Pujol gets the international media attention as the place for visitors to dine in Mexico City. Foodies arrive with the intention of savoring more than one incredible meal in this gastronomically rich capital, however. Ideally, you want your dining experiences to be authentic demonstrations of Mexico’s distinct cuisine, and you want to visit restaurants in the areas of the city you will explore. With that criteria in mind, here are five restaurants to try when you’re not satiating yourself at Pujol.
EL BALCON DEL ZOCALO: Perhaps the restaurant with the best view in Mexico’s capital, El Balcon del Zócalo doesn’t settle on looks alone. The restaurant features a large terrace facing the city’s famous main square, the Plaza de la Constitución, aka Zócalo. When you enter the restaurant, having traveled on an escalator to reach the top floor of the Central Hotel, you see a woman making corn tortillas at a cooking station that leads into the dining room and terrace. The dome of the 400-year-old Metropolitan Cathedral is eye to eye with diners and will hold your attention for many minutes, until you start to dine. Then the creations of chef Jose Antonio “Pepe” Salinas will distract you.
Salinas’s ambition is to “awaken sensations that have endured over time.” He achieves it by modernizing familiar dishes. The tacos are genuine, with esquites (roasted corn nuts) accompanying soft tortilla shells and the savory fillings inside. Contemporary takes on traditional favorites include shrimp fritters filled with cheese from Oaxaca and a spicy chipotle sauce. Grilled steak, decadent desserts, and a solid wine selection, including several options from Mexico’s vibrant viticulture regions, are other reasons to dine. The view at El Balcon del Zócalo is a showstopper but the food is truly a compliment.
LIMOSNEROS: Located less than a half-mile from Plaza de la Constitución, Limosneros provides more casual fare than El Balcon del Zócalo and for many diners that is just fine. The quality of the cuisine is exceptional and authentic, not shying away from including the insects that have been a tradition of Indigenous foods in Mesoamerica since long before European colonialism. Cocopaches (a beetle related to the cockroach), grasshoppers, and ants are all featured ingredients on the menu.
Less adventurous diners may prefer to stick with more universal forms of protein, such as pork tacos, grilled Wagyu beef, or a range of fish dishes. Tucked inside an elegant space with brick walls and an eye-catching chandelier, Limosneros gives guests a journey into traditional Mexican food that shouldn’t be missed.
LOS DANZANTES: The name translates to “The Dancers” and your tongue will be happy to waltz through the menu, which spotlights mole sauce, the Mexican staple that is most often made with poblano peppers, fruits, and a variety of spices. At Los Danzantes, the sauce shines. One dish includes seven types of mole, giving you a tour of Mexico’s flavor profiles in one plate that bursts with lavish color. For dessert, be sure to order the guava and cheese cake, which is plated with bright colors and edible flowers.
Los Danzantes is located in Coyoacán, Mexico’s artistic district that is home to Frida Kahlo’s museum. It’s an area very much worth exploring and thanks to this restaurant one you will be delighted to linger in as well.
EL LAGO: Perhaps the prettiest setting for a restaurant in Mexico City is where El Lago calls home. This gorgeous fine-dining establishment is inside Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the largest city parks in the world. At 686 hectares, this forest is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. The restaurant offers divine creations to match its pristine surroundings. As its name suggests, El Lago is situated on a small body of water within the park, giving you plenty of natural beauty to gaze upon as you dine.
Among the highlights on the menu are duck prepared with an Oaxaca-style mole sauce and slow-roasted chicken. Fried chapulines (grasshoppers) are so prevalent on the menu that you will spot them easily perched on orders of guacamole. The guacamole is delicious and the grasshoppers, though salty, will please your taste buds.
GUADALAJARA DE NOCHE: For flavorful, everyday food served in a lively environment, head to the Plaza Garibaldi area and take in a show at this folksy venue. You’ll enjoy Mexican folk food as well as folklore at Guadalajara de Noche.
It’s particularly fun for anglophones to be immersed in a crowd of Latin Americans from all over North and South America singing and dancing to songs that are as culturally familiar to them as the music of the Beatles are to us. It’s a gem of a place and a stop for any traveller looking for a stronger connection to the culture of Mexico.