The first thing any visitor to the Mexican capital will take in — probably while staring out the window in awe as their airplane descends over the intense, urbanity-on-steroids sprawl — is the sheer size of this town, 573 square miles in total. It’s densely populated and patchworked with distinct neighborhoods, each with its own culinary identity. It would take several lifetimes to get to know all of the street stands, holes in the wall, neighborhood favorites, and high-end destinations in this city.
Yet this list — 38 restaurants, dishes, and culinary experiences that define Mexico City’s gastronomic identity — should offer a comprehensive starting point for any visitor. It includes the obvious and the overexposed; it also includes hidden gems. It covers longtime buzzing neighborhoods like Roma and Condesa, as well as newer destination districts like San Miguel Chapultepec and Juarez. There are tacos, tortas, tasting menus, and tamales. There are enough sweets to satisfy the most dedicated concha enthusiast and some old-school breakfasts for the nostalgists. Whatever the type of place, it provides standout food and a taste of something visitors can’t get back home.
Updated, September 2023:
As a new generation of chefs from Mexico and abroad take the spotlight in CDMX, the city’s restaurant scene is increasingly diverse and casual. It’s trending away from fussy fine dining and expanding to include more regional cuisines. Cooking projects are becoming more complex too, like Lago Algo, where brunch and contemporary art intersect.
The U.S. is a particular source of inspiration these days. Since opening, Mendel Delicatessen has been among many people’s top recommendations due to Chilangos’ fascination with New York-style Jewish deli culture. Though it experienced a slower start, diner Ojo Rojo is now an industry favorite for Reubens and pancakes in Roma Norte as well.
Fall is a busy season for the restaurant industry in Mexico City, with Día de los Muertos, international sports leagues, and music festivals bringing waves of travelers each year. Plan ahead accordingly.
We update this list quarterly to make sure it reflects the ever-changing Mexico City dining scene.
Natalia de la Rosa is a Mexican food writer, mezcal collector, and culinary guide based in Mexico City.Read More