Along with Copenhagen, Cape Town and Bordeaux, Mexico City is rapidly earning its stripes as one of the most exciting culinary cities. From the bountiful markets of DF (short for Distrito Federal) to its venerable taco trucks and white-tablecloth gastronomic palaces, there is a culinary renaissance afoot here that has foodie travelers firing on all cylinders. With countless hot new spots mining the country’s rich and diverse culinary heritage, chefs who “studied abroad” at the best international restaurants putting down roots at home, and a burgeoning middle class packing into the restaurants every night of the week, it’s hard not to have a memorable meal here. Don’t forget to ask around for a street-food recommendation, as your favorite taco (or tamale, or tostada, or torta…) will likely be enjoyed off of a paper plate, sitting on the curb. Here, our picks for three restaurants not to miss on any Mexico City itinerary. Reservations are a must for each one.
For the coolest lunch scene in the DF, look no further than Contramar, a mainstay for fashionable locals since it opened in 1998. With its high-ceilinged, thatch-paneled dining room, the restaurant wouldn’t look out of place on a beach in Buzios or Tulum rather than in the city’s Roma neighborhood. Weather permitting, you’ll find the eatery’s tall doors flung open to create a terrace hopping with beautiful people who come to see and be seen—and dine on Contramar’s impeccable ceviches, whole grilled fish and calamari tacos. You cannot go and not try the legendary tostadas de atún, raw tuna on a crispy tortilla topped with chipotle mayonnaise and fresh-cut avocado slices.
Enrique Olvera’s Pujol essentially put Mexico City (and the country as a whole) on the map as a food destination to be reckoned with when it opened nearly 15 years ago. Here, in a minimalist dining room peppered with local power players in the prestigious neighborhood of Polanco, the modernist tasting menu combines the region’s ancient recipes with 21st-century innovation and savoir-faire. Olvera might cook liquid quesadilla shots, braise short ribs for 20 hours, or serve corn smothered with a mayonnaise made with coffee and powdered chicatana ants.
A pedigreed alumni from the kitchens of Pujol and New York City’s Le Bernardin, chef Eduardo Garcia and his wife Gabriela opened Maximo Bistrot in a former medical supply store in 2012. The unpretentious restaurant, located in the bohemian enclave of La Roma, is a farm-to-table paradise that is often referred to as the Chez Panisse of Mexico City. Fresh, seasonal ingredients from local markets are used in innovative dishes often inspired by French and Italian cuisine. The menu changes daily, but you might expect to find dishes such as tender grilled baby octopus with sautéed huitlacoche or decadent lechon (pork) confit on any given day. A well-curated selection of wines, including some unusual Mexican vintages, rounds out the (relatively) affordable menu.
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