Pro Tip 1: If the street food smells good and looks good, it’s probably good. Don’t pass it up.
Pro Tip 2: Sanborn’s, a chain restaurant (owned by the department store of the same name), is Mexico City’s answer to Denny’s — but it's far better, simply by virtue of the fact that it serves Mexican food. If you find yourself in a culinary dead zone, however unlikely that may be, there's still probably a Sanborn’s nearby, brightly lit and waiting for you with a warm bowl of pozole, a plate of enchiladas, and hot, black coffee.
Zocalo and the Templo Mayor Museum
CAFE: La Selva Café is part of a chain of coffeehouses that has locations in cities throughout the country, and its coffee is reliably good. The beans are sustainably and ethically sourced from the Mexican state of Chiapas. Plaza de La Constitución No. 17, Local F, Tlalpan; Open Monday-Sunday 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.
BAR/RESTAURANT: A somewhat secret restaurant with a fantastic view, El Mayor serves cocktails all day. Order the duck mole tostadas if you arrive in time for lunch. Calle República de Argentina 15 Planta Alta, Cuauhtemoc; Open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
BAR/SNACK: The craft beer scene is alive and well in DF. At Hilaria Gastrobar sample dozens of Mexican microbrews and snack on tacos, sopas, and quesadillas. Av. Francisco I. Madero 57, Cuauhtémoc, Col. Centro; Sunday 11 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., Monday-Friday 1 until 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.
RESTAURANT: As old school as they come, El Cardenal used to be a traditional cantina, but is now a full-service restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Palma 23, Centro Histórico, Centro; Open daily 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
Bellas Artes and the Diego Rivera Museum
CAFE: Sip an espresso or cappuccino with the locals at this small coffee bar that serves beans from Cafe Villarias, which has been roasting coffee grown in Chiapas since 1942. The counter is small and the service friendly but brisk. López 68-A, Cuauhtémoc, Centro; Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
CAFE/SNACK: If you’d rather relax at a table, consider walking a few blocks further to Churrería El Moro, where the churros are made to order and the waitresses (in prim uniforms) pour the hot chocolate in thin streams from pitchers held on high. Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 42, Cuauhtémoc, Centro; Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
BAR: Get a buzz from a cup of pulque flavored with berries, pineapple, coconut, mango, or oatmeal at Pulquería Las Duelistas, a lively afternoon hangout that looks and feels like a punk bar. Calle Aranda, Cuauhtémoc, Centro; Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.
BAR: Guests of Miralto, the bar connected to the observation deck of the Torre Latinoamericana, don't have to pay for the ride up to take in the view. The drinks are overpriced, but they get the job done. Torre Latinoamericana, Eje Central #2, Piso 41, Cuauhtémoc; Open 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. most nights except Sundays and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
SNACK: Walk away from Bellas Artes, the palace, and down Lopez street. Three blocks down, you'll find a long stall with a poster that reads "Ricos Tlacoyos y Quesadillas Lights." What sets this place apart from the dozens of other stands are the guisados which they will fold into each quesadilla by request. Alternately, Fonda mi Lupita is a narrow shop a few steps from the famous Mercado San Juan that specializes in mole. Order a tortilla, freshly pressed from a neighborhood tortillería, blanketed in mole of the day. Buen Tono 22, Centro, Cuauhtémoc; Sunday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 1 until 6 p.m.
RESTAURANT: La Operá is a classic restaurant in the center of the city where boleros croon, couples swoon, and ladies lunch. Dinner tends to be a bit more formal, though there's no official dress code. 5 de Mayo 10, Cuauhtémoc; Sunday 1 p.m. until 6 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 1 p.m. until 12 a.m.
National Museum of Anthropology
CAFE: Designed in the style of a French patisserie, everything at Amado bakery inside the Hyatt Regency is as delicious as it looks. The blueberry danish is made using textbook French technique and then coated in puffed amaranth, an indigenous grain. Well-made coffee and tea is also on offer. Campos Elíseos 204, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco; Sunday 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
BAR: The food at J by José Andrés, DC-based chef José Andrés' newish restaurant in DF is unfortunately mostly mediocre, but the drinks are just fine — and a plate of jamón iberico will never, ever disappoint. Campos Elíseos 252, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco; Open daily until 11 p.m. and later on the weekends.
SNACK: A novelty only really popular with kids, Dorilocos is a bombastic dish that can be found at any of the stalls hawking packaged chips, and is worth trying at least once. Available from mid-day until just after dark.
RESTAURANT: Rub elbows with diplomats and politicians at Chapulín, a newer restaurant inside the Intercontinental Hotel. Chef Josefina López Méndez is an expert in regional Mexican cuisine; the place is named for the grasshopper, a popular indigenous sidewalk snack. Campos Elíseos 218, Polanco; Sunday 1 until 6 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 1 until 11 p.m.
El Angel de la Independencia
CAFE: Cafebrería El Péndulo is a chain of bookstore cafes that are reliably pleasant and serve a full menu of coffee drinks. It’s also a great place to kill time if a rainstorm comes along. Calle Hamburgo #126, Cuauhtemoc, Zona Rosa, Juárez; Sunday 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.
BAR: In the same building as the Cafebrería is Bukowski's Bar, named for legendary writer Charles Bukowski. On the weekends there's live jazz. Calle Hamburgo #126, Cuauhtemoc, Zona Rosa, Juárez; Open daily 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. and later on the weekends.
RESTAURANT: La Casa del Toño is a 24-hour operation that serves excellent pozole all day; the quesadillas, tacos, and enchiladas are great too. Wine and beer only. Londres 144, Cuauhtémoc, Juárez; Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Monumento a la Revolución
CAFE: The only decent place to eat near this massive structure is inside of it. There’s a cafe and sandwich shop downstairs, and upstairs there’s a cafe with seats — and a view.
CAFE: There's a perfectly serviceable cafe inside the Museo Soumaya, owned by telecom magnate Carlos Slim. But at the cafe inside the museum next door, Garat Café Museo Jumex, your coffee drink will come decorated with teddy bear latte art. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Miguel Hidalgo; Sunday 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.; Closed Mondays; Tuesday-Friday 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; Saturday 1:30 until 9:30 p.m.
BAR/RESTAURANT: A site for banquets and weddings walking distance from the museum, La Hacienda de los Morales is a grand, sprawling ranch. It's a bit formal, but a lovely setting to wander, with a garden in the back. Ask for a couch in the lounge and a waiter will offer drinks and complimentary bar bites.
For lunch, dine in the central atrium, or grab a seat in the dining room that opens for dinner. Prices are steep, but the chiles en nogada, prim service, and people-watching make it worth it. Av Juan Vázquez de Mella 525, Miguel Hidalgo; Daily 10 a.m. until 12 a.m. midnight.
CAFE: Café Ruta de la Seda is a local hangout with a casual vibe and some outdoor seating. Get a cappuccino and a kougin amann — they make the French pastry here with piloncillo, a natural sugar popular throughout Latin America. Calle Aurora 1, Coyoacán, Del Carmen; 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.
SNACK: Chocolates D'vicar is an artisanal chocolate shop. Try the dark chocolate bon bons studded with pecans and almonds. Ayuntamiento #34, Local E, Esquina G. Perez Valenzuela; Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
RESTAURANT: More of a stall, Restaurante El Venadito makes tacos a la plancha and only tacos a la plancha. The meat — chopped to order — is flavorful and plentiful. Av. Universidad 1701 Colonia Agricola Chimalistac; 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily.
Frida Kahlo Museum
CAFE: A casual cafe with a sliver of an open kitchen and freshly baked pastries, Rafaella also offers a small menu of savory bites. Londres 10B, Del Carmen; Sunday 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
CAFE: Several blocks closer to the museum, Drupa Cafe is more bohemian than Rafaella, but serves a great cup of coffee. Londres & Corina, Del Carmen; Monday-Friday 8 a.m. until 8:30; Saturday 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
BAR: The family who owns Los Danzantes in Coyoacán's central district also makes mezcal, so the drinks here are great. It's not a place to find quiet, however: The establishment is located right off Coyoacán's public square. Plaza Jardín Centenario No.12, Coyoacán; Sunday 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.; Monday-Thursday 1:30 p.m. until 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. until 1 a.m.
SNACK: A few blocks south of the museum is a central square surrounded by street food: churros, tacos, elotes, and crepes can be found on every curbside.
RESTAURANT: La Barraca Valenciana is a Spanish restaurant that serves some of DF’s best tortas. The Milanesa, Cubana, and Bacalao (salted cod) are especially worthy. Av. Centenario 91 C, Coyoacán; Sunday 1 p.m. until 9 p.m., Monday-Saturday 1 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
Top photo of the Zocalo: Antony Stanley/Flickr