Mexico City Street Eats – The best local places to eat in Mexico City
One of the best parts of travelling is tasting all the wonderful food. That is certainly no exception in Mexico City. There are hundreds of restaurants to try, from street vendors to 5 star restaurants covering cuisine from the whole country and then some. This is an article for those who are willing to get out of their comfort zone and try the real food of Mexico sitting on ‘banquito’ at a (possibly dirty) plastic table surrounded by Spanish-speaking locals. Here are some recommendations for things you must taste while in Mexico City!
Tacos al Pastor
You must try an al Pastor taco, they are the quintessential taco of Mexico City. You’ll find them on almost every street corner and can’t walk past the delicious smell. You won’t find them elsewhere in the rest of Mexico with the same flavor. They are pork marinated in something amazing and cooked on a spit (fish-and-chip shop souvlaki style) served in tiny corn tortillas with piña, cilantro and cebolla (pineapple, coriander and onion). To eat them Mexican style, simply squeeze on a little fresh lime juice, a decent helping of salt and add salsa to your liking. Yum!
El Tigre de la Revolucion, San Rafael, Mexico City
My absolute favorite Pastor tacos in the city are at the ‘Tiger’, a local institution in the local up and coming neighbourhood of San Rafael. The Tiger began as a street stand on the corner before this neighbourhood developed and they now run a successful (and busy) local. The ‘Tiger’ himself is rarely seen, but the 3 regular taco guys are there every Monday – Saturday cooking up what I think are the tastiest tacos in Mexico! Pastor tacos are a steal at only 5 pesos each (roughly 40 cents AUD!).
You can’t visit El Tigre without trying a ‘campechano’ as well – beef and chorizo mixed with potato and nopales (fresh cactus – strange but surprisingly tasty) cooked on the grill with melted Oaxaca cheese, the King of all the cheeses, and then served in a big tortilla. The salsas here are a little spicy so add at your own risk and enjoy these tacos with a refreshing fruit water or an ice cold coke.
Some photos from Foursquare reviews above.
El Tigre is located at Calle Valentin Gomez Farias 39, San Rafael, Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico and is easily accessed by the Metrobus (Plaza de la Republica) – simply exit to the left of the station, cross the square outside VIPS and you will see its big, green sign. Go on an empty stomach as I guarantee you won’t stop at 1. Enjoy!
Pulque is an acquired taste. It is a traditional alcoholic beverage made from the Agave plant and is traditional to Mexico. Pulque has a thick, milky consistency and a some-what sour taste. I’m not too fond of traditional pulque; However, flavoured pulque is delicious! Pulque is a Mexican institution and a must do on every visitors list.
La Hija de los Apaches Pulqueria
This Pulqueria is one of the oldest in Mexico City and one of the most colourful. You will see an odd crowd here depending on the time of the day, but don’t let the strange exterior or the tight security scare you off. Once you enter it is like a walk through history, with interesting advertisements, posters and décor. It is run down, rustic and a little dusty but offers several different flavoured pulques to try and typical Mexican bar snacks. Try Mexican chilli nuts that are usually being sold by an old guy inside or if you are feeling really adventurous try the fried crickets! They are the Mexican equivalent of a bowl of bar nuts or potato chips. I recommend the Mango Pulque (if its available) and after a couple of glasses you might even be brave enough to get up for the karaoke being sung. If you want to continue the fun, an entertaining evening can be had watching the Lucha Libre, the hilarious Mexican wrestling that is just a couple of blocks away. Note: This isn’t the best neighbourhood in Mexico City. I recommend visiting the Pulqueria in the afternoon and not taking all your valuables with you. Caution is key as with any tourist destination.
La Hija de los Apaches can be found at: Calle Dr. Claudio Bernard 149, Cuauhtémoc, Doctores, 06720 Ciudad de Mexico, D.F.
This roughly translates to fast food and is the staple lunch of working Mexicans. Lunch is typically the main meal and they certainly take advantage of it. A typical ‘Comida Corrida’ has 3 – 4 courses and is priced somewhere between 30 – 80 pesos, depending on the location. The first course or ‘tiempo’ is always a soup – sopa or crema, meaning a water-based broth or a creamy, thicker soup. Next up will usually be rice, pasta or salad – Mexicans typically order arroz con huevo (rice with a fried egg) which is delicious! Next up will be the main course or ‘plato fuerte’ – this could be a range of things! If chilaquiles is on the menu I would highly recommend it! Typically a breakfast staple this dish consists of crunchy tortilla chips soaked in a slightly spicy green or red salsa topped with cream, cheese and onion – often served with milanesa (thin pieces of crumbed meat) or a fried egg. Other classic dishes include enfrijoladas (enchiladas with a bean sauce), flautas (crunchy fried tacos), Mole (a sauce from the Yucatan region of Mexico that can be sweet and chocolatey or spicy) and pechuga a la plancha (grilled chicken breast) just to name a few. Often they will serve you a desert after your plato fuerte which is almost always a little bowl of jelly! All comidas corridas are served with a jug of fruit water, whatever the specialty of the day is. I guarantee you will leave completely stuffed and with tingling tastebuds!
You can find these restaurants all over Mexico City. Usually with a hand-written sign out front showing the ‘Menu del Dia’. Here is a list of some common foods translated to English.
Tacos de Guisado
The typical lunch stand food of busy Mexicans. Tacos de Guisado are more traditional home-style tacos. It is always two corn tortillas, with rice and whatever guisado you desire. I love Chile Relleno – a crumbed capsicum stuffed with cheese and then fried as well as well as piccadillo – a mince-meat based taco. Common favourites include chicharron – pork skin or crackling, typically cooked in a green salsa and bistek (steak) tacos. If you are a little squirmish like me, steer clear of lengua (tongue), ojo (eye) or cabeza (head) tacos. Most Tacos de Guisado are around 8 pesos (75 cents AUD) each.
There are many great Tacos de Guisado close to Metro Insurgentes or any main street or metro station in the city! I recommend eating at one that is busy, with alot of locals – if the taco stand is busy then you know it is good!
The Torta. The holy grail of sandwiches. Born and raised on the streets of Mexico City. Nowhere else will you find this phenomenon. A humble sandwich, crafted by artists in a little street stand that will make you never want to leave DF. Tortas are a staple here in Mexico City. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s not important. You can’t pass by that little stand without smelling the frying meat and melting cheese. Can’t walk past and watch someone eating a Cubana without stopping for one yourself. On the surface, it looks like a giant sandwich. But it’s hot? So it’s a focaccia? No, that’s not quite right either. I would describe a torta as a giant, hot, meaty, cheesy roll. It is massive! A giant bread roll full of an assortment of different meats, cheeses and occasionally a little bit of salad – ie. avocado. They are greasy and filling and the tastiest sandwich-roll you will ever try. There are the simple tortas like the Hawaiiana – self explanatory really; ham, cheese, pineapple and usually avocado. The ham and pineapple are grilled and the cheese is melted. Heaven. Then there are the Mexican inspired tortas with pierna (leg ham), chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, milanesa, fried egg and of course, chilli! Then there is the ‘cubana’. The cubana is not just a torta; it is the torta. The King of the tortas if you will. This monster is the biggest sandwich you may ever see. I daresay you will struggle to get it into your mouth. The Cubana has a little bit of everything, and I mean everything that they have to offer. Pierna, Jamon, Milanesa, Salchicha, Chorizo, Pollo, Tocino and thats just the meat! Then they add a fried egg, some Oaxaca cheese, some American cheese, avocado, pickles, jalapeños, mayo and whatever salsa you desire. This monster is the ulimate torta. Typical Mexico City style cuisine. On the street. Fast. Easy. Cheap. Greasy. It ticks all the boxes for truly great Mexico City street food. You must try a torta at least once during your visit.
You can find torta stands all over the city. Look for the white boxes that say Ricas Tortas Calientes.
There are many other tasty treats to be had in Mexico City on the street such as elotes, frutas, jugos, pozole and more, but these are the most common and in my opinion the tastiest and most traditional street eats in Mexico City. Good luck exploring the city and taking your taste buds on a cultural adventure.