Mexico City Weekend Guide: Best Bars and Restaurants
When you mention a visit to Mexico City, you’ll hear one of two things: that it’s one of the largest cities in the world, or that it’s dangerous. The former is true: The Distrito Federal, or DF, has 21 million people. But stop in for a visit and it seems largely removed from the violence that’s happening in the rest of the country. In fact, the city is becoming a model for other fast-growing Latin American cities.
Restaurants are a huge part of the revival, though in some ways Mexico City’s open-air markets remain at the heart of its culinary soul. Ask people for their favorites and keep small bills handy. Just remember, lunch is the big meal of the day here and starts at 2 p.m. Dinner is more like the Spanish tradition: lighter fare when you’re really just getting ready for a night in the bars. Don’t miss out on trying different tequilas and mescals. They drink it here like beer.
As you explore the city, utilize the Metro, which is helping reduce DF’s notorious air pollution and introducing a way around the area’s biggest problem: traffic. You’ll discover a magnificent, architecturally fascinating food paradise that emerges slowly as you cross through interlinked neighborhoods.
Some are as chic as Knightsbridge, while others like Brentwood have more color. Polanco is bustling with brand-new shopping malls, office parks, housing developments, and the most exotic happening in the city: Carlos Slim’s aluminum-tiled, mushroom-shaped Museo Soumaya. It’s as good inside as it is outside. Same for the Museo Jumex.
Don’t be afraid. ¡Bienvenidos!
Contramar: A Mexican brasserie focused on fish. Families, businesspeople, and tourists clamor for the freshest uni shipped daily from Ensenada and topped with salsa. Bustles night and day.
Pujol: Chef Enrique Olvera is to Mexican cuisine what José Andrés is to Spanish cooking. You’ll never think of Mexican food as just tacos ever again. His new Cosme in NYC is even better.
Dulce Patria: Insane glamour from Martha Ortiz. Red floors, themed meals. I had a Día de los Muertos black bean soup. Fun.
Maximo Bistrot: Think of your favorite local French bistro, take it up a notch, then make it Mexican-infused. Try the local wines.
La Nueva Opera: Mexican Revolutionary General Pancho Villa blew a bullet hole in the ceiling in 1910. Probably the most famous bar in Mexico, and one of the few solid ones downtown.
La Terraza at CondesaDF: An art deco hotel in the heart of the trendy Condesa area. You can imagine Diego Rivera walking in.
Biergarten: South of the Column of Independence, it’s on top of the Mercado Roma, with an open terrace and a sliding roof.
Cosmo: In the heart of chic Polanco, this feels like a sophisticated European bar with a Mexican twist. Everyone looks like a million pesos, and many guests have bodyguards.
Airport: It’s a bit chaotic to get in and out of both terminals. Getting there can be even more challenging: Locals will advise you not to take the Metro into town unless you’re bag-free and not to take the taxis. Solution? Car-service apps, which work well here.
Safety: It’s hard to feel unsafe in a city where there’s a policeman with a loaded machine gun at every corner and in every store. Once you get used to that, keep your eyes and wits about you just like anywhere else.
Traffic: At certain hours (9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m.) nothing moves. EcoBici is the local bike-share program. The bicycles are primitive, but they work. The Metro is similar to New York City outside Manhattan. It works but leaves you farther away than you think. Just prepare to walk. With taxis, I stuck to the “No VW Beetle” rule. And don’t hail them from the street, only designated stands.
Seeing the sites: The Palacio de Bellas Artes has Diego Rivera’s original murals (including the one he intended for Rockefeller Center). Walk the vast Plaza de la Constitución dominated by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest in the Americas, as well as the archaeological dig just northwest of it, where they’re uncovering what the Aztecs believed was the true center of the universe.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of Reserve, a Bloomberg Brief publication. Click here for the full issue and to request a subscription invitation.