How to find the best food in Mexico City
Many Mexico City food guides tell you where to find good food but in this food guide I'll show you how! Read on to learn more.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Mexico City, but there’s a reason it’s also known as the “City of Food”! It is my very subjective opinion that Mexico City offers some of the best food experiences in the world (or at the very least in Latin America).
Some of my fondest memories in Mexico have been seated or standing at food stalls in mercados, sizzling street carts, and bustling restaurants. Tacos, tamales, quesadillas, pozoles, huaraches, tlayudas… I’m dizzy just thinking about the sheer number of options.
But, you may be thinking, where do you find such fantastic cuisine?
There is honestly just SO much good food in the city that you will probably have a hard time even finding a bad meal. The best part of exploring and experiencing food in Mexico City requires some wandering around the city and trying places that catch your eye.
So, I’ll be frank with you, besides a few suggestions for taquerias, I will not tell you exactly where to find the best food in Mexico City in this blog but rather how to find it and what to look out for.
Mexico City Street Food
While many Mexico City food guides will recommend restaurants like Pujol and others in the high-end districts like Polanco, Condesa, and Roma Norte, some of the best food in Mexico City is very cheap and doesn’t require a reservation made months in advance.
Found on nearly every street corner, Mexico City’s street food is incomparable when you consider how high the quality is for the cost. You can get a small quesadilla with meat and cheese for 20 pesos, which equals around 1 US dollar. Throw in a few more tacos and a beer, and typically you’ll end up paying about 120-160 pesos (6-8 US dollars) for a delicious and filling meal.
You might hear tales of travelers experiencing stomach troubles after consuming street food, but do not let this deter you. And this is coming from someone who has actually experienced this... and I don’t regret a thing! Do you know what I would regret? Never trying it in the first place.
Here’s my top tip for finding good street food: Look with your eyes and smell with your nose. Do you see other Mexicans crowding around the cart? Do you smell something amazing that makes your mouth water? You, my friend, have found a street food winner. It’s really that simple!
If you don’t speak much Spanish and you’re nervous about ordering wrong, don’t be. They’re not going to give you something that doesn’t taste good. Just smile, use your best Duolingo Spanish, and point at what you want or another person’s food if you like how it looks. You will not be disappointed.
Tacos, Tacos, and more Tacos
I know we just mentioned tacos as street food, but in reality, they are in an entirely separate food category. Finding the best tacos in Mexico City is easy though, and ordering them even more so. It’s just a matter of finding what you like
There are tons of different tacos throughout Mexico, but here are a few key ones you’ll consistently find in Mexico City: carnitas, pastor, barbacoa, birria, guisado, and campechano.
The tacos listed above are usually made with either pork (carnitas and pastor tacos) or beef. Traditionally birria and barbacoa are made with goat or sheep, but outside of their states of origin, they’re usually made with beef unless they specifically say it’s made with that traditional meat. If you’re in doubt about the type of meat or want to make sure you’re trying the real thing, ask.
If you’re not a fan of red meat or pork or just looking for a healthier option, look out for tinga (chicken) and pescado (fish).
Now, here are my top three taco places in Mexico City:
(Prices are in Mexican pesos)
Their Featured Tacos: Chicharron $30, Res $35, Trompo (pastor) $24
Location: Reforma (Zona Rosa)
M, TU: 1PM–11PM
W: 1PM – 3:30AM
TH: 1PM – 4AM
F - SU: 1PM – 5AM
Their Featured Tacos: Trompo de Adobada $35, Trompo de Asada $39, Suadero $35, Campechano (this is usually a combo of two types of meat) $35
SU - W: 12PM – 12AM
TH - SA: 12PM – 2AM
Tacos El Paisa (Taqueria la Reyna)
Their Featured Tacos: Pastor, Carnitas (Cabeza, Lengua), Costilla $10
Location: Roma Sur
M-F: 10AM – 11:30PM
SA & SU: 10AM – 10:45PM
Cervezas, Cocktails, and Other Beverages
After spending some time in Mexico City, you’ll find that chilangos (Mexico City urbanites) have cracked the code for eating and, especially, drinking. One of the best ways to truly enjoy your meals in Mexico City is to find the right complimentary drink. And I’m not just talking about alcoholic beverages! The non-alcoholic options are incredible, too.
Aguas Frescas (non-alcoholic)
Aguas Frescas are pretty ubiquitous throughout Mexico but are worth mentioning in this blog about Mexico City’s food scene. There is nothing better than sitting down at a roadside street cart and getting a tall glass of these fresh cold drinks, especially on a hot afternoon:
Horchata: a sweet drink made with rice, milk, almonds, cinnamon, and vanilla. Here’s a great authentic horchata recipe from My Latina Table if you want to make it at home.
Agua de Jamaica: a bright magenta-colored juice made from hibiscus flowers, sweetened with piloncillo. Piloncillo is similar to brown sugar but Isabel Eats has a good blog that explains what Piloncillo is.
Agua de Tamarindo: a unique drink featuring flavors equal parts tart, sour, and sweet! This drink is made with tamarind, a light brown seed pod containing a paste used throughout Mexican cuisine, and may even have some health benefits!
Agua de (insert fruit of your liking): Whenever you go to a restaurant in Mexico City (or anywhere in Mexico), and you see “Agua del Dia,” feel free to ask them, “¿Qué son las aguas del día?” Usually, they’ll list a few, which may include the agua frescas above but also possibly limon (lemonade), coco (coconut), or piña (pineapple). But there are so many more! Here’s an exhaustive list of Aguas Frescas de Frutas y Sabor that you may encounter in your travels.
If there’s one thing people around the world can find common ground on, it’s the love of an ice-cold beer after a long day of hard work (like eating your way around a city). Some beers you may be familiar with in the US, like Corona and Dos Equis XX, are popular throughout Mexico, but in la Ciudad de Mexico, Victoria, Indio, and Modelo are the queens of cerveza.
Want to try something new and sound like a local? In Mexico City, you can ask for a “michelada,” and your beer will come with lime juice and salt on the rim. Add some ice, and you’ve got a great thirst-quenching drink!
*Important note* If you ask for a michelada anywhere else in Mexico, you’ll get a drink with tomato juice or clamato, lime juice, chilies, and other additions. You can also get this in Mexico City, but you have to ask for it specifically.
Read this excellent article from the Eater about Michelada in Mexico City, which dives into the michelada’s many variations.
Liquor & Cocktails
Spend an evening out in Mexico City, and you’ll discover a whole wonderful world of mixology! Here are a couple of drinks and spirits you should keep an eye out for.
While the Paloma is often considered the most popular Mexican cocktail, I would argue the margarita is the most iconic. While elsewhere in the world, this tequila drink is often customized with fruity mixes and crushed ice, in Mexico, margaritas are traditionally made with just tequila and lime on the rocks.
Ever since I was served my first traditional margarita in Mexico, I haven’t looked back! This is how I order it everywhere now.
The older, cooler brother of tequila. You will probably love this earthy drink if you’re a fan of smoky liquors like bourbon and whiskey.
If you’re more like me, you may like it better in a mixed drink like a mezcalita, basically a margarita with mezcal instead of tequila. My favorite so far has been a maracuya (passion fruit) mezcalita I had at a Xuni Mezcaleria in la Zona Rosa of Reforma.
Whether you need a late afternoon pick-me-up or a drink to keep the night going strong, replace your Vodka Redbull with a Carajillo. This cocktail packs a caffeine punch with a shot of espresso and Licor 43 on the rocks.
For those who are more adventurous, I suggest you at least try a small glass of pulque. Pulque is a beverage that has its origins in pre-Hispanic Mexican tradition and is made from the lightly fermented sap of a mature agave (maguey) plant.
Serious Eats has a great Introduction to Pulque, which they describe as “The Drink of the Gods.” If that piques your interest, definitely give it a shot!
Some Honorable Mentions
Some of the best things you need to try neither fall under the above categories nor really need a section of their own. However, they are worth a mention!
Mercados: This will sound dramatic but mercados in Mexico City were a major formative experience for my food-loving soul. They can be very overwhelming but truly are a joy to explore and experience if you want to see a more authentic side of Mexico. In fact, to do them justice, they really deserve an entirely separate blog! (coming soon 😊)
Panaderías: As someone who works while they travel, I like to stop by a panadería and buy 3-4 pastries for an easy and quick breakfast throughout the week. The typical Mexican pastry you need to try are conchas, a sweet bread topped with sugar made into a shell pattern which is how it gets its name.
Chilaquiles: Chips for breakfast? Sign me up! This dish is usually eaten at breakfast and has a base of totopes (tortilla chips) and a red or green salsa. Usually you will get it with cheese and a meat of your choice but at most places you can also ask for eggs to be added on top.
Caldos: If I could eat soup for every meal I absolutely would and the caldos in Mexico never disappoint. Try a caldo de pollo (chicken) or pescado (fish). Or a for an even heartier option, try a Sopa Azteca or Pozole!