clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Helen Rosner

Filed under:

Eater's Guide to Hipster Mexico City

Where to find vegan al pastor, third wave coffee, and indie mezcal with a side of succulents

Flip through any new coffee table book about design, and inevitably you'll find that a good portion of the examples of cool will be located in Mexico City. Smart, achingly hip businesses abound in the country’s capital, and every member of the creative class is a designer, an architect, or an artist. The buzziest places of bourgeois hipness are, unsurprisingly, concentrated in the fashionable neighborhoods. Whether you view them as valuable additions or visible signs of gentrification, the city is changing rapidly, from the Condesa/Roma axis, spreading to la Juárez and San Rafael, east to Centro, and down to Narvarte.

The city has seen a broadening of taste in recent years. Chilangos are hungry for cuisine that is not Mexican, as seen in the Japanese, barbecue, pizza, and farm-to-table restaurants opening in spades. The masterful design of many restaurants doesn’t always indicate culinary heft, but give it time; there are gastronomic innovators digging in their claws, and the city's nascent coffee, tea, beer, and wine movements are evolving quickly.

Here's where you'll want to go if you're in the market for forward-looking aesthetics, global sensibilities and palates, and high-design Instagram bait.

Contramar interior

Photo courtesy Viernes Media Lab

Contramar: Mention Mexico City and 15-year-old institution Contramar will, no doubt, come up in the conversation. One of the first modern casual restaurants in the city, it remains the darling of the Condesa dining scene for its tuna tostadas, grilled fish, and a convivial atmosphere. The customers are beautiful and the desserts are no slouch, either. Calle Durango 200, Condesa

El Bósforo: A raw space behind a red curtain holds the best mezcalería in town. Spirits from around Mexico, from San Luis Potosí to Puebla are kept in unmarked glass bottles; glasses are poured to the brim by a genial staff. The owner, who is often behind the bar, commands an excellent, eclectic soundtrack. The place offers just one dish — a hefty quesadilla, served with an excellent grasshopper salsa — but recently opened an unnamed restaurant right next door serving a larger menu. Luis Moya 31, Centro

Cine Tonalá: The crowd mixes jovially at this arthouse theater with a bar, a restaurant (burgers, pizza, salads), and a pleasant, open patio. Go for a pint and a movie and soak up the local Roma scene. A neighborhood staple, the space also holds drink n’ draws, stand-up, and dance performances. Tonalá 261, Roma

Panaderia Rosetta Photo by Helen Rosner

Photo by Helen Rosner

Panadería Rosetta: Panadería Rosetta is the fulcrum in chef Elena Reygadas' mini-empire (Rosetta, Lardo). Exemplary pastries are piled on top of the counter, which gets cramped early in the day. Pick up some doughnuts, danishes, conchas, tarts, cookies, and bread — there are no bad choices, and take them to go. Calle Havre 73, Roma

Felina: A wave of new cocktail bars has crashed upon the city in a gin-and-tonic wave; most are still finding their balance but Felina, housed on a dark corner of Condesa, is no rube. The bartenders are precise and unhurried, serving classics and new, inventive cocktails with ballast. Calle Ometusco 87, Condesa

Por Siempre VeganaTaquería: Even though most taquerias deal in the pleasure of rich, fatty meats, Mexican cuisine is no stranger to vegetarian, even vegan cooking. This nighttime taco stand offers vegan versions of all the classics: al pastor, suadero, campechano. Look for a swarm of eaters chowing down on the street. Calle Manzanillo at Calle Chiapas, Roma

Buna Cafe Rico

Photo by Helen Rosner

Buna: A well-designed salute to third wave coffee, Buna is an agreeable cafe serving Mexican-grown coffee. There’s a succinct breakfast menu and beer in the evening, if you want it. Orizaba 42, Roma

Hotel Carlota: This newly opened boutique hotel draws in scenesters for the cocktails and the contemporary urban-chic design, but there is also an excellent restaurant on the ground floor. Chefs Joaquín Cardoso and Sofía Cortina are cooking smart, Mexican-inflected fare. There's top-notch bread too, in a city that lacks it. Río Amazonas 73, Cuauhtémoc

Rockai: Rockai remains the definitive Japanese restaurant in the city. A charming sushi bar of smooth, flaxen wood is a nice place to perch for their omakase of raw fish, sushi, and tempura. Tiny and popular, so a reservation is a must. Calle Río Ebro 87, Cuauhtémoc

Mercado Roma

Photo courtesy Viernes Media Lab

Mercado Roma: The nuevo mixed-use food hall, à la Grand Central Market in LA and UrbanSpace Vanderbilt in NYC, has hit Mexico City. This is the place to witness how the upwardly mobile like to socialize, in a three-story space with stalls from some of the city’s more popular restaurants. There are lots of communal tables, local, artisanal products, and a craft beer hall on the open-air terrazzo. Querétaro 225, Roma Norte

La Clandestina: Though it has gotten pricier over the years and can be clogged with revelers during peak hours, La Clandestina is still a cozy place to sample the country’s mezcals, flanked by sliced oranges sprinkled with worm-salt, in a low-lit bar with flickering candles and a bit of a steam-punk vibe. Avenida Alvaro Obregón 298, Condesa

Mercado 100: Mercado 100 is a local, weekly farmer’s market with natural and organic producers bringing in fruits and vegetables from the provinces. There’s a coffee cart, green juices, and plants for sale. The experience is as much about stocking your larder as it is about running into the neighbors and sharing gossip. Sundays at the corner of Toluca and Antonio M. Anza, Roma, and other locations throughout the week


Photo courtesy Viernes Media Lab

Cucurucho: This cafe serves locally roasted, Mexican beans from various states — one of a few in a tiny brigade of third wave coffee houses of the city. They now have two locations and a large roaster in the works. Tonalá 183, Roma

Mono: The thump of global house is the beating heart of this mansion-turned-club, a hotspot in the city’s nightlife that often brings in DJs from Europe and NYC. On Friday and Saturday evenings, there’s a snaking line of hipsters clamoring to get in. Calle Versalles 64, Juárez.

Lalo: White-hot Mexico City chef Eduardo García opened this casual café across the street from his constantly packed restaurant Máximo Bistro. There's an open kitchen in the back, a long coffee and takeout bar along one wall, and a mural by Belgian artist David Derop on the other. The single, massive table is packed with beautiful people digging into lazy breakfasts of avocado toast and cafe con leche.
Zacatecas 173, Roma

Quintonil dessert

Photo courtesy Viernes Media Lab

Quintonil: Ranked on the San Pellegrino 50 Best List for Latin America, Quintonil is a lauded fine-dining restaurant. Chef Jorge Vallejo offers elegant, modern Mexican fare chock-full of obscure indigenous ingredients, with wild plating to match. The 10-course prix fixe is the way to go. Newton 55, Polanco

Porco Rosso: Long communal tables, herb boxes, and shipping containers give a Brooklyn vibe to this temple of barbecue. The brisket is respectable, and there’s also pulled pork, ribs, smoked chicken, and all the fixings. Calle Orizaba at the corner of Zacatecas, Roma

Milan 44: Multistoried, mixed-used spaces are the business model of the year for Mexico City’s central neighborhoods. Milan 44 is one of the newest, holding Ojo de Agua, a charming coffee bar from Rompeolas, vendors selling succulents and organic teas, plus offices and a yoga studio, all under one roof. Milan 44, Juárez

Café Paraíso: Afro-Caribbean music is the focus in this new club that feels like a lush lounge in Havana. Funk, soul, tropicália, salsa, cumbia, and the occasional international electronica DJ are hidden behind a dark hallway spiked with neon flamingos. People are here, in groups, to sip polished cocktails and get down on the dance floor. Plaza Villa de Madrid 17, Roma

Lead photo: Lalo, by Helen Rosner

Eater Travel

The Bahamas Fish Fry Is the Ultimate Caribbean Feast

Eater Travel

The Definitive Guide to Classic British Foods

Eater Travel

Singapore Street Food Guide: What and Where to Eat

View all stories in Eater Travel