Calle Isabel la Catolica 30, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
What began with Azul y Oro—chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s high-end university “refectory”—is now a multi-restaurant group famed for an almost museum-like reverence for traditional Mexican cooking in all its infinite variety. The downtown iteration, called Azul Histórico, is a gorgeous space in the courtyard of a 17th-century colonial palace (once inhabited by descendants of the Emperor Montezuma) and is now one of the Centro’s most sought-after tables, terribly romantic beneath its tree-and-candlelight canopy. Menus are seasonal and themed—often focusing on cuisine from Mexico’s regions and states—and are sure to present some delicacies even most Mexicans never knew before. Ask questions and swing just beyond your comfort zone. Out-of-towners and locals alike love the flair with which dishes emerge from the kitchen, in extravagant, eye-catching Mexican pottery.
Av. Pdte. Masaryk 407, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, 11550 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A nondescript shopping arcade in a tony neighborhood might not be the place you’d expect to find one of the world’s top restaurants—but if there’s any place that reinforces the adage about not judging a book by its cover, it’s Mexico City. Biko has been ranked on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for years now. The two executive chefs aren’t as visible as other local chefs on the list, but that may be because they’re constantly in the kitchen, turning out memorable dishes. Guests can order off one of two menus: one is more traditional-inspired Basque cuisine, while the other is contemporary. Expect playful presentation and exceptional service.
Upstairs from her flagship Delirio boutique (also worth a duck-in), a beautiful town house is home to chef Mónica Patiño’s Casa Virginia, featuring a changing seasonal menu that takes creative advantage of Mexico’s wide-ranging culinary variety. Its sunny dining room and nostalgic “shabby chic” details cannot fail to delight; its family-style servings are great for sharing. Recent specials included an endive salad and two artichoke preparations, a squash soup, a Mexican-style osso buco, and a rack of lamb. All ingredients are locally sourced and most of the herbs—a key element in everything Patiño does—are grown on the roof. There can be few more civilized meals anywhere in Mexico City.
Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
El Moro has been turning out churros and creamy hot chocolate 24 hours a day since 1935. You can have your churros three ways—with sugar, with sugar and cinnamon, or with cajeta, a creamy caramel—and your hot chocolate one of four ways—Mexican, French, Spanish, or Swiss-style. Though some regulars have complained that the quality and cleanliness of this spot have declined in recent years, a late-night pass by El Moro is a longstanding tradition in Mexico City.
With almost 20 years at the helm of a dining room that’s jammed every afternoon, Gabriela Cámara at Contramar must be doing something right. For one, the seafood on offer—traditional, even homey recipes, impeccably prepared—is among the freshest available. Service is quick, yet warm and enjoyable. It brings in a well-dressed, deliberately coiffed crowd that loves table-hopping, seeing and being seen, and air-kissing; but most of all, they relish digging into house specialties like the fish carnitas, the legendary tuna tostadas, and the grilled pescado a la talla (ordered by weight, and served in a red adobo or a parsley rub). Some afternoons (especially Fridays) you can’t believe the waiters have actually squeezed one more person in, yet everyone is very glad they came. Desserts are especially recommended. Open for lunch only—which may explain the sense of urgency at the door.
Anatole France 100, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Never underestimate the power of shocking pink. The intimate but lively dining room at Dulce Patria—the smash hit by celebrity chef Martha Ortiz—feels not unlike a stage set. Soon after 2 p.m., it starts to fill with high-powered ladies-who-lunch types, cooing over a menu of updated Mexican classics with extravagant, architectural presentations that are at least half the fun. That said, chef Ortiz’s flavorful sculptures really deliver: Tastes are delicate, authentic, and quite delicious. The well-balanced offering presents ample choices without overwhelming, in favorites like the corn-kernel soup, a full portfolio of quesadillas, duck mole, and an extravagant dessert list (gelatin lovers rejoice) that really does drive home the dulce part. A recent seating included telenovela stars and a former Señor Presidente. And who knew there were so many edible flowers?
Medellín 79, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Chef Jorge Vallejo—an alumnus of the capital’s most famous restaurant, Pujol—rose to star status with his internationally-ranked Quintonil, a restaurant he runs in partnership with his wife. Vallejo’s more recent venture is Fonda Fina, where his protege, Chef Juan Cabrera, interprets the renowned restauranteur’s dishes in a warm, inviting setting. Guests will find clever, thoughtful design touches like clay cooking pots that have been turned into light fixtures. The servers are attentive, and every dish on the tradition-inspired Mexican menu is presented beautifully.
Zacatecas 173, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A wildly colorful, cartoonish emoji mural sets the scene for fun, fabulous Lalo, the casual-chic outpost from chef Eduardo García (whose Máximo Bistrot is adjudged one of the finest spots in the city). Tables for two are the first to fill, so diners usually find themselves at a long shared table, choosing from a menu of small(ish) plates that pack real flavor and cleverly blend familiar comforts with more-unusual, yet equally tempting, combinations. Breakfast faves include a sinful French toast or less conventional choices like chilaquiles in salsa verde; fluffy omelettes contain amazing cheeses and surprising ingredients. And don’t be shy with pastries. Lunch swings to raved-about pastas and pizzas, or the salad whose ingredients all come fresh from nearby Xochimilco. Artisanal beers and homemade sodas are a sensation as well.
Lardo, a sister restaurant to chef Elena Reygadas’s Rosetta and her bakery, is especially warm and buzzy on sunny days, when the Condesa restaurant’s full facade of French doors is thrown open and its handsome crowd spills out. The kitchen applies all the chef’s singular refinements to a winning mix of Tuscan recipes that put special focus on fine charcuterie. Menu items are (perhaps deceptively) simple: poached eggs, seasoned variously; a nice selection of pizzas; fresh, vinegary salads that don’t go overboard; grilled shellfish. The complexity arises from their delicacy on the palate, where each crisp taste is savored separately—and as a part of the whole. A nice wine list encourages sobremesa, the delightful Mexican custom of lingering over the table. Breads—either the ones that come with your meal or the ones you take home from the on-site bakery—might be the best in the city.
Calle Tonalá 133, Roma Norte, Roma Nte., 06700 Cuauhtemoc, CDMX, Mexico
Chef Eduardo García’s flagship restaurant continues to excel as one of the city’s (not so) hidden gems. With its tight dining room and just a smattering of sidewalk tables, fans reserve, ask nicely, and beg—and, in one notorious case, threaten government action—to score a desired seat; those who pull it off choose from a highly selective menu (or do the tasting option) to sample recipes that blend French ideas and techniques with homegrown ingredients and Mexico’s warm, inviting approach to mealtimes. The delicacy of each flavor and the chef’s creativity in bringing it all together guarantee a very special occasion indeed. Even the restaurant’s fast-moving clientele seems to slow down and enjoy at Máximo, somehow sensing they’ve transcended the everyday.
Calle Querétaro 225, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A major driver in the city’s burgeoning food scene, Mercadoroma pays homage to Mexico’s beloved open markets, yet explodes the concept by renting stalls to a dizzying array of purveyors of fine food, beer, wine, and spirits, and other stuffs—all under the same roof. The experience combines picking up staples, hard-to-find cheeses, baked goods, and charcuterie with popping down here or there for a quick gourmet taco, torta, burger, or bit of barbecue. The sweet-tooth set does not leave disappointed, and a retro midcentury vibe makes the market’s shared tables particularly pleasant; the top-floor terrace is a perfect retreat on late afternoons for artisanal beers, mezcals, and a full range of cocktail options. (Check out the market’s sister spot in Coyoacán.)
Avenida Ámsterdam 204, Hipódromo, 06100 Cuauhtemoc, CDMX, Mexico
A smart space on one of the city’s most attractive residential streets is home to MeroToro, chef Jair Téllez’s paean to the surf-and-turf delights that constitute Baja California cuisine. The vibe is warm and easygoing even as the menu steers diners toward less-conventional selections, on a revised-daily bill of fare, that insist on organic, hormone-free, and as local as possible (sharing absolutely allowed). Seasonal vegetables and Mexico-only herbs are always part of the offering, and yummies like seafood dishes with aguachile, grilled shellfish, a bone-marrow risotto, and a signature fall-off-the-bone pork jowl are big hits whenever they turn up on the menu.
Tennyson 133, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, 11550 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
After years at its original, jewel-box-like (and maybe even a little solemn) location, the city’s high temple of Mexican regional cuisine has moved to a more expansive—some say more relaxed—space. It includes more light, a bar area for “taco omakase,” and large windows overlooking the garden, plus a groovy, midcentury accent that might recall Manhattan’s late, lamented Four Seasons restaurant. Changes aside, diners can still count on a six-section prix fixe menu, with each section home to multiple bites involving an astounding variety of local ingredients that even most Mexicans have never tasted, all exquisite enough to have placed Pujol on several best-restaurants lists for years running. And yes, you still get a taste of chef Enrique Olvera’s mole madre, well over a thousand days in the pot as of this writing.
Av. Isaac Newton 55, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Chef Jorge Vallejo spent time in the kitchen at Pujol before he and wife Alejandra Flores opened Quintonil, giving the former boss a run for his money. Their place, too, has become a fixture on best-restaurants lists, and is changing how people understand Mexican food. Taking its name from a weed that not long ago “decent” Mexicans wouldn’t dream of eating, Quintonil seeks to rescue and preserve discarded Mexican ingredients—particularly heirloom vegetable and herbal varieties—as part of the progressive and sustainable eating program it so elegantly advocates. Menus change seasonally, but a recent bill of fare included an avocado tartare with ant eggs and quelite-herb chips; chilacayote squash in mole with basil; and a rich chocolate-and-pinole-flour parfait. A tasting menu of Neronian proportions is also available.
Av. Cuitláhuac 3102, Claveria, 02080 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
This all-but-plain-Jane spot—in Clavería, a neighborhood “no one” knows—is in fact among the most delightful lunches in the city, the project of architect turned chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo, who decided to take the neighborhood restaurant his parents had run for decades to the next culinary level, yet without ever losing touch with his roots. The queen-bee hostess and waitstaff make sure every diner feels special, with plenty of talk about what’s fresh this season—and what’s so good it’s about to run out. Items on offer cover everything from refined versions of street classics to exquisite, almost exotic, wild-game preparations whose recipes come from some of Mexico’s remotest corners. Live music and an excellent mezcal cart sweeten the already delicious deal.
Río Ebro 87, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Fans of real-deal sushi-bar Nipponese are united in huzzahs for Rokai, a sliver of a restaurant in a low-key, high-end section of the Cuauhtémoc quarter, north of the Reforma. Japanese-born chefs Hiroshi Kawahito and Daisuke Maeda change up the menu daily, depending on what’s available at markets (they make great use of some of the best fish that comes in from Baja California); regulars like to nosh omakase-style for a multiple-course tasting at the chef’s discretion. Quality sakes add a rosy glow to the precision with which every creation comes over the bar in this spare but fashionable setting. Reservations are recommended.
Colima 179, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Perhaps it’s more interested in diner loyalty than in snagging prizes, but chef Elena Reygadas’s original Mexico City restaurant is still beloved—and busier than ever. So while a few greatest hits linger season to season, there’s always something new to try, inspired by food of the Mediterranean (or the Middle East, or Paris) but supported by the just-picked ingredients only Mexico knows. It invites repeat visits where patrons count on impeccable breads and pastas, delicate greens, and sauces that never cloy or overwhelm, plus some of the freshest fish and tenderest viands to be had in the city. The setting—a venerable town-house patio and parlors, decorated in florid, provincial filigree and anchored by lovely vintage furnishings—is one of the city’s most romantic.
Blvrd de la Luz 777, Jardines del Pedregal, 01900 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Chef Edgar Nuñez staged at some of the world’s top restaurants, including Noma and the now-shuttered el Bulli, before returning to Mexico to hang his own culinary shingle. The lessons he absorbed during his training have been put to good use, earning him the #27 spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The menu at Sud 777 is divided into sections such as “River and Sea,” “Heaven and Earth,” and “Mexican Coasts.” The domestically sourced ingredients reflect the clean, fresh flavors of Mexican produce and seafood. Look, too, for a restaurant inside the restaurant: kokeshi is a Japanese-inspired spot with an extensive sushi menu and plenty of sake.
Londres 95, Juárez, 06600 Juárez, CDMX, Mexico
A stalwart for business lunches since the days of the Mexican Revolution, is there any reason Bellinghausen needs to change? The old-school refinements include rib-sticking steaks, seafood, and Mexican standards, served in generous portions; delightful garden seating (in addition to the clubby nostalgia of the front dining room); and what some say is the chop-choppiest service in all Mexico City. It’s a mix that keeps the restaurant’s high-end clientele exceedingly happy. More importantly, what comes out of the kitchen is always fresh and expertly prepared; you never sense the chefs are resting on their laurels. In the heart of the now-tatty Zona Rosa, lunch at Bellinghausen offers a glimpse of the neighborhood’s mid-20th-century heyday, when the surrounding blocks were the most bohemian and fashionable in all Latin America.
Tabasco 109, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A chic deli to be sure, Belmondo serves American-style sandwiches like Reubens, tuna melts, grilled cheeses, etc.—about which its young, fashionable adherents rave—but the menu holds some surprises as well, like a barbecued brisket or a chicken curry on peasant bread. The salad selection is varied and creative, in everything from an old-fashioned Cobb to exquisite local beets with goat cheese and avocado. Breakfast (weekends only before 1:45 p.m.) is also about greatest hits; think eggs Benedict and French toast or one of the very few bagels with gravlax you’ll ever see south of the Rio Grande. The place, in Roma Norte, is famed for celebrity sightings and generally crowded, yet the vibe is low-key, cool, and friendly.
Calle de Tacuba 28, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06010 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A modest entryway opens onto a bright, colonial Mexico fantasia, complete with blue tiles, crisp white linen, colorful pottery, and would-be-viceregal artworks. Since 1912, Café de Tacuba has opened early and stayed up late to serve classic Mexican fare like enchiladas and chalupitas, excellent tamales, hearty breakfasts, a wide variety of soups, and even more-ambitious entrees, attracting an amenable congress of families, foreigners, work groups, and confidence-exchanging senoras. Order the café con leche for a smart jolt of showmanship; Spanish troubadours serenade the proceedings most nights and weekends. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s Mexico, but the old girl knew a thing or two.
Chef Eduardo García (of Lalo and Máximo Bistrot fame) applies his exquisite taste to a more traditionally French bill of fare at Havre 77, a beautiful dining room on what may be the city’s hippest half-block. Just a smattering of tables (reservations are recommended) and a handsome old-style bar inhabit two rooms and a tiny terrace in a fabulous fin de siècle mansion whose feel is still contemporary; couples favor the restaurant for its romantic, indulgent atmosphere. A pared-down menu hints at the approach: quality over quantity in Gallic standards like onion soup, oysters, a buttery steak frites, duck confit; all ingredients are excellent, leveraging the best of Mexican farms and ranches. Near perfect yet never fussy.
Calle Gob.Protasio Tagle 66A, San Miguel Chapultepec II Secc, 11850 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Tucked away on a quiet San Miguel Chapultepec street, but just next door to lively Colonia Condesa, this odd restaurant’s yellow façade leads to a culinary experience that goes way beyond the food served. Under the direction of Norma Listman and Saqib Keval, Masala y Maíz is a space of culinary encounter between Mexico and India; entrees often mix pickled fruits and vegetables in Latin American styles. The makai pakka combines Mexican esquites with a similar dish from Kenya. The partner-chefs connect food and current events as well; they commit to a socially responsible work environment and the restaurant serves as a progressive events forum. Open for breakfast and lunch, plus Saturday-only brunch.
Quebrada 101, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
The menu at Áperi features dishes prepared with regional ingredients, which provides a big boost to local producers. Chef Olivier Deboise’s kitchen is famous for recipes like roasted foie gras with mango ate paste, a traditional Mexican sweet; tongue poached in consommé and served with moringa-greens vinaigrette; and, for dessert, a squash-blossom panna cotta with ropope ice (ropope is a liqueur made with cream, sugar, and eggs). Reservations are necessary—and you can request a seat at the chef’s table for VIP treatment and a five-course tasting menu. Closed Tuesdays.
Tolstoi 9, Anzures, 11590 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
First established in 1945, in an odd no-man’s-land between Chapultepec and Polanco, Los Panchos calls up the Mexican restaurants you may have known in childhood, with a wide-ranging (laminated) menu, whitewashed walls, and potted plants (not an Edison bulb in sight), plus a garrulous, family-friendly set-up serving trough-sized platters of classic Mexican grub like enchiladas, gorditas, moles, and chicken taquitos, tortilla soup, and tostadas, multi-colored margaritas and, most especially, Mexico’s answer to confit, carnitas: utterly delicious, ferociously caloric chunks of pork, fried in their own fat. The restaurant is perfect for larger groups who make their own tacos seasoned with cilantro, chopped onion, and the full hot-sauce portfolio. Nostalgic and lively, nobody leaves hungry.
Havre 73, Juárez, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The latest spot from Elena Reygadas, chef and owner of the lauded restaurant Rosetta, Café Nin has taken over the second location of her acclaimed bakery, Panadería Rosetta. Named for author Anaís Nin, the menu is eclectic and changes often. Reygadas’ signature pastas share space with dishes like Thai-inspired curry and crab and mango tostadas, and somehow it all works. Grab a seat on the breezy patio, the space feels like a funky Parisian bistro with all the crumbling charm of a Mexican hacienda. Oh, and the pastry counter is open all day.
Galileo 31B, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, 11550 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
When former Israeli commando Guli Dabas opened Guli Hagadol, you might have been forgiven for thinking a name like “Guli the Great” was unbridled narcissism. After a chat with the chef, however, we get it: his life is like an adventure book that swoops from Baghdad to Israel, Lebanon to Yemen. All that, plus rigorous military training, are factors shaping his restaurant, serving favorites from various Middle-Eastern latitudes, all prepared methodically and painstakingly. For erstwhile warrior Guli the Great, “Cooking is logistics.”
This, the bar lauded for the city’s best sliders, has just added another star to its menu: Neapolitan pizza. Regulars are mighty keen on “carbo pepe,” by Chef Miwi (at the helm in this kitchen as well as at acclaimed hipster-heaven Belmondo, both in Roma). Félix remodeled a porch into a garden where they’ve got salads, pastas, and the aforementioned pies. These and other dishes took the chef to Italy, for expert education, leading to experimentation and that perfect dough. Super-chill and friendly, yet the service could hardly be improved.
Río Nazas 50, Cuauhtémoc, 06500 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
This tiny café serves up some of Mexico City’s tastiest breakfasts alongside impeccable coffee. A year and a half out from its opening, it was the first place in town to offer Japanese-siphon-extracted brews. They’re also into methods like dipper and French press; choose from Veracruz, Oaxaca or Chiapas varieties, and even take home some beans. Naturally, with the joe at this level, there’s got to be breakfast of equal caliber; the beet hummus (with poached egg) and the berry French toast are current faves. That said, the menu never, ever bores.
Av. Yucatan 84, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Yes, it’s tiny—and no one knows its name—but this hole in the wall is a new favorite, simply because it’s like no other vibe we’ve seen in the city: an open kitchen and a rustic setting, both a lunch stop and a forum for learning about corn, the ingredient that lent form to Mexican cuisine as we know it today. The big idea came from taco-maker Paulino Martínez, founder of iconic Taquería El Parnita, who reasoned that to make a better taco, you had to get involved starting with corn. It translates to superior grain in everything from sopes and gorditas to atole and tejuino (a slightly fermented corn, brown-sugar and lime beverage).
Orizaba 219, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Wood and ferns, creping vines, and abundant natural light abound in this new outing from the owners of Galanga Thai Kitchen. The menu features Thai classics like tom kha gai soup and green papaya salad, as well as Vietnamese favorites like rice noodles and beef broth with galangal ginger and lemongrass, pok-pok wings, and bahn mi. The gastronomy is notable not just for proven comforts, or even because of freshly harvested ingredients from the garden they maintain in the town of Hidalgo, Morelos; you’ve also got Chef Somri “Anna” Raksamra’s hand when it comes to seasonings. Start out with chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp skewers that you charcoal-roast on a colorful, open-air cart (an homage to food carts that abound along Thai streets). For dessert you’ve got a sweet potato tart—something you won’t find anyplace, anywhere in Mexico City.
95 Calle General Prim
The latest dining room by star chef Jair Téllez (of MeroToro fame), Amaya reflects its proprietor’s belief that quality ingredients speak for themselves, with little need for overdramatic presentations or reliance on technological gimmickry. This translates to scrumptious bistro classics, skewing Mediterranean perhaps, that are by no means afraid to go rich. Regulars order grilled seafood like grouper from the ever-changing menu, or heartier indulgences like slow-cooked lamb or a mammoth pork chop. The attractive dining room features huge casement windows that open to the street; inside, gorgeous tile floors and a bold, colorful mural warm the otherwise stark, industrial decor.
Puebla 121, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
No one quite remembers when the hipsters started flooding into what is still a rather Kiwanis-club-style banquet hall for Mexico’s Spanish community, but they’re here to stay. Arts and media types, often in large, vociferous groups, favor the ground-floor cantina—a wide-open, too-brightly-lit space featuring a fabulous midcentury bar—where they rub elbows with domino-slamming old-timers. Yes, drinking is the big idea, but the menu of old-school Spanish fare (tortilla omelettes, croquetas, seafood, and pork dishes) is entirely serviceable, particularly after midnight when attendance peaks (it’s said it only closes after everyone clears out, almost always in the wee hours). Everyone who’s anyone claims to be “over” Covadonga, yet there they are, nightly, cutting up with beloved friends; keep your eyes peeled for genius writers you wouldn’t recognize anyway.