Mexico’s capital is the largest metropolis in North America, encompassing 573 miles and a population of over 21 million people. The city puts the epic in epicurean, boasting a booming dining scene that highlights the country’s longstanding culinary traditions alongside its finest innovators. To get a taste of Mexico’s heritage and visions of its futures, hit these top Mexico City restaurants the next time you head south of the border.
Chef Edgar Nunez staged at some of the best restaurants in the world – including El Bulli and Noma – before returning home to open this stone-cold stunner on the southern side of the city. The blended indoor-outdoor space punctuated by plants and ponds is low-lit and ultra vibey. Though there’s an emphasis on Mexican ingredients, don’t expect Mexican cuisine. Options might include achiote-spiced grilled octopus, housemade burrata with salsa verde, or fried eggs served with blood sausage and potato chips. Also, not to be missed is Kokeshi, a sushi joint within the restaurant that’s just as enthralling. Make a reservation at Sud 777.
Chef Jorge Vallejo trained under Enrique Olvera at Pujol before opening this contemporary Mexican standout, which borrows its name from the leaves of the amaranth plant. The best way to experience the width and breadth of his talent is to opt for the tasting menu, which might include such traditional ingredients or dishes such as tamales, mole, Mexican caviar (otherwise known as ant larvae), or cactus. The world-class fare is matched by a striking space designed by the chef’s wife, Alejandra Flores, which effortlessly blends naturalism and modernism. Make a reservation at Quintonil.
Celebrated chef Elena Reygadas, who won Restaurant magazine’s Best Woman Chef in Latin America in 2014, takes inspiration from Italy while showcasing Mexican ingredients and flavors. Situated in a charming stone mansion in Roma Norte, the duplex dining room is decorated with frescos and a veritable jungle of hanging plants. Carb loading is a must to ensure you sample the freshly made pastas and breads. Speaking of which, make sure you visit Reygadas’s bakery around the corner, Panaderia Rosetta. You can’t go wrong when you order, though you would be remiss for leaving without trying the fig croissant and guava danish. Make a reservation at Rosetta.
If you only have time for one high-end restaurant while in Mexico City, go here. Over the course of an impeccable tasting menu, chef Enrique Olvera painstakingly and passionately elevates traditional Mexican cuisine to showcase classic ingredients, dishes, and cooking techniques. A perennial favorite is the mole madre, mole nuevo, which features mole negro that’s been cooking for more than three years surrounded by a younger red mole. For a fun experience, try the taco omakase at the bar, which might include a lamb taco with avocado purée and zucchini flower, a pork belly taco with radish and mustard leaf, or a Wagyu beef taco. Make a reservation at Pujol.
By blending Italian and Mediterranean traditions with Mexican ingredients and flavor profiles, chef Elena Reygadas has conjured another winner. Her bustling bistro with plenty of bar space in the Condesa neighborhood has casual atmosphere but couldn’t be more serious when it comes to the food. Breads, charcuterie, and pastas are all made in-house – and you should sample them all prodigiously. The fritos, fried dishes, are also a must, especially the lightly battered half-moons of creamy avocado, which come with a sweet lemon zest salsa hiding a peppery kick. Make a reservation at Lardo.
For nearly seven decades this fonda típica, or neighborhood café, has been honoring Mexico’s culinary traditions. Founded by María Elena Lugo Zermeño, it’s now helmed by her son, Gerardo Vázquez Lugo. Savor dishes like sopa seca de natas (crepe casserole), strawberry salad adorned with edible rose petals, and chicken lavished with almond mole sauce. There are tableside preparations galore – get the guac! – as well as a well-stocked mezcal cart that wheels around the dining room. If you’re not in the mood for spirits, the wine list exclusively highlights Mexican varietals. Make a reservation at Nicos Mexico.
What are your picks for the top restaurants in Mexico City? Let us know here in the comments or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.