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l’a travels | mexico city

l’a travels | mexico city

Our city ‘cheat sheets’ are versions of the notes I send to friends when they are going to a city I know and love. x laura aviva
LALO A single long communal table occupies the entire room. The vibe is playful and happy, and everything on the menu hits the mark. (Most especially the chilaquiles and the house-made panes.) Chef Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Garcia also has MÁXIMO BISTRO (which is currently across the street, and which will very soon move to new digs, with the current Máximo morphing into another restaurant).
CAFÉ NIN (formally Panadería Rosetta) (Juarez location) Spot-on baked goods and beyond. Running alongside the tiny two-storied space is a very pretty serene patio corridor, which is a great place to sit and linger.
CICATRIZ A daytime spot that morphs into a wine bar in the eve. Breakfasts… and also great for lunch, especially when you are craving a vegetable fix (which hits me big time after a few days in Mexico, always).
CONTRAMAR Ground zero for daytime eating in CDMX. Head here for a long comida, ideally around 2pm. It’s the ultimate place for Mexico City people-watching, and the seafood-centric menu is outstanding (and the tuna tostadas really are all that). If you can make a reservation in advance, definitely do so. (It’s not 100% necessary, especially if you sit at the bar, but you’ll wait if you don’t.)
NICOS Forever on my list. I’ve yet to make it to this restaurant, but I’ve only ever heard raves. It’s just far enough outside the city center that the trek there and back, with CDMX’s weekday traffic, can devour an entire afternoon.
EXPENDIO DE MAÍZ I was here 3x on my last [short] visit to CDMX. Interesting, playful, experimental, delicious. There’s no menu—you just settle and they feed you until you tell them to stop.
And if you can’t nab a seat at one of the two communal tables at Expendio, you can step next door to EL PARNITA—with a very casual, easy-going vibe, this is my go-to for everyday goodness. Order the quesadillas con frijoles, and tacos, tacos, tacos.
MASALA Y MAÍZ In Colonia Juárez, a mix of Indian and African and Mexican, to wash down with natural wines. (Also on the natural wine-front in the ‘hood is AMAYA from Jaír Telléz).
And MOLINO EL PUJOL, Enrique Olvera’s tortilleria (with a limited menu of all-corn-all-the-time based snacks).
Also in CONDESA is the new outpost of the Baja California LA GUERRERENSE — go for the seafood cocteles and the uni and octopus tostadas.
MÁXIMO BISTRO French techniques. Mexican ingredients. The menu changes daily, and it all works without ever feeling pretentious.
QUINTONIL Somehow both upscale and low-key at the same time, this space in Polanco serves super-modern Mexican cuisine. The tasting menu gets a lot of attention here, but I prefer ordering straight from the menu. Book in advance, and ask for the back garden room.
PUJOL From a pure design perspective, the restaurant’s new space is a total dream – beyond stunning. Both the outside drink lounging area and the interior restaurant area — I couldn’t love more. For a meal, I would say that the taco omakase bar is the way to go.
Also: ROSETTA, LARDO (which is almost all bar, and great for solo-dining), HAVRE 77 (French) and MEROMA.
There are thousands of taco stands in CDMX, and anywhere with a line signals good things. Some of my faves:
EL VILSITO An auto garage by day, this is the place for tacos al pastor at night.
EL CALIFA Visit any time of day. It’s also a good Sunday night option, as it’s a big rarity for a restaurant to be open for dinner on Sundays.
EL HIDALGUENSE Get the barbacoa (lamb) tacos for breakfast or lunch on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Made from the fermented sap of an agave plant and known as the drink of the gods in Mexico, pulque is not for everyone. (And, truth be told, it’s not for me, but I approach it anew each time, hoping I’ll finally be won over). At LAS DUELISTAS, the pulque is poured from wooden barrels that sit in front of graffitied walls. It’s a strong bet for an old-school spot to try pulque in a range of different flavors.
MERCADO DE SAN JUAN This gourmet-esque market is great for spotting a range of exotic ingredients, like armadillo or Mexican bug delicacies. They’ve also got a great selection of Spanish foodstuffs. Pull up a chair at the bar for some tapas and jamon serrano. LA JERSEY makes the best bocadillos. On travel days, I like to stop by in the morning and pick one up — it’s the perfect plane meal.
MERCADO LA MERCED Mexico City’s largest and oldest market is sprawling. It’s almost impossible not to get lost.
On Sundays, MERCADO el 100 is a farmers market in Roma Sur, with nothing coming from more than 100 miles away.
I also like MERCADO DE COYOACÁN, and there’s a sweet farmers market in Polanco on Saturdays in the Parque Lincoln.
BARRAGÁN MUSTS: A gazillion pictures of Luis Barragán’s Mexico City spaces will never capture the spriritual element to the way he played with light and shadow. On the list: CASA LUIS BARRAGÁN, CASA PEDEGRAL and CENTRO CULTURAL TETELÁN, along with CASA PRIETO LÓPEZ.
I also love Legoretta’s CAMINO REAL hotel in Polanco, and the facade of the MATHIAS GOERITZ SYNAGOGUE. (Really, all things Mathias Goeritz.) A quick visit to DIEGO AND FRIDA’S HOME AND STUDIO is wholly worth it.
At KURIMANZUTTO GALLERY, the collections are definitely rivaled by the modern concrete and wood space. Infused with great light, it’s designed by the Mexican architect Alberto Kalach.
AGO PROJECTS is a new exhibition and designer representation space in Reforma from Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg, in a space designed by architect Tatiana Bilbao.
Also on the gallery-front: GALERIA OMR, LABOR, PROYECTOS MONCLOVA, LULU and MARSO GALLERY (which also houses LUTECA’s showroom), and ADN GALERIA (both furniture gallery/showroom and store).
DESIGN WEEK MEXICO takes place every October, and is ground zero for Mexican design. And the twice yearly (February and August) ZONA MACO, Mexico and Latin America’s preeminent art fair (think Art Basel) is prime-time for gallery hopping.
LA PLAZA DE GARIBALDI Mariachis gather in the plaza to play and to solicit gigs. If you’re craving a little late-night dive bar action, pop into SALON TENAMPA on the north side of the plaza for a serenade and a drink (or a few).
LUCHA LIBRE Kitsch and raucous beyond anything I’ve ever seen, it defies explanation. It’s taken very seriously by fans, who span generations. (I’ve witnessed coiffed grandmas screaming and taunting the wrestlers with a stream of tirades — apparently all in good fun). There’s truly nothing like catching it at the Arena Mexico on a Sunday (day), Tuesday (night) or Friday (night).
LA LAGUNILLA On Sundays, this flea market can be a total treasure trove. Shop for vintage clothing and jewelry, mid-century furniture, old cameras and more. It’s one of my favorite antique markets. If you take an Uber, have the driver drop you in front of Super Chedruai (market), the best entrance point.
XINÚ, a perfume company created Hector Esware and partners, is a magical wonderland of a room in Polanco that showcases the brand’s perfumes. (And the space is pegged to Esware’s showroom, which is most definitely worth a stroll-around).
ONORA CASA A really lovely shop in Polanco, it’s owned by my friend Maggie Galton and her partner Maria Eladias. They work with artisans throughout Mexico, and their collections all have a beautiful, refined touch.
DECADA + TROUVÉ Are both super hunting grounds for vintage furniture + beyond.
LA LONJA MERCANTIL is a roving marketplace featuring Mexican designers that takes place about once a month, and the BAZAR DEL SÁBADO in San Angel is worth a stroll-through if you want to get a folksy shopping hit.
VICTOR ARTES POPULARES MEXICANAS Tucked away in a downtown building, this shop showcases a really thoughtful collection of folk art from all over Mexico. There’s a real sense of discovery in browsing/shopping here, with a range of handicrafts – both vintage and new – that you won’t find pulled together like this anywhere else.
I’m a fan, too, of YAKAMPOT for clothing.
mexico city neighborhoods and best hotels, featuring Condesa DF.
CONDESA DF I took a hard-hat tour of this hotel before it opened in 2005, and I’ve been staying there ever since. Designed by India Madhavi for Grupo Habita, it’s one of my favorite places to play house. (On certain days of the week — I’ve never figured out exactly which — there’s a guy with a cart on the corner across the street who sells queso oaxaca. A ball or two often makes it into my suitcase).
DOWNTOWN Also worth a look from Grupo Habita, it’s near the Zócalo, in a sprawling colonial-era palace. (Which also houses the restaurant Azul Histórico and a range of shops).
LAS ALCOBAS A very grown-up, serene and luxurious option in Polanco, designed by Yabu Pushelberg.
I have heard, too, that both IGNACIA GUEST HOUSE (in Roma) and CASA DOVELA (in Condesa) are gems: stylish and warm and well-located.

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