If you're planning a trip to Mexico City, you're probably already fantasizing about the food. From award-winning restaurants to hole-in-the-wall fondas to crowded taquerías, this vibrant city is a meeting point for delicious and distinct food cultures from across the country.
The city's best fine dining restaurants can be found in the chic neighborhoods of Polanco, La Roma and Condesa, with local gems scattered throughout the historic center of the city and mouth-watering tacos on every corner.
In Mexico, a late lunch (or comida) is the most important meal of the day. This schedule means some restaurants and cafes close earlier than you might expect, so be sure to check the opening hours before you arrive. Taco stands and other street food spots are often open from mid-afternoon well into the early hours of the morning. Street food is cash only, while some sit-down restaurants accept cards.
Some of the best food experiences in Mexico City can be had by simply following the crowd, so if you see a queue for street food don't be afraid to join it. Here are some of our top places to eat to get you started.
Best Tacos al Pastor: El Huequito
Mexico City's most iconic street food has got to be the taco al pastor, a Lebanese-inspired creation that features marinated pork grilled shawarma-style, served in a tortilla and often topped with pineapple.
The original El Huequito opened in 1959 in the Centro Histórico and claims to be the first in the city to have specialized in tacos al pastor. Judging by the quality of the tacos, we believe them, especially with their famous green salsa. Seating is non-existent in the original space, but there are now four other branches around the city with a bit more room.
Best Vegan Tacos: Por Siempre Vegana Taquería
Despite the traditionally meat-heavy food culture, Mexico City is becoming an excellent destinations for vegans, with a plethora of plant-based pizza, burger, and taco joints on offer. Por Siempre Vegana Taquería is the city's crowning glory, serving vegan versions of all the classic tacos from both a street food stand and a sit-down restaurant in Roma Norte.
Try the seitan-based tacos al pastor and the soy chorizo, with lots of salsa and veggies on the side. All the taco "meats" can also be eaten as a torta (sandwich).
Best Modern Tacos: El Parnita
For elevated tacos bursting with unusual ingredients, head to El Parnita in Roma Norte. The menu is entirely comprised of antojitos, or little cravings, which means small, delicate portions of single tacos, tostadas and tlacoyos served with some of the city's best guacamole.
This spot is popular with Mexico City's trendsetters, especially on weekends, so its best to call ahead for a reservation.
Best for Fine Dining: Pujol
Foodies will already be familiar with chef Enrique Olvera's ground-breaking Polanco restaurant, Pujol. Frequently ranked among the world's best, Pujol uses molecular gastronomy to transform everyday Mexican dishes, including the humble corn tortilla, into rare delicacies.
There are two ways to eat at Pujol: the six-course degustation menu, either seafood- or corn-based (both include Olvera's signature 1500-day-aged mole madre), or the 10-course chef's choice taco menu which includes drink pairings. Prices start from US$120 per person and reservations should be made well in advance.
Best for a Special Occasion: Quintonil
Olvera protégée chef Jorge Vallejo struck out on his own in 2012, opening his own restaurant in Polanco, Quintonil, that also regularly features in lists of the world's best restaurants. Named after a Mexican herb, Quintonil has focus on sustainable, local greens, and contemporary Mexican cooking.
Vallejo's wife and business partner, Alejandra Flores, heads up the elegant Quintonil dining room, making the pair something of a dream team in Mexico's culinary circles. Here, you can order a la carte or try the 11-course degustation. Prices start at around US$100 per person and reservations are advised.
Best Farm-to-Table: Máximo Bistrot Local
Máximo Bistrot offers innovative yet unpretentious food at a more accessible price point than the city's better-known restaurants. But don't let the simplicity of the decor fool you, chef Eduardo García also trained under Olvera at Pujol, before opening the doors of Maximo Bistrot in 2012.
The menu changes daily, highlighting vegetables sourced from Mexico City's famous chinampas (the floating islands among the canals of Xochimilco) and other sustainable sources. Reservations are advised.
Best for Seafood: Contramar
With a seasonal seafood menu, Contramar in Roma Norte is packed every single day. The food is fresh, simple and carefully prepared, and the cocktail menu is perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon. After more than 20 years in the game, Contramar remains one of the most on-trend restaurants in the city. There's a huge menu with lots of daily specials, but visitors should be sure to try the raw tuna tostada. Contramar only opens at lunch and reservations are recommended.
Best for Traditional Mexican Cuisine: Azul
Drop by Azul for exotic ingredients like chapulines (grasshoppers) and escamoles (ant eggs) as well as mole, tamales, and delicious Mexican hot chocolate. Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is known for his attention to detail and his encyclopedic knowledge of Mexico's culinary history.
Alongside the original Azul restaurant in Condesa, you can check out the oasis-like Azul Historico in the center of town, the slightly more laid-back Azul y Oro at Mexico's national university, UNAM, or Azul Antojo for snacks at Mercado Roma.
Best for Oaxacan Cusine: Pasillo de Humo
If you don't have time to visit the culturally rich southern state of Oaxaca during your trip to Mexico, Pasillo de Humo is the next best thing. In Condesa, this welcoming restaurant serves lunch and dinner, focusing on exquisite tlayudas, mole, desserts and coffee with passionate service. Seasonal ingredients, traditional techniques, and artisanal table settings make Pasillo de Humo a completely local experience. Reservations are advised.
Best for Adventurous Eaters: Los Cocuyos
This tiny, old-school favorite in the Centro Histórico is known for its use of a dizzying array of different cuts of meat. If you're looking for tacos de cabeza (literally cow's head tacos), you'll find the best here, from eye, cheek, tongue and brain to the famed campechano, a mix of crispy meats.
The taqueros at Los Cocuyos pump out tacos around the clock, only closing from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for cleaning, so expect to eat while standing or wait for one of the few seats.
Best Breakfast: Lalo!
Across the street from Maximo Bistrot, you'll find chef Eduardo García's more casual offering, Lalo!. The food, like the atmosphere, is light and fresh, and the green chilaquiles with eggs are some of the best in the city. House-made pastries, avocado toast, acai bowls, and great coffee round out the simple but satisfying breakfast menu.
At lunchtime, the vibe swings towards Italian, with pizza, pasta, and lots of veggies. Plus, the communal tables make Lalo! perfect for solo travelers and those getting a slow start to the day.
Best Surf-and-Turf: MeroToro
Inspired by the cuisine of Baja California, MeroToro is the place to be in Condesa for a sophisticated lunchtime feast. The extensive menu includes small plates of seafood, salads and an impressive selection of fish and beef mains, but is subject to change daily to make the most of the fresh produce available.
The space, with one wall open to the street, is the epitome of Mexico City's understated luxury. This is the second restaurant from the team behind Contramar and it is just as popular as their first, so be sure to make a reservation.
Best in Coyoacán: Los Danzantes
If you've made the trip down South to the Frida Kahlo museum in Coyoacán, your best bet for a traditional Mexican lunch is Los Danzantes on Parque Centenario. The outdoor tables are perfect for people-watching and the space features Mexican folk art without becoming kitschy. The menu lists unusual dishes from all over Mexico, highlighting flavorful seafood, beef, pork and insects accompanied by local herbs and spices. The house mezcal offering and is another big plus.
Best for Vegans: Veguísima
Condesa's vegan hotspot Veguísima is a tried-and-true solution to all your plant-based food dilemmas. The food is both pretty and nutritious, with most dishes offering a choice of protein (including Beyond Meat patties) in the form of bowls, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chilaquiles.
The space is casual and although the prices are on the high side for vegan food in Mexico City, they're well worth it. Veguísima is lunch only during the week and open later on weekends.
Best for Mediterranean Cuisine: Lardo
Lardo in Condesa can provide a welcome break from tacos, with Spanish, Italian and Greek-inspired food straight from the wood-fired oven. Choose from simple yet rich small plates, or order a culture-clashing pizza, in a warm environment that is popular with locals.
Proprietor Elena Reygadas is Mexico's most successful female chef, first making her mark with beloved Italian restaurant Rosetta and its sister bakery Panadería Rosetta in La Roma.
Best Cafe: Chiquitito
As the name suggests, Chiquitito is tiny, with just a coffee bar and a couple of indoor and outdoor tables. It has earned its reputation as one of Condesa's most hipster coffee spots, thanks to in-house roasted beans from Veracruz and exacting precision on the part of the baristas. The food is light cafe fare, including sandwiches and pastries and non-dairy milks are available. Order an espresso or iced coffee to kick of a day of sightseeing.
Best for Dessert: El Moro
Since 1935, El Moro Churrería has kept the capital's sweet tooth sated. The traditional deep-fried churros can be accompanied by your choice of hot chocolate, ranging from bitter to sweet and creamy to light. There are also milkshakes on the menu, plus Insta-worthy churro ice cream sandwiches called consuelos.
There are now five El Moro locations around the city, but the one in the Centro Histórico is open 24 hours a day to satisfy your midnight snack cravings.
Best Views: El Balcón del Zócalo
El Balcón del Zócalo, on the western side of Mexico's central plaza, manages to combine well-priced, thoughtful food with a stunning vista of the Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace. In area full of tourist traps, the El Balcón menu stands out, employing contemporary techniques and traditional Mexican ingredients like huitlacoche, chipotle, and corn. There is also a nine-course tasting menu available, with an option for vegetarians, and a respectable cocktail menu.