Thursday, April 7, 2016

What I Ate: Mexico City Edition


I knew I wanted to do a food post for Mexico City. (After all, Mexico's cuisine is listed on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.) At first, I wasn't sure how structure it - by category? Should I include or leave out things I wanted to go more into depth on? I ended up taking the easiest out, by listing everything in chronological order. Trying to remember what I ate on which day started to feel like 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', aside from the fact that I didn't turn into a butterfly at the end. So let's go with that theme and see the things (ALL THE THINGS) I managed to consume over a week's stay in Mexico City...

On Saturday, she ate through three tacos al pastor

 

I had to drag myself out of bed following a late afternoon nap the day I arrived in Mexico. I knew if I waited, I'd be hungry later, and the thought of going out again was only going to get harder to face as the evening wore on. Blearily, I checked my phone for highly-rated taquerias in the area. El Huequito looked like a safe bet, so I headed in that direction... and got lost. Not feeling brave enough to navigate by phone at night on some slightly sketchy side-streets, I settled for another place I'd spotted along the way. "Taqueria La Autentica" seemed like a name for a place that would be anything but, but the tacos al pastor were awesome. Juicy pork, freshly sliced off the trompo, with bits of onion and cilantro on top and just a hint of pineapple, served on a soft corn tortilla... it was heaven at eight pesos apiece. Sipping my Mexican Coke (there really is a difference), and trying all the different salsas on my tacos as locals slowly trickled in was the perfect way to start my trip.

I ended up sampling some mezcal back at the hostel with two Americans, two Colombians, a Canadian, and a Brazilian, who had bought the bottle at Wal-Mart. I was invited to join the group to check out the Tequila Museum, but had to decline, having slept maybe four hours out of the last forty-eight.

Taqueria la Autentica
Av. Independencia 15, Centro

On Sunday, she ate churros and chocolate, two tacos de cecina, and one grasshopper taco

 


I began with a late-morning start at El Moro. I hadn't realized the churreria was a sit down place, so between that and the fact there was no one seating guests, I was really confused. After waffling around the entrance for a bit, I went ahead and sat at a table. A waitress came to give me a menu within a few minutes. I ordered the churros and Spanish chocolate. The waitress warned me it was super sweet. And it was - oh so good, but more of a chocolate dip for dunking than something I could polish off a (very cute) mug of. When I got up to leave, my cup was still about 2/3rds full. The elderly Señora in her Sunday best who was waiting for my table asked me if I hadn't liked it. I answered that it was good, but very rich, in remedial Spanish.




Walking through the San Juan Market on my way to get in some souvenir shopping at La Ciudadela, I spotted my first bugs of the edible sort. Later that day, I visited La Guapachosa, near the Insurgentes metro stop, and tried some of my own. I actually ordered three tacos - two tacos de cecina, not knowing what they were, but wanting to try the nopales (cactus) salad that was served with them,  and one taco de chapulines (grasshopper). The 'cecina' was some sort of hammered pork - I wasn't a fan - but the 'chapulines' went amazingly well with the guacamole. La Guapachosa is super cute and hipstery, a tiny, triangle-shaped place with two sides open to the wind and swing seating at the bar. They have their own microbrew, if that's something that floats your boat. I had a Michelada - a Pacifico beer with lime, chili powder, and Clamato. It was really, really good. The complimentary tortilla chips were awesome too, sprinkled with salt and chili powder and served with four incredible salsa. I think one may have been passion fruit? 

La Guapachosa

 

On Monday, she had a Mimosa, nachos for breakfast, and cochinita pibil

 

Monday was probably my least memorable day from a culinary perspective. I was on a tour of Teotihuacan, and a fine but not particularly exciting buffet brunch was included. It was an odd mix of continental fare and Mexican food. I wasn't sure my stomach could deal that early in the morning, but I tried the chilaquiles, which are basically as close as Mexico gets to US-style nachos. Mexican cheese is much more forgiving, however, and the green salsa made the tortilla chips just slightly soggy. In the end, they were pretty good and so was the coffee. We were also served celebratory Mimosas after our hot air balloon flight. 

After a full day of sun, climbing, and travel, I decided to take the path of least resistance and went to Sanborns (a 24-hour Mexican chain) for dinner. Not the pretty Sanborns at Casa de los Azulejos, but the Sanborns just a few blocks from my hotel that looked like any old chain restaurant. Inside, it felt like a diner with some old fashioned department store touches. TVs broadcasted soccer and wrestling. My cochinita pibil was good and filling, and still not very expensive by US standards.

Sanborns

On Tuesday, she dined at Pujol and had a Magnum bar for dessert




I'll keep this one brief. Pujol deserves, and will get, its own post. My meal cost more than everything else I ate that week put together, but was a beautiful experience. I topped off the evening with an ice cream bar from the corner store.


On Wednesday, she had two tostadas, coffee, hotcakes, and a Margarita

 








  



On Thursday, she ate a cochinita pibil torta and pozole, and shopped at Qu Bo





Now that I had my chocolate, I realized I'd done things completely backwards. It was lunch time, I was hungry, and there was a Spain-Italy friendly on TV that I kinda wanted to watch. However, sitting in the sort of stuffy hole-in-the-wall that served the type of fast food I was craving was a no-go - it was at least 80°F and my chocolates were going to melt. A good torta had been on my wishlist for several days. (Recommended Tortas Been was closed when I'd checked them out on Sunday.) So I awkwardly asked if I could get a torta to go from a little restaurant near the Zocalo, then awkwardly waited around for them to make it. The waitress was super sweet and accommodating, and the torta - consumed with a Coke while watching the soccer match at the hostel - hit the spot. A recently arrived German couple eyed my torta enviously, before asking the desk clerk where they could find, "Just a little sandwich place," on their way out.

La Torta Brava

After the game, I walked around Colonia Roma. I was planning on eating dinner at Casa de Toño, but the line for tables was ridiculous. Instead, I hopped off the Metro a couple stops early and went back to the place I'd enjoyed the first night. I only ordered two tacos this time, but added pozole. I'm not sure if the two are meant to be eaten together, but the soup was warm and filling, with some interesting flavors, and the tacos just as good as the last time.

On Friday, she had esquites, 3 tacos al pastor, a Michelada, 2 octopus ink tacos, and a Margarita



On Friday I visited Xochimilco. While I would've loved to indulge in another Michelada along with loads of other street - or rather, canal - food, I was short on cash. (More on this later.) I did manage to get in a cup of esquites, though the question of whether I wanted lime, chili powder, or cheese on top got a little lost in translation. I was a tiny bit wary of possible stomach trouble, given the uncooked factor and the unidentifiable bits of plant that looked a bit algae-like swimming in the juice, but it was all good. And yummy.

A boat
Xochimilco Canals



My last meal in Mexico City coincided with CONCACAF World Cup qualifier games. Always a fun time. I was stoked to get to watch a Mexico game in Mexico City, and asked the desk clerk at the hostel if he had any suggestions. He recommended the restaurants/bars on Avenida Juarez, which I'd discounted earlier in the week for looking too upscale and chain-like. I honed in on two options, figuring if one didn't work out, I could go to the other at halftime. I reached Taqueria el Caifan first. The TV playing the Brazil game looked promising. However, that side of the restaurant was full and I was ushered to the other side, which was playing... wrestling. I asked about the game and was assured it would switch over when the time came. (Though I was a little put-out to miss Brazil.) I ordered three tacos al pastor - they were decent, but not as good as the ones I'd had before, and were more expensive to boot. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, was when I scanned the drink menu, saw only beer, and asked about a Michelada. "We have beer with lime," my waiter told me. I ordered a Coke and promised myself to head out as soon as the check arrived. It seemed to take forever to get change - once I did, I walked even faster than usual down the block, which is probably like 4x Mexico City speed. 

Taqueria el Caifan



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