Lunches We Need from Mexico City

Last week, I snuck away and took a solo expedition to Mexico City. Besides seeing the sites and drinking mezcal, my main goal was sampling the street food.

This first picture was taken before I bit in to my very first Mexican taco. It was made in Mercado de la Merced, a gigantic semi-covered market with everything from clothes, vegetables, and Halloween costumes, to live animals, and lots of food stalls. The taco man, probably seeing my excitement, asked to take a picture with me, so I too captured the happy, anticipatory pre taco moment on my camera.  Pictures of that taco, and much much more after the jump…

Mercado Merced

I got a mixed taco, with steak, pork, chicken, and french fries (no cactus though, too bitter and slimy for me).  I sat on some stool and attempted to fit this hefty mass into my boca. The meat, as was the case really, with all the meat that I ate on this trip, just tasted more meaty than what we find in our part of the world. It was a beautiful thing. A wise man recently told me you never forget your first taco in Mexico. Truth.

At a different stand in the same market, I also tried a smaller but intensely flavorful longaniza taco. I probably won’t forget that one either.

And right outside the market, I stopped at a shopping cart with a built in grill serving elote- corn with mayo, cheese, lime, and lots of chile. The kernels are larger and less sweet than what I am used to, but it was a fun and messy street snack.

This is a giant bag of cheetos from the market. It puts your snack size bag to shame.

Also in the market, amazing mole, in paste and powdered form. After a few mini samples, I brought the special house almond and the green pipian versions. If you are ever in Merced, you can find Senora Balbina and her mole  at Door 5 in the central aisle of the vegetable market.


The colonial town of Puebla, located 2 hours away from Mexico City,  is known for a) being the site of the winning battle against France; the reason Cinco de Mayo is celebrated and b) its regional cuisine- specifically, mole and chile en nogada. I made sure to try both things at Fonda de Santa Clara. Mole enchiladas 3 ways was the perfect way to sample different styles. Mole is made with approximately one million spices that come together and make it hard to identify any one flavor. The super rich, classic poblana and the sweeter red mole had me licking the sauces even after I was too full to move.  Chile en nogadas is unlike anything I have ever had, chiles stuffed with a fruit and meat mixture and covered with a chilled walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. This is very different from what I would typically think of as Mexican food. I really enjoyed the unexpected sweetness, though it was a bit too overpowering for my new British and Australian friends who I dragged to Puebla with me.

A stop at La Pasita (established in 1916), for raisin liqueur shots, helped us digest before our bus back.


I spent a lot of time in the Zocalo, the main plaza of Mexico City- a busy area that hosts indigenous and colonial sites, bustling commercial streets, and plenty to eat.

At craft bar, Tlatoanis, I tried crickets for the first time. The little guys had too much of a bitter after taste for me, but I loved the hibiscus tacos. I had no idea hibiscus flowers could be turned into a savory snack.

Somewhere in the streets of Zocalo, a chorizo and an al pastor taco on hot corn tortillas called my name (the street taco guys actually do yell at you to come in and try) and I was already ready to answer.

Nearby, at Tlaquepaque, at the recommendation of a very knowledgeable Mexican friend, I had one of my favorite meals of the trip- a supersized torta with beef, pork, avocado, tomato and cheese. It didn’t hurt that it was 2am and there was a fair amount of mezcal and pulque (a less fermented mezcal drink) in my system- but I would have devoured this sandwich regardless. The combo of cheese and various meat on greased bread could easily be compared to a cheesesteak, but I don’t even want to go there (because this wins, no contest, sorry Philly). And it cost about $3.50.

Mercado Coyoacan

In the area where you can find Frida Kahlo’s home- turned museum, you can also find another busy market. Inside, seafood tostadas are the thing to get.


For my one non-street food meal, I went to Azul Condessa, an upscale restaurant whose chef, Ricardo Munoz Zurita literally wrote the book on Mexican food: the Diccionario Enciclopedico De Gastronomia Mexicana. Yea, I can be fancy. The creamy squash soup was perfectly balanced, though the corn and sour plum dessert was too strange for me.

For a different soup experience, somewhere else in Condessa at the end of my trip, I found myself on a 5am, post club Pozole adventure. The soft shreds of chicken and mild chiles made me not even care about the fact that I had to wake up for a flight in a few hours.

Viva Mexico! Though it can’t quite compare, I’ll have to relive the experience at some of my favorite Mexican spots around Philly.

Previously, Lunches we need from China



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