We Mexicans by nature have strong food cravings and we also like to socialize and share our food. Eating in the street is part of our culture and traditions; we all are the same when eating in a street food stand, food unites us and creates emotional ties. Gathered around the taco stand, social hierarchies drop away momentarily – office employee, student, taxi driver, hipster, important businessman: we all share the space equally.
Mexico City is the fourth most populated city in the world with almost 21 million inhabitants that have arrived from all the states of the Mexican Republic. There are endless restaurants in Mexico City but, without a doubt, the real culture is in the street food. Street food stands decorate the urban landscape and range from fixed and semi-fixed stands, swap meets, stalls in markets, small restaurants (called fondas), and even food trucks.
Below you will find street food suggestions; I’m only listing for you those places I have tried, experienced, and photographed.
At sunrise in Mexico City, there is nothing more appetizing than seeing the vapor rising from the “tamaleras” (large cooking pots where tamales are made). Tamales are by tradition a morning meal. In the northern part of the city, Don Chuy has had his mobile tamales stand in a corner of the street for over twenty years. There you can find several flavors like: mole with almond and walnut, poblano pepper strips with cheese and mushrooms, and pork in green or morita chilli pepper sauce. You can also find sweet tamales: pineapple and walnut, chocolate, flan, Nutella, and cream cheese with blackberry. If you really want to live a 100% “chilango” (slang for Mexico City resident) experience, ask for a “tamal torta”, better known as “guajolota” which is nothing but a tamal inside a “bolillo” or “telera” (bread) and eat it either with a champurrado (chocolate and corn dough based beverage), an atole (corn dough based beverage), coconut flavor is the best, or a café de olla (pot coffee) with cinnamon.
Location: Calzada Camarones almost on the corner of 22 de febrero, Santa María Maninalco. Delegación Azcapotzalco.
Canasta tacos (basket tacos)
People say that eating tacos is almost a profession for Mexico City inhabitants. Canasta tacos were probably the first commercialized kind of taco and are without a doubt the most popular street tacos. Canasta tacos are very soft tacos kept in a cloth-covered basket. There is a stand of delicious canasta tacos in the Colonia Roma just across from the famous restaurant “Delirio”. They are less oily than the ones you find in most places and there are plenty of fillings including: chicharrón (pork cracklings), carne deshebrada (shredded meat), potato, and beans; though the avocado sauce is even better. You can find the stand every morning until 2pm.
Location: On the corner of Monterrey and Álvaro Obregón. Colonia Roma Norte. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
The “al pastor” taco is a tortilla filled with pork cooked in a vertical rotisserie called “trompo” and it is probably the most “chilango” of all tacos. It’s not easy to suggest a single spot: This is a category of taco we have all eaten, all like, and which there are hundreds of options that will always save us during a midnight craving. Today I will suggest “Los Arbolitos” near Televisa San Ángel. It’s a small place with an overwhelming “trompo” and a sublime chile de árbol sauce. To make this a complete experience, eat your tacos with the typical “chilango” soda: guava Boing in a glass bottle (Boing is a Mexican fruit based soda that appeared in the market in the 1940’s).
Location: Veracruz 22, Col. Progreso Tizapán. San Ángel. Delegación Álvaro Obregón.
Pastor and longaniza “Gringa”
The “gringa” is two flour tortillas filled with cheese and al pastor meat then grilled. In the south of Mexico City, you will find “La Taquiza” a place where the top dish is without a doubt the “gringa de pastor”, and if you want a tip, mix it with a taco de longaniza (Mexican spicy sausage) and nopales (prickly pear) and don´t forget to add avocado and serrano chilli sauce. This place also has unbeatable homemade “caldo tlalpeño” (chicken broth with chicken meat, carrots, green beans and chipotle chilli) that can help you recover from a severe hangover ( or “curarse la cruda” like it is said in Spanish).
Location: Ave. Universidad 275, Col. Narvarte. Delegación Benito Juárez.
Suadero (fatty meat)
Suadero is a tender, fatty cut from the area underneath cow´s skin. It’s one of the dishes that defines the culinary personality of Mexico City. “Tony tacos” is a metal stand where the whole experience is enhanced by the aroma that flows from the suadero being fried in pork fat. Dress up your tacos with generous helpings of limes, sauces, onions, nopales, radishes, and pápalo–which is a green plant you’ll see in a vase.
Location: Across from “La Taquiza”
Cabeza de res (cow head)
These steamed tacos are another classic in Mexico City. In general, the tacos should be asked to the taquero (the one who prepares the tacos) one by one. The fillings are varied: brain, eye, maciza (solid meat), cachete (cheek meat), trompa (snout) and even tongue. You can find some excellent cabeza tacos at the “Taquería La Reyna” and it has the advantage that you can order them in chunks, this is, the meat without being chopped (though they are more expensive). I suggest you order a complete eye taco, as well as one of tongue and one of snout. The green sauce with cilantro and radish is the perfect complement.
Location: On the corner of Manzanillo and Bajío, Colonia Roma Sur. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
Tacos de carnitas de puerco (pork meat tacos)
Eating carnitas tacos in Mexico City is a complete ritual: you get to the place, you settle in, you visualize the animal, you remember the part of the pig you like and which one you feel like eating in that moment –because all parts of the pig are used- and then you eat your tacos getting your hands all covered with fat from the meat but doing it with all the attitude. Nothing better to feel one of those guilty pleasures. There is a business called “Carnitas Paty” in the Jamaica market where eating is a real adventure. You will find tacos filled with nana (womb), buche (stomach), trompa (snout), nenepil (womb mixed with stomach), cachete (fat meat), cueritos (fried skin), and oreja (ear). My suggestion is: ask for a combined taco with nana, cuerito and chicharrón, add some red sauce and enjoy this culinary orgasm.
Location: Guillermo Prieto St. S/N. Delegación Venustiano Carranza.
De costilla de puerco (pork ribs)
When you talk about superb tacos, you are talking pork rib taco. I haven’t eaten a better taco de costilla de puerco than the ones that are offered at “El Paisa” and not only for the taco itself but also for the extraordinary experience of also drinking a homemade tepache (a fermented beverage) of pineapple, orange or tamarind. The result of this combination is nothing but a 100% winner. It is definitely a must!
Location: Clavería Avenue just about to the corner of Irapuato, Col. Clavería. Delegación Azcapotzalco.
De guisados (casseroles)
If you want to eat a variety of tacos and feel completely full, you have to go to “Tacos El Güero”. More than ten “cazuelas de barro” (clay cooking pots) filled with different Mexican casseroles are waiting for you: liver, stuffed chilli pepper, nopales, quelites (similar to purslane), rice, picadillo (ground meat), potato and chorizo, among others. Don´t expect to be comfortably seated since there is only one communal table. Nevertheless, you actually don’t need to be comfortable since in a matter of minutes you come out of this place really full (“bien despachado” we colloquially say in Spanish). When I visit this place I eat at least three tacos, one of liver, another of battered cauliflower, and the star of the house: rice with beans and a hard-boiled egg. This is just the right place for anyone who wants to eat well and abundantly.
Location: Amsterdam 135 almost on the corner of Michoacán, Colonia Hipódromo Condesa. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
De pierna y pechuga (pork leg and turkey breast)
While walking around the beautiful Colonia Clavería I found this place called “Tortas de antes” (something like tortas from the old times). I was gladly surprised when I saw the quality ingredients they work with. Their specialty is pork leg and turkey breast authentically roasted in the old fashion way. The teleras (bread) are slightly toasted on a pan (“as God commands”) and as complement they have homemade pickled chili and vegetables. To drink, I think the best option is a classic Sidral Mundet (Mexican apple soda that appeared in the 1930’s).
Location: Clavería 54, Col. Clavería. Delegación Azcapotzalco.
(Chilaquiles are a traditional dish in Mexico and they are made with fried pieces of corn tortilla covered with a spicy red or green sauce.)
A must in Colonia Condesa is without a doubt the chilaquil corner. It takes patience for the endless line of old and new clients that day after day visit this place. The preparation of the torta is simple: a spread of beans inside the bolillo (bread) and then filled with green or red chilaquiles. The seasoning is perfect. The complements you cannot miss are cream and avocado. If you visit this place, do it with an open mind and stomach and ask for “la bomba”: mixed red and green chilaquiles, breaded chicken breast, cochinita (pork based dish) and the corresponding complements. One of the highest caloric delicacies in Mexico City.
Location: On the corner of Alfonso Reyes and Tamaulipas, Col. Condesa. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
Col. Condesa. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
TOSTADAS (deep fried corn tortillas)
De caracol y aguachile
Tacos and seafood “Los Sinaolenses” offers, as indicated by its name, genuine recipes from that blessed region: Sinaloa. The tostadas of aguachile and ceviche de caracol (fresh raw winkles cured in lime juice) are superb and go perfectly along with the house michelada (prepared beer). As something additional and in order to get the sea / land combination order the star taco: torito de arrachera: skirt steak with cheese in a flour tortilla with roasted güero chilli. I must confess that I am a loyal and frequent client of this place.
Location: Calle Bajío between Tlacotalpan and Salina Cruz, Col. Roma Sur. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
Caldo de migas (crumb broth)
This is a traditional dish exclusively associated with Mexico City and it dates back to the time of the Mexican Revolution. It is said that the housewives prepared it with leftovers of bolillo and beef bones. Through time, it has passed from being a dish for poor people to being a culinary delicacy of beef backbone, garlic, guajillo chilli, fresh epazote and small pieces of previously roasted bolillo (bread). In the central part of the area known as Atzcapotzalco in Mexico City you can find a “fonda” (very small restaurant) where “la doña” (the woman in charge of the fonda) will attend to you in the best way inside the garage of her house where the tables and chairs are located.
Location: Capilla de los Reyes almost on the corner of Av. Azcapotzalco, Col. Los Reyes. Delegación Azcapotzalco.
“El Falafelito” is the best place for those who like good, nice, and cheap (bueno, bonito y barato), as well as healthy, food. Located in the heart of the Colonia Condesa, it is a place where you can enjoy its varied combos and a wonderful view of the traditional park “Parque México”. Do not forget to try the hummus.
Location: Av. México 105, Col. Hipódromo Condesa. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
Ice cream and popsicles
Ice-cream is one of the most enjoyable cravings no matter how old you are. The “QBE” ice-cream shop is worth recommending because of its natural products and its ample and original variety of flavors like green grape, pico de gallo (literally “beak of rooster”, it is a fresh tomato, onion and chilli salad), horchata (rice based drink), orange, rompope (eggnog-like drink), cherry, jicama, cucumber, and my favorite ones: red wine, mint, and mandarin. Besides ice-cream, they also sell popsicles, aguas frescas (fruit based water), and even desserts. My suggestion is: buy your ice cream, cross the street, and enjoy it sitting at one of the benches in the park. Simple and happy things/moments in life.
Location: Adolfo Prieto almost on the corner of Pilares (across from the park “Tlacoquemécatl”), Col. del Valle. Delegación Benito Juárez.
Juices and shakes
Juice stands are all over the city, and surely there is at least one of them in every colonia. The stand I trust does not have name but the fruit is always fresh, the attention is more than nice and all the classic juices are prepared including: the “antigripal” (anti-flu), and the “dietético” (dietary). They also sell milk shakes, aguas frescas, and fruit cocktails.
Location: On the corner of Manzanillo and Tlaxcala, Col. Roma Sur. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
Esquite is nothing but corn grains boiled in water with salt and epazote. It has different names all over the country; for example, in Tamaulipas (my homeland) they are called “trolelotes”. The recipes to prepare them are also varied but the basic and main ingredients are: lime, salt, chilli powder, butter, mayonnaise, and cheese. The stand on Moliere street is very famous; the corn is fresh and the chilli powder is particularly good. Everyday there is a line to buy esquites and the stand opens daily from 7 to 10:30 pm (at which time there is not a single grain left, I know…). Try to arrive earlier than 10 pm so that you don’t go in vain.
Location: On the corner of Moliere and Ejército Nacional, Colonia Polanco. Delegación Miguel Hidalgo.
Chicharrones (pork cracklings)
Bajío Street is without a doubt one of the most lively streets in Colonia Roma. Besides having all kind of establishments, there is a street market every Saturday. Among the great variety of food offered there, the just taken out of the pot pork chicharrón stands above all. My suggestion: buy 20 pesos of chicharrón, cover it with Valentina sauce (tipical Mexican hot sauce), and eat it as a snack while you walk along the three streets the market occupies and decide where you will have lunch or dinner. Believe me, you have to walk these streets, the camaraderie there cannot be found in too many places.
Location: On the corner of Bajío and Salina Cruz, Col. Roma Sur. Delegación Cuauhtémoc.