Desayuno is beloved here, whether it’s a tamal steamed on the street or a hearty platter of chilaquiles at a restaurant downtown. Here's a rundown of four very different types of breakfasts in Mexico City, plus a helpful guide to the city's various coffee options.
The Pastry Breakfast
On weekday mornings, breakfast in Mexico City tends to be a quick affair. On their way to work, many opt to grab a juice or licuado, a fruit-and-milk smoothie that's sometimes made with oats or another grain. By mid-morning, locals are ready for a snack (sometimes called a merienda) and head in search of pastries. Bicycle vendors peddle danishes and conchas (sweet bread rolls covered with cookie or icing) on the street, and there’s a bakery on almost every corner offering a wide variety of treats.
For a truly classic experience, head to Pastelería Ideal, one of the gems of El Centro. This sprawling bakery dates back to 1927 and has been running nonstop since. Famous both for their pastries and their wrapping methods, which involve a swift twist of the wrist, the bakery's conchas are especially beloved. Crowds of people come to buy bread here, too.
República de Uruguay 74, Centro
The Fonda Breakfast
For those who need a heartier start to the day, fondas provide the ideal menu. These small, casual restaurants evolved out of the homes and dining rooms of women who would cook a basic three-course meal for neighbors and passers-by. Now legitimate businesses, fondas still offer a casual, homey option for early risers. Almost always on offer are guisados, egg dishes, and cafe de olla, a cinnamon-spiced and piloncillo-sweetened coffee that simmers away in an olla (clay pot) or metal pot all morning long, ready to be ladled into round mugs and enriched with cool milk.
Fonda Margarita is one of the city’s best. Service starts at 5:30 a.m., and the kitchen runs out of food before noon. It is a family-run place that does all its cooking in huge pots placed on a bed of charcoal. The fixed menu changes every day, ranging from guisados to soups or steak with tortillas and cactus. Best bets to try include the longaniza in salsa verde, and the famous black beans mixed with egg.
Adolfo Prieto 1364 B, Col. del Valle
The Weekend Restaurant Breakfast
On the weekends, Mexicans often enjoy a leisurely breakfast at a proper restaurant where a dozen egg dishes grace the menu, the beans are fried in house, and the coffee drinks are made to order. At El Cardenal (Palma 23, Centro), the owners know that good ingredients are important, and they take care with their salsas and toppings, like sour cream and cheese. The pastries are baked in-house; the restaurant is famous for their chocolate conchas with nata (clotted cream). The mixiote and the cecina enchilada are also very much worth checking out. Over in trendy Roma, find a younger, more upwardly-mobile crowd at Lalo (Zacatecas 173, Roma), where hipsters crowd along a massive communal table to eat sticky buns, avocado toast, and eggs scrambled with escamoles (ant larvae), and catch up on the goings-on of the night before.
The Hangover Curing Breakfast
By Friday, everyone is nursing a hangover, and the city is full of cures like birria, seafood soup, and barbacoa. On weekends, thousands of barbacoa stands arrive in the city from Estado de México and Tlaxcala. For barbacoa cooked in a traditional oven, go to Los Tres Reyes, an icon with over half of century of history. Nearly 100 sheep go through their ovens every single week, and they sell the meat by the weight. Los Tres Reyes is truly famous for its consomé, full-bodied with the flavors of the meat, which is served in a small cup. All the sides and additions such as tortillas, radish, and avocado are sold separately, so take notice when you get the check.
Murillo 94, Santa María Nonoalco
A note on coffee: Though tisanes and tea-spiked infusions can be found in many cafes, coffee is the beverage of choice in Mexico City. On Sundays, chilangos enjoy a simple breakfast consisting of coffee with milk, called café de chinos, probably because restaurants run by Chinese immigrants started to sell them in the 1930s and 1940s. Concentrated coffee, almost syrup, is poured into a glass at the table, and the customer decides how much hot water to add. Then, the server pours boiling milk into the glass to complete the drink.
As mentioned earlier, another type of coffee to keep an eye out for is café de olla, an old-fashioned drink that is made by boiling ground coffee along with a cinnamon stick and piloncillo, an organic brown sugar. Regular coffee and espresso is also easily found. Coffee is grown in 12 Mexican states, and roasters that have been operating for decades still roast in Mexico City.
Header photo: Eggs with escamoles at Lalo