

The inaugural Michelin Mexico Guide also honored 42 eateries as Bib Gourmands. Although not as coveted as Michelin’s trademark stars, being recognized as a Bib Gourmand is still considered a tremendous achievement. For comparison, there are currently 2,906 restaurants with one Michelin star and 3,223 restaurants designated as Bib Gourmands.

Created in 1997, the Bib Gourmand award recognizes eateries where diners will find an excellent meal at an excellent value. Criteria for this award are less rigid than Michelin stars and vary from location to location, with the meal’s overall value calculated with respect to the local cost of living.

Additionally, six restaurants—almost all in Baja California or Baja California Sur—received Michelin’s newest star designation, the Michelin Green Star. First revealed in 2020, the Michelin Green Star is a sustainability award reserved for outstanding eateries that are also leaders in local, eco-friendly practices and sustainable gastronomy. These restaurants are Acre and Flora’s Field Kitchen in San Jose del Cabo; Deckman’s En El Mogar and Conchas de Piedra in Valle de Guadalupe; Lunario in El Porviner; and Los Danzantes Oaxaca in Oaxaca.

K. Alex Beaven is a writer and journalist who focuses on travel, food and drink, health, and news. Alex spent three years (pre-social media) backpacking and working around Europe, Asia, Australia, and Southern Africa using word-of-mouth recommendations and well-worn guidebooks. She loves Mexico, Iceland, and anywhere with ice, snow, and penguins.
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