• Nia Alexander

Another Cactus Taco

What You’ll Find in This Post:

  • What I ate in Mexico City and where I got it

  • What the atmosphere of certain restaurants were like

  • Lots of food pics

Fresh salsas and limes at Señor Taco (Condesa)

My food experience in Mexico City was unique in that even though there wasn’t really much for me to eat, I still had a fun time exploring the food scene. So, in this post I will list for you what I ate, how it was, where I ate it, and a little bit about the dining atmospheres I encountered.

Let’s start with something familiar . . .

BARS

Some manner of frozen drink at a bar in Condesa from La Cervecería de Barrio

I’m not much of a drinker—in 2019 I only drank one beer and 2 ½ hard ciders—and I’ll likely never be a fan of the atmospheres bars create, but I’ve got to say that the bars I visited in Mexico City weren’t like the bars I’d been to in the U.S. and Qatar.

  • There seemed to be a bar on every corner but none of them were rowdy (this was around 10pm).

  • Though there were many standard indoor bars, there were also a lot of outdoor ones with canopies, lots of light, and breathing room.

  • Many of the bars served surprisingly good food.

My go to bar order in Mexico: Sparkling water

  • Unsurprisingly, most bars did not serve virgin drinks. Since I’m not much of a soda drinker either, I was usually drinking water or—wait for it—bubbly water!

  • Shots in Mexico City were larger than the shots I was familiar with back home. They looked like almost twice the amount, like a shot and a half.

Hookah Lounge in Colonia Hipódromo

  • We went to a hookah bar one night and it was a really chill spot. It may not surprise you to learn I don’t really smoke either; the only thing I’ve ever tried is hookah and if you watch closely, you’ll see I don’t fully inhale the smoke. The best part about this place was its atmosphere and the fact it served alcohol free cocktails!

  • Not a single bar carded us. We were all of age, but lord knows not all of us looked it.

  • I learned that mezcal is like tequila in that it is an alcoholic drink distilled from a cactus (specifically agave). They are named for the regions where they were originally and sometimes continue to be produced (like a lot of French alcohol).

Indio beer

  • I did try one beer: Indio. I didn’t finish it, but it was good.

SNACKS & STREET FOOD

Some of the snacks I saw in Mexico City

Any American will find a lot of familiar snacks in Mexico City, but what was more exciting to me were the snacks that were same but different. The Cheetos, for example, were a little spicy, a different color, and clearly made with real cheese, giving them a completely different (and, if you ask me, better) flavor and it was the first time I’d ever seen a cookies & cream Crunch and Oreo bars. Mexico City also had snacks and flavors that weren’t common in the U.S., like Kinder Bueno (my favorite) and tamarind flavored soda.

Churros!

I was so excited to eat a fresh churro in Mexico! I found a guy selling them on Calle 7, near San Pedro de los Pinos and PANIK art studio. The churro wasn’t to my liking, but I’m still glad I found it!

RESTAURANTS

I mentioned earlier that there wasn’t much for me to eat in Mexico City. This is because 80% of the dishes on all the menus I encountered were covered in meat and/or cheese, two things that don’t typically sit well with my digestive tract. However, I often had no choice but to concede, otherwise I’d be eating tortilla chips and granola bars for the week. However, this led to me eating many versions of the one vegetarian dish that was on some restaurants’ menus: Cactus tacos. I didn’t vibe with the semi-slimy texture, but the flavor—though smothered in cheese—was good. I did have an easier time finding breakfast options, though, so there’s a plus! Honestly, I was lucky that none of the food I ate in Mexico City made me terribly sick. I was sometimes uncomfortable with gas and cramps (because even if I take a dietary supplement, Mexican cheese disagrees with my tummy even more than the stuff I was used to in the U.S.), but I’d experienced worse.

All that said, though, I do believe that I had the unfortunate luck of only visiting restaurants that had limited menu options for me. I say this because I could clearly see that Mexico City had quite a variety of restaurants, some of which I probably could have eaten comfortably at. Throughout the week I noted two sushi restaurants, a ramen restaurant, a vegan spot and two vegetarian joints (that clearly we never visited), multiple Argentinian restaurants, lots of devoted breakfast places, expensive fine dining restaurants, and small places open til 2am just in Condesa alone.

Also, before I start listing the places I ate at, I want to say that tipping is a-okay. I can’t say if waiters expect tips or rely on tips to pay their bills (like they do in the U.S.), but I can say that all of us tipped our servers with a respectful amount of cash not because we felt pressured, but because it was just a nice thing to do that was within our means.

Now, without further ado, let me take you on my Mexico City restaurant tour:

Señor Taco (Condesa)

Enchilada, fresh salsas, and flan

We found this place while looking for a restaurant that was open after midnight. I ordered essentially a cheese enchilada and, wow, I did not expect it to be as massive and heavy as it was. We also ordered flan, which was really good, and were given a lot of fresh salsas.

Speaking of salsas, lots of restaurants in Mexico City had (often spicy) salsas sitting on the table; compare it to the way bottles of oil and vinegar sit on the tables at some Italian restaurants. Sometimes the salsas were brought out before the main course and sometimes they were left sitting on the table seemingly indefinitely. This also may be a good time to mention that half of the time portions in Mexico City were huge, reminding me of what we are accustomed to back in the States.

A restaurant in a mall near Museo Soumaya

Ceviche and fettuccine alfredo

This was the first restaurant we went to in Mexico City, a place that didn’t quite seem to have a particular food genre. I didn’t really have an appetite while I was here, having that I had just near-fainted an hour prior, but I figured I should try and eat something since it was my only opportunity. They didn’t have any dairy-free vegetarian dishes, so I ordered shrimp fettuccini alfredo with the shrimp removed. I only ate half of it . . . it was fine. Our teachers ordered ceviche and I was surprised by how pretty it was.

Beluga

Squid risotto, cheese fries, and pizza

Of all the restaurants I went to, Beluga was one of my favorites. It was a hip place, full but not crowded, and served a range of tasty dishes for a range of prices. I split a margherita pizza and some cheese fries with the other vegetarian in the group. Though covered in cheese, they were really good dishes. Another guy in the group ordered what I think was squid risotto. It came out pitch black and boiling, I had never seen anything like it.

Also, I want to mention that I drank a Coca-Cola with ice while I was here. Some people were concerned about it because we’d been warned about drinking the tap water (and ice made from tap water). However, I had assumed that the ice wasn’t made from tap water based on the quality and scale of the restaurant and the appearance of the ice. Whether my assumption was right or not, at the end of the day I wasn’t sick, so the ice was fine.

Primos

Tea, eggs, bread, and salsa

This was a restaurant in Condesa where we stopped for breakfast. They had the best tea I have ever had in my life along with possibly the grossest salmon I had ever seen. There was nothing wrong with the salmon itself, it just wasn’t prepared in the way I expected. Essentially, my understanding of salmon and eggs was different than what I was served and the way they cooked their salmon was just gross to me. Then, to add insult to injury, there was a thick strip of cream in there too.

El Tizoncito

Cactus tacos

Behold, some of the cactus tacos I mentioned earlier. Like I said, the flavor was good, but the texture—a combination of cheese, mushrooms, and cactus—was slimy. I could only eat two tacos before calling it quits. However, I was still very excited to try the dish because it was something I had never encountered before.

Los Cactus

The restaurant entrance and pancakes!

This was a restaurant we stumbled upon down a side street near the Museo Nacional de la Estampa. It’s your classic hole in the wall, one that had really good pancakes.

Jumex Café

I didn’t eat here—in fact, I don’t know if anyone ate here—but I do know that it was on the schedule and that I ultimately wound up with an oatmeal cookie from here. One of the guys bought me one after I near-fainted in the museum and, what can I say, the cookie was good enough for me to remember it while semi-conscious.

SOMA

Rice, mushrooms, green salsa, and a tortilla

SOMA is a nonprofit art educational center, not a restaurant, but I wanted to include it because eating here was part of our schedule and I want any student who goes on this trip in the future to know what to possibly expect (especially if they’ve got dietary restrictions like I do). First, we had our welcome meal at SOMA, which was a selection of rice, bread, some vegetables, meat, and sauces. They also served homemade ceviche during Miércoles de SOMA. I saw lots of people eating it, but I wasn’t one of them; the idea of groups of people dipping into food left out in the open creeps me out.

Taquería El Califa

Menu and a cactus taco

This place was like a chill restaurant bar. You could order tacos individually, which was great because I wasn’t stuck with a plate full of cheesy cactus tacos. Instead, I was able to order just one cactus taco that wasn’t as slimy as some of the other ones I had eaten, and I was able to pick at it with a fork.

San Pedro de los Pinos Market?

This one is a little confusing for several reasons. So, apparently this is where the group went—or was supposed to go—to get lunch on a day that I didn’t attend (because I was sick after the whole semi-fainting thing). I’m not sure what restaurant they went to in the market—or even if they ate at the market at all—but I do know that they didn’t like the food. They said that the rice was watery and that everything was generally disgusting.

The reason I’m unsure as to whether or not they actually ate in the market is because on a day that I was with the group, we ate at this market. It seems odd that the group would eat at the same place twice, especially if it was gross the first time. This leads me to my next restaurant:

Rostipollo?

Roasted chick with rice and cheese quesadillas

I’m not sure if this is the correct name of this restaurant, but its location and the food we ordered matches the internet description pretty well. We found this restaurant at the San Pedro de los Pinos Market after some of us decided not to eat at the seafood place the rest of the group was eating at. They served fresh chicken roasted on a spit and were more than happy to make me and the other vegetarian of the group some mini cheese quesadillas with rice. I’m not even sure if they charged us for the quesadillas. The food came out really fast; in fact, we were done with our meal before the other group, which gave us extra time to explore the market and the area nearby, which is where we got churros!

A quick note, though: San Pedro de los Pinos Market has a lot of restaurants, mini markets, farmers markets, and a five peso fee to use the bathroom.

Qué Sería de Mí

Pancakes, waffles, potatoes, eggs, bread & jam, and coffee

This place was delicious! They served what was easily one of the best breakfasts I had during the entire trip. It’s a small, bright restaurant that served various combinations of eggs, potatoes, meats, waffles & pancakes, fruits, breads, and coffee & tea. They had a line forming before the restaurant even opened.

Jamón y Jamón

Tomatoes with fish, some kind of bread, and a cheese pasta dish

I’m trying to hold out hope that this place was good. After all, everyone else seemed to enjoy their food and I had a tiny potato with purple cabbage aioli that was very good. But when it came to the main course, I (and the other vegetarian) were severely let down. We both ordered the same thing, what was literally the only vegetarian dish on the menu: Pasta with cheese and vegetables. It had a specific name that I don’t recall, but I figured it was a safe choice because, after all, how can a cheese pasta dish ever truly be disgusting?

Well, I’ll tell you how.

The pasta—which was like a lasagna—was literally lost in the sauce. The dish seemed to be 80% cheese, a thick, sweet cheese that was impossible to stir or spread. I couldn’t even scoop it off because there was nowhere else to put it; it clung to my spoon in a disturbing way, as though it was mixed with bubblegum. In fact, the cheese was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even taste the spinach, carrots, and mushrooms.

I’m not being overdramatic when I tell you this dish was one of the worst things I had ever eaten in my life, second only to that one time I accidentally took a sip of spoiled milk.

A restaurant near the Saturday Bazaar in San Ángel

A cup full of some kind of drink or soup

One of our big group meals, I’m not sure what the name of this restaurant was. I only know that it was a nice outdoor space connected to the market. I also know that it was more expensive than what most of the students were comfortable with. The only thing that was comfortably within our price range was the buffet, but open buffets of all kinds have always creeped me out. This particular buffet wasn’t exactly a buffet in the sense that it wasn’t all you can eat. Instead, it was more like each person pays for a plate of food that is being served by a lady behind a counter; it just so happens that the counter is outside and the food is in big bowls sitting on the table. It was definitely hot and fresh, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat from a large, unprotected bowls that a hundred people had in some way come into contact with.

Besides, even if I had gotten substantial food from here, my only options would have been meat. I think I ultimately ate a small cup of rice and a few sips of whatever was in a soup mug somebody brought over to the table. To add, the restaurant mixed up our bill. Understandably the cashiers were confused by how scattered our group was, especially because some of us were switching tables. They wound up charging eight people’s lunches to my card instead of just four. I ultimately got reimbursed by three of those four extra people, but it was still quite the headache.

El Figonero

Bread, tea, and an omelette

This was the first breakfast my mini group ate together. I was blown away by how affordable my breakfast was: $3.73 USD for an omelette, bread, refried beans, and tea. It was good, nice & simple, but if you order water make sure to specifically request bottled water. This is a good rule of thumb for any restaurant, but I bring it up when talking about El Figonero because it’s the only time a waiter initially served us tap water. Casa Visconti

Gelato!

Here is the one dessert I went to while in Mexico City: A gelato shop. I wanted to try it just because it was our last night in the city. There were two flavors I wanted to try, which meant I had no choice but to get the medium sized cup. I naturally didn’t finish it, and hadn’t anticipated to, but it was worth it because I got to try matcha gelato mixed with French vanilla.

AFTER I GOT HOME

My cactus taco from Taquería El Califa

After arriving back in the States, I immediately started eating American food. I downed a mini can of Pringles at the Newark airport, then ate some tortilla chips with corn and potatoes, next came a bottle of Dasani sparkling berry water, a microwavable chipotle bean burger, then some Tuna Helper with spiral veggie noodles. Next thing I knew, my stomach was ‘toe up. In past travel experiences, my digestive tract had had some slight issues when readjusting to processed American food, but never to this extent. To add, my body also seemed to be readjusting to being back at a lower altitude, which lead to dizzy spells and fatigue.

Even with all I experienced in Mexico City and once I got home, though, I am really glad to have explored the food Mexico City had to offer. Even though my only food options were often various combinations of bread, eggs, and cactus, the experience was fun enough to make that limitation okay. My mini group made it our mission to explore as many restaurants as possible and that in itself was a blast. It was that experience of hunting down restaurants with a group of friends that made me actually want to document it, which is why this is by far the most specific I’ve ever been able to get when it comes to eating abroad. So when someone asks me how my Mexican food experience was, I automatically tell them it was great because, despite the challenges, that’s how I remember it.

About the Creator

Nia Alexander Campbell is an artist and writer from Richmond, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in...

 

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