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Churrería El Moro
Churrería El Moro
Helen Rosner

Mexico City Neighborhood Guide: El Centro

The best restaurants, bars, and cafes in this historic neighborhood

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Churrería El Moro
| Helen Rosner

You might come to the historic Centro neighborhood for the major attractions like the Zócalo (home to the Palacio Nacional, Catedral Metropolitana, and Templo Mayor), the opulent cultural center Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the psychedelic House of Tiles. But you should stay for the food and drink. Whether at classic cantinas, bustling markets, or creative new restaurants in restored mansions, Centro is where the mosaic of Mexican gastronomy is on its most colorful display.

See guides to all of Mexico City's greatest neighborhoods — plus everything you need to know about eating in DF, one of the best food cities in the world — in the Eater Guide to Mexico City.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Gradios Deli-Café

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Serving third-wave coffee in a first-wave neighborhood, Gradios (short for Gracias a Dios) is an unpretentious spot with carefully sourced coffee from throughout southern Mexico, including the rare cult-fave Geisha variety from Coatepec in Veracruz.

Mercado de San Juan

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Known as the “chef’s market,” Mercado de San Juan beats most other neighborhood markets in both selection and quality. Here you’ll find everything from crunchy fried beetles to just-skinned rabbits, rambutans from Chiapas, basil sprouts from Baja, and imported charcuterie. If you’re buying seafood (like the juicy live percebes, or barnacles), the fishmonger might delight you with a big slab of freshly sliced tuna sashimi. Tip: Skip the in-market stalls and walk along nearby Calle López, from Ayuntamiento to Arcos de Belén, for an incredible cluster of food stands and tiny fondas.

Bósforo

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Connoisseurs of regional Mexican tipples will love this small, dark bar. Besides a wide and ever-changing assortment of terrific mezcals (very well priced for the quality), you’ll also find hard ciders from the apple-growing town of Zacatlán. It feels like a secret but the word is long out, so go early to grab a seat at the bar, where the bartender will whip up quesadillas to order.

Testal is one of several smart newish restaurants changing the face of downtown dining. Menu items like duck in blackberry mole might read “nouvelle” but are based on traditional dishes, many from the state of Michoacán. Dishes to try include the tender tongue tacos, fava or purslane soup, braised lamb, and tuna carnitas. Don't skip the La Brü beer, made from blue corn.

Churrería El Moro

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A churrería is just what it sounds like: a place that sells churros. This charming outpost has been owned by the Iriarte family since 1935. The churros are textbook — crisp outside, tender inside — with the essential great hot chocolate to match. El Moro serves seven styles of hot chocolate; the most intense is the español. If you miss checking out this location, there are are now three others in the city.

Tacos Cocuyos

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There are hundreds of taco stands to sample in the Centro, but you may as well start here. The fritanga tacos are shallow-fried in a steel vat and crisped on a central dome. The options include lots of wild cuts (eye tacos, anyone?) but the simple suadero (brisket) is among the best in town. The stand is open morning until late night.

Azúl Histórico

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The popular Azúl mini-chain serves a range of regional Mexican dishes, additionally highlighting cuisine from a specific state each month. This downtown branch is housed in the courtyard of a 17th-century mansion along with several top-quality specialty shops and the chicly discreet Hotel Downtown (retire to the rooftop bar for a post-meal mezcal).

Hilaria Gastrobar

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With almost 100 different Mexican microbrews, Hilaria is a great place to explore the burgeoning beer scene. And the “Gastro” part of their name is no joke, with high-end home cooking like ribeye tacos, mushroom soup with squash blossoms and corn, and addictive little quesadillas of hibiscus, huitlacoche (corn fungus), and goat cheese. From 5 until 7 p.m., Monday to Thursday, they screen indie films old and new.

Gradios Deli-Café

Serving third-wave coffee in a first-wave neighborhood, Gradios (short for Gracias a Dios) is an unpretentious spot with carefully sourced coffee from throughout southern Mexico, including the rare cult-fave Geisha variety from Coatepec in Veracruz.

Mercado de San Juan

Known as the “chef’s market,” Mercado de San Juan beats most other neighborhood markets in both selection and quality. Here you’ll find everything from crunchy fried beetles to just-skinned rabbits, rambutans from Chiapas, basil sprouts from Baja, and imported charcuterie. If you’re buying seafood (like the juicy live percebes, or barnacles), the fishmonger might delight you with a big slab of freshly sliced tuna sashimi. Tip: Skip the in-market stalls and walk along nearby Calle López, from Ayuntamiento to Arcos de Belén, for an incredible cluster of food stands and tiny fondas.

Bósforo

Connoisseurs of regional Mexican tipples will love this small, dark bar. Besides a wide and ever-changing assortment of terrific mezcals (very well priced for the quality), you’ll also find hard ciders from the apple-growing town of Zacatlán. It feels like a secret but the word is long out, so go early to grab a seat at the bar, where the bartender will whip up quesadillas to order.

Testal

Testal is one of several smart newish restaurants changing the face of downtown dining. Menu items like duck in blackberry mole might read “nouvelle” but are based on traditional dishes, many from the state of Michoacán. Dishes to try include the tender tongue tacos, fava or purslane soup, braised lamb, and tuna carnitas. Don't skip the La Brü beer, made from blue corn.

Churrería El Moro

A churrería is just what it sounds like: a place that sells churros. This charming outpost has been owned by the Iriarte family since 1935. The churros are textbook — crisp outside, tender inside — with the essential great hot chocolate to match. El Moro serves seven styles of hot chocolate; the most intense is the español. If you miss checking out this location, there are are now three others in the city.

Tacos Cocuyos

There are hundreds of taco stands to sample in the Centro, but you may as well start here. The fritanga tacos are shallow-fried in a steel vat and crisped on a central dome. The options include lots of wild cuts (eye tacos, anyone?) but the simple suadero (brisket) is among the best in town. The stand is open morning until late night.

Azúl Histórico

The popular Azúl mini-chain serves a range of regional Mexican dishes, additionally highlighting cuisine from a specific state each month. This downtown branch is housed in the courtyard of a 17th-century mansion along with several top-quality specialty shops and the chicly discreet Hotel Downtown (retire to the rooftop bar for a post-meal mezcal).

Hilaria Gastrobar

With almost 100 different Mexican microbrews, Hilaria is a great place to explore the burgeoning beer scene. And the “Gastro” part of their name is no joke, with high-end home cooking like ribeye tacos, mushroom soup with squash blossoms and corn, and addictive little quesadillas of hibiscus, huitlacoche (corn fungus), and goat cheese. From 5 until 7 p.m., Monday to Thursday, they screen indie films old and new.

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