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This is a highly coveted list. It seems all my favorite food people are making the pilgrimage to Mexico City to eat. Nils Bernstein first gave his list to my friends Leslie and Fatstache, who then shared it with Sara Quessenberry. And they all came back raving about his choices. I cannot wait to use it myself. In the meantime, you are getting full access. You can follow Nils on Instagram @nilsbernstein, and check out his upcoming book he co-authored, Made in Mexico.
Rosetta is often referenced as an Italian restaurant because chef-owner Elena Reygadas makes (amazing) pastas and focaccia, but her understanding and manipulation of traditional Mexican ingredients and techniques puts it in a category of its own. Doesn’t hurt that it’s the most romantic restaurant in town, either. Order anything with a mole sauce.
Colima 166, Col. Roma, CDMX
This is probably my favorite of the chef-driven, fine-dining, tasting-menu-style places in the city (also see: Pujol, Emilia, Dulce Pátria, Sud777). Chef Jorge Vallejo treats humble vegetables like squash and greens (the name means “amaranth green”) with the same reverence as caviar and foie gras, and his beautiful creations seem to come from memories and nostalgia rather than being “cheffy.” And there’s a world-class wine list, too.
Newton 55, Col. Polanco, CDMX
You don’t need me to tell you to go to Contramar: If you’ve heard one thing about where to eat in CDMX, it’s probably this place. But I’m still compelled to rep it—the seafood, service, and overall vibe is unbeatable, and the beginning of many love affairs with the city. It’s spawned many imitators but remains Queen.
Durango 200, Col. Roma, CDMX
The restaurant group Edo Kobayashi, with their vast range of authentic Japanese culinary concepts, has almost singlehandedly turned Mexico City into one of the most interesting places for Japanese food in North America. This is their natural wine and Japanese whiskey bar (plus a tiny, tasty food menu), modeled after Japan’s tachonimiya (“standing bars”). I can’t stay away.
Río Pánuco 132B, Col. Cuauhtémoc, CDMX
The pork-and-hominy stew pozoleis the quintessential Mexican comfort (or hangover) food. With corn, pork, herbs, chiles, lime—and innumerable garnishes—it’s the soul of Mexican cuisine in a bowl. This weekend-only spot has been serving Guerrero-style white and green pozole since 1960, and is my favorite place for it. They recently opened a location in the far south of the city that’s open during the week, but there’s something magical about the original.
Sur 69-A 513, Justo Sierra, Iztapalapa, CDMX
There’s no official name (Expendio de Maíz means, roughly, “corn shop”) and no menu (they’ll ask for your preferences), but this is one of the best “restaurants” in the city right now. It’s affiliated with the attached taquería El Parnita and cantina Páramo, but takes the form of an open, rural kitchen where corn is venerated in all its forms.
Av. Yucatan 84, Roma Nte, CDMX
I find a lot of people don’t “get” tamales, since they’ve mostly only tasted the heavy gut-bombs that pass for tamales in the U.S. The key to a great tamale is freshly-made masa (corn dough) and top-quality pork lard—two things in short supply in the US—and the perfect balance between dough and filling. My favorite are at Doña Emi, a semi-legendary storefront in the Roma Sur neighborhood.
Jalapa 278, Roma Sur, CDMX
This is a phenomenal Japanese-inspired restaurant masquerading as an unassuming streetside sushi bar. It’s not “fusion” exactly, but Tokyo-level quality and technique crossed with Mexican inspiration, like tostaditasof kampachi with miso, and rice-and-nori ‘tacos’ of raw seafood. Other subtle innovations include nigiriof ribeye and sea urchin, and hiyayakko(cold tofu) with burrata and salmon roe.
Pedregal 17D, Col. Lomas - Virreyes, Lomas de Chapultepec, CDMX
Mexico City still has traditional neighborhood markets, where you can find all kinds of ingredients as well as food stands to snack while you shop. They’re a must-visit (two favorites are Mercado Portales and Mercado Jamaica). Unfortunately, though, the goods aren’t always the local, farm-fresh produce you might be hoping for. So I hit Mercado El 100, an all-organic outdoor weekend farmers market that also has great people-watching.
Orizaba S/N, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, CDMX
Some of the most exciting dining in Mexico City takes the form of itinerant pop-up meals, where groups of established or budding chefs do periodic one-off themed lunches or dinners for those in the know. It’s a trend that’s doesn’t always work in the U.S., but here, there seems to be no shortage of great ingredients, beautiful venues, culinary talent, and generosity. Follow Sexto (pictured above), Minggu, Hidden Kitchen, Candelilla, Mesa Nómada, Blind Pig, and Mesa B.